Man, this game was a ride. The Sexy Brutale, or as I like to put it, “Lafcadio Boone’s very, VERY long Saturday”, is a groundhog day loop murder mystery, in which you play as a nosy priest trying to save the rest of the guests of the eponymous casino from getting murdered. The catch is, you’re not allowed to directly interfere with the murders – you must prevent each death by meddling with things in the background. Specific things. Usually with a glowing circle around them. You’ll know.

While for most games this is a bad thing and breaks up the immersion, the game makes up for it by oozing character out of every nook and cranny, with likeable characters dropping dead every few minutes or so as Lafcadio Boone skulks about the mansion, taking an inexplicably long time climbing stairs and crossing hallways, while trying to figure out a way to keep his friends alive before the next reset.

Platform Reviewed: PC
Platform Available: PC (Steam), PS4, Xbox One
Developer: Cavalier Game Studios
Publisher: Tequila Works
Release Date: April 11, 2017
Price: $17.99 /P449.95 (Steam)
This review is based on a retail build provided by the developers/publisher.

While for most games this is a bad thing and breaks up the immersion, the game makes up for it by oozing character out of every nook and cranny, with likeable characters dropping dead every few minutes or so as Lafcadio Boone skulks about the mansion, taking an inexplicably long time climbing stairs and crossing hallways, while trying to figure out a way to keep his friends alive before the next reset.

But wait, if there’s something out to get all the guests, what’s keeping you safe? An enigmatic lady in red gifts you with a bloodstained mask and an odd watch, which lets you relive the day’s events at will. You’re not allowed to stay in the same room as a living person, and this includes the mansion’s myriad would-be assassins – every guest is killed by a member of the mansion staff. Stay too long in a room with a breathing human and you’ll be sent all the way back to the start of the day, at whichever checkpoint you set previously. You’re the only one in the mansion with this power, and everyone else is on a set routine for the rest of the day – outside of when you save them.

Masks play an important role in Brutale, with each guest you save passing you their mask in exchange, along with a bit of their own power. These powers come together to help solve the mysteries in the mansion, with most of them letting you overcome a physical hurdle, or allowing you to get information that you wouldn’t otherwise have had access to. The masks are evocative of their owners, from the blind sculptor Trinity’s moth mask to the voodoo artist Willow’s calavera-inspired mask.

The game does not lack in flavor at any point, and there’s always something to catch your eye in every nook and cranny. The setting also does not disappoint – the guests are all high profile individuals, and the game does not fail to remind you of this at every turn. Books and other treasures can be scrutinized across the mansion, from bottles of expensive wine to obscure texts. It’s a mansion very much in the style of The Great Gatsby, with a little bit of Bioshock thrown in for good measure – there’s little clues to the story if you’re paying attention to all the paraphernalia.

Every character’s death is part of a puzzle, and solving these puzzles usually takes a few loops – you’ll usually start by looking into the circumstances of their deaths, and the game isn’t shy about showing you this information. Lafcadio can peer through keyholes, keep an ear out for footsteps and conversations in nearby rooms, and hide in closets. It’s possible to watch the gruesome deaths from multiple angles, and if the map layouts are any indication, it’s the recommended course of action. There’s always a little “Eureka!” moment when you figure the solution out, but the next step is to execute the plan – sometimes the solution has you racing the clock, and I had more than one heart-pounding experience when I realized that my marks were inching to their deaths.

While you might not be in the same room as they are, the game lets you keep an eye on the guests’ status via the pocketwatch in the bottom screen, and once the hands strike at a certain time, you’ve lost them. The game gives you a map and a way to track both guests and assassins. The map gets useful over time as it displays characters at different points in time, so once you’ve figured out where your victim is you can actually see their schedule.

The graphics are a surprising treat – the game plays with lighting a lot, and you can see the sun cast light on different parts of rooms at different parts of the day. The interface is charming, with highlight circles evoking casino chips and other bits taking from the gambling motif. Environments are rich and colorful, with the casino area proper feeling very exuberant with roulette and card tables. Music and sound effects exceeded expectations, with some of the sassiest electro swing I’ve heard from a game, as well as some spine-chilling sounds that will haunt you between day loops.

I honestly believe that Cavalier and Tequila hit the nail right on the head for this one.

High Notes:

  • Great graphics, excellent music, awesome and heart-wrenching story.
  • Fascinating characters that interact with each other, making it all the more tragic when they fall.
  • Surprisingly complex puzzles that aren’t all solvable at first glance. Not intensely skill-based either. There’s a fluidity between puzzles that makes for a very smooth experience – if you know what you’re doing.
  • There is some replay value as the puzzles aren’t so simple as to have the solutions be memorized.

Low Notes:

  • If you get stuck, it can take a while to figure out what you’ve missed. I’ve wasted some day loops just changing save points.
  • Controls aren’t as responsive as I feel they could be – you can waste time if you get Lafcadio to go in and out of closets by accident.
  • There’s a bit of lag on PC when you change rooms; some assets take time to load.

9.2

AWESOME!

IT’S A MUST-HAVE GAME AND CAN SECURE A SPOT IN YOUR COLLECTION.
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