Macabre mystery gets timing right
The Sexy Brutale, (PS4/XO/PC), 5 Stars, Age 12+
Undoing a murder feels so much more satisfying than committing one. That's just the first surprise about The Sexy Brutale, which regales the player with the macabre tale of a masked ball at a gothic mansion where death hovers like a spectre.
The staff are hell-bent on offing the guests in fiendish manners but you can interrupt the killings after watching their dastardly deeds. That's because, in this place, time resets late at night, enabling you to interfere in the deadly plans and thwart the murders.
It sounds confusing on paper and certainly appears utterly baffling at first. But this UK-Spanish collaboration oozes panache and wit, from the graphical style to the zippy script.
Sexy Brutale echoes the likes of Groundhog Day and Zelda: Majora's Mask in its twisted structure, the like-clockwork loops enabling you to learn the steps necessary to foil the killers. Like playing Cluedo in reverse, you work out who does what to whom and then meddle with the pieces - by replacing a bullet with a blank while no one's looking, for instance.
Blind luck might serve you well in the beginning but only careful observation and a sharp focus will prevail as the murders become more complicated.
Distinctive and clever, Sexy Brutale is a warped treasure out of left-field. And where else can you play the character of an elderly priest?
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3
(PS4/XO/PC), 2 Stars, Age: 18+
When two sniper games go to war, only one can be left standing. And two months after the release of the thrilling Sniper Elite 4, this third instalment of the Ghost Warrior series falls flat.
More po-faced and "realistic" than the Nazi-baiting SE4, Ghost Warrior 3 shoots for a serious storyline set amid an open-world version of the former Soviet republic of Georgia. But insipid characters and bland missions don't help its case, even if the sniping itself is mildly entertaining.
Alas, GW3's greatest handicap remains a familiar series hallmark - copious glitches undermining its desire to be taken seriously. Factor in long loading times plus a lack of multiplayer at launch and Ghost Warrior 3 seems dead on arrival.
(PSVR), 2 Stars, Age: 12+
The pitch for this must surely have included the words "Overwatch in VR". For Starblood Arena is a clumsy attempt to shoehorn the genes of the wacky team shooter into a virtual-reality setting.
The tiny, claustrophobic arenas around which you pilot your small space pod just gave me VR nausea, one of the few games to do so. And the try-hard reality-TV backstory and its cast of characters lack the forceful personality of Overwatch. But it's the lack of long-term appeal that does for Starblood, its shallow range an irritation at this price tag.