In a year loaded with fantastic games, Cavalier Studios’ hidden-gem The Sexy Brutale is one of the best.
Developer: Cavalier Studios, Tequila Works
Publisher: Tequila Works
Formats: PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 [Reviewed]
Released: April 12, 2017
The Sexy Brutale is a murder mystery taking place over the course of a single day at a luxurious casino and hotel. Playing as the mysterious Boone, it’s up to you to not solve 10 murders, but prevent them from ever happening. Here, your greatest tool isn’t a magnifying glass, but a time manipulating pocket watch given to you by a bloody woman who emerged out of thin air.
This watch makes you both a hero and a sadistic bastard, as you’re forced to replay the events leading up to somebody’s gruesome murder – and the murder itself – time and time again. You have a 12 hour window to do your business, from noon to midnight. When the clock strikes midnight, you pass out, and find yourself back at the last checkpoint at noon to start all over again.
Bringing it All Together
To solve these cases, you must rely not on talking to victims or suspects, but sheer observation. You watch people’s day unfold through literal keyholes, or you can listen in on them through doors or walls. Doing so will clue you in on how they each deal with personal crises and their routine.
The murders themselves are all works of art, and stopping them feels like both a destruction of that art and a creation of your own. You can rewind all you want, but it’s up to you to actually do the work of gathering clues and putting them together to solve the mystery.
The Sexy Brutale’s secret weapon, however, is its story. It’s pretty unassuming at first, but over time, it gains momentum all the way up to its explosive twist ending. The ending would normally be one of those eye-rolling, head shaking silly twists that seems like it was tacked on if this were any other game, but here, it works. It was foreshadowed well, it was told well, it makes sense, and there’s a great player choice at the end too.
Everything about The Sexy Brutale is just perfect.
- A surprisingly compelling story with a twist ending that sticks the landing
- Great characters accompanied by great dialog
- Fun twist on the murder mystery genre, and adventure games
- With one exception, none of the solutions feel like contrived adventure game logic
- The soundtrack and art style work together perfectly to create a chilling atmosphere
- There are big levels to explore, and optional collectables if you’re up for it
- There’s no voice acting, which could have added even more depth to the characters
- One of the solutions is a bit silly and roundabout, especially compared to the rest of the game
The Sexy Brutale is best indie game of 2017, and one of the best of the year period. Unfortunately it’s flown a bit under the radar, but it easily joins the ranks of Papers, Please, Limbo, and Undertale as seminal works from the indie gaming scene.