The Sexy Brutale Is A Puzzling Mystery | PAX East Preview

Credit: Tequila Works
Credit: Tequila Works /

Imagine the movie “Groundhog Day” but with more blood and murder. Welcome to The Sexy Brutale, a puzzling murder mystery from Cavalier Game Studios.

If I had to pick one hidden gem from PAX East 2017, The Sexy Brutale would without a doubt take the cake. The game’s booth was hidden away in a back corner of the expo hall with essentially zero signage that it was even there, let alone have a playable demo. I had to check my map and appointment email several times to make sure I was even in the right place. Which is honestly a bit of a shame, because I found The Sexy Brutale quite intriguing and worthy of much more recognition.

Developed by several former Lionhead Studios employees, now calling themselves Cavalier Game Studios, in conjunction with Tequila Works, The Sexy Brutale is a unique take on a murder mystery with a Groundhog Day twist. Players take on the role of the elderly priest Lafcadio Boone, who is attending a lavish masked ball at the mysterious Marquis’ mansion-turned-casino. Things turn dark quickly when the staff begins murdering the guests, and it’s up to Lafcadio to save them. Repeatedly.

See, the entire sequence of events in The Sexy Brutale occur over the course of one in-game day. And Lafcadio, channeling his inner Bill Murray, relives this day over and over again. The goal is to save every guest from murder, but not without a few caveats. The priest’s time loop “power” prevents the player from directly interfering. While Lafcadio himself cannot be murdered, he also can’t enter into a room that has any other living person already in it. He has to snoop around, peeking through keyholes and hiding in closets, thwarting these murders from afar.

The first mission we played acted as the game’s tutorial, which involved preventing a straightforward murder by gun. Or at least I thought it would be simple. This admittedly took longer than I expected, requiring a decent amount of exploration and paying close attention to detail. Turns out the murder weapon is too heavy for the priest to take and hide, so instead, you have to mess with the gun’s bullets: replacing them with blanks, or hiding them all together.

The Sexy Brutale
Credit: Tequila Works /

After each murder you prevent, the target guest removes their mask, and you unlock a new power relating to their mask and personality. These new powers are crucial to saving other guests and are a key aspect of the challenging mystery and puzzles you must solve to complete the game. Lafcadio himself dawns a white mask with a red hand print, relating to the strange bloody girl who revealed to him his time looping abilities.

The Sexy Brutale
Credit: Tequila Works /

After saving the first guest, you are free to explore the entire mansion as you see fit. You can start working on saving whichever guests you like first, as the game gives you no direction on how to proceed. Design Director Charles Griffiths explained to me that each of these guests’ stories is not independent. In fact, they are quite the opposite. You might start working to save one guest, only to realize that in order to save him you need to save someone else first.

And you don’t know where everyone is moving around to either. You have to track both guest and staff movement patterns, and slowly piecing together everyone’s stories. All while remaining out of sight. Not to mention that the environment plays a part in solving these mysteries as well. You might pick up clues in one room, and not realize you need them until several loops later. It’s one big complicated puzzle that will leave you feeling like a true Sherlock Holmes. The game’s menu provides some guidance, but I can see myself taking notes on pen and paper as I play through The Sexy Brutale.

More from Previews

This murder mystery is only amplified by its unique masquerade art style. The idea that each mask ties into a special ability (Majora’s Mask anyone?) glues together the victims’ personalities with the main storyline. I felt the bold colors and jazz soundtrack combined with the disproportionate character sizing and penchant for blood tied in perfectly to the game’s mysterious story.

Despite a short thirty minute demo, the depth of The Sexy Brutale is clear to me. This game is challenging, featuring intertwining puzzles and mysteries that will require patience and some serious critical thinking. And each prevented murder only opens up more complications as you unlock more and more abilities. If you are a fan of puzzles and mysteries, this is surely a game to keep your eye on.

The Sexy Brutale is set to release April 12th, 2017 for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.