If Groundhog Day were to get married to Cluedo and go on to have a baby, then that child would be The Sexy Brutale. Intrigued? Then read on dear reader.
The Sexy Brutale is a game co-produced by Madrid-based Tequila Works, who I know best as the team behind Xbox 360 classic “Deadlight”, and a new UK based developer Cavalier Games. The game is set in a stately English mansion which has been converted into a bizarre casino by its mysterious and enigmatic owner, and named “The Sexy Brutale”.
As I mentioned previously, the gameplay is reminiscent of the classic film “Groundhog Day” as the day is relived over and over. You control Lafcadio Boone, an elderly priest, as you try and stop the guests from being killed by the mansion staff, which is obviously where the Cluedo reference comes in. As each day starts you have an objective to prevent the murder of a certain guest, and you need to follow the guest and the killer to find where and how the deadly deed takes place. Lafcadio is equipped with a mask, which makes him temporarily invisible to any other character in the game. However, if you enter the same room as them they will quickly be alerted to your presence.
So, how do you solve the murders if you don’t have the ability to interact with other characters in the game? Well, each door in the mansion can be spied through, giving you a view of the room behind. When Lafcadio does this he is able to hear what the characters are saying, and often this gives the game away as to their intentions and enables you to witness the murder. Once you know this detail you are able to interact with objects in the game to prevent the murder. Lafcadio also has superb hearing and by pressing RT you get a sense of footsteps or sound from adjoining rooms. The tutorial level is shown in the trailer above so its not a spoiler to share that the first guest is shot. So, on subsequent level playthroughs you will be seeking where the murderer obtains the murder weapon to stop it from happening. The level design makes it easy enough to work out how the murder happens and the various objects you can interact with makes it easy enough to work out that those are the objects needed to solve it. But working out when and how are the trickier bits, and often relies on great timing.
Now, if you don’t solve the murder before midnight the the day will restart and although you lose your progress, and items that you have picked up, you restart with all the knowledge that you have gained. At any point you can activate your pocketwatch and start the day again yourself, or move the time to either 4pm or 8pm, which comes in handy when you have worked out what you need to do and don’t want to wait. Once the murder has been solved and stopped, Lafcadio will gain a power from the guests mask, which will unlock new abilities and will give him access to other areas of the mansion where the next guest will be located. Yes, The Sexy Brutale has Metroidvania elements! The Sexy Brutale also has collectables hidden throughout the game, with cards and invitations dotted around to find.
The Sexy Brutale is an absolutely beautiful game, presented in a 3D isometric style. The graphics are small but pack an incredible amount of detail in all the character models, the mansion has been created in a lavish but macabre style and rewards you for investigating every detail in every room. There is a wonderful humour sprinkled throughout, especially from the members of staff with each sporting a creepy mask based on different playing cards. When they are being spied on they don’t just reveal their deadly intentions but also make jokes and wisecracks that often made me laugh out loud.
This leads me nicely on to the audio in this game, which is simply awesome. Never has a game made me stop and appreciate the audio design in as much as The Sexy Brutale did. The music is just one of these audio delights, with its variations on a theme in different areas of the mansion, and the way it rises to a crescendo just before a characters death. I need to point out that after you prevent a murder the day restarts, and even though you have moved on to solve the next murder the previous murders still take place, and this is the reason the audio is impressive. The sound effects are SO GOOD! Wherever you are in the mansion, at whatever point you are at in the story, you will ALWAYS hear the gun being fired from the first murder, and then the subsequent murders. So, this equates to a feeling that you have never really prevented a murder from happening, and that this day is never really going to end.
The story is also very interesting, as whilst playing you are always wondering what is really going on in the mansion, as staff members seem to disappear into thin air and there is another strange character wandering around. But this is definitely not revealed or spoon-fed to you early on. In fact it wasn’t until later on in the game that I suddenly realised what “might” have been going on, but even the final exposition left me surprised, and to be honest a little deflated. I would have like the finale to be different but going into details here would need me to spoil the ending, which I am not going to do!
I did encounter some graphical issues on my playthrough but it did appear to be worse on a different Xbox (I have 2 so I can play when the good lady is watching TV), which was strange. This manifested itself in some slowdown when moving from room to room. I would press the A button when I reached the door but there was a few seconds delay before the animation kicked in, which i can only assume was to load the next room. This is only a small niggle, but when you are powering through the rooms at the end to get all collectibles it became very annoying.
Overall, this is a must play on the Xbox. My game time clocked in at just short of 10 hours, but in that I had consumed everything the mansion had to offer. I could argue it was too short, as I felt ready to continue, to solve more murders and find new secrets in the mansion. I have my fingers crossed that The Sexy Brutale gets some kind of sequel, albeit with new locations and characters.
Thanks to Tequila Works and Cavalier Games for supporting TiX