Hello readers and welcome to the first edition of The Rookie Plays – a regular new slot here at Shoot the Rookie!
In this series I will be doing in-depth examinations of the games I’m playing right now in an attempt to add a more relevant and up-to-date feel to the blog *nods knowingly*.
In this, the inaugural edition, we are going to be delving into the glamorous but murky world of The Sexy Brutale.
Title: The Sexy Brutale
Release Year: 2017
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (version played), PS4, XBox One & Steam
All pictures, except where noted, from The Sexy Brutale’s Official Website
The Sexy Brutale is a beautiful game set in a flamboyant mansion that exudes horror and glamour in equal measures. Your character, Lafcadio Boone, has been invited to a party by the mansion’s owner, ‘The Marquis’, along with many of his talented and well-to-do friends. With the party due to begin at 7pm, you are magicked to the mansion’s chapel by a mysterious figure who has uncovered a terrible secret. There is a plan to murder every one of the party guests and you are the only one who can stop it.
This scary premise drives the gameplay. You are tasked with saving each guest and in order to do so you must work out how they will be murdered and prevent it from happening. Each murder occurs within the same 12 hour window, and when it is over you are taken back to the start where events begin all over again. When you solve a murder, you return to the start of the day immediately and your investigations can move on to the next victim.
Each time around events play out the same and only your actions can change the outcome. In each 12 hour section you can learn a lot. You can spy on the guests through keyholes and listen in on conversations. This is the key to the game. You have to slowly watch, listen and learn in order to work out when and where you need to be to prevent a murder. You would think that perhaps you could just go to the room where the murder takes place and somehow intervene. That leads us however to the second gameplay element, which is that you cannot occupy the same room as another character, whether it be the guest you are trying to save or one of the mansion’s ominous staff members. If you enter an occupied room everything goes to hell and they chase you away. This is absolutely terrifying and best avoided.
The reason I found that aspect particularly scary is because it reminded me of another game, namely Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, in which you are chased around a sewer by an undead pirate. However, that isn’t the only way in which The Sexy Brutale is reminiscent of other games. Although it doesn’t use the point and click gameplay mechanic, it is particularly evocative of classic point and click adventures. The types of puzzle you have to solve, the design elements and even the humour bring games like Monkey Island and Grim Fandango to mind.
In a completely different way, the game is also reminiscent of Majora’s Mask due to its time based mechanics. With dashes of Resident Evil and a helping of Metroidvania, the game’s nods to video game history are plentiful.
Despite the references to classic games, The Sexy Brutale never feels unoriginal. The time mechanic has its own nuances and the visual design and use of sound feel unique. Vividly coloured stained glass windows sit comfortably alongside more macabre elements, such as tanks of colourful but deadly fish and paintings depicting ghost stories from Japanese legends. It makes interesting use of light and shadow, with the characters you are spying on disappearing from view if they step out of the light.
The soundtrack also adds a lot to the experience. The music harks back to the first half of the 20th century with several jazz numbers interspersed with slower, more menacing tracks. Sound is actually an interesting element in the game as a whole and there are various uses of it outside the soundtrack. Many of the actions which take place have accompanying sound effects. What was that gunshot? And that crash? And…I don’t even know what that was! As you work your way through the game you begin to learn what each sound represents. There are also a number of gramophones which create a puzzle all of their own, but I’ll leave that one for you to discover yourself.
The music and visuals create an atmosphere full of mystery and trepidation. You are aware right from the start that things are not right in the mansion, but it is only through methodical exploration and taking time to figure out the puzzles that you begin to realise the true horror of what is happening.
The story itself unfolds slowly as you go from simply trying to save each guest to questioning why on earth this is happening in the first place. These thoughts lead you to a truly compelling end game, as mystery and tragedy merge into a fascinating and disturbing conclusion. With a play time of around 8 hours the experience is over all too quickly, but far from being a complaint, it is more a reminder that the best games will always leave you wanting more.
Although I don’t really want to, I must now point out a couple of issues I had with the game. I noted in my opening that I played The Sexy Brutale on Switch. The performance on Switch leaves a lot to be desired – slow loading times, frame rate drops and most frustratingly the music breaks up in busy scenes. The control system is also a little awkward and takes time to get used to. For me these things could be largely ignored, but if this is the type of thing which grates with you then I’d recommend buying one of the other versions.
Don’t be put off by these foibles though. The Sexy Brutale is a fantastic game which stays in your thoughts long after the credits roll for all the right reasons. Top notch!
So what do you make of The Sexy Brutale? Does it sound like the game for you? Maybe you’ve already played it and have some ideas of your own? Either way let me know below in comments.
Thanks for reading,
“The Marquis invites you to tonight’s show! 7pm in the Theatre!”