A mansion converted into a casino, a never-ending masquerade ball, and hired help with an inexplicable hunger for homicide. The Sexy Brutale has all the ingredients to be the perfect cocktail of murder mystery. It has a lot of character, and its main concept is brilliant, but will that be enough?
First impressions are important, and The Sexy Brutale does certainly grab your attention from the very first screen. It is inevitable to draw some parallels between the masks that conceal the faces of the main characters, and what lies behind the name of this title. Even though everything seems confusing at first, things will start to become much clearer after a few hours.
The player takes the role of Lafacadio Boone, a priest who wakes up completely bewildered in the mansion that has given its name to the game. The elements that precede this awakening are those typical of a noir film: a mysterious lady appears out of the blue and asks you for a big favour, and there's music taken from the 1950s to set the mood. You're tasked with saving every guest attending the ball. The staff, for reasons we will not disclose, want to murder them.
When you first hear about it, it may sound like something you've done many times before. Simply be the hero and save the victims, however The Sexy Brutale offers a twist on this premise. You cannot interact directly with anyone. Every time your character is in the same room as another person who wears a mask, they will hunt you down. This means you must sneak around the mansion, peeping through keyholes and paying attention to every sound. How to avoid a murder becomes a two-part puzzle of figuring out the sequence of events for each murder, and then figuring out how each person behaves before and after the killing.
But if they die, how can we rescue them? This is where Lafacadio's curse comes in handy. Perhaps you already know that Tequila Works and Cavalier have created a game that takes inspiration from both Groundhog Day and Cluedo (Clue in North America), and this is exactly what this is (if you recall the excellent Ghost Trick, that one a game that springs to mind). At nightfall, the day repeats itself exactly as it was at the beginning, and you lose all of the objects you have collected during the day, thus you're forced to relive and hear the murders over and over again until you've solved them all and gotten to the root of the evil.
You must learn the schedules, know the conversations, and trace every step of each character as time goes by, and you'll have to try to come up with a strategy to save each victim. Then the day starts all over again and you test the solution you have come up with. If it fails, you'll have to change your approach until you get it right. This trial-and-error system can be tedious since you have to wait to perform certain actions, but you have the option to advance time - from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm - so you don't have to wait toolong inside a cupboard (or wherever it is you're hiding). And that's a good thing, as is the ability to reset the clock at any point and restart the day, because without the ability to speed things along this game, in spite of its lovely visuals and music, would have been unbearable.