Party Hard (PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, XBox One)

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Sleep is important. We spend a third of our lives wrapped in dream’s sweet embrace. Without it we go mad. It is the year 2000 and your character just wants to sleep… but the party next door is so loud. He’d sworn he’d lain the knife and mask down for good but the sleepless haze clouds his judgement. His goal is simple, kill the party by killing its guests by whatever means at his disposal. And once he’s got the taste for blood back… he wants more.

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Three in the morning? I’d be pretty steamed too.

History

Party Hard was developed by Pinokl Games, a small Ukrainian studio, and published by tinyBuild games — you might remember them for making No Time to Explain. Party Hard is their first major non-mobile release. Mobile titles they’ve released include Real Steel and Fruit Story — and they don’t look like games I would want to play.

Party Hard was released on August 25th, 2015. It’s competition was Shadowrun: Hong Kong (PC, Mac, and Linux), Grow home (PS4), and um… Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PC, PS3, PS4, XBox 360, XBox One) — a bold move to go up against the biggest release of the year.

Experiences

Between the nonsensical story, the bizarre premise, and the simple visuals I figured this game was gonna be silly. One thing that I did not expect was just how difficult the game was going to be. I’m not even going to avoid comparisons with Hotline Miami because these games are similar in a lot of ways. Party Hard puts its own silly spin on the ultra-violence that Hotline awakened into the world. Where Hotline is visceral and personal, Party Hard is slapstick and absurd. But where Hotline was tight, smooth, and clean Party Had throws in a frustrating dose of ‘lol, so random’. Sometimes new guests arrive or leave, the character has a very slow movement speed, and restarting after level failure can take an infuriating amount of time.

Gameplay

Your goal is simple, be the last man standing on the dance floor, but executing it isn’t easy. Quick with a knife, most party goers don’t stand a chance against The Killer. The Killer might have a penchant for murder but he’s not actually too tough so police officers or rowdy guests can take him down pretty easily. He’s also more of the Mike Meyer’s stalker type so he doesn’t move too quickly, but he can use level shortcuts to escape or close the gap. Be careful, if you use an escape route too many times it’ll stop working.

Learning the map and character AI is imperative to your success. You’ll want to know your ins and outs to evade authorities and keep your activities quiet. The Killer can stash bodies in certain areas so use that to keep revelers in the dark about what you’re doing. You can also poison bowls of punch to kill surreptitiously, but once the well is poisoned they’re sure to know. It’s difficult to keep track of everything that’s going on but the more parts you eliminate the simpler the machine gets.

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As you can see, it’s all a lot to take in.

Once party goers get keen to what’s going on they’re going to call the cops. Cops will arrest you on sight and if they run into a guest who’s seen you killing they will be able to track you down. Don’t bother fighting the police, I guess The Killer’s too rusty stab a battle ready foe.

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You’d expect someone so intimidating to be better at fighting, not the case.

The Gush

The music in this game is positively dancy and 80s as hell. It really carries me through the experience. The sting of playing a level over and over again for 45 minutes is numbed by the knowledge that I will be listening to sick tunes the whole time.

I think I’m a sucker for unlockable characters. This game has got three characters to unlock and I’m instinctively excited. Only problem was that the game was too difficult for me to unlock any of them. The unlock mechanisms aren’t even difficult, just grindy. They all play differently for instance the Ninja is stealthy and the Chainsaw Psycho attracts cops like ugly on an ape.

The game frames the story as a police detective investigating the series of killings. It’s a campy romp through every Lethal Weapon cop story and I found it quite humorous.

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Fantastic pixel art punctuates the silly story.

The Kvetch

The hit detection on the stab attack is dicey at best. I had a really hard time determining when I was parallel to a target or when they were near enough to attack. Brandishing the knife will also alert people to your murderous intent leading to police and other nastiness. Every stab needs to count but its hard to count on your stab.

It wasn’t immediately apparent when party goers could see me or what activities would alarm them. Poisoning the punch has no animation and would sometimes alert nearby guests and sometimes wouldn’t. It’s also difficult to determine what angles people can see you through windows.

I get this game is not serious but when I mentioned that escape routes can only be used so many times this is only because Mario, as in the Super Mario of Nintendo fame, breaks them. He comes out of a sewer line, either through a manhole cover or a toilet, bumbles over to the window or whatever and smacks it with his wrench and then it doesn’t work. I think it’s supposed to be funny but it just struck me as ‘LUL SO RANDOM’. It would have been just as easy for there to be an animation or dialogue box to explain the ladder is broken, or the tunnel collapsed.

Every level has a dance floor and I still have no idea how to handle it. It’s a lot of people all crowded together, so many watching eyes. Some characters leave but it seems like some never do. This leads me to rush in and invite failure. Either I luck out and kill them all before any of them can get to a phone or I get caught with a handful of victims left.

The Verdict

Party Hard is… okay. I found it fun, I don’t regret my purchase, I liked giving Pinokl 13 dollars because I can see promise in this game. A little more testing and polish would have turned Party Hard into a genuinely good and consistently enjoyable experience. As it stands though, I can only recommend it to someone who would appreciate the the LUL SO RANDOM humor and semi-puzzle mechanics. It’s also only 13 dollars so nothing ventured nothing lost

Next Week: Pony Island

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