The Sexy Brutale is a wonderful puzzle game. Lafcadio Boone awakens within an expansive Gothic mansion where guests are murdered by staff on a looping, 12-hour cycle. Trapped within a time warp, Boone sneaks around the mansion gradually uncovering intel as to how each murder unfolds, eventually uncovering a means of saving guests. This surmises the gameplay cycle from start to finish, but the process of sleuthing and experimenting with potential solutions is done so well that it never becomes tiresome.
The movements of murdered guests is typically confined to one region of the mansion, meaning every investigation comprises of locating the victims and tracking their movements, what they say, and watching how their demise. The repetition of this approach is more than offset by excellent characterisation driven through eccentric character design, shown off primarily through each character's mask, and well-crafted dialogue that aptly balances flavoursome text with dashings of plot-pertinent exposition. This is true of the assassins too, meaning every foray into the unknown germinates into the discovery of bite-sized chunks of intriguing information that provide just enough sustenance to maintain a sense that something has been achieved in every 12 hour cycle.
Even without the time-loop premise, there is always a danger that puzzle games overstay their welcome should enough twists not be added to the formula. Fortunately, upon solving a case Lafcadio is granted an additional power, helping to fuel a consistent sense of progression. These include greater hearing range, allowing Lafcadio to decipher whispers, to lockpicking skills and the ability to interact with ghosts.
As new powers are unlocked, so to are more areas of the mansion. At times the sheer number of rooms, corridors, and hidden passages therein can be a little overwhelming, the stylised map provided, while aptly highlighting discovered patrol routes and most points of interest, isn't always the most practical of devices. Still, it doesn't take too long to become proficient at navigation, and wandering around is always a joy. As progress is made through the game, the mansion feels increasingly like a versatile character, each wing showcasing it's own sense of style. Every location is lavishly decorated and accompanied with several points of interest.
There are plenty of well-placed areas to hide within, particularly handy to Lafcadio since he cannot stand within the same room as either a guest or staff member. This mechanic forces players to become acquainted to the schedules of other characters, particularly since finding an adequate hiding spot or vantage point in time often provides the final clue needed to crack a given case. A sense of tension is palpable every time a tracked character leaves a room Lafcadio is spying upon, since precious seconds tick away as he is repositioned into a new spying position, all the while knowing that the character being stalked might well be chortling away some prescient information whilst Lafcadio is out of position.
The overall mystery is only reveled towards the end of the game, and it's certainly worth the wait. Some players might be disappointed that only the last couple of cases take advantage of multiple regions of the mansion, but for anyone who cannot guarantee that they will have much time to play games regularly should be relieved that this is a game which can put down for a week or two without leaving the player utterly lost upon their return. Ultimately there's every reason to think you'll make it to the end of this game, for the Sexy Brutale finds the sweet spot in terms of difficulty and lifespan; never too easy, never too hard, not too long, not too short, but always delightful and fascinating.