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

Maxpower16
Guest
Maxpower16

So what does “Brutale” actually mean? I’ve been trying to Google it for a while now, only having found references to the French and Italian versions of the word “brutal”.

GenGaoGaiGar
Guest
GenGaoGaiGar

Think it’s a portmanteau of the words ‘Brutal’ and ‘Tale’.

Maxpower16
Guest
Maxpower16

Oh, that would explain a lot! Thanks for replying.

Sidenote: I like it when some thought is put into the title of a piece of media. Cleverness is always appreciated.

The Interloper
Guest
The Interloper

Probably just a fancy take on brutal if I had to guess.

Sperium3000
Guest
Sperium3000
“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.” But you know, I argue that there are certain games where the lack of voice acting is a strenght, specially because not all voice acting is made equal, you can always have stinkers. Like, the fact that every character’s voice in, say, Don’t Starve, is represented by a different musical instrument gives that game an unique charm. But of course, it’s a case by case thing. I’m not trying to discredit what… Read more »
Arella Jardin
Guest
Arella Jardin
For me, it depends on how much the game relies on dialog and story. If a game is almost entirely focused on gameplay, then I don’t care if there’s no voice acting. But, for a dialog heavy game, lack of VA is “almost” always a sin (the exception being Undertale). I tried Earthlock a while back, not a great game, adequate. But the lack of VA made it feel dead. Hell, I won’t even bother with interactive novels/ dating sims without voice acting. I’d rather watch someone like Dodger play them, so she can provide dumb voices for all the… Read more »
Muddy Scarecrow
Guest
Muddy Scarecrow
And this is exactly why Digital Homicide can go get fucked by a cactus. They sneeringly tried to claim that Jim is actively against indie games and wants to see them all fail. And yet if it weren’t for Jim I wouldn’t even know about two very amazing indie games, the first being Undertale. No joke, his review was the very first I’d ever heard of that game. So…yeah. Gonna check this one out and I expect to love it. You had me at “time travel murder thriller” because this sounds like a spiritual successor to Ghost Trick. Edit: AND… Read more »
Aaron
Guest
Aaron

As to the voice acting thing, do you think that was strictly a budgetary limitation, or did they perhaps want to avoid scenes that moved at a specific pace due to things being on a timer? I haven’t played it yet, so perhaps the question is less applicable than it seems, but I do find it curious that what sounds like an old lucasarts game in a lot of ways wouldn’t have VO to support the story.

GrantimusMaximus
Guest

Wow, I’ve never heard of this. This just jumped on my steam wishlist.

Sperium3000
Guest
Sperium3000

Why couldn’t have this one launched free through PS Plus instead of god damn Drawn To Death?

Andrzej Sugier
Guest
Andrzej Sugier

Jim, have you forgotten Nier already?…

Raging Raving
Guest
Raging Raving

maybe he spelt Nier wrong 🙂

Mir Teiwaz
Guest
Mir Teiwaz

It’s possible it was on purpose.

CountOrlock
Guest
CountOrlock

Forgotten? I believe he beat it like 5 times, hardly forgotten lol.

Andrzej Sugier
Guest
Andrzej Sugier

But he didn’t put it in the hall of fame at the end of the review!

Btw, to truly beat Nier ONCE you need to “beat” it 5 times, the game toys with the definition of “ending”.

Cameron Ward
Guest
Cameron Ward

how fast does the timer move? I think that might be my only hesitation in terms of purchasing this game. been keeping my eye on it for awhile

Jim Sterling
Guest

I believe an hour = a minute.

You’d be surprised though, you can do a lot before someone dies, and once you have the solutions worked out, you’ve ample time to do the legwork needed to turn those solutions into action.

Cameron Ward
Guest
Cameron Ward

hmm Alrighty then! I shall see the price and if it’s good for my budget, i shall download it. Seems like a game I would enjoy since I also enjoy weird puzzle games like One Piece Mansion (not related to the anime) on PS1.

Silvershock
Guest
Silvershock

I’m not sure if I’ve read a review where you’ve given out a 10 before, but I am gratified that your top rating is “Sterling”.

Muddy Scarecrow
Guest
Muddy Scarecrow

Both Undertale and Nioh got 10s. =3

GenGaoGaiGar
Guest
GenGaoGaiGar

As did Inside and Nioh

Muddy Scarecrow
Guest
Muddy Scarecrow

I said Nioh. Do you mean Nier? I don’t remember what score he gave that >///>

GenGaoGaiGar
Guest
GenGaoGaiGar

Fuck, I’m dumb, somehow Bloodborne in my head turned into Nioh on the screen

Muddy Scarecrow
Guest
Muddy Scarecrow

No it’s cool! I mean he liked Nioh enough maybe he would give it a ten twice if he could XD

James LaValle
Guest
James LaValle

He gave neir a 9

Silvershock
Guest
Silvershock

I’m sure he’s given out 10s before, I just haven’t read those reviews.

eljueta
Guest
eljueta

OMG BETTER THAN ZELDOR

eljueta
Guest
eljueta

actually I really wanna play this.

Ralph Panebianco
Guest
Ralph Panebianco

While I don’t think anyone can take any of your scores seriously again after your Zelda review, your text is typically worthwhile. I’ll check this one out.

Silvershock
Guest
Silvershock

Are people really still upset that he didn’t like the thing he liked enough for people who liked it more?

Ralph Panebianco
Guest
Ralph Panebianco

No not upset. It’s just pretty clear that that was a silly score to give, so I go to Jim for his words now rather than his scores.

krazykain
Guest
krazykain

it matched the context of his words greatly so I don’t really see your point

Ralph Panebianco
Guest
Ralph Panebianco

There are tonnes of things wrong with Zelda, but it’s apparent to anyone that plays videogames that there is a greater than the sum of its parts achievement there, and that 7 is just silliness. I’m not salty, I’m just saying that there are reviewers that I will continue to rely on for their professionalism, where Jim I will look to for engaging writing.

Wisq
Guest
Wisq

You do realise that Jim operates on a more sensible rating scheme, where 7 is still “pretty good”, and not “the lowest we’ll give an AAA game because we only rate things between 7 and 9”, right?

Ralph Panebianco
Guest
Ralph Panebianco

I do.

Chris Schwartz-Brown
Guest
Chris Schwartz-Brown

Waaah, waah, the mean man didn’t like a toy that I’m playing with as much as I do, waah! Clearly this is something for me to still be angry about weeks later and still be bringing up, waah!

Danny Carr
Guest
Danny Carr
The idea that every reviewer is going to look at a game and see it as 8-10 is what’s silly. There will always be outliers. Jim isn’t even the only reviewer to give it a 7 he’s not even the one to give it the lowest score. Planescape Torment, Zelda ocarina of time, Metal gear solid, Deus Ex, Witcher 3, Red Dead Redemption just as random examples. All games regarded are very, very highly. There’s still people that think all are merely just good rather than great or even think they’re bad. Not everyone is going to think a game… Read more »
Christopher Hammond
Guest
Christopher Hammond

I know, right. It’d really be something to worry about if Zelda ONLY got 10s. That would certainly be a sign of some Shadow of Mordor level bullshittery. Differing opinions are just normal when you’re talking about creative works. Probably all well regarded classics of film, television, literature and art have had some very harsh critical receptions. I don’t know why people think games should be immune to this.

Andrzej Sugier
Guest
Andrzej Sugier

See you in a years when everyone will remember BotW as a great but flawed game, a bit overhyped at launch. Just as it happened with Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword. Seriously, patern recogniton is an usefull skill to have.

Ralph Panebianco
Guest
Ralph Panebianco

Agree with this completely. Great but flawed and overhyped.

Matt Borgard
Guest

…Was Skyward Sword overhyped at launch? I don’t remember it being particularly lauded. In fact, there was quite a lot of “this game is very good, but the Zelda formula is getting old”

RedWolf
Guest
RedWolf

I liked Skyward Sword, even though it was very flawed. I know the
popular opinion is that it was hot trash, but the game did a lot of
things right.
Also, Twilight Princess is still great. It was definitely a much stronger title than Skyward Sword.

Andrzej Sugier
Guest
Andrzej Sugier

You see, I said that both of those games were great. But when they first came out people were praising them to the high heavens and had no criticism whatsoever. I believe that the same story will repeat once again with BotW. Please mind that I have never played a Zelda game I didn’t really like, it’s just an observation.

RedWolf
Guest
RedWolf

Fair enough. I wasn’t criticising or trying to rebut your statement, just giving my own input.
I also think that BOTW is very overhyped. I haven’t played it myself, but the gameplay clips I’ve seen and Jim’s review make it apparent that it’s not for me, and fanboyism tends to put me off playing any kind of game.

GenGaoGaiGar
Guest
GenGaoGaiGar
Good on you for finding a truly objective measure of games. If only we were all so lucky as to know definitively what score represented a game’s quality outside of any subjective opinion. How could Breath of the Wild possibly score a 7! He gave a game he had a good time with a good score instead of a great score, truly the pinnacle of unprofessionalism. All of his arguments about the stamina meter being frustrating or weapon durability making the game more of a chore were too subjective to be considered in the review score, which as you know… Read more »
Mister Lamp
Guest
Mister Lamp

I play video games, and I think Jim gave Zelda too high of a score, based on what I’ve seen of Zelda. Which is admittedly, not a lot, I don’t own a Wii u or switch, so my exposure to it has been like 4 hours of a let’s play that I dropped because it was too boring.

Mir Teiwaz
Guest
Mir Teiwaz

The problem is that you’re assuming Jim values the same things in a game that you do. He clearly doesn’t.

Luke Hodgkinson
Guest
Luke Hodgkinson

Why was it a silly score to give? He gave it a score that represented his opinion.

Silvershock
Guest
Silvershock

Why was it silly, beyond “it’s not the score I wanted”?

Michael Alexander Seiler
Guest
Michael Alexander Seiler

You mean the same words that explain the score? Those words that Jim has to remind people of when they ask him why he´d scored a game with that score? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/abe6190dfc33c8f714c4ebe3deac84f56241e5f7a33ce659045e4717465cb29b.jpg

Nathan Aldana
Guest
Nathan Aldana

Translation: “I didnt mind the stuff jim minded therefore I think he shoukldnt be allowed to have an opinion that conflicts with me”

Sonydrone
Guest
Sonydrone

He can’t have his opinion about the Zelda review? I always see Jim’s fanboys saying “Stop being so upset, it’s just his opinion” but when someone have a different opinion from your god, you guys just do the exact same thing that you tell to others don’t do. People like you are pathetic.

Silvershock
Guest
Silvershock

You’re still mad that I pointed out you doing that exact thing two articles back, then?

Andrew Christianson
Guest
Andrew Christianson

Wah wah

Jim Sterling
Guest

HAHAHAHAHAHA!

GenGaoGaiGar
Guest
GenGaoGaiGar

It’s Assassin’s Creed 2 all over again. Do these people ever realize the ‘No one is going to take you seriously again’ argument has been trodden out ad infinitum by this point?

Jim Sterling
Guest

Here I remain.

Christopher Hammond
Guest
Christopher Hammond

Yeah, you’re remarkably relevant to these people’s lives for such a big fucking joke.

Muddy Scarecrow
Guest
Muddy Scarecrow

No, see, I think the problem is they take his scores TOO seriously.

RedWolf
Guest
RedWolf

Dude, get over yourself.

Nathan Aldana
Guest
Nathan Aldana

ahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

TimKovich
Guest
TimKovich

AH! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

I AM A TENT
Guest
I AM A TENT
TheMagicLemur
Guest
TheMagicLemur

Funny; I can’t take anyone seriously who “can’t take Jim seriously” because he gave Breath of the Wild a 7/10.

Benj
Guest
Benj

This is a much healthier and more nuanced approach to the fanboy whinge than I’m used to seeing.

It’s still salty but a kind of high quality natural sea salt rather than your bog standard table salt.

So congrats… I guess.

Ralph Panebianco
Guest
Ralph Panebianco

Thank you. I strive for quality.

Ben
Guest
Ben

ITT: Folk unable to accept a non-hysterical, well supported difference in opinion while accusing you of the same.

CaitSeith
Guest
CaitSeith

This is such a perfect passive-aggressive compliment that I had to give it a thumbs up!

Jack Trevor
Guest
Jack Trevor

Sounds like Ghost Trick. I’ll check it out considering this sounds interesting.

dfx7
Guest
dfx7

The last time I instantly went into a game after reading your review was Undertale. And that game is one of my top ten favorites of all time.

So I’m giving this a shot.

mrhair
Guest
mrhair

You’re missing the info at the top of the review (publisher, platforms, etc).

Also, this game really sounds like my sort of thing; I just wish it wasn’t coming out at about the same time as, like, five other games that also sound like my sort of thing.

Lasse Andersen
Guest
Lasse Andersen

Developed by Cavalier Games
Published by Tequila Works
Released for PC and PS4 at €20

professorrev
Guest
professorrev

This sounds like 999 and Virtues Last Reward found a cabin in the woods and put some blankets down.

Even Luck
Guest
Even Luck

Whoa this sounds like Ghost Trick by mental people. That’s going on the wish list.

goodbyejojo
Guest
goodbyejojo

caught that killer7 reference

Lewis Cowen
Guest
Lewis Cowen

Gonna need to check this out. Looks fun.

bimmyz
Guest
bimmyz

*grabbing popcorn and inb4 score bait trolls

Eirik Hafskjold
Guest

I am going to buy this without even looking at the game now, Jim. I am going to go in totally blind with no hype or knowledge of the game (other than your review) and trust your judgement. It will be fun to see if you just found me a masterpiece.

endolex
Guest
endolex

Same here!

Dave Crowe
Guest
Dave Crowe

I saw an Xbox vid mention the game the other day and it intrigued me through the visuals initially. Glad to hear there is more to it than that – will pick it up.

febLey
Guest
febLey

I’m pretty sure you gave 10/10, because this game has masks x)

SilentPony
Guest
SilentPony

You say that like its a bad thing…

CaitSeith
Guest
CaitSeith

Just stating the facts. Jim himself said it: Masks = his praise.

Coleman
Guest

Glad you liked it Jim, this was definitely a stand out games at Rezzed this year.

Lasse Andersen
Guest
Lasse Andersen

I am so bitter that i missed it, in hindsight.

irfanf (IrfanF)
Guest
irfanf (IrfanF)

“yes that score is genuine”
yeah either its a 0 or a 10

Kamakazie
Guest
Kamakazie

Well, here’s something I’d never heard of before. Sounds really interesting.

1 2 3 5
wpDiscuz