The Sexy Brutale Review – The House Wins

Death dealer.

Developer: Tequila Works, Cavalier Game Studios
Publisher: Tequila Works
Format: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Released: April 11, 2017
Copy provided by publisher

The Sexy Brutale certainly knows how to get my attention. The name alone was scintillating – promising the devilish and the stylish in a way that had me immediately intrigued. Then I witnessed the visual direction – macabre cartoon violence in a twisted casino populated by eccentric characters with creepy masks.

By the time I found out it was a murder mystery that required observation, deduction, and time travel, I was fully sold.

Calling The Sexy Brutale a murder mystery is perhaps not entirely accurate. You get to see each murder in all its brutal glory, after all. The mystery isn’t so much in the whodunnit but the howstoppit.

Every guest at the casino/hotel mansion is killed off in some gruesome manner, slaughtered mercilessly by the very staff of the Brutale themselves. The gas-mask wearing attendants commit their crimes without remorse but it’s not the player’s job to apprehend them – as aging priest Lafcadio Boone, they’ll need to see how a victim was killed, then reset the clock and attempt to foil the plan from the shadows.

Taking place over the course of a single day that can be forever rewound and repeated akin to Groundhog DayThe Sexy Brutale offers a number of murder scenarios that must be sequentially undone. The first murder – essentially a tutorial – is a very simple matter. A man is shot with a rifle – after the staff checked to make sure it was loaded, of course.

By finding and replacing the bullet with a blank (you can’t just take the bullet out, since the staff checks), the murder plot fails, but you need to see the killing unfold first before working out the crucial flaw in the staff member’s plot.

Naturally, the other murders are more complex affairs and may require multiple Groundhoggings before a solution becomes clear. Players can track the movements of both victims and killers, spying on them through peepholes and eavesdropping to gather clues or find important locations.

For mysterious reasons Boone shouldn’t be at the Sexy Brutale and his anomalous presence cannot be detected – at least traditionally. While he can’t be seen by the human occupants of the mansion, the elaborate facepieces they’re all wearing somehow know he’s there.

Should he occupy the same room as another character, the mask will rise from their head and float toward him, dealing damage upon contact. All activity in the mansion freezes and players will be unable to interact with anything nearby. In short – you’ll stick to the empty rooms unless you’re planning to dash in through one door and out the other.

While it’s very difficult to die in the game (masks move slowly and take a long time to drain Boone’s life), the rule does what it’s meant to – stop players from directly interfering and ensure they can only ever spy and sabotage in secret.

As you may have already guessed, The Sexy Brutale plays out in real-time. Once the day begins, the plan for the murder is set into motion – characters start moving from room to room, talking to each other, and getting into position for a most unfortunate demise.

Boone’s job is to secretly tail both prey and predator, learning their movements (which will be marked on the map and timestamped for review), how the death is dealt, and eventually how to rescue the target.

The Sexy Brutale is a puzzle game, that much is true, but as someone who doesn’t usually get along with puzzles I found myself utterly adoring this one. If you’re not generally a puzzle fan, you may still want to check this out.

Because the puzzles are based in observation, there’s something notably organic about how they’re solved. It can be tricky to put all the pieces together, but with some logical thought and a keen eye, the answers are all there in plain sight and they’re often cunningly simple. Every scenario gives Lafcadio all he needs to know – the trick is gathering and then mentally sorting the information.

And boy are some of the scenarios just utterly brilliant.

Each murder is, in fact, an amazingly scripted sequence with its own unique little story, and while it’s tempting to try and immediately rescue somebody I urge players to watch each death passively at least once – not only will it obviously help provide clues, but the murder sequences themselves are often ingeniously scripted and darkly amusing.

If nothing else, the killing of Tequila Belle is one of the most deliciously vicious sequences I’ve ever seen. It’s dramatic, it’s funny, and it’s chilling, which sums up this game perfectly.

Many puzzles involve the collection and use of items, but Boone cannot keep said items if he resets the day. He does, however, retain any knowledge he’s learned, including passwords or secret passages, and the map is just detailed enough for players to work out where people are and what objects can be manipulated.

Finally, each rescued victim leaves their mask behind, which Boone absorbs for a new power. Such abilities include enhanced hearing and the power the see and talk to ghosts.

So it is that The Sexy Brutale unfolds over a tight couple of hours, players resetting and then racing against the clock to undo nefariousness in beautifully detailed sequences using their own eyeballs and ability to follow logical paths – with a little bit of guesswork here and there.

For those who want to squeeze more running time from the experience, there are 52 playing cards to find, as well as character invitations that reveal more story. The Brutale has its secrets, and players can definitely squeeze more from it if they so desire.

This would have been a terrific game if it had just remained a morbidly comic puzzler, but it’s backed up by evocatively written lore and a story that turns into something all the more incredible as it unfolds. What starts as an entertaining spot of Cluedo But Backwards becomes an enthralling tale of crime, punishment, and guilt.

To say much more would be to spoil it, but by the time the credits rolled I was wide eyed and impressed – especially since what could have been a bullshit finale ended up working surprisingly well.

While no technical powerhouse, The Sexy Brutale‘s character and environment design are top-notch with an exaggerated cartoon feel to offset otherwise barbaric scenes. Aside from some minor loading issues when entering the occasional room, the game runs well and I’ve not encountered glitches or bugs to report, hooray!

The music is fantastic, a suitably swinging soundtrack for the setting, and while there are two lovely vocalized songs, the lack of voice acting overall is a shame.

The story unfolds entirely via text, which is fine enough, but I feel a strong vocal cast could have perfected it. This is not to say the game is actively harmed by text-only dialog – in fact, bad acting would be worse than zero acting – but some of these scenes could have been utterly perfect with the right voices behind them.

I’ve only one other criticism, and that’s the lack of options when manipulating time. As well as resetting the day, you can jump forward to 4pm or 8pm, which is useful for skipping things you don’t need to see again. Unfortunately, that doesn’t quite solve the issue of having to rewatch certain scenes, especially since you’re on a time limit anyway so skipping ahead often feels like an unwise risk.

When the worst I have to offer in terms of negativity is a lack of voice actors and some minor repetition however, it’s clear this is a quality title from a studio firing on all cylinders.

More than that, as The Sexy Brutale opens up and reveals something more complicated at its heart, I have to confess a certain level of awe at just how tightly scripted this whole thing is – pulling together separate but linked stories, playing them out in real-time, then layering a personal and affecting arc tale over it all while still providing brilliant gameplay? Tequila and Cavalier created something special with this one.

Blast it all if it isn’t another impeccable entry in a year swarming with quality already. I fear this one will get lost in the shuffle of big budget games, but make no mistake – The Sexy Brutale deserves as much attention as any HorizonZeldaNioh or Persona.

Rolling the dice on this one is a play I can confidently back.

10/10
Sterling

Leave a Reply

431 Comments on "The Sexy Brutale Review – The House Wins"

avatar
qorl123
Guest

You know what, this game is actually kind of fascinating, I like it.

Deltarr
Guest

Really like this game. The story is well written and I loved the twist ending.
A very good Indie game that everybody should try !

CyanManta
Member

Definitely going to be one of my top indie games of the year. Not quite as good as Night in the Woods, however.

Eric
Guest
I personally don’t understand all the praise this one is getting for the ending. I was pretty well in on the story all the way up to the finale at which point all the good will went out like a balloon getting away from me, and I was left with “Seriously? You’re pulling That tired, bullshit twist?” and after I’d figured it out I just ran through the leftover exposition waiting for the credits so I could stop. Gameplay was solid if a bit frustrating sometimes. I accidentally solved one of the murders just by fiddling around with the environment… Read more »
Kamion
Guest

Well, this certainly looks interesting. Might have to look into it.
I watched your video on it, even the spoiler part. The part you’ve been so excited about didn’t really grip me, but I guess it just doesn’t work out of context.

Anyway, always up for some murder-mystery.

Jallen
Guest

So it’s basically Ghost Trick just without hardware limitations? Well I’m sold but I cant help but feel you’ve over sold this one.

George Yth
Guest

That makes about as much sense as saying “Undertale is basically Mother 2”, “Shovel Knight is basically Duck Tales”, “Bayonetta is basically Devil May Cry”, etc. In the grand scheme of things the relation is obvious, but in practice they’re hardly equivalent.

As someone who puts Ghost Trick near the top of their favorite games list, I must assure you that outside of the *concepts* of time travel (more of a stable time loop, even) and murder-tampering the relationship is rather tenuous.

Spencer Trumbore
Guest

He really hasn’t.

David Feichtner
Guest

This game seriously gave me chills and I openly shed a few tears at the ending. It’s amazing how much you feel with every victim when the writing and surroundings manage to flesh them out so well. But what I really fell in love with was the setting. The Sexy Brutale Casino is gorgeously depicted, opulent yet stylish and there are so many small details that make the place feel the way it should.
So yeah, its a solid 9/10 for me. (And for Jim too since we have to add the usual +1 “Because everyone wears masks”-modifier to the score)

HenriqueRJchiki
Guest

i also shed a tear to the ending, very sad :/ i wish there could be a happier ending.

Olejka Petrow
Guest

I don’t know, it’s too simplistic, no depth at all. Idea is great, but game is extremely basic, it’s puzzles looks like a placeholder for something much more complex

George Yth
Guest

The puzzles are indeed very basic — so many of them are basically “observe a thing at the right time and follow the obvious clue”. I’d posit that their very presence is merely an excuse to voyeur your way through the narrative and environmental storytelling.

For fans of classic adventure games this is perhaps unsatisfying.

Spencer Trumbore
Guest

you’re very wrong, even the “simple” puzzles are intricately executed. Watch some let’s plays if you aren’t convinced yet. But I am so glad I bought this, holy crap

J Resurrección
Member

I feel kind of similar to the other guy. It’s pretty simple, like I solved two of the murders (Willow, Tequila) in like an hour before work this morning…but I am enjoying it.

Olejka Petrow
Guest

I played it for mysef, why do i need to watch let’s plays? I don’t regret the purchase and not cosider my time wasted or anything like that, but i found it to be too simplistic, another game with good idea and mediocre execution.

squid spitt
Member

10 out a 10 4 this?…….He’s obviously TROLLIN’!!!!!!!!!!!!!!LOL

HenriqueRJchiki
Guest

zelda salsagesucker confirmed.

Spencer Trumbore
Guest

I’m 6 cards short of 52 and have the upgraded ring, being beckoned to continue to the last area. Anyone help me find these cards? I see some in the tubes in the basement but don’t know how to get them, also the card bridge in the basement–what makes it fill-in?

Ces
Guest

Do you have Eleanor’s mask? Her power gets you to those tubes.

Spencer Trumbore
Guest

Thanks, I have already gotten down there and have 51/52 cards. I need to find out which one I missed. Anyone know where the Queen of Spades is? That might be it

Jack_T_Robyn
Guest

Try south of the Casino, in a fireplace, before 2:00 PM, that’s where I found my last one.

The Beard Eye
Guest

Wow, that’s a high score. 😮

Max Whiteley
Guest

10/10 “Sterling, perfect, a masterpiece.”

“One other criticism”

Lol, not 10/10 then. 9 or 9.5 or 9.9. If you find something where it can better itself it’s not perfect. 10/10 means perfect in the eyes of the reviewer, no matter who’s reviewing it.

If your going to be throwing perfect scores around as often as you do, it belittles the 10/10. But it does push your right to the top of that left hand side metacritic list though so I wonder if people do it because of that…

Caven
Guest
No, a 10 does not mean perfect. Here’s exactly what a 10 means as explicitly declared in Jim Sterling’s review score guide: “10 (Sterling): A 10 represents the finest of the fine, an exemplar of its genre, and the current game of its type to beat. While nothing in life is perfect, these games come as close to the ideal as one can get. Such a score is not given lightly, and is reserved for true pinnacles of the medium. A pinnacle can be relative – another game may eventually come that bests it, but for now, this is the… Read more »
Max Whiteley
Guest
What are you on about? I wasn’t trying to invalidate him, I was saying he is invalidating himself, by branding so many games with a perfect score. 10/10 means perfect. If you have 10 basketballs, and you take ten shots with those basketballs and make 10 baskets, you have a perfect record. By not deducting even .1 it has a perfect score. What’s the point in him even having a scoring system? He shouldn’t give out perfect scores if he has yet to find anything perfect. When he does find something perfect what is he going to do? Give it… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest

You know, we should really get Jim Sterling’s review scores added to the International System of Units.

timmy
Guest

Your original point was your mistake in thinking that 10 on this blog means perfect, which Cavan clarified by quoting Jim Sterling above. Read his post again.

YoDude
Guest

This guy gets it.

Whirlwind86 .
Guest

Not really.
The notion that a game with a perfect score must be a perfect game is in your mind.
Stop holding people to standards they have never subscribed to and are personal to yourself please, this rule on reviewing games isn’t written anywhere, what is written however is the “Review Score Guide” on the top right, if you are confused about what or why, refere to that.

Max Whiteley
Guest

You are also missing my point.
Giving out lots of 10/10 belittles the 10 score.

Like how in Olympic scoring for diving or gymnastics they very rarely give out a 10/10, because the more 10s they give out the lower the standards need to be.
If a 10/10 is rare the the standard needed to obtain one is greater. Do you understand my point?

Whirlwind86 .
Guest
I don’t fully agree with that statement too but mostly because I don’t feel that Jim is overusing scores, if anything the overusing of high number score is done by most of the rest of the game media to the point that when he uses a 7 it’s considered a travesty. He did a good job of spreading most of his reviews along the scale, i’ve seen plenty 5s or 6s on this site along the 3s and the 9s A slight bias towards higher numbers is gonna happen tho, if nothing else because he has limited time in a… Read more »
Max Whiteley
Guest

Fair point.
For some reason I remember him giving more tens then actually he has.
Undertale
Inside
And now this.

I’ll pipe down now.

timmy
Guest

He didn’t miss your point. He called you out on the first thing you said, where you were wrong.

Read Jim’s score guide, as two people have now suggested you do.

I’d also suggest not to assume that people haven’t understood you, if you’re that prone to forgetting things that you’ve yourself said, or not taking advice that would clear things up.

Will properly leave off this time, as I can see this going round in circles. Bye again

(You may repeat that too, if it makes you feel better)

Max Whiteley
Guest
None of you have addressed my point though. Someone a fue days ago copy and pasted the review score guide. To which I replied it’s a glass half empty scoring system. But the conversation has moved on from my end, while replying to numerous people it naturally would. I will put my point one more time to see if anyone cares to address my point rather than focus on a single word I used. Throwing out many 10/10s (which Jim himself dosent even think are 10/10s going by the review score guide) degrades what a makes a 10. When/if he… Read more »
fifferx
Guest
You are confusing a few things, which is making it impossibe to even discuss the topic. Factually, 10/10 means noting more then 1. It can be interpreted as 100% as well. But “Perfect” has no relation to ANY number scale. That relation is only given by a description or rules-set of such number scale. For instance, in your example of basketball, they could change their scaling system so that 20/10 is the new metric for indicating that a player has not missed a shot. Sure, it might confuse people a bit, but their would be nothing wrong with that system.… Read more »
Max Whiteley
Guest

It dosent matter if you change the numbers involved, if hit hit every basket that still a perfect record regardless if each basket is worth 2 points or not.

Jonah Slinn
Guest
You’re being way too literal about this. Art cannot be quantified in the same way that shooting hoops can, you’re completely missing the point. A 100% score is not the same as a 10/10 score, which is not the same as a 5 star score either. That might confuse you if you’re thinking in the realm of maths, but this isn’t to do with fractions. If you’re working with 100 points to give a game, you can be very precise with how those points are given. If Jim Sterling used a 100% system, he might not have given this game… Read more »
Max Whiteley
Guest
Well I’m now thinking a 100/100 scoring system is a much better way of rating video games.” I’m not saying that code actually exists, but to the everyday man reading a review, I feel a 10/10 should mean perfect in the eyes of the reviewer. As a way of saying “yes this is the pinnicle” of said product, with so many 10/10 games, how can one stand out as the pinnicle? The first 10/10 means a lot, but by the tenth the 10 has lost its elusiveness and by the hundredth? Well it would be difficult to take that opinion… Read more »
timmy
Guest

No, it doesn’t. It means it got a 10. If he thinks it deserves a 10 despite having a couple of flaws, he gives it a 10. It’s very simple. And does he say “Sterling” as if he’s talking to himself? I think not

Bye

Max Whiteley
Guest

You completely missed the point Timmy.
And did I say he was talking about himself? I think not.

Bye!

timmy
Guest

No, I didn’t. I believe others have clarified why above. And you made up a “quote” by him, in that curious habit people persist with because they don’t know how stupid it looks. It does.

BarthVader
Guest

“While nothing in life is perfect, these games come as close to the ideal as one can get.”

The review score guide takes that into consideration.

Max Whiteley
Guest

Empty* I meant half empty

Max Whiteley
Guest

Ahh the glass if half full 😉

My opinion is there are perfect things in life, many many perfect things. So my ten in my head means perfect, but jims ten is “close to perfect.”

craze
Guest

your comment is a 7/10, top of metacritic

Max Whiteley
Guest

Mehh middling scores don’t get you to the top of metacritic. High scores and low scores get you to the top of metacritic. I’ll take a 2/10

MeingroessterFan
Guest

While there are some flaws with the game, like the mediocre control scheme on keyboard and mouse and the bizarre cases of selective deafness, the game has a really nice level of polish, intriguing core concept that is well executed, and very solid and entertaining writing. And godlike music. Like, by the gods, that music tho.

Robby
Guest

Drink bleach you fat miserable cu-

Oh, he gave it a 10.

YoDude
Guest

(SKELETONWARRIORS-BUH-DUHN-DAHN-DUHN)

Bob Ind
Guest

It’s worth a 6, tops.

Clark O'Brien
Guest

It’s a good and is fun, but it sometimes gave me the same feeling of unearned achievement I get from reloading a save. As I said I did enjoy it but it’s not something I think I need to play again anytime soon.

MuddyScarecrow
Member
So now that I’ve finally played the game myself I will confirm that I REALLY like it. Tho I’m not sure it’s a ten for me. For one thing the puzzles are a lot more simplistic than I was expecting. Not that they’re easy exactly. Just that nine times out of ten it feels like I stumbled on the solution not even knowing it was the solution. Though they were still challenging enough for me to feel really smart for figuring them out. I also really like the Metroidvania feel of mask powers unlocking previously inaccessible areas. And you can… Read more »
Jesse Laier
Guest

I felt the same. Cool game, but the puzzles weren’t difficult at all.

Spencer Trumbore
Guest

I had a hell of a time with the Thanos and Auron murder, because I didn’t have the insight to note that (etc. etc. spoilers)

Michael Alexander Seiler
Member

That only you could get them hearts?

Enuo
Guest

#betterthanzelda

Lasse Andersen
Guest

#DeadHorseNotFunny

Sperium3000
Member

#YesItis

Chris Schwartz-Brown
Member

#Itwillneverstopbeingfunny

ENAY
Guest

#All7OutOf10sMatter

Narumi Ayumu
Guest

Honestly, I wasn’t THAT impressed by this. Kinda think Jim got a bit excited here. The game is way too short, and as he says, this game really isn’t all that puzzling, it’s more a case of getting lucky with trial and error as to where and when you examine the game world every time the day resets.

Interesting premise, but I would have hoped for an extended stay, with a lot more complex ideas as to how you solve and stop the murders.

silentwatcher
Guest

Hell, I was just planning to take a look at the steam page, but than the trailer music blasted through my speakers. I’ma going to have to buy this game now.

Dariush
Guest

@Jimquisition:disqus would it be possible to add a small section where you arrange reviews by score? Maybe in the review score guide?

Snowskeeper
Guest

Do you like hurting people?

Mandrake42
Guest

He could make his own aggregate score site that totals all his scores for every game and makes an average. MetaJim?

Drake Warnock
Guest

This game sounds fantastic.

Just4You
Guest

Has anyone made an Erotic Violence joke yet?

Snowskeeper
Guest

I’m sure somebody has.

Hawke
Guest

Is it fair to trust the score of a game where the developer was like, “How can we make this exactly what Jim Sterling wants in a game”. Since Jim is god’s voice on earth, and we all thank god for Jim… yes. Yes, it is fair.

Camilo Fernández
Guest

So, yet ANOTHER game of the year contender.
You’ll have to make it a top 20 if this year doesn’t calm the fuck down…

Michael Horton
Guest

Hmm, sounds like an interesting game to check out when I get a moment. Cheers!

1 2 3 5
wpDiscuz