First things first, I’d like to apologise for the sudden prolonged break. I had a terrible case of the summer cold, meaning I didn’t feel like doing very much at all. I’ve only really started to recover now. So to make up for my lack of appearance online, I’m going to FINALLY post this piece that I was meant to review back at the end of April.
The Sexy Brutale. Part murder mystery, part Groundhog Day simulator. All wrapped up in some honestly terrifying supernatural circumstances and events, bloody girls and soul-sucking haunted masks aside, and in a setting befitting of an Agatha Christie novel… maybe. If she were on acid or laudanum, or era appropriate narcotic of choice. It’s this heady mix of Christie-esque glamour, murderousness and a killer soundtrack that makes this one of the most addictive games I’ve had the pleasure of playing.
Alright, so the unkind thing to do to The Sexy Brutale is to compare its styling to my still current obsession Persona 5 with its acid jazz and picaresque style… so I won’t. Mostly because Persona 5 is a much bigger game compared to the compact The Sexy Brutale, but also because the jazz and glamour that both games ooze with are from completely different ends of the spectrum. What I will say though that The Sexy Brutale can be put in the same sort of calibre as Persona 5 because while the content of the game is not as vast, the quality is very high. Dialogue can be darkly comical, the cartoon ‘chibi’ character art style works well with the very aphonic yet colourful mansion, and the controls are just as seamlessly smooth in its simplicity: left analog stick to move, ‘X’ to open doors, ‘▲‘ to use an appropriate item, ‘□’ to peek through keyholes or use powers you accumulate, ‘○’ to cancel, L2 to rewind time once you have the means to and you use the R2 button to listen out for NPCs walking around in other rooms or eavesdropping on them once you have the appropriate power. That’s it. That’s all you really need to get around the mansion.
Where The Sexy Brutale really shines though is in its music. Each area of the mansion has its own soundtrack, the crescendo building up to the denouement of each victim’s life – or indeed victims’ lives as you are at times asked to save two victims at once. It’s a stylistic approach that makes up for the lack of spoken dialogue, with the music and the sounds of the mansion creating the tension or notifying you of either changes of scenery… or what poor soul has met their maker somewhere else in the mansion (you will be hearing a lot of the bell toll that happens around about 5pm every day, as well as the gunshot that kills Sixpence at about the same time).
But for all its simple little intricacies, interesting if somewhat mad plot, and the killer soundtrack, what let’s The Sexy Brutale is that it doesn’t really make clear where and what you should be doing. While the Bloody Woman (as we shall refer to her as) does point you in the right direction after every successful rescue, it is never made abundantly clear where your next quarry is in relation to where you are; often you’re running around searching for the next grandfather clock to tune yourself up to first, restarting the day, then running around trying to locate the next victim and stalking them to figure out what the riddle you need to solve is. Of course given that the game is encouraging you to watch patterns and explore the mansion in order to search for clues, our silent protagonist Lafcadio Boone’s pace is so achingly slow that it pretty much discourages exploration, and sometimes you might just stumble upon your solution rather than actually solve it for yourself.
Saving Sixpence, which is the tutorial stage of the game, is by tutorial standards really well executed, giving you the chance to figure out what you need to do on your own by watching not just Sixpence but also his killer’s movements in separate time cycles. After that though, when the game throws you into the deep-end by tasking you to save Trinity Carrington and her husband Clay Rockridge at the same time, that was when I accidentally solved the puzzle while trying to figure out how to get Clay to move away from the shot roulette. I also hadn’t banked on that I didn’t even really had to follow Trinity since she was the only one moving about; saving Clay was the real priority since he’d run to fair maiden’s rescue upon seeing her in danger. It’s a small thing… but when you stumble on the answers by accident rather than solve them for yourself, it does take away the sense of satisfaction that is rightly deserved for working it out.
That being said, you shouldn’t really hold these niggles against the game. It’s definitely a well-polished little gem if you can forgive these and the odd drop in frame-rate. A short little gem at that; I clocked in a complete game including all collectibles, locations, secrets, trophies and three endings in about six hours. You could easily play through this during a lazy Sunday afternoon, or in picaresque episode chunks (so a rescue per ‘episode’ play), maybe even pass this game to a friend to try. Sadly though it falls into the same category as murder mystery dinner party games tumble into – you know, the ones that are often based on a Poirot or Ms. Marple mystery that come with all the evidence, suspect profiles and the CD that has a recording of your detective-host that you play at certain revelations. You only really can play it once, because the next time you try to play it you’ll just know that who it was that was behind the murder(s) and know the solutions to the riddles, and that just takes all the fun out of it. Which is a terrible shame really when you think about it since there are games out there where it’s ability to be replayed in a different way helps with its longevity.
So… worth it? Well, I paid for a pre-order of the Full House Edition, which included a CD of the game’s soundtrack. For the £24.99 that it was… yeah. Yes I would say that it’s a game worth checking out. It’s been knocked down to £19.99 now on Amazon, and given that you could pay a big company much more for a sub-par triple A game launch edition -I am majorly pointing that finger at Mass Effect: Andromeda in this instance- it’s not a bad deal. Plus, catchy official soundtrack CD included so that the party never ends even when the game does. Ergo, you should play this game.
Now if you excuse me…
Doo-loolooloo-doodoo-doo~ ♪ *continues to hum the theme song while doing a shaky Charleston*
Oh hey! Guess what! You can buy the game here!