Developer(s): Tequila Works, Cavalier Game Studios Publisher: Tequila Works Platform(s): PS4, XB1, PC, Switch
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Despite sounding like a rather unusual way to spend your evening down an alleyway in Hull, The Sexy Brutale is a beautiful little gem that should be able to convert even the most ardent of puzzle haters. I typically have little to no time for anything in gaming that requires more brainpower than pressing buttons to make people die, and yet here I was, enthralled by a murder mystery.
The Sexy Brutale’s main hook is that you are a guest at a hotel where there are a series of connected murders going on. Your job as the mute hero Boone is to prevent them from happening by interfering with the surroundings to foil the violent staff.
Sounds simple enough, and it is to begin with. Boone’s mask allows him to reverse time and see where the danger comes from and helps the player to prevent it; early solutions are rather straightforward with me even solving by complete accident after wandering into a room. But then the puzzles become obtuse as time wears on and the murders become even more complex. There’s no massive arrow telling you where to find things, it’s more a case of searching every inch of rooms until you find a key component. I was stuck on one scene for what felt like a century before I found the rope I needed to lock a would-be murderer in a cupboard.
One of The Sexy Brutale’s most applaudable design philosophies is in how it introduces a “living” (and dying) hotel. While you’re struggling to prevent one murder, you can regularly hear the sounds of others that are happening at the same time, such as a shot from a gun. This is a clever quirk from Tequila Works that means the player is fully aware of how much time they have left before the scene resets; you have to get from A to B and do C before the D sound or else you’ll be wasting time.
There’s a great sense of character to The Sexy Brutale, too, like it’s a maudlin version of Monty Python. Its cast range from the ridiculous to the relatable, but the best of the lot has to be the murderous staff. They frequently quip about what they’re about to do and go about their gruesome tasks with such a bizarre cheeriness that it’s hard not to fall in love with them a little. Buoyed by an utterly gorgeous art style, The Sexy Brutale oozes, well, sexiness.
It likely won’t be for everyone, but The Sexy Brutale’s top-down puzzle solving will delight anyone who’s after a new twist on the genre. It’s one of the year’s most underrated games and also one of its most unique, so give it a shot if you want something just a little bit out there.
Per my Sexy Brutale review:
“Even with a couple of issues, it isn’t hard to fall in love with The Sexy Brutale. We’re in a lull of sorts in the gaming release schedule as all the AAA titles wind up their marketing campaigns for the next big push, but make no mistake, The Sexy Brutale deserves to hang with the best of them.”