I have to confess, while I love a good adventure/puzzler as much as the next guy, I never got around to playing The Sexy Brutale when it originally landed on the PC back in April of this year. That’s not to say the game wasn’t on my radar. Our own I. Coleman had gushed extensively about the game, which puts players in a macabre masquerade ball ans tasks then with preventing the party’s seven guests from being brutally murdered, in his review a few months back. So when I discovered Badland Games’ plans to bring a retail version of the game to the PlayStation 4, I knew this a party I couldn’t afford to miss.
Distributed exclusively through GameStop, The Sexy Brutale: Full House Edition includes the original game along with a soundtrack CD and a full-color manual detailing developers Tequila Works and Cavalier Game Studios creation of the game. While these extra bells and whistles may sound pretty minor, fear not! The Sexy Brutale is one hell of an aural experience. Brought to life with an outstanding selection hard jazz arrangements, the bundled soundtrack is pretty much essential listening. Likewise, the developer commentary in the glossy manual is filled with interesting insight into the game’s development. Simply put, if you picked up Badland Games’ physical release of OlliOlli: Epic Combo Edition when it rolled out last year then you should have a pretty good idea of what you’re getting in this package: a quality set that may lack padding but makes up for it with killer content.
It’s like Groundhog Day, but with less Bill Murray and more murder
The Sexy Brutale‘s premise is certainly a novel one. One part Clue, one part Groundhog Day, the game puts players behind the mask of Lafcadio Boone in the midst of a party that’s gone horribly awry. Boone finds himself trapped in a mansion that’s in an endless time loop, where the seven guests attending a posh party are murdered like clockwork. Given a special watch that allows him to reset time on a whim, Lafcadio must follow the daily routines of these hapless revelers and find a way to prevent their often elaborate and gruesome deaths.
Keeping these partygoers alive requires a keen eye and attention to detail. Typically, you’ll need to creep around the mansion grounds, avoiding detection by other guests as you spy on your target through keyholes and from cupboards and attempt to gather as many clues as possible. After watching their grisly demise, you then try to devise a plan to throw a wrench in the killer’s machinations.
This is easier said than done, however. There are often tons of small details to keep track of during each stage. Thankfully, the game’s cyclical nature comes into play here. As each day unfolds the same way, you can make note of numerous recurring audio and visual cues to make things easier. And while these initial murders can be prevented with a single prop, before long you’ll have to save multiple guests at once. By the end of the game you’ll need to execute a daunting laundry list of actions all at just the right time in order to foil the killers plans. It’s a literal race against the clock. And this constant sense of urgency makes each rescue feel immensely satisfying.
Adding another welcome layer of depth to The Sexy Brutale is the mask system. After saving a guest you’ll acquire their mask. Each of these guises gives Lafcadio access to a new ability, and offers an almost Metroid-like sense of progression through the manor. For example, Trinity’s mask will allow you to hear better, allowing you to decipher audio cues such as passwords to locked doors, while donning the mask of voodoo practitioner Willow grants you the power to light candles and summon ghosts who can provide valuable clues on how to progress.
These are just a few of the different mask you’ll take advantage of. And each of these powers is utilized in clever ways and adds another mechanic for you to be mindful of during your next rescue. Honestly, it can be easy to overlook new abilities given the frequency at which they’re introduced. But once you learn to master their many uses, Lafcadio’s burgeoning bag of tricks becomes one of the real highlights of The Sexy Brutale‘s experience.
It’s my party and I’ll die if I want to…
While The Sexy Brutale is an often sublime experience, the PlayStation 4 port isn’t quite perfect. Despite the game’s rather modest visuals, I experienced quite a few moments of slowdown where the action began to chug. This happened most frequently during screen transitions, but can become a noticeable hassle when you’re racing to interact with an object at just the right moment. After all, every second counts, and missing an objective will force you to replay the day all over again. Additionally, with just seven guests to spare, it’s possible to see the game’s story through in just a few sittings. Still, with two different kinds of collectibles to gather in your journey, you’ll still find a worthwhile reason to explore every nook and cranny of the manor.
The Sexy Brutale is a sadistic and cerebral adventure brimming with both style and substance. Developers Tequila Works and Cavalier Game Studios have crafted an inventive and addicting gem that is, while quite short, fittingly crafted with a watchmaker’s attention to detail. And while the physical release doesn’t offer a ton of extras, what’s there is all high quality and deserving of a spot on your shelf. If you’re a fan of puzzle games with a solid story and don’t mind its brevity, the time is right to add The Sexy Brutale: Full House Edition to your PlayStation 4 library.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Badland Games ; Developer: Tequila Works, Cavalier Game Studios ; Players: 1 ; Released: August 29, 2017; MSRP: $29.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of The Sexy Brutale: Full House Edition given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.