If the film Groundhog Day were turned into a puzzle game, the result would be pretty close to The Sexy Brutale. It takes place in the titular mansion-turned-casino, where all the guests are about to be murdered. You play as Lafcadio Boone, a priest with the power to reset the clock at the end of every day. This gives Boone the unique ability to prevent those murders, and that's exactly what the game is about.
Every year guests arrive in this lavish setting to have all of their wishes fulfilled, but this year something appears to have gone terribly wrong. All of the guests are stuck in a time loop and they’re being murdered over and over.
Enter the Bloody Girl, a ghost-like character who pulls Boone out of the time loop and imbues his mask with the ability to hide from the casino’s rogue staff members. She also gives him a pocket watch that lets him reset the clock whenever he wishes, and asks him to prevent these murders from taking place.
Boone turns into a time-travelling Sherlock Holmes, trying to piece clues together before the clock strikes midnight and the day starts again. You move Boone around various rooms with the analog stick or d-pad, and interact with elements such as bookshelves, lockers, and sometimes even ghosts, to unravel the mystery. This is simply pressing a button, but there are a lot of these objects scattered across the mansion, and sometimes you may miss a clue if you skip any one of these. You need to gather some of these objects in a fixed order, and some of them are only accessible after the guest you’re trying to save has died. This can lead to interesting events like waiting for someone to die so you can get the clue, reset the clock, and proceed to save them.
Initially, your progress feels a bit too easy, as the first two murders are the simplest to solve. From the third one onwards, we noticed that the difficulty level ramped up exponentially.
This happens because you need to explore more rooms at The Sexy Brutale to stop the murders, and the clues themselves aren’t so obvious. At times we found ourselves with all the answers to the riddle, but were still struggling to figure out the correct order in which to execute our actions.
The increased difficulty level is actually a bonus as that is what makes the game fun. However it can be intimidating for some players as the game offers no hints or clues about solving the puzzles. You have to keep stumbling around, exploring various rooms and spying on the staff and guests to figure out solutions.
At times, we took an extraordinarily long amount of time just trying to find the next puzzle. This is because, when you prevent a murder from happening, you aren't told where to find the next guest on the list. You will have to figure that out on your own. It made us feel that this game is better suited towards people used to playing point-and-click adventure/ puzzle games such as The Secret of the Monkey Island, or Grim Fandango, where the developers would not give too many hints either.
Due to this, The Sexy Brutale demands patience and the willingness to try different approaches to the same problem over and over, until you figure out the solution. The first step is to track the movements of the person who’s about to be murdered. Once you do that, you should spy on adjacent rooms and see if any staff members are lurking. When you study their activities, you’ll probably track down the staff members who have been helping the murderer and should be able to reverse their actions.
It took us well over five hours to figure this out because the game doesn’t explain this at any point. As you progress in the game, other guests you save will give up their masks and with this, you gain their special powers. These are vital for progression and seeing it to the very end. We enjoyed this process quite a bit, but we’re not sure if inexperienced players would like it as much.
The Sexy Brutale has a nice caricature-like art style for characters and the masks add a bit of personality to each of them. We also like the way the mansion itself has been designed. The game has a semi-isometric view, that allows you to inspect objects in each room clearly. However, the transition from one room to the next was quite janky on the PS4. We didn’t enjoy the slight pause from the moment we opened a door, to the time where we enter the next room. Over the course of the game this became quite tiring, as did certain sound effects such as footsteps. These started to feel quite repetitive very early in the game and by the time we started writing this review, we wished there was an option to disable it.
The game does lack replay value as there’s nothing to do once you solve a puzzle. It has collectible items in the form of 52 cards and brochure entries. You can try to find or unlock all of these, but we didn’t find these compelling enough to play through the game a second time.
Overall, The Sexy Brutale was a pretty enjoyable puzzle game. It reminded us of good point-and-click adventure titles of yore through a combination of a neatly executed story and the challenging puzzles. We wish the game had a little bit of hand-holding for newcomers, but experienced players are sure to love it.
Overall rating (out of 10): 8
We played a review copy of The Sexy Brutale on the PS4. The game is available on PC (Rs. 565), PS4 (Rs. 1,999) and Xbox One ($20) and on disc for the PS4 as The Sexy Brutale: Full House Edition for 25 Euros (around Rs. 1,750).