An amazing game concept with a passable execution.
Browsing through the Steam Summer Sale is nothing new to me; I always take a look at what’s available, particularly in the mystery and puzzle genres (as you can tell by my last two LTA posts), and I came across The Sexy Brutale. An isometric puzzle game set in a steampunk inspired manor where you as elderly priest, Lafcadio Boone, and must save the guests of a chaotic party (called “The Sexy Brutale”) from the murderous staff of the mysterious Marquis and his casino manor.
The catch is, you only have twelve hours to save everyone. But a mysterious Bloody Girl has given you a powerful pocket watch that allows you to rewind time. However, you have to do all of this interfering and heroism without being seen, as the masks themselves have supernatural powers and don’t react well to Lafcadio moving around. Being a lover of masquerade aesthetics, Vegas-punk settings, and puzzle games, you can see why I gravitated to this game.
The art style of this game is to die for. The design of the manor is wonderful, with just enough variety so different rooms can be distinguished from each other. Lafcadio looks intriguing, oddly reminiscent of Hei from Darker Than Black, and each guest you save has a variety of masks that all look distinct and colourful. I have no shame in saying that I will be using the manor of The Sexy Brutale in future games of D&D, as the setting lends itself to so much exploration. There’s elements of this that I’d love to see more in Paranoir (paranormal noir) games in general.
The stealth in this game is also very good. Your mask’s ability allows you to remain unseen for a few seconds in the presence of other masks, which plays nicely into the idea of giving you time to escape a room or hide should you run into another character. So what you have to do is eavesdrop, peek through keyholes, and hide in wardrobes to find out information about the guests, their movements, and, of course, their murders. It’s not far short of the spying missions Assassin’s Creed games used.
The time travel mechanic is central to the game and is implemented brilliantly. From the ability to use the pocket watch an infinite amount of times on a mission, to the ability to speed time up with the grandfather clocks situated around the manor. What also occurs in the mystery is when the clock strikes midnight, the day resets at the start of the mission again, which gives you a lot of time to explore the area of the manor, listen to all available characters, and solve the puzzles to save the guests.
The tutorial is probably one of the best I’ve seen in games. It fully lays out the mechanics of the game by saving one of the guests, and it rewards you properly by giving you access to the grandfather clocks and a repaired pocket watch, with the mask you receive granting you the ability to understand clockworks and repair broken ones.
The dialogue is great, just the right amount of snappy and macabre to fit in the hostile world of the manor (a personal favourite is “Sometimes I wish I was LESS competent”).
The biggest grievance I have with the game is the input lag. Lafcadio takes time to do the actions as they are taken by the player. Opening doors can take several seconds before the character moves. Normally this would be an annoyance in gaming, but when certain tasks must be done before certain times, and 5 seconds is around half an hour in the game time, it becomes almost impossible to do anything and advance further. The third mission is tricky inherently with the time constraint, and the input delay actually prevented me progressing further with the story because it wasn’t possible to save the guest. My PC is above the system requirements, and the game itself doesn’t stop to do this; the clock keeps ticking and your time to prevent the murders dissipates while you’re furiously clicking because Lafcadio won’t open the door to the next room. This doesn’t hit every player apparently, as there aren’t many support options available, which is rather bizarre.
The concept of a murder puzzle manor with a Groundhog Day timeloop is incredible, but it is a very linear game. I would have liked to see it as an “open world” style experience where you can stop murders from happening in any order you can, meaning that the events leading up to the deaths would happen all at the same time, and once one death is prevented, it would impact the rest once the manor adjusted to the time loop.You can hear elements of the other murders (gunshots, breaking glass, etc.) while you solve the others and I feel that could have been explored more.
The game needs to have the input delay fixed, as it is a huge issue when time is a core mechanic. It’s a barricade that is blocking the game from being a true indie darling. If you took the game aspect out of it, it would have made a great medium to explore visually as the world definitely has a lot to offer, it’s just unfortunate that an old man taking 30 minutes to open the door is what prevents it from happening. Just the right amount of tricky for the time I spent playing it, but hopefully the fix will come.
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