Masks, murders, and mysteries are what you will encounter in The Sexy Brutale, an indie game created by Tequila Works and Cavalier Game Studios. It is a quirky point-and-click adventure game that recently came out for the major consoles (i.e., PC, Xbox One, and PS4), and I was drawn in to the art style of the characters. For some reason, it reminded me of Grim Fandango, but maybe that’s just me. Little did I know, however, that the game explores a very intricate storyline and gameplay aspects that surely impressed.
So what is The Sexy Brutale? Well, it is the name of a casino mansion created by this man named “The Marquis.” Every year, he holds a masquerade ball for a select group of guests, where the casino’s staff members are trained to meet every guests’ requests. However, this year is quite different; something weird has happened, and the staff members are killing all the guests instead.
Thus, it is up to Lufcadio Boone, The Sexy Brutale‘s protagonist – and your avatar – to save the day. Who is Lufcadio Boone? Apparently, he is one of the invited guests who is very lucky to be saved by the bloody woman, another enigma in this crazy story. The bloody woman gives Lufcadio the power of rewinding time via his mask, and that power is the key to saving all of the guests and uncovering the mystery of this crazy night.
The gameplay of The Sexy Brutale uses a time-rewinding system to explore and complete puzzles to save the guests. In a sense, it feels like you have all the time in the world to explore like a typical point-and-click adventure, but it also feels like saving a guest is timed. Let me explain. In each scenario, a guest will die at a certain hour (usually around late afternoon to almost midnight). You, as Lufcadio, have from the beginning of that day to when the guest will die to explore and stop the murder from happening.
However, if you fail to complete the puzzle (i.e., you let the guest be murdered), you’re going to have to have to use Lufcadio’s newly-gained power to rewind time and figure it out again. The thing is, whatever items you’ve picked up or things you have done are reset, and you’ll have to do it again. Thus, it gives that feeling like it’s not technically a “game over” for not stopping the murder in time, but you have to retrace your steps and figure out what you should do differently to prevent murder most foul.
There is, however, a way to get a “game over.” The bloody woman explains to Lufcadio that his mask bestows another gift that allows him to be invisible to the naked eye for a short period of time. So if Lufcadio is in a room with other people in it as well – be it an unfortunate guest or a conniving staff member – his mask is slowly drained of its power. Once that power is completely drained, it’s game over. There are plenty of ways to avoid being seen, however, the first is that whenever Lufcadio is near a door with an occupied room, his masks will start to burn as a warning. To figure out whether a room will be clearing soon and to overhear important conversations to advance the story, Lufcadio can spy and peek into the keyholes.
One great gameplay aspect of The Sexy Brutale is that the elements keep growing as Lufcadio saves the guests. The invited guests of this crazy masquerade ball all have inherent talents that they can share with Lufcadio by lending him their masks. After saving a guest, Lufcadio is given the respective guest’s mask, and he is able to learn or grow his set of skills from extraordinary hearing to perfect pitch. The new and improved skills allow Lufcadio to unlock certain parts of the casino mansion to explore all of its macabre secrets.
The controls, at least in my experience using the keyboard and mouse, is a little clunky. You move Lufcadio by holding the right mouse, open doors with the left mouse, and interact with items with a keyboard key. Spying is done with a different keyboard key than the item interaction key, and to stop spying is a different keyboard key from all of the other keys…and you see how it easily becomes clunky trying to explore with such a limited time to complete a puzzle. I was quite surprised, to be honest, on how the controls were so convoluted, since The Sexy Brutale is a game that utilizes a minimal amount of controls. I believe at least three or four of those types of interactions could be done in one keyboard or mouse click.
I do, however, think that the art style of The Sexy Brutale is so appealing. The theme of Victorian masquerade ball is really well-thought out and the details on each character can be seen. A motif of using card symbols is also apparent especially with the staff members; although it seems like all of the staff members are very much alike in terms of their physique and dress, each one carries a card symbol (like the Three of Clubs or Two of Hearts) to distinguish it from one another.
Overall, I think The Sexy Brutale is a great game. The unique time-rewind gameplay aspect with the improvement of the main character’s skill set creates a different experience from the typical point-and-click adventure game. My only gripe is that to maybe use a controller (or pick this up for the Xbox One or PS4) to avoid the clunky controls, since I think the controls may turn you off from this true indie gem.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Use Your Mask Powers to Save the Guests of a Mysterious Casino Mansion
Plot - 9/10
Gameplay - 8/10
Design - 7/10
+Gameplay elements grow after progressing in the storyline
+Victorian art style and card symbol motif are very appealing
-Keyboard and mouse controls a little convoluted