A humble priest wakes up on the floor in a grand mansion, a mask etched on his face. He gets up off the hard ground and peeps through the keyhole on the door. He witness a man with ginger hair wearing an equally strange mask, panicking, as he rifles his way through a safe. Unsatisfied, the man walks onwards. The priest follows with trepidation, he strains his eyes to see through the next keyhole and sees the man checking every nook and cranny, looking for something. Then another man enters the chapel, the priest can’t see him but he can hear every word he utters. “I know exactly what’s going to happen” the second man says, “you’re going to die.” An ear bursting gun shot goes off and the ginger man slumps to the ground covered in blood. The second man mumbles to himself and eventually leaves. The priest goes to stand over the man’s lifeless body and then… the clocks reset and the priest is once again waking up on the floor.
This is how The Sexy Brutale begins, and it only gets weirder from there.
The Sexy Brutale is a Cluedo-esque murder mystery in which only you – Lafcadio Boone – can save the numerous guests from meeting their ghastly demises on a single Saturday. For some peculiar reason, the staff of the mansion have gone rogue and, adorned in their creepy gas masks, they are murdering all the guests that are there for the Marquis’ 1920s ballroom show.
Why? Well you’ll find out as you explore the long corridors, many rooms and hidden secrets that make up the mansion and learn about the elusive ‘Lucas’ who is seemingly connected to everyone. All the while working to prevent the murders from happening on this groundhog day.
For each murder (sometimes their are two simultaneously) you have to explore a specific part of the mansion and observe what is happening around you. Take note of where the soon to be victims are and what they are doing, watch the ominous staff members prowl and plan their dastardly act and, grimly, watch the people get killed in horrible ways. You may have to watch the victims’ deaths several times before you realise what you have to do to prevent it. Thankfully, you have the power to reset the day and thus you can take what you learned and try to implement it when the day begins anew.
The thing is, preventing the murders isn’t quite as simple as walking into the same room as the culprit and just stopping him yourself. There’s a catch. Due to the mask on your face and the masks on everybody else’s, if you enter the same room as a staff member or victim, the room will go dark, sirens will blur, their mask will grow a fiery red and it will leave their face and try to eat yours. You have to get out of the room as quickly as possible, or perish. So instead of just stopping the villains you have to cleverly manipulate the world around you in order to save the the people. A little like a Hitman in reverse, though with less variety.
It’s a cool concept and it’s brilliant in execution, with the grand mansion being an excellent example of intricate, thoughtful game design – with a wonderfully lavish art style on top. The grand mansion is the star of the show and the way in which it slowly opens up like a tulip in the sun is very satisfying. With every murder you prevent you will earn the mask of the one you saved, which will grant you a new power. These powers, like seeing ghosts and being able to shatter stained glass, open up new parts of the mansion and allow you to naturally stumble into the next person to save. With every new person you have to save, the area in which you have to investigate will get bigger, things will get more complicated and the murders more extravagant.
But the best bit of the mansion is how seemingly mundane and inconsequential sounds slowly start to get dark undertones. At specific parts during the day things will happen – glass will shatter, the electricity will falter, bells will toll – and at the time you’ll think nothing of it. But slowly you’ll begin to realise that every strange sound is caused by another person’s gruesome death.
There’s so much character in The Sexy Brutale. Its art style is colourful and vivid, which doesn’t half contrast with the sombre murders and mystery. The music – which jumps from lively jazz to mournful soul – is both touching and exhilarating and the humour the game has, while juggling darker subject matter, genuinely made me chuckle once or twice.
The only drawbacks is that one or two puzzles can be overly obtuse, sometimes in ways that I don’t understand how anyone could figure it out without a helping hand. But again, that only happened to me a couple of times. I also found the movement of my character to be a little weird and heavy and it doesn’t feel all that nice to control.
Yet regardless, The Sexy Brutale is a unique, interesting and stylish murder mystery game that unravels perfectly to keep you suspended and in awe throughout.
Awesome, unique concept
The mansion is brilliant game design
Juggles humour with serious subject matter well
A couple of overly obtuse puzzles
Movement a little weird