I’m going to level with you - I’m a pretty habitual human. With the false perception that I have ‘all the time in the world’, I can be easy prey for monotony. I’m not saying I’m constantly glued to re-runs and forever eating the same two food groups (pasta and chips, of course), but I do have a penchant for stagnation. So, when the clock struck midnight on 1 January 2018, I forged a New Year’s resolution; break the cycle and get my shizz together because time is ticking. So, fittingly, the first game I picked up in 2018 was The Sexy Brutale.
But then something unusual happens: the clock is reset, and Lafcadio goes full-on Bill Murray and wakes up to begin the entire day again from scratch. Yep, his magic pocket watch is straight outta Groundhog Day. So now Mr. Boone knows that whatshisface in the next room is about to be brutally executed, he has to somehow find a way to prevent his murder.
Cue the intro to a fabulous game dynamic in which you essentially play the same 12 hours over and over again. It should be mind-numbingly boring, though it’s anything but.
A number of guests are being knocked off around the clock, and you’ll prevent them meeting their grizzly ends by sneaking around and solving a myriad of amusing puzzles. It’s a genius concept. A concept that keeps you smirking with joy at its cleverness each time you hear the gunshots, crashes and other horrific sounds that go hand-in-hand with the murders taking place at exactly the same hour each day.
As formerly expressed, being a creature of habit, this type of gameplay - as enjoyable as it was - seemed to eerily echo my own procrastination cycles. Seeing the cutscenes play out identically and the same old mistakes made reinforced my belief that my brain was occasionally ‘stuck on repeat’. I became somewhat keen on the idea that unravelling Lafcadio Boone’s predicament in this murderous masked ball was tied subliminally to breaking my own stale routine this coming year.
TSB’s shining narrative also helped to keep me hooked throughout this journey of self discovery; the game’s writing is equally essential as its structure to achieving brilliance. Narrative designer Jim Griffiths ensures the dialogue crackles with macabre wit - so much so that the simple description of a cellar filled with booze begged to be uploaded to Instagram - and the conspiracy at the heart of the hotel draws you in, just as Lafcadio leans towards the peephole of a door for a cheeky eavesdrop. TSB leaves you eager to uncover more of its victims and perpetrators’ secrets long after completion. In fact, I’ve often gone back for a wander around the mansion since finishing… I guess old habits do die hard.
A fabulous game dynamic in which you essentially play the same 12 hours over and over again. It should be mind-numbingly boring, though it’s anything but.
Any true completionist will appreciate the chance to keep delving deeper long after the credits roll, though the cryptic path of murder prevention can be a rocky one. Some puzzles aren’t complex enough, being solved all too easily or possibly even by accident, whilst other times you’re left scratching your head, holding a key to a door you won’t find for hours.
In the event you do get stuck, the original soundtrack is truly something to behold and should keep you ticking as you mull things over. The colourful music draws influence from 1920’s jazz, with a sprinkling of funk and the echo of an enthusiastic mariachi band. In parts it feels comically in line with the pithy quips uttered by the NPCs, and at other times its a super sneaky compliment to the stealth side of the game.
When I finally finished TSB, I met with one of the most beautifully profound and well written endings to a videogame since Shadow of the Colossus. You don’t expect it, you definitely won’t welcome it, and you’re left with one sombre realisation: you can’t set your own watch back eight hours and relive the entire spectacle again.
So, after enjoying a game built around reliving the same old existence for hours on end, for me it marked the beginning of a new start in my ambitions. I drew close to unravelling the mysteries at the heart of TSB and I couldn’t help but see the madness in my own sluggish addiction to familiarity. It did – has - changed my life. I don’t have all the time in the world. Tomorrow is a gift; that’s why they call it the present. Duh.