The Sexy Brutale (Switch eShop) Review
The isometric real-time puzzler The Sexy Brutale was one of my favourite games of 2017. I originally played the PS4 version midway through last year, where I was regaled with its clever time-looping hook, vivid characters, and mysterious story. After the disappointment of Tequila Works’ technical shortcomings for their Switch port of RiME, it is clear the development team, in conjunction with co-developers Cavalier Game Studios, has slightly improved on their porting process — just not enough to consider the Switch version the definitive version of the game.
Taking place in the titular mansion, The Sexy Brutale places players in the shoes of Lafcadio Boone, a priest and close friend of the mansion’s owner. Boone wakes up in time to attend the annual masquerade soiree The Sexy Brutale is known for, where guests are treated to excess with drinks, gambling, and extravagant entertainment. However, there is something terribly wrong with this year’s party. Each guest is being systematically murdered by the mansion staff. Compounding the issue, once the clock strikes midnight, time rewinds back to midday, and the guests are killed over and over again like clockwork.
As Boone, players must figure out how to prevent these murders, while uncovering the mystery of why The Sexy Brutale has descended into madness. Solving the first murder serves as a tutorial of sorts to the tools at Boone’s disposal. Starting with nothing but an irremovable mask and a broken timepiece with the limited ability to rewind time, players need to sneak unnoticed through the mansion to stop the assailant in their tracks. Getting caught in the same room as another character results in a brief chase sequence where all you need to do is exit the room. One of the gimmicks of the bizarre scenario befallen upon The Sexy Brutale is that no one can see Boone due to their masquerade masks. This explains why there are no lasting consequences beyond being chased away.
After preventing the first murder, The Sexy Brutale opens up further, giving the player more supernatural abilities and methods required to continue saving the mansion’s guests. To delve too deeply into the details would spoil the joy of cracking the enigmatic mystery underpinning the game. Above all other mechanics at play, time remains the most important tool at your disposal. As the murders become increasingly complex, you will need to spend much of your time observing characters and be rewinding time to examine all possible solutions. Thankfully, your interactive map keeps track of all observed character movements, which serves as a handy reference point when many forces are at play.
Notably, the Switch version of The Sexy Brutale suffers from long loading times and frame rate issues on occasion. Waiting for the game to load in between rooms is frustrating considering how much The Sexy Brutale relies on timing, but it’s hardly a game-breaker. Stuttering is an occasional issue, although one room almost permanently struggles with a severely-reduced frame rate. The official Twitter account stated they were working on a fix prior to Christmas, but it has taken longer than expected. As the game currently stands, it is a somewhat compromised experience compared to other platforms, but to suggest The Sexy Brutale is unplayable on Switch is ridiculous hyperbole. Although the timing is important, The Sexy Brutale does not require quick reflexes, so the performance issues only affect the game’s flow. Are the load times and frame rate issues annoying? Absolutely. Did it hamper my enjoyment of the game? Barely.
Like many of my recently reviewed games, The Sexy Brutale is elevated thanks to a wonderful soundtrack. Fitting of the masquerade theme, the music features a range of jazz, blues and swing numbers, peppered with the occasional harrowing sultry ballad. Not only are these tracks elegantly composed and beautifully performed, but they also are carefully curated to the clockwork timing of the game’s events. This means the music serves a functional purpose in addition to dressing The Sexy Brutale‘s extravagant setting. Simply by hearing certain pieces of music or audio motifs, players are able to recognise what is happening around them, giving an indication of where they should be at any given moment. That, and the music is simply fantastic when listened to in isolation.
The Sexy Brutale‘s twist-filled and deeply arresting narrative keeps the intrigue high through its entire five-hour escapade. Despite a couple of performance issues, this game has many layers worth uncovering.
Perfect for fans of intricate time-looping narratives, The Sexy Brutale is a brilliant mystery puzzler brimming with extravagant character. It’s unfortunate this masquerade romp couldn’t mask its technical issues on the Switch, but if you enter this mansion of debauchery with a dose of patience, the reward will be a memorable tale orchestrated by a roaring soundtrack.
Note: To avoid spoilers, I used the screenshots from the official press kit, which is why they have the Xbox One controller prompts. I believe the screenshots are reflective of my experience with the Switch version.
- Intriguing story filled with mystery and sleight of hand
- Clever time looping and puzzle mechanics
- Clever use of a brilliant soundtrack serving function and form
- Frame rate and long loading issues
- Occasional jittery audio and visual transitions