The Sexy Brutale (Switch) Review – Sexy in every Way
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Developer: Cavalier Studios, Tequila Works
Publisher: Tequila Works
Release: 7th December 2017
The collaboration project between Tequila Works and Cavalier Studio, The Sexy Brutale originally launched in April as some kind of sleeper hit, not receiving tons of coverage until the flood of amazing reviews after its release. Now in “NindieCember” as I like to call the current December due to the massive amount of indies flooding the eStore, this little riddle game is ported to the Switch as well, to mixed success.
The mysterious Marquise invited around a dozen people to his mansion, promising fun and a great show. Unfortunately for the guests, instead of a good time the staff is actually planning to murder every single one of them this day. So naturally higher powers can´t just sit around doing nothing and a seemingly supernatural lady grants the old priest Boone the power to rewind time, in order to save the guests and progress through this violent mansion.
Even though The Sexy Brutale´s plot is never more than a row of known clichés combined with a lacking conclusion, the way it uses its charm to breathe life into this seemingly dull tale is one of the main reasons why it´s such a great game. Maybe if dialogues would be longer than a few lines, the reasoning of the lady who gave him these powers more unique and the guests more memorable, I would´ve actually cared about it. Nonetheless they fulfill their purpose, delivering a frame in which a mansion, directly ripped from the 20s, is presented. If you watched any trailer for The Sexy Brutale you most likely heard the glorious soundtrack, masterfully mixing 20s-40s influences into one giant mix of addicting greatness and would be reason alone to adore this weird style. Yet the artstyle is so damn well-fitting for the concept and music, almost resembling a classic mute movie from the time. Never did I see this style so perfectly executed like here and am simply in love.
Still, the core remain the eight big murders happening in the mansion in merely 12 hours. With the ability to jump back to the beginning as often as we want, it´s necessary to outsmart the deadly staff, before it´s too late. Since Boone isn´t a James Bond and fairly old, he can´t just knock out every single one of the bad guys, instead he relies on his observation skills. Looking through keyholes, tracing down the paths of every involved party, exploring the area and ultimately reconstructing the crime are the key aspects of every puzzle. Every route, person or action Boone discovers is marked on the map and can be seen along the timestamp.
While early murders happen in very closed up locations with simple solutions, like finding the security room and press a few buttons, they quickly become more challenging because of the constant addition of new mechanics. Every saved guest grants a new power to Boone like being able to “hear” security codes, which can then be used to open up more of the mansion and even unlock new things in previously visited areas.
Especially since The Sexy Brutale slowly starts to connect the almost severed locations in the second half, being led back to older areas is a natural process find new items sometimes. Luckily it´s a carefully designed game, able to lead the player to the right spot, items or objects without slapping a text box on the screen. The fact puzzles are never too challenging for their own good, focusing on delivering a more streamlined experience, help to prevent frustration as well. Although it should be noted that you shouldn´t expect an action-packed game, most of the time observing walking staff or a shotgun is as intense as it gets.
Sadly, as great as the mechanics may be and work, The Sexy Brutale suffers from little problems, most obvious in the earlier puzzles. Since most of the beginning resembles more a tutorial, waiting for conversations, actions and walking routes to end, to finally be able to enter a room without being chased out by the person, are used too often for its own good.. Mainly responsible is the overall slow speed, normal for classic movies, meaning every character walks and talks pretty damn slow. Being forced to listen multiple times to the same conversation because it blocks a room for example isn’t unusual, same with having to run the same path for the fourth time because there´s only one spawn in every area. At least for the lengthy conversations or interaction, necessary to be executed by the NPCs in certain riddles, I wished for a fast forward function of some sorts. Ghost Trick on DS had a very similar concept and suffered from the same problem, so be prepared for a comparable experience.
Last but not least, the problems introduced by the Switch version, only amplifying the already mentioned (too) slow pace. Besides the noticeable visual downgrade, the game also has to load every few rooms for 5-10 seconds, resulting in annoyingly long interruptions. Due to the size of most areas, having these long loading times in between them is quite regular, meaning restarting the day or having to revisit a room, inevitable leads to waiting time. In a game so heavily relying on restarting and revisiting, these long interruptions are simply bad.
The Sexy Brutale does a lot great things and mixes them with a unique presentation. From the absolutely stunning soundtrack, great visuals (even on Switch) to the fun and diverse puzzle gameplay. If not dragged down by a sometimes too slow pace or annoying technical limitations, I could´ve really fallen in love with this fantastic game. Nonetheless, having it on the Switch is especially great since the last game only remotly comparable to it was Ghost Trick on DS. So, rolling a dice and spending 20 bucks on the great The Sexy Brutale should definitely not be a waste for anyone.
[A Review Code was provided by Tequila Works]