The Sexy Brutale is an enigmatic place. Every evening, you fall asleep at midnight, only to reawaken earlier that same day at noon. Over the next 12 hours, the staff of this mansion casino will set about killing the same guests at the same times and in the same ways as they always have. Your ability to travel back to the beginning of those events gives you alone the power necessary to unravel the Sexy Brutale's mysteries and save these hapless victims.
Welcome to The Sexy Brutale!
At its core, The Sexy Brutale is a 2.5D isometric adventure game that mixes Groundhog Day and the board game Clue (or Cluedo). Each period of 12 hours plays out over the course of about 10 minutes of real time before you are forced back to noon. While you start off the next day largely in the same position, you've acquired new knowledge of people's patterns, hidden passages, or strange key items that make all the difference.
At first glance, this might seem tedious, but there is so much happening across the mansion that dull moments are few and far between. At the outset, all that is revealed is how many victims there are, what they look like, when they will die, and their relation to each other, if any. From there, your brain will be constantly at work trying to piece together their movements, the movements of staff, the key ingredients to their death, and so on. Even though there are quiet stretches when running across the mansion or waiting for an event to occur, these are also chances to work through theories.
This isn't going to end well unless you do something about it.
Exploring the mansion, both through time and space, is key to figuring out what's happening. The mansion sprawls, but even otherwise empty rooms such as hallways present interesting sights and chances to overhear a useful conversation. Each wing and each area within is distinct, from the roulette wheels and cameras of the casino to the quiet offices by the theater, or the ghastly art gallery by the guest suites. Supernatural elements are dotted throughout, such as strangely cold candles and blue flames blocking doors, beckoning you to return later when you have the keys to understanding their purpose. Any bit of new knowledge presents a chance to revisit prior mysteries that previously befuddled you, which leads to more answers and inevitably to even more questions.
Throughout your time, the sounds of the mansion indicate any number of things. After several days in the mansion, it's possible to get an idea of what time it is based on background sounds. Almost every hour brings a unique sound, whether it be shattering glass, a gunshot, or a bell tolling. The repetitive but catchy music playing in the back offers similar gameplay benefit. It will change based on the area so that it's easy to get your bearing quickly, even when a little bit lost. As the potential victims in the area approach the hour of their demise, the music gains tempo while losing cohesion. These recurring audio cues start out simply mimicking the rhythm of the game itself, but as time passes, they also become an effective, if a bit conspicuously game-y conveyance of information.
It's the little joys in life.
Each character is unique and acts accordingly. Some hardly move at all, while others are frantic or paranoid. Often times, these characters reveal their fears as they mutter while they think nobody is listening. The creepy helmet wearing staffers complain about the tedium of their tasks, or joke about the guests' impending doom.
Sometimes this veers into caricature territory, but the blunt and direct characterization makes every trip through those same 10 minutes feel lively right up until people start dying. Learning more about the mansion and its occupants is rewarded with the safety of those very people. The more attached you get to their story, the better they can be helped and the stronger the feeling of reward.
You'll have to continue to wonder what they're up to.
By contrast, the main plot drags for most of The Sexy Brutale. The musings of various mansion inhabitants suggest that something is afoot but this largely goes nowhere until the very end of the game, when the overarching story starts to unravel all at once. The third act is satisfying, but the plot is pointed out from the very first moments and its absence over the course of most of the game disconnects the guests from each other, sapping The Sexy Brutale of further impact. Perhaps even more significant, it creates a void of motivation to carry you from one success to another potential victim.
That emptiness is crucial because of the confident nature of the game's puzzles. Each situation is fair and working through it is riveting, but it's also exhausting and time-consuming. Having that confidence is something that should be celebrated and that's fundamentally why these puzzles are so consistently interesting in the first place. Unfortunately, when puzzles are so arduous, it's hard to motivate yourself to sink another 30+ minutes into something so mentally draining regardless of how good the feeling will be at the end. Ultimately, that brief time in between scenarios can feel like The Sexy Brutale is actively encouraging you to head for the door rather than seductively luring you to another adventure.
There's quite a bit you stand to lose in this casino.
The Sexy Brutale has 19 trophies in total. None of these trophies take an overwhelming amount of skill, so a guide can be used to make short work of the platinum in just a couple of hours. Of those 19 trophies, 14 are tied directly to a story event or for visiting an area that is required to progress in the story. Of the other four non-platinum trophies, two are exploration based and could be unlocked accidentally. The final two revolve around collectibles. Finding all of the invites involves some of the toughest puzzling in the game, but they're fairly easy to track and can be obtained easily with a guide. One trophy, for collecting 52 playing cards, can be tedious. Cards are added to an inventory counter, so it can be hard to figure out which cards you may be missing. Add to this that several cards can become unavailable after certain times of day, and you could be looking at finding a needle in a haystack as it changes over time.
SummaryMysterious, alluring, and occasionally exhausting, The Sexy Brutale is rewarding. Fitted into an adventure game, it offers a level of puzzle solving that is rare to see these days. While everything revolves around repetition, the depth of thought required can keep you heavily invested until you find success, at which point the difficulty and a lack of overarching plot becomes a detriment that can discourage continuous play. Despite this, any time spent with The Sexy Brutale is a joy, making it an easy recommendation for anyone who enjoys flexing their intellect.
- Deep, thoughtful, and satisfying puzzles
- Lavish, intriguing setting
- Quirky, vibrant characters
- Plot absent for much of game
- Considering taking on the next victim's scenario can be daunting and discouraging
The reviewer purchased a personal copy of The Sexy Brutale on PlayStation 4 for the purposes of this review. He played for roughly 14 hours, unlocking all of the game's 19 trophies, and then speedrunning through the story again for fun. He would like to see more games in a similar vein in the future.
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