Above: The Sexy Brutale screenshot courtesy Tequila Works
Let this piece serve as a call to arms: if you, like me, found yourself disappointed by Playtonic's Rare-baiting platformer, Yooka-Laylee, then you're not alone. But more than that, you're in the right place, because I'm going to tell you about another game that might scratch that itch for '90s-inspired gaming.
The Sexy Brutale, made by ex-Lionhead and Mediatonic folks at Cavalier Game Studios, is a game that can pull you in just from the pitch: Groundhog Day meets Ghost Trick by way of Edgar Allan Poe and Agatha Christie.
It's a time-looping murder-mystery, in which you're trapped in a mansion with a bunch of grisly deaths happening at the same time each day. It's your job to find out not only how to stop this, but also why it's happening, by stalking each of the mansion's soon-to-be-deceased unfortunates, peeking through keyholes and listening out for the sounds that indicate that some poor soul has come to an untimely demise.
The art, however, is what struck me in my post- Yooka-Laylee fugue of unsatisfied nostalgia. There's something intensely Rare-like about the way it's drawn and animated, which is the work of Madrid-based studio Tequila Works (the folks behind lovely puzzle-exploration game RiME).
Perhaps it's the chunky cartoonish character designs—with their foppish hair, massive facial features and expressive animations—that does the trick, but playing The Sexy Brutale leaves you with this feeling of utter satisfaction, as if the 20-year gap between this and Banjo-Kazooie had been bridged in a single moment.
The Sexy Brutale isn't a Rare game, but it has all the charm, wit and inventiveness that a Rare game have always had woven through their fabric. Yooka-Laylee didn't do it for me, because despite all its obvious references to the games I grew up with, it felt like it was just trying way too hard, but The Sexy Brutale—without even meaning to—has picked up that torch. It's about time.