Everything about The Sexy Brutale is great. Well, aside from maybe its name.
The game centers around a pocketwatch that lets you travel back to the beginning of the same day at will. You’re tasked with preventing a series of gruesome murders carried out by the staff of a ritzy casino mansion called... The Sexy Brutale. You explore the mansion at will, taking care to avoid guests (you’ve got a lot of leeway when it comes to getting caught, so it’s not really a stealth game) as they go about the daily routines that will ultimately lead to their grim, thematically appropriate fates.
I love the pocketwatch conceit because the game itself is a pocketwatch—a series of interlocking parts that click and whir satisfyingly, and that go haywire when you start mucking about. Thing is, you want it all to go haywire. That’s how you save the day.
Each murder is a story, a detective gig, and a puzzle, all wrapped up into one. Just to give you a basic idea, I’ll walk you through the first one, which is pretty simple and not particularly spoily. So we’ve got this guy, Sixpence, who, as it turns out, is the one who made your pocketwatch in the first place. I peeked through a door into a chapel and witnessed a hotel staffer with a creepy mask do him in with a shotgun.
That’s bad! So I rewound time to the beginning of the day, back when everyone was young and innocent and not-dead. After that, I tracked down the murder victim and followed him from room-to-room. He was searching for something, and he thought he found it in a safe. However, the safe was full of garbage. He stormed out of the room in a huff, and an empty bullet casing fell from the safe to the ground. I picked it up. That’s when I got an idea.
To make my plan work, I needed to find the murderer’s shotgun, which I eventually discovered on a mantle in a nearby room. Unfortunately, by that point in the day, the murderer was moments away from snatching it and offing Old Man Pocketwatch. So I leaped back to the beginning of the day again. This time, though, I knew exactly what to do. I grabbed the bullet casing as soon as I was able and made a mad dash for the mantle. Then I slotted it into the shotgun, and presto: no more murder.
Sixpence knocked his would-be murderer unconscious, survived, and upgraded my pocketwatch. Everybody wins, except the murderer. Hooray!
Now, that one is pretty simple. Don’t worry, though: murders get more elaborate very quickly, with more characters and moving parts to account for. Here’s a video of me solving the second murder, which involves two people at once:
In this one, I had to figure out how to get a bouncer, Clay, to stop literally gambling and drinking himself to death (the only thing more poisonous than our vices, as it turns out, is actual poison) while also preventing a blind artist, Trinity, from becoming giant spider chow. It took me a few rewinds before I finally figured out what to do. Basically, I had to get the code that allowed me to control cameras, find the feed of the room Trinity ended up in, and put it on the big screen in the casino hall. That way, Clay would see she was in danger and spring into action (instead of continuing to gamble with the grim reaper, which... come on man, it’s so on the nose. How did you not see where this was going?).
Bonus: while some items evaporate when you rewind time, knowledge—like camera codes you’ve collected or door codes you’ve overheard—doesn’t. Also, each time you save somebody who’s wearing a mask, you gain a power. For instance, the woman’s mask gave me the ability to overhear quiet conversations while hiding, and also just to hear better in general.
On top of everything else, The Sexy Brutale has style for days. While the visuals are pretty immediately striking, it’s the sound that takes center stage. Each wing of the mansion has a different soundtrack, which evolves throughout the day to subtly clue you in on when shenanigans are afoot or somebody is, you know, about to get murked. The casino, for example, skips and grooves to whimsical electro-swing during the early afternoon, but the music grows louder and more urgent the closer the clock ticks to The Hour Of The Spider Feast.
And again, it’s all connected. Each day, a gunshot rings out at exactly the same time, and almost every character hears and remarks on it. Each day, a bell tolls from... somewhere. Oh, and the lights always flicker at exactly the same time every dang rewind. What’s that about?
Basically, there’s a lot going on in this game, and it’s all beautifully executed. You know, like a murder.
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