The Sexy Brutale is a little indie title from developers Tequila Works and Cavalier Game Studios. Released earlier in 2017, it has now come to the Nintendo Switch. Best described as an adventure game that combines the board game Clue and the movie Groundhog Day, The Sexy Brutale is played from a top down perspective where players control an old priest named Lafcadio Boone. During an annual party, called The Sexy Brutale, at a victorian mansion, a mysterious woman called the Bloody Girl gives Boone a special mask and pocket watch. The watch will reset the game and time back to the beginning of the day and the mask gives him the ability to be unseen. Boone is tasked with reliving the same day repeatedly so as to save patrons of the party from being murdered. Intrigue and mystery await players in The Sexy Brutale.
Using a room-by-room system, players move Boone throughout the elegant mansion. Boone can use his newfound powers; he can hear people and they will show up on the radar-like system as footprints moving. Doors can be opened as you move room to room, but they can also allow players to peek through the keyhole, adjusting their view to watch interactions between NPCs. This is extremely important, as watching other characters and figuring out ways to modify their actions is the key to solving The Sexy Brutale’s puzzles. Hiding in wardrobes is also very handy for spying. Don’t worry though if Boone ends up in the same room as another character, time is provided to leave and he will remain unseen.
Objects throughout the mansion can be interacted with and provide clues, while others are needed to change the timeline and set a different path in action. The first, for example, is a blank bullet shell that must be replaced in a shotgun in a different room, thus saving your first intended victim. Upon saving him, Boone acquires an upgrade to his pocketwatch, allowing time to progress further before a reset. Resets are inevitable and part of what makes The Sexy Brutale special. As Boone moves room to room, time will flow and if you didn’t make it to a certain position in time, there goes the reset and you must try again. Most times, exploring is necessary to find the next victim and then observing the NPCs involved multiple times to figure out the puzzle, or what needs to be altered to save them.
As Boone saves other party goers, he is rewarded with different masks that provide all kinds of new abilities, such as enhanced hearing and lockpicking. This adds a new complexity and makes each puzzle a little different as you progress. The mansion is huge so it helps that Boone can use the grandfather clocks scattered around as a sort of waypoint when time is reset. The in-game map is very interactive and tracks movements of other guests as you follow them. Be sure to keep track of what actions are done and at what particular times, then it’s just a matter of figuring out the best way to alter those actions and save the intended victim. The Sexy Brutale can be tricky and the detective work time consuming, so it may not be for everyone, but I loved it.
The Sexy Brutale was really like nothing I had ever played before. Fantastic creative graphics, crazy steampunk victorian decor, and chibi style character design made it stand out. The concept of time manipulation in a game isn’t necessarily new, but the way The Sexy Brutale does it by combining an interesting story and sneaky detective work is brilliant. The music is this electronic jazz funk, or techno swing, it’s very hard to categorize, but then again so is the The Sexy Brutale. I found the songs stuck in my head long after putting my controller down. Dark and, at times, amusing, the story and gameplay upgrades keep players moving forward, determined to solve all the puzzles and save the guests. At about seven hours, The Sexy Brutale isn’t long enough, if you enjoy it as much as I did. I know I wanted more murders to solve by the end. Tequila Works and Cavalier Game Studios have managed to work together and created a truly great and original game. Hopefully they will do it again and we will eventually see a sequel to The Sexy Brutale.
The Sexy Brutale is available now on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam. This review is based on a Switch copy provided for that purpose.