The Sexy Bru­tale

PC, PS4, Xbox One

EDGE - - DISPATCHES PERSPECTIVE - De­vel­oper Cav­a­lier Game Stu­dios, Te­quila Works Pub­lisher Te­quila Works For­mat PC, PS4, Xbox One Ori­gin UK, Spain Re­lease 2017

The idea for The Sexy Bru­tale had been bounc­ing around in the heads of broth­ers James and Charles Grif­fiths, plus col­lab­o­ra­tor Tom Lans­dale, for a while. But the un­usual, time-bend­ing premise makes for a dif­fi­cult el­e­va­tor pitch, so, with ex­pe­ri­ence at the likes of Me­di­a­tonic, Lion­head and EA be­hind them, the trio set out on their own – found­ing Cav­a­lier Games and set­ting up shop next door to Hello Games’ old Guild­ford premises – and be­gan work on a demo.

“We knew that it was al­ways go­ing to be com­pli­cated to ex­plain,” de­sign di­rec­tor Charles tells us. “So we de­cided just to build it out to prove it can be turned into an ac­ces­si­ble game any­one can pick up and play.”

En­cour­aged by the prom­ise their early ef­forts showed, the group sent a demo to a num­ber of in­dus­try friends. One of the re­cip­i­ents was Te­quila Works co-founder and cre­ative di­rec­tor Raúl Ru­bio Munár­riz, who was im­me­di­ately im­pressed.

“I begged them to let us work on the game,” Ru­bio Munár­riz re­calls. “It’s a fan­tas­tic con­cept, and we wanted to help them to make it beau­ti­ful. Not be­cause it wasn’t al­ready, but be­cause we saw the po­ten­tial of what it could be, and we could help de­liver it at scale.”

So what ex­actly is The Sexy Bru­tale? The ti­tle refers to the game’s set­ting: a grand casino club that Charles de­scribes as a sort of “an­gli­cised Moulin Rouge”, which is owned by an ec­cen­tric Bri­tish Mar­quis known for his deca­dent an­nual masked balls. The player takes on the role of Laf­ca­dio Boon, a pri­est and for­mer gam­bling ad­dict who re­mains close to the Mar­quis de­spite the pair’s diver­gent life­style choices, and one of the guests at this year’s event.

Ham­per­ing the rev­elry, how­ever, is the awk­ward fact the Mar­quis’ guests are be­ing sys­tem­at­i­cally picked off by the hired help. Per­haps even more con­cern­ingly, this grim se­ries of events keeps re­peat­ing it­self, since ev­ery time the clock strikes mid­night the day re­sets and plays out all over again. As Boon, your role is to ob­serve, eaves­drop and spy on your fel­low guests to pre­vent their deaths, travel to more parts of the man­sion and, ul­ti­mately, re­store time’s nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion.

You’re aided in this tem­po­ral Metroid­va­nia by pow­ers be­stowed on you by the masks you col­lect from each rescued vic­tim. Your first in­ter­ven­tion, for ex­am­ple, is for the ben­e­fit of Regi­nald Six­pence, the man­sion’s mas­ter clockmaker who comes to a sticky end at the busi­ness end of a shot­gun. Care­fully ob­serv­ing Six­pence – the masks them­selves are tied to the oc­cult hap­pen­ings and will lev­i­tate from their en­tranced wearer’s face

to attack you if you get too close – and the mem­ber of staff who mur­ders him al­lows us to switch the gun’s car­tridge for a blank. Six­pence’s mask al­lows you to awaken at dif­fer­ent clocks around the house, at dif­fer­ent times of day, broad­en­ing your in­ves­tiga­tive reach, while an­other ex­am­ple we’re of­fered im­proves your hear­ing, al­low­ing you to dis­cern whis­pered skul­dug­gery that was pre­vi­ously in­audi­ble.

“What we’ve tried to do is take all of the fric­tion out of the idea,” Charles ex­plains. “A lot of peo­ple like the idea of loop­ing time, and peo­ple say, ‘Why have more peo­ple not done this since Ma­jora’s Mask?’ But the rea­son is that it’s in­trin­si­cally flawed in lots of dif­fer­ent ways. Ac­tu­ally turn­ing it into an ac­ces­si­ble game is quite a chal­lenge. You can end up with lots of prob­lems. ‘How do I re­mem­ber all of the things that are go­ing on?’ ‘Do I have to wait around for ages?’”

Cav­a­lier’s so­lu­tion to th­ese prob­lems are, re­spec­tively, a four-di­men­sional map and split­ting the day into three seg­ments. The map grad­u­ally fills out as you ex­plore, as you’d ex­pect, but any events or move­ments you wit­ness are also au­to­mat­i­cally recorded, al­low­ing you to scrub through events to keep a track of ex­actly where and when key mo­ments take place. And as you’re able to start, once Six­pence is saved, at noon, 4pm or 8pm, you’ll never be too far from any given mo­ment. As a bonus, the dif­fer­ent light­ing con­di­tions pro­vide ad­di­tional as­so­ci­a­tions as you piece to­gether the com­plex story that’s re­peat­edly play­ing out around you.

“The bedrock of it, for all the more com­plex time me­chan­ics, is still tra­di­tional ad­ven­ture-game-type stuff,” Charles says. “The fun of it is ex­plor­ing and piec­ing ev­ery­thing to­gether your­self, fig­ur­ing out, ‘OK, what are the mov­ing parts? How am I go­ing to be able to change what’s hap­pen­ing?’ But the map helps to solve one of the prob­lems with point-and-click and puz­zle games in gen­eral: you’re ei­ther mak­ing progress or you’re stuck. We’ve added more gran­u­lar­ity to that, so if you’re ever not sure what to do next, just look for gaps that you have in the sched­ule, or times when you’ve lost sight of a char­ac­ter, and if you fol­low them you’ll start adding more in­for­ma­tion to the map, and that gives you a greater sense of pro­gress­ing to­wards a so­lu­tion.”

The Sexy Bru­tale’s off-kil­ter at­mos­phere, darkly chirpy di­a­logue and re­quire­ment to spy on the man­sion’s oc­cu­pants is evoca­tive of Cap­com’s 2003 cu­rio Gre­gory Hor­ror Show. But it’s that game’s fail­ures, as much as its suc­cesses, that have in­spired Cav­a­lier. “Gre­gory Hor­ror Show, Chulip and Moon:

Remix RPG Ad­ven­ture are all fas­ci­nat­ing games, but it felt like they were let down by some of their de­sign and ex­e­cu­tion,” Charles ex­plains. “That’s been a real con­cern for us – it’s such a great and in­trigu­ing con­cept, and I don’t know why it’s only the Ja­panese that try it, but we re­ally wanted to solve all of the prob­lems around [the con­cept]. Be­cause

Gre­gory Hor­ror, while be­ing a won­der­ful and in­trigu­ing game, was pun­ish­ing as hell.”

Cav­a­lier’s ef­forts to gather to­gether, and present clearly, the mul­ti­far­i­ous threads of

The Sexy Bru­tale’s tightly in­ter­weaved sto­ry­lines and sys­tems ap­pear to have been suc­cess­ful. From what we’ve seen so far, the game makes a de­cent fist of do­ing away with the steep learn­ing curve and ad­dling sys­temic ob­scu­rity of games such as Gre­gory Hor­ror

Show, and its ap­peal is fur­ther bol­stered by some charm­ing vi­su­als. Whether that map re­mains read­able once it’s filled with more than two char­ac­ters’ move­ments will re­quire a more thor­ough shake­down of Cav­a­lier’s work, but the early signs are en­cour­ag­ing.

“We wanted to do some­thing you can only do in this medium,” Charles ex­plains. “You could lay out a story in a lin­ear fash­ion, and tell it start, mid­dle and end, but it be­comes an en­tirely dif­fer­ent story de­pend­ing on what or­der you see events. Pulp Fic­tion and Me­mento play with that, but you can ac­tu­ally do that bet­ter with a videogame than any movie or book could. We can present the whole thing, and then let you find a path through it.”

“It’s such a great con­cept, and I don’t know why it’s only the Ja­panese that try it”

Charles Grif­fiths, de­sign di­rec­tor on TheSexyBru­tale

Raúl Ru­bio Munár­riz, Te­quila Works co-founder and cre­ative di­rec­tor

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