The Sexy Brutale
The Sexy Brutale is — well, I guess it’s an adventure game from first time developer Cavalier Game Studios. The game’s title makes it sound like it’s an upcoming installment in the 50 Shades of Gray universe, but it actually refers to the name of the casino / mansion where everything takes place. So in case you’re wondering, nothing in the game is especially sexy or brutal. The title just as easily could have been The Really Odd Casino.
In the game you play a character named Lafcadio Boone. During the opening cinematic sequence, you’re woken up from the dead by a woman in red, who informs you that you’re in the Sexy Brutale casino, where for some reason the staff has started murdering the guests. She then gives you a unique pocket watch, and she asks you to save the guests from their fate. Luckily, the pocket watch allows you to repeatedly restart the day at noon, and so you can keep trying until you get things right.
There are nine guests and something like a dozen staff members in the casino. Each time you save a guest (or a pair of guests), that objective is marked as complete and you can move on to the next guest. You don’t have to save all nine guests on the same day. That’s convenient because the guests are spread out through the casino, and so each rescue operation takes you to a new area (including a theater and a chapel), which means you keep seeing new things and there’s only a minimal amount of repetition.
Most of the rescues are straightforward. As an example, the first guest you’re supposed to save is in the chapel, where a staff member plans to shoot him with a rifle. All you have to do is grab a blank cartridge and load it into the rifle before the staff member can pick it up. Then when the staff member shoots at the guest and nothing happens, the guest is able to take advantage of the reprise and knock the staff member out. Later rescues get a little more complicated, but not much, and you end up spending way more time mapping out the casino than you do solving puzzles.
The interface for The Sexy Brutale is straightforward but a little clunky. I played using a mouse and keyboard, but a controller is also supported. So for me, I used the right mouse button to move Boone, the left mouse button to interact with hotspots, the 1 and 3 keys to rotate the active inventory object, and the Z and X keys to use skills (which you gain as you rescue guests). None of this setup is configurable, which is unfortunate. For example, to peer through a keyhole and spy on people in the next room, you have to move over to a door and press the X key. But to stop spying you have to press the shift key, when just pressing the X key again would make more sense. There isn’t much reason for developers not to have configurable interfaces these days, even for indie titles like The Sexy Brutale.
When I first started playing The Sexy Brutale, I thought it was a waste of time. You don’t have to avoid the staff members — you can just run away from them — so it wasn’t much of a stealth game. There are barely any puzzles to solve, so it wasn’t much of an adventure. And you’re given no idea of who you are or who the guests are or what’s going on in the crazy casino, so it wasn’t even working for me as an interactive movie.
But then the more I played the game, the more I liked it. As you repeat days and spy on the guests, you learn more about them, which creates a little bit of a connection between you and them, and it becomes more important to save them. You also eventually learn why days are repeating and why the casino is the way it is, and when I finally got to the finale, I found it to be moving and fulfilling. I just wish Cavalier Game Studios had done something more at the start of the game to make things more interesting. They certainly could have come up with more involving and intricate puzzles.
Another positive about The Sexy Brutale is the graphics — but more for the artistry than technical competence. You’re never told when the game takes place, but the casino looks like it’s in the 19th century, and there are enough strange, mechanical devices around to give it a steampunk edge. All of the guests and staff members are also wearing masks, giving the proceedings sort of a dreamlike quality. My guess is, you’ll remember the look of the game long after everything else, which is a credit to the game’s artists.
And so overall I liked The Sexy Brutale. It has a unique look and premise, and while some of its gameplay mechanics are a little shallow, everything works well enough together to make it a worthwhile purchase, especially at its $20 price tag. So put on a mask and prepare to go gambling, but beware of talking fish. They have evil hearts.
Reviewed By: Steven Carter
Publisher: Tequila Works
This review is based on a digital copy of The Sexy Brutale for the PC provided by Tequila Works.