Stopping a murder is hard. You need to know when and where it’s going to happen, who’s going to commit it, and how they’re going to do so. That’s a whole lot of sleuthing to stop somebodies death, and occasionally, that’s just too much work. Wouldn’t it be much easier to just watch the murder happen, learn all of that at once, and then go back and deal with it?
Sadly, most people lack the ability to time-travel in such specific ways. Lafcadio Boone isn’t most people. Blessed with invisibility by a woman-turned-inside out, and gifted with the ability to rewind time, Boone, an elderly preacher, is the one person that can stop the guests of “The Sexy Brutale” being gruesomely murdered by the mansion’s staff.
Your first task is to save a clockmaker from being gunned down in a chapel, in which the tutorial teaches you the game’s stealth mechanics and how rewinding time affects everything else. You quickly learn that everything but your memories are reverted back to how they were at the beginning of the day, so after a short start, you begin marrying quick movements and memorisation of item locations with sneaking around a mansion crawling with guests and staff alike. Get seen by somebody, and time slows to a halt while the masks of the observer hunt you down – leave the room again, and you’re free. It’s tense, but you’re able to leave the room again so quickly that you never really feel as if you’re in danger. It’s more an inconvenience than a trouble, really.
Once you’ve rescued somebody from their untimely demise, they remove the mask that they are wearing, and leave on their merry way. Picking up this mask then grants you that masks power, which range from the mundane, such as listening to whispered conversations, to the magical, such as seeing ghosts.
As you gain these abilities, more and more of the mansion becomes accessible to you, and the more you begin to discover. You’ll see ghosts in places you’ve been before, be able to get past burning and locked doors. That makes exploring the same areas over and over again slightly more tolerable, but you’ll definitely get used to walking through the same corridors over and over by the end of the game. That’s to be expected in a game that’s about living the same day repeatedly, and it’s dealt with effectively by each room having it’s own personality, items to read, and collectibles to find, which dulls the repetition just enough. That’s not to say you won’t get tired of running through the halls over and over again, but the puzzles are easily solvable before it becomes too much of an issue.
While walking the halls, trying to figure out how best to disrupt the mischievous goings on of the mansion, an incredible swing-jazz soundtrack keeps you company. It’s jolly, features wonderful trumpets, and makes the place really feel alive, despite the small cast of characters.
The puzzles themselves aren’t that difficult, once you’ve figured out what exactly is going on with the murder, but figuring each out is rewarding if just for the thanks the person you’ve seen die over and over again gives you. Saving these people is a one off thing, however, as when time rewinds they’ll be back to getting murdered again. This is made worse by you hearing the different murders as you go around the mansion, with gunshots and cracking glass being heard all throughout the day.
Ultimately, The Sexy Brutale is a game about repeating and learning from patterns, and it executes that very well. There’s underlying animation errors in places, and occasional annoyances and inconveniences, but these matter little to what is, in essence, a great murder-mystery.