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Sexy Brutale: a master class in narrative puzzle design

I was recently lucky enough to come across a hidden gem in narrative driven puzzle games called Sexy Brutale. Here’s a small teaser:

The game, developed by Cavalier Games in collaboration with Tequila Works, delights with its cheeky art style, polished UX, and a very peculiar atmosphere and sense of humor. However, it’s the narrative implementation that I found remarkable and I’d like to analyze in this article.  

OMG! CAREFUL! LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD!

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On Cuphead’s thematic consistency

Before I tried Cuphead I was always very curious about the criticism the game always got for being extremely difficult. I couldn’t believe that the developers, who seemed to have spent quite some time and effort in building such a big thing, would just mess up with a basic principle of game design such as balancing.

I had also heard about the hypothesis that by making the game purposely difficult, the developers would manage stretching out the limited content of the game so that it felt like more to the player. 

After playing Cuphead myself, though, and even considering that production limitations might have been part of it, I think that looking at the way difficulty is formulated as a design pillar, and how consistently that vision executed, Cuphead it a greatly designed game in its own terms.

For me Cuphead is, basically, a statement on difficulty.

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