This time we’ll be talking about an indie game you definitely haven’t heard of. It’s a fun, compact addition to any game library. It’s “Sexy Brutale.”

In a time where Steam is churning out non-functioning, asset-flipping games, this game comes along to remind us what a game should be. This is a story about redemption, a savagely beautiful homage to adventure games of days past that leaves me longing for more. The ending is so sudden and brutal that it leaves me aching for a replacement, like a bad breakup with a long time love. “Sexy Brutale” is a murder mystery, with secrets to discover around every corner, and it’s up to you to use time travel to save your friends from their grisly deaths..

This game comes developers Cavalier Game Studios and Tequila Works, and, boy, does tequila really work for this game. All the visuals are stunning and colorful. The stylized characters and environments are shown from an isometric, top-down perspective, which means the camera position is set at a three-fourths angle at a distance.

The goal of the player is simple – use your power to reverse time and stop the deaths of Lufcadio’s, the main character’s, friends. Lufcadio can only reverse time to 8:00 a.m. of that same day, but that lends the player just enough time to save the first murder victim. All of the friends die in increasingly bizarre ways. The earliest of Lufcadio’s friends is eaten alive by giant spiders while another is later hypnotized by a fish and commits suicide.

“Sexy Brutale” is, of course, not a perfect game; I was enjoying the experience so much that I barely noticed its flaws until they hindered me from progressing in the game. The first puzzle I got stuck on was due to arbitrary gameplay rules, but my solution was correct. It was simply a matter of waiting until a hanged woman was good and properly dead so that her mask wouldn’t chase me. Masks chase you in this game to prevent you from directly interceding in events.

The other sections of the casino are sanctioned off in a very Metroid-esque way – they require you attain the powers of the guests before proceeding. Once Lufcadio’s friends are out of immediate peril they remove their masks and you gain new powers with every new mask you obtain. One of the first powers you gain is super hearing that allows you to eavesdrop through doors and find out lock codes by listening to the tines of the dials. There is another mask that allows you to see ghosts around special candles.  

The first hour or so of “Sexy Brutale” were exceptionally fun, and made me feel clever with the flow of difficulty and reasonably sensible puzzles. There was something satisfying in finding a creative solution to prevent the deaths of your friends. After getting stuck on the first puzzle due to technicality, I lost the will to try for more than half an hour to solve any one puzzle.

They almost primed the game perfectly enough for a full playthrough sans walkthroughs, but looking up one puzzle online is like opening a floodgate. You feel so awful for wasting time on something so obvious that your trust in the designer is broken. Today, people rarely have the leisure time to waste on faulty design, which is why Quality Assurance and user experience testing is so vital. One may think I’m harping on a small problem, but good art is about reaching for the polish that’s out of the grasp of others who lack the gumption.

Thorough testing is the difference between a lean, tight, sexy experience that I would dream fondly of during a seventy-hour slog through a flabby triple-A title or a game I blasted through with a walkthrough and said, “That’s it?” “Sexy Brutale” is somewhere in between the two; my first few hours with the game and its unique aesthetic styling cements it as a must play for anyone who appreciates the finer aspects of games, but just be forewarned that this diva is more brutal than sexy.