The Sexy Brutale Review: Taking Timeloops To Another Level

Credit: Tequila Works
Credit: Tequila Works /

Groundhog Day meets Saw meets Majora’s Mask in The Sexy Brutale, a mysterious puzzle adventure game that will blow your mind.

Developer: Cavalier Game Studios, Tequila Works

Publisher: Tequila Works

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (Version reviewed)

Release Date: April 11, 2017

When I first demoed The Sexy Brutale at PAX East 2017, I thought I had a pretty solid grasp on how this game would play out. Players control Lafacadio Boone, an elderly priest attending a masked ball at the mysterious Marquis’ mansion-turned-casino. But this is no ordinary party: the staff is tasked with murdering all its guests, and only Lafcadio can save them, Bill Murray style. The entire game takes place over a 12-hour in-game period which Lafcadio relives over and over as players solve various puzzles and mysteries to save the guests’ lives.

After my short half-hour demo at PAX East, I was immediately intrigued by the game’s mechanics. I knew it was going to be an interesting challenge, but I did not truly realize just how much thought and detail went into The Sexy Brutale until I got the chance to play through the whole game. So buckle your seatbelts and put on your deerstalker cap; you’re about to embark on a wild and mysterious ride unlike any other. Just when you start to think you understand what is going on, the story flips the table on you. And I mean that in the best way possible.

First, The Sexy Brutale combines British humor with a dark and often disturbing storyline with amazing elegance. The game features a unique masquerade art style, with character’s bodies almost resembling puppets with overly large heads. With its isometric camera angle overlooking the mansion’s widely varying rooms, it almost feels like you are peeking into a dollhouse, albeit a creepy dollhouse with a penchant for blood and Saw-esque murders. But the game counteracts the game’s troublesome events with bits of dry humor, an extremely detailed and colorful environment, and a fitting jazz soundtrack.

The Sexy Brutale
Credit: Tequila Works /

The game’s puzzles require a close attention to detail as you unravel the mysteries behind the Marquis and this eerie and creepy mansion. Every guest you save unlocks new powers via their mask akin to Majora’s Mask. This gameplay mechanic plays a major (pun intended) aspect in solving future puzzles. Each new ability you unlock compounds with your current arsenal of powers, and figuring out when and where to use them all is key to your success. And the game is not completely linear either: you may have to backtrack your way to previously explored areas to use newly obtained abilities and unlock new rooms and items.

Not only do you have to save all of the guests from their gruesome deaths, but you have to figure out how and where they die in the first place. The Sexy Brutale incorporates nearly everything from the mansion’s environment in these puzzles as well. Throughout the game, you hear various sounds that at first you might not understand what they are. But their purpose is slowly revealed as you dig deeper and deeper into the mansion’s secrets. Items you pick up in one time loop might not be useful until a later loop, or you might need to use one item from a previous puzzle in a different puzzle later on.

The Sexy Brutale
Credit: Tequila Works /

The Sexy Brutale‘s use of this Groundhog Day-style time looping mechanic is nothing short of brilliant. It not only adds a sense of urgency to its puzzle solving but makes you strategically plan out your next moves to make the most out of each time-loop. The game relies a lot on trial-and-error. You will have to slowly work your way through the hundreds of rooms in the mansion, learning how to time your movements so that you are at the right place at the right time.

These timings are crucial, as often you can only solve bits and pieces of a puzzle at an exact moment in time. The player-controlled Lafcadio cannot be out in the open in the same room as another living person either. If you get caught, you have a limited amount of time to leave the room, but the game is overly lenient about this mechanic. I never found it to be the real hindrance that I assume the designers intended it to be. Several times I ran haphazardly into a room I knew had another guest in it, and just quickly made my way across it with no punishment. I would have liked to see this mechanic be a bit more punishing, as it would add to both the difficulty of the game as well as the immersion.

The Sexy Brutale
Credit: Tequila Works /

Don’t get me wrong though, The Sexy Brutale does not hold your hand. It’s up to the player to observe their surroundings and pick up on various clues to learn how to proceed. Most puzzles will take several time-loops before you even realize what you need to do, and even then it sometimes takes another few loops to even accomplish that task. I experienced many aha moments when the solution to a puzzle was made clear, making solving these various puzzles feel extremely rewarding and enjoyable.

As challenging and mysterious as the game’s puzzles are, The Sexy Brutale is a truly accessible game. The controls are very straightforward to pick up and learn, as the game only utilizes a handful of buttons. The Sexy Brutale is about critical thinking and puzzle solving, not button combos or quick reaction times. I did experience a few glitches trying to get Lafcadio to properly go through doorways, as he needs to be facing exactly in the right direction for the action to trigger. While an annoyance, it was a minor one that is far from game breaking.

The Sexy Brutale
Credit: Tequila Works /

One aspect that did cause me a bit of a confusion was the linearity of the game. When I met with Design Director Charles Griffiths at PAX East, he had explained to me that the guests’ stories are not independent and that you can solve bits and parts of different guests stories at once. While many of the mysteries were intertwining, the story was a lot more linear than I was initially expecting. Other than items or abilities occasionally being shared across puzzles, each murder mystery seemed fairly secluded from others.

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Nevertheless, The Sexy Brutale proved to be one of the most unique gaming adventures I have experienced in quite a while. It is clear that an extreme level of care and detail went into every aspect of this game, from its colorful art style to its use of sound effects and music to its clever puzzles. And not to mention the game’s outstanding plot twist that would make M. Night Shyamalan jealous.

What truly makes The Sexy Brutale stand out, though, is that it tells an intriguing story in a way that only a video game could portray it. The inclusion of the time-loop gameplay system adds a level of depth to its mysterious plot that no other medium could illustrate so clearly. To quote Sherlock Holmes: “There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before.” Clearly, the famous detective never played The Sexy Brutale.

9. The Sexy Brutale is a unique, immersive mystery adventure game that is a standout in its genre. The amount of detail present in nearly every aspect of the game makes for a challenging but accessible puzzle solving experience. The game brilliantly combines time-loop mechanics with clever and mysterious puzzles that will put you on wit’s end, while smoothly balancing a creepy plotline with a colorful art style and dry humor. This indie title is a hidden gem that fans of mystery and puzzle games alike will greatly enjoy.. Cavalier Game Studios, Tequila Works. . The Sexy Brutale

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.