What I'm Playing - No. 155
Welcome back to another weekly wrap-up of the games I’ve been playing over the past week!
This post is spoiler-free.
Click a title to skip to that section. Games contained within this post:
The Sexy Brutale (PC)
The Sexy Brutale is a casino and mansion known for its annual masquerade. But this year, things at the party are very, very wrong. The guests are unknowingly trapped in a time loop, and every twelve hours they are murdered by the staff one by one until the loop resets and the same day repeats itself. But with the help of a mysterious woman without skin, you, Lafcadio Boone, are now aware of the loop, and have gained the power to alter its course. Only you can solve the mysteries of the mansion, and save the lives trapped within!
At its heart, The Sexy Brutale is a point and click adventure game, but its story and mechanics make it something special. The game opens with a short tutorial that teaches you the ropes of its investigation and time loop mechanics, explaining how you can reset to the beginning of the loop whenever you want, how to peek through keyholes, and how to focus your hearing. These three mechanics are the keys to figuring out how to save the mansion’s guests from their doom. Using all these abilities together, you’ll gradually figure out the guests’ schedules for the day, and begin piecing together a way to prevent their deaths.
Of course, something that makes the situation more challenging is that you can only be in the same room as another person if you are hidden in a wardrobe. Otherwise, the moment they enter the room, time will become stuck, and you’ll be unable to use any of your investigative abilities until you leave the room. The music also becomes pretty intense, Boone’s mask begins to burn, and the masks of the people in the room will gain a life of their own and fly toward you. So, long story short, you don’t want to be in the same room as anyone else. That makes figuring out everyone else’s schedules even more important, as you’ll need to plan your actions in order to avoid occupied rooms. Of course, nothing’s stopping you from going into an occupied room and just running through it to a door on the other side. The horrifying music makes that a little undesirable, but it’s an option if you need it. I initially thought there’d be some Game Over mechanic or something if the flying masks caught you, but there’s not, which is really nice actually.
One of the coolest parts of this game is how the time loop is filled with little details. The game is split into chapters, and each chapter you’ll have to focus on saving certain people. You’re also restricted to certain areas of mansion in each chapter, so you can’t wander too far or get too lost. But despite usually not being able to go to other areas of the mansion outside the area for the current chapter, the events happening across the mansion still happen at the same time each loop. In the tutorial prologue, you’ll witness a gunshot during the first guest’s murder, at about 4 o’ clock. In future chapters, even when you’re far across the mansion, you’ll still hear that gunshot at 4 o’ clock. When I heard it for the first time in the second chapter, I didn’t even realize what it was at first, and it was only later that I realized it was the same gunshot I’d heard at the beginning of the game, repeating during each iteration of the time loop!
The game is full of events like that, and another cool thing is that you’ll hear and see some things happening around you that you haven’t witnessed first-hand yet. Things that are important in future chapters are still happening throughout the day. The lights will flicker at specific times, you’ll hear weird rattling sounds, something will fall from a tall window down into the garden, and a bell will go off in the evening around 7pm. None of these things will make sense the first time you experience them, but as you get further into the game, you’ll come to understand what’s causing each of them, and gain a deeper understanding of the events of the day as a whole. All of this made the mansion really feel alive, and it was cool to gain that sense of familiarity as you experience the day from different parts of the mansion.
The time loop mechanic also spices up the point and click adventure gameplay. Usually in these sorts of games, you need to find items and use them in the right places. But in this game, you not only need the right items but you also need to be in the right place at the right time. In several chapters, there are some specific windows of opportunity you have where you need to do something within that timeframe to save a guest, and if you miss it, you won’t be able to save them and will inevitably have to go back in time to try again. That might sound frustrating, but the game is designed well enough that I was able to figure out the solutions in each chapter without needing a guide. Your mileage may vary, of course, but that was my experience with it. It also helps that once you’ve seen a character at a specific time, they’ll become marked on your map at that time. Then when you pause the game, you’ll be able to pick whatever time of day you want and see where you’ve seen people at that time. So, by watching characters to see which rooms they enter throughout the day, you can get a clearer picture of everyone’s movements, and that’s usually pretty helpful in figuring out what you need to do.
One last note on the gameplay before we move on, The Sexy Brutale takes the Majora’s Mask approach to item collection. When the loop resets, you’ll lose all the items you’d picked up, except for a few key items. You get to keep the knowledge of any secrets you learned about though, so any secret passages or passwords you overheard while eavesdropping will still be usable after going back in time.
The story in this game is fantastic. The mystery of the mansion and the situation you’re in were incredibly intriguing to me. I won’t spoil anything, but when I finished the game, I was very satisfied with the story as a whole, and I think it’s one that I’ll remember for a long time.
There’s so much creativity on display here. At first it seems like a basic murder mystery, but then the Bloody Girl appears within seconds of starting the game, and then you’re in a Groundhog Day time loop. Everything comes together to make an incredibly memorable adventure, and I’m so glad I finally played The Sexy Brutale. I think it’s been in my Steam library since December 2017 when it was part of the Humble Monthly bundle, so it was about time I got around to playing it. If you’re interested in point and click or mystery games, I definitely recommend this one! My final time was just under 6 hours.