A Truly Unique Experience
I know for video games this is a statement you hear far too often, but in the case of The Sexy Brutale this is 100% true. Thrown head-first into an intriguing mystery that takes place in a mansion that has been converted into a casino for a party. Not just any party, the party. Normally things go off with out a hitch, but this year the staff has murderous intent. You’ll have to save the guests by manipulating time in order to solve the mystery behind these murders, and it isn’t what you may be expecting.
I got this a long while back and said I’d do a review of it some time once I beat it. Unfortunately, I got really busy at that time so couldn’t review it despite having completed it. Now that we are in October it seemed like an obvious choice for the review fest that I have going on right now. The Sexy Brutale was a game that had me hooked from the start that I eagerly blew through in just a few sittings.
I was quickly convinced to give this a go when I watched Totalbiscuit’s video review (which is spoiler free) of the game. However, I’m going to just provide the game’s trailer below because going in as blind as possible is really the best way to experience the game. Don’t worry, the trailer doesn’t really tell you anything, just show you what the game looks like while introducing (sort of) one of the characters.
As I mentioned, you goal in The Sexy Brutale is to prevent the murders of the various guests attending the extravagant party. In essence, this is a puzzle game that is driven by a strong narrative. There is no procedural generation or anything like that, it’s strictly a linear story on a pre-set map. This allows for the focus to remain on the story, which is great.
At the start of the game you really have no idea what’s going on. A bloody woman tasks you with saving the life of the guests and you’re off. The tutorial does a great job telling you how to play the game. Sneak around, hide, pear through doors, and ultimately save the life of the current victim that needs protection in order to advance the story and gain new abilities.
Speaking of, the first ability you get is the power to restart the day. This is useful because you can spend the first go at a level gathering information and learning the enemy routes. Don’t worry, if an enemy sees you then you can just run away to a different room. If you do die, then the day just resets so it is quite forgiving in this way.
Once you beat the tutorial you also gain the ability to jump forward in the day, which is incredibly useful since some of the puzzles involve waiting for a specific time to be reached to solve them. This may sound annoying, but it usually isn’t.
I’m not going to talk any more about the story, just mechanics and the general feel of the game. This is being done to avoid spoiling the experience, as it is truly innovative, and the story is one that also deserves the same treatment.
This is a good time to talk about the game’s problems though. Right away, unless you have a pretty high-end computer, you are going to notice that this game isn’t optimized that well. The game is perfectly playable, but it will often lag/stutter on computers that aren’t top of the line. Fortunately, the game is available on Steam and can be tried risk free and returned if this ends up being an issue for you. Personally, this was only a minor problem but it’s one to be aware of.
The Sexy Brutale’s next issue, is a huge problem though. While you can play the game with keyboard + mouse or controller, you can really only play the game with controller. I’m sure this is less of an issue if you aren’t being punished from the poor optimization but I found the precision based controls of the keyboard and mouse to be exceedingly frustrating. Often I couldn’t open doors or would constantly exit and re-enter the same door over and over. Thankfully, this goes away with controller.
Even with the controller, it still isn’t perfect in its controls. There were times where I had to hit the button to go through a door multiple times before the command was registered. Again, not overly annoying but if it weren’t for the story being so engaging these few issues would have likely caused me to quit. I’m nearly certain that these issues only plague those of us who are using older machines though as the videos I’ve seen of other people playing this on newer computers do not experience these issues.
Gameplaywise, I did have one problem concerning the game. There were a few puzzles that were annoying. One of them involved drawing blood from fish for a ritual, which is actually really easy, but it wasn’t obvious that I was supposed to do this. It took me a bit to figure it out but was doable. The more annoying puzzle had to do with these slot machines. The puzzle itself isn’t hard but the sequence for solving it was a slog compared to the nice clip of everything else in the game.
That’s really it for the negatives, let’s get back to what is great about The Sexy Brutale. Each of the guests that you save, either one at a time or in pairs, is fantastic but the one that stuck out for me the most was for Tequilla Belle. I said I wasn’t going to talk about story, and I’m not. I bring this up because of the phenomenal soundtrack that The Sexy Brutale has.
Tequilla Belle is a singer and her story perfectly highlights how incredible the soundtrack is. While trying to save her, you will fail but it comes with the benefit of hearing the best piece of music the game has to offer. She sings a full song, and it’s really good. It’s the only track like it in the game and her story sticks out for the better as a result.
The rest of the music is fittingly just background pieces, but they all amplify the atmosphere of the ritzy casino, aid in the mystery, or play up the suspense and drama in accordance to what’s going on. A lot of games don’t seem to nail the importance of sound design and ambience but I feel like The Sexy Brutale does an excellent job here.
Let’s jump back to the mechanics real quick. There are lots of neat ideas going on in this game. You get a new ability after saving someone. These range from being able to talk to ghosts to super hearing. Each ability is game changing and allows you to solve future puzzles. It feels really good to recognize a place where you know you’ll need to revisit once you have the appropriate ability and then later execute on it.
Remember when I said that you need to stop murders with time travel? Well here’s the coolest bit. The entire mansion is running in real-time no matter what you are doing. The map even shows you (granted you’ve witnessed the events at least once). This helps in planning routes and plans of action for saving each prospective victim. It’s really cool and nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s impressive because the mansion is huge and there are a lot of moving parts.
Eventually, you’ll start to notice a strange figure in the mansion. Often he will appear and then quickly scurry off to a door. When you pursue him, he vanishes without a trace. You do get to find out who this figure is, but it adds to the already intriguing mystery.
Once you reach the end of the game, this is where things may get a bit divisive. I suspected the ending in part, but not the entire twist. If you figure this out too early, it might hurt your enjoyment a little bit because the full last act is just about building this mystery up and revealing it. However, the story is still excellent and the reason why is worth the payoff even if you can dial in on what’s going on.
I was able to fully complete The Sexy Brutale (all achievements and endings) in about six hours. That’s the perfect amount of time for a game like this. As an optional objective for an alternate ending, you can pick up 52 playing cards and the guest invitations. This task isn’t super hard but it does stretch out the playtime. If I had ignored these, I would have easily beat the game in four hours. The payoff isn’t major, but I did enjoy doing it and seeing the alternate ending.
The Sexy Brutale is one heck of a ride that tells an excellent story. Coupled with innovative game mechanics and it’s a real winner in my book. I know I didn’t go into a ton of detail in this review but take my word for it and give The Sexy Brutale a try, you won’t come to regret it. You can purchase the game from Steam for $19.99, which it is well worth.
Have you given The Sexy Brutale a try? Let me know your thoughts on the game, or your impressions if you haven’t played, in the comments below. If you enjoyed the article be sure to tell me and consider supporting me on Patreon so I can continue to produce content like this. Just click the button below for more information. As always, thanks for reading and hope to see you back here at Jon Spencer Reviews again soon.