Lafcadio Boone wakes up on the floor of a room in the halls of The Sexy Brutale, a British casino and mansion. The Marquis, the mysterious proprietor of the titular gambling den, holds an extravagant masquerade ball for select guests every year, his staff catering to the guests' every whim. Only, this year, something is awfully wrong.
Peeping through the keyhole, Father Lafcadio is the witness to a shocking murder. It seems the guests are intended victims and the staff is feeling murderous. Relieving the murdered guest of his mysterious magic pocket watch, Lafcadio can roll back time and is able to prevent the murders from taking place and find out why it's now customary to kill your paying clientele.
There are other guests at the casino, and their chips are down unless you do something. New guests become unlocked when you save their predecessors, so you don't have to worry about trying to save them all at once. Or worry about saving them immediately. Or at all. The Sexy Brutale is not a game that plays by conventional rules. It has so many aces up its sleeve, you'll wonder which magic act lost its coat at the intermission.
The Masked Messiah
In The Sexy Brutale, you can't even be in the same room as anyone else. It's not that Father Lafcadio Boone is suffering from severe hatred of the world, but that his mask has been blessed by the Bloody Lady, enabling it to protect him for a short period if he is seen by anyone else at all. For some reason, despite being a guest, Lafcadio is outside the affected murder-sphere, making him a hostile to anyone and everyone.
The mask burns if you try to walk into a room with another person on the other side, so you must get around this by peeping through the keyhole. You can eavesdrop on people on the other side of the door, gaining useful information like passwords, an items secret location, or clues to how you can foil this murder. If you enter the room with another person inside, the room fades to red and your mask is displayed in the corner, draining the longer you're in the room. The other person's mask will begin to emit red smoke and rise from their head, chasing you across the room ominously. It's scary enough to make you want to turn tail and run, but you can take around 10 seconds of being in the room before you "die" and restart back at 12 pm, hopefully giving you enough time to escape.
A stitch in time saves nine
Every day is Saturday, every time you wake up is 12 pm, and every day you have to prevent the murders from happening until you've stopped them all. The clock starts from the moment you're awake until you reset the day using the pocket watch, which is always on the left trigger button, the clock hits 12 am, or you die. Not being able to be in the same room as anyone else while having 12 hours to save people can seem daunting, and it is at first.
As you wander the rooms of The Sexy Brutale casino, you find clock keys to wind the main clocks in new areas, providing you a fresh checkpoint. And thank goodness, because The Sexy Brutale is one heck of a mansion. The murders take place in the new locations you reach, so there isn't a lot of time wasting tracking back through each and every room, and you'll need every minute to be eavesdropping and spying on people. The good thing about having a magic pocket watch to reset the day is that you can use it as many times as you like with no consequence other than losing any items you found since you last restarted (unless they're knowledge items like recipes). You'll have to spend some time resetting the day as you get to know the new area and where your key items are going to be when you finally piece all the clues together.
At first, resetting so much feels wrong. It feels like you're not playing it right because you're having to do it so often, but it's a mechanic you should make friends with because The Sexy Brutale won't hold your hand. You really must be observant. Listen with your magic-mask powers to hear secret information and see people's movements in the surrounding rooms, gain an idea of where they go and what their purpose is. When you save the guest, they leave their mask behind, granting you a new power to use in your priestly deductions.
I'm being vague about the puzzles and story, because talking too much about the game's guts spoils it. The game is a murder mystery, but it's less of a "whodunit?" and more of a '"hodunwot?" We know it was Colonol Mustard in the Study with a Candlestick, but how do we stop him from being there?
If you love murder mysteries, puzzles that will make your head spin harder than a roulette wheel, and a Vaudevillian design to die for, I can't recommend the game more. In fact, there are only a few small ways in which I can complain about The Sexy Brutale, and those are in the controls. I often reset the day before I meant to, which made for an irritating beginning, but my main frustration came when trying to open doors. Sometimes it took a while for the animation to kick in, causing a surprisingly long hang (to the point I thought my Xbox One might kick out to the main menu at any moment). More frequently, the game just stuck as I tried to pass between rooms. Despite this one flaw, The Sexy Brutale is sexy in so many ways.
This is a gorgeously executed murder mystery puzzle game where there's more than meets the eyemask. The main story is further fleshed out with collecting guest invitations and finding 52 playing cards, giving you an ever greater reason to leave the guests to their fates for a little longer. The puzzles are wickedly difficult, with the perfect amount of obviousness that will have anyone kicking themselves for thinking within the box.
- Beautiful presentation.
- Fun and free soundtrack.
- Devilishly hard puzzle design but great execution.
- Lots of extras and generous achievement awards.
- Passing between rooms can cause long gameplay lag.
The Sexy Brutale is available now for $19.99.
See on the Xbox Store (opens in new tab)
Disclaimer: This review was conducted on Xbox One with a code provided by the developer.
Just one question: are the puzzles directly related to the story (i.e. find meaningful object, bring to certain place) or are they abstract puzzles (i.e. solve this sliding block puzzle for no reason) I enjoy both types of game, but the former more, as I grew up on old text adventures.
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