I’m a mystery aficionado, and I have been since I gobbled up Encyclopedia Brown’s adventures as a kid. I graduated to Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, preferring the latter to the former because Trixie was a hotheaded teenager who oftentimes acted before she thought, which I could sympathize with. Nancy Drew wasn’t a real girl, but I do love Kate Beaton’s concept of Nancy Drew as a crazy woman who is making up all the mysteries in her mind (h/t Ian). I strayed into dreadful teenage romance novels (oh were they horrid), but I never gave up my true love–mysteries. I read every HerculePoirot story by Agatha Christie when I was a teen, each at least four or five times, and some up to fifty. My favorites are The Big Four and Curtain, by the way. I’ve seen all the David Suchet series, too, and he IS Hercule Poirot. I’ll have to see the Kenneth Branagh version of Murder on the Orient Express, of course, but it’s going to suck. He sucks as Poirot, and the trailer is devoid of everything that makes a Poirot story work. However, to be fair, all three previous versions of this movie are terrible (including David Suchet’s. His Catholic rant at the end destroys any credibility the movie might have). I think this is a Poirot story best left as a novel and not a movie.
When I started playing games, I wanted to find a mystery game that grabbed me the way a novel did. I played all the Poirot games. Atrocious. I played several Sherlock Holmes games. Disappointing. Lately, I played Kathy Rain, and while it started out strong, in the third act, it came crashing down around my ears. I will say even before then, I was done with adventure game logic. I like solving puzzles, but not when it’s ‘combine a twig, three pieces of twine, and a stone to make a key’. An axe, maybe, but a key? Or having to backtrack through several areas just to pick up that piece of lint you couldn’t pick up before, but knew you’d need. I tried the Blackwell series, and ten minutes in, I was following a walkthrough compulsively.
I admit it. I gave up on finding a mystery game that I actually enjoyed playing. It didn’t seem possible! The things that work in a novel just didn’t seem possible to recreate in gameplay. Then, I saw a review by Jim fucking Sterling, son of The Sexy Brutale, and I was immediately intrigued. Now, as Jim Sterling notes, it’s difficult to talk about the game without ruining the brilliance of the conceit, so let me say if you’re looking for a good detective/murder game in which you have to prevent murders from happening, then this is the game for you. I bought it for $9.99 on Steam during the last of the endless Steam sales, and it’s normal price is $19.99. I’m not the best to ask about pricing because I usually wait for games to go on steep sale before buying them. I’d say The Sexy Brutale, developed by Cavalier Game Studios and Tequila Works, is worth $19.99, but it is a short game, and the replayability is very low. It’s definitely worth the $9.99 I paid for it. I might play again just to smooth out the rough edges, but probably not. If that’s enough to hook you at all, I’d suggest you stop reading and pick up the game. The rest of the review is behind the cut (after the Jim Sterling review).