People are going to talk about The Sexy Brutale. Prepare to hear a litany of opinions coming from the recesses of the internet. It’s going to be loud and it’s going to be divisive, but I beg you not to listen too closely – there’s just too much of this game to spoil. I will keep my review as spoiler-free as possible, but know that this is an intriguing adventure game that does interesting things with the genre and I dig everything about it. I think you should play it.
The Sexy Brutale finds the player in -the role of a mysterious masked fellow, kicking about a mansion populated by similarly concealed guests and staff. It seems that the staff means murder for the guests, in ridiculously ornate and spectacular ways, except for in the tutorial. In the tutorial, someone gets shot. It is your mission to prevent these catastrophes from behind the scenes. Rather than running in to save the day, the player affects the world in far more subtle ways, making slight changes to undo these duplicitous plans while avoiding being seen by anyone.
The actions all take place in one exceptionally large mansion during a predetermined stretch of time. You’ll be able to reset the time whenever you like and can set your spawning location to numerous locations throughout the house. However, time is always ticking forward in The Sexy Brutale. While you putter about in the library, delving through the stacks for secrets and clues you’ll still hear gunshots, breaking glass, and other telltale sounds of murder throughout the house. That may be my favourite detail. No matter how far you progress you’ll always remember what you’ve done and wonder what another noise might signify.
Stylistically speaking, The Sexy Brutale is gorgeous. The whole aesthetic is drenched in the opulence befitting a good masquerade. From the stylish casino to the creepy basement, every in of this game oozes stylish design choices. The music complements the environments beautifully, even the sudden swells and dips worked quite well. Perhaps the reason these elements work so well is that they too function as an extension of gameplay and story. Looking at it as a whole, it’s all masterfully done.
This game is technically an adventure game, but the way you go about playing it differs wildly from more traditional games of the genre. Yes, you’ll hunt for items and apply them to various objects, hoping to find a favourable result. However, that isn’t your main method of puzzle solving. Much like a visual novel, The Sexy Brutale has a story it wants to tell you, and your best bet is to hunt it down. Now, the isn’t often done through long-winded text dumps, save for a particularly long sequence near the end of the game, but rather through minute clues found in dialogue while eavesdropping. Watching the goings as if it were a massive living play will prove endlessly more useful and productive than attempting random item combinations, and more interesting. Even aforementioned text dump is more entertaining than the standard exposition, as it works to illuminate why things operate the way they do rather than simply telling you.
When I first looked at the quest screen I was concerned that the game may be too short. Only eight murders to prevent seemed like it would go by all too quickly. To be honest, it is a short game. A player could easily conquer this house of horrors in one or two sittings. What is there, however, is amazing and does not feel like it ends too soon. Furthermore, one could spend hours hunting down the collectables and reading every bit of the back story and supplemental materials, all of which are lovingly crafted and entertaining.
The controls can feel a little clunky at times, but those are my only two knocks against The Sexy Brutale, really. It is a quality experience through and through with some excellent writing and inventive design that I can’t say I’ve ever seen implemented so well in a game before. It dares to be different and does so with style. I loved every minute of it.