I used to live in a coastal seaside town in the South East of England, and every year we would have a ten-day folk music festival. Ten wonderful days of sun, seagulls and morris dancers.
What wasn't so wonderful was living next door to a pub which played music until the early hours of the morning. I would become irate, I had work the next day, as did most people in the surrounding houses, and the lack of sleep made me irritable.
However, nothing made me so irritable that I went next door to the pub and indulged in a blood-crazed murder frenzy, and then danced on the corpses of my victims while whirling a banjo around my head. I'm just not that kind of girl. But in Party Hard... I am.
What is Party Hard?
Party Hard is a 2D top-down retro-8bit style action stealth game, made by Pinokl. In Party Hard, you are the Party Pooper, Darius. The neighbours are having a loud party, and rather than call the cops like a good law abiding citizen, you decide to take matters into your own hands. Entering the party, you must kill everyone; all the party guests, the DJ and musicians, and dispose of their bodies using a variety of strange and unusual methods. From house parties, murdering people on a bus, or a holiday camp from Hell, Party Hard offers a plethora of scenarios for you to try out your stealth ingenuity. The story plays out between levels, through the recollection of Detective John West who investigated the murders that took place in 2000.
Armed with nothing but a knife, you must infiltrate parties and murder the guests with reckless abandon. Dotted around each level are a wide array of different traps you can use to kill the party guests. Spiking the food and drink, setting a bear trap, getting a horse to kick passersby in the face, or kicking them into a log mill; the methods available range from basic to downright weird.
Using a phone, you're able to call gatecrashers in order to rack up your kill count. Aliens may come to abduct some of the guests, a masked man wielding a machete who looks uncannily like Jason may gatecrash and take some souls of his own, a horde of zombies will come and bite the guests, robbers set up bombs which detonate, exterminators who gas entire rooms.
What's the aim?
Kill everyone. Don't get caught.
Killing party guests will earn you a number of points. Stabbing them will give you 40 points, and killing people in quick succession will give you a combo bonus multiplier. Being seen while flexing your finger of death will result in the police being called, who will then hunt for you until they catch you or get tired. I've watched enough Dexter to know that not cleaning up after a murder is a surefire way to get yourself caught (I've also watched enough FBI Files to know that even if you did clean up, you'll still be caught). If another guest stumbles across your offering to the Many-Faced God before you have a chance to hide it, the police will still be called but they won't know who to look for, so acting natural (aka dancing maniacally) and not being seen in the vicinity when the police show up can only be a good thing.
Some methods are nice and clean. Simply tipping a guest over the edge of a building is not only efficient but leaves no corpse to be found at the party. Nothing spoils the mood like a dead body on the dance floor, trust me.
Hiding bodies makes it less likely your murders will be discovered (because a big ol' blood stain on the floor isn't a dead giveaway). Plus there is the incentive that hiding bodies also gives you points. By throwing bodies into dumpsters, fire pits, manholes, off of buildings, into hay bales (very Assassin's Creed), you can hide evidence of your music induced murderous rampage.
The digital party goers are entirely oblivious to the bloody carnage taking place all around them — they're literally dancing on the bodies of their friends and either haven't noticed or don't care. Partier movements and the placement of traps are changed at the beginning of each attempt at a level, keeping it fresh and allowing you to contemplate the frankly difficult task ahead.
With so many guests on screen, sometimes it feels like a Where's Wally scenario come to life. There's a guy spinning on his head while balancing on a corpse. The DJ has his head cut off and the party is still popping. Body bags litter the entire room, but I've only killed eighteen out of forty-one guests. This level is probably a slow burner. Where I've been able to finish some levels in a minute, others are longer. The likelihood is also, I'll be playing the same level over again as I continue to get caught and keep refining my murdering skills, which means I have to endure one track for the entire of the level, no matter how long that takes. I'd kill for some variety in the music. Maybe that's why Darius is so angry...
Most levels play seamlessly, but Party Hard isn't without its little flaws. Sometimes a party guest will start wailing on me for no reason, or a fight I had nothing to do with will break out and I will be hunted by the police as though it was my fault (Not this time, Officer!). I honestly can't tell if this is just a mechanic of the game, or whether this is a bug. Fights do break out among the guests sometimes, but other times I've been attacked without having even moved yet, I can't work out why and I find it so irritating. There is an achievement to unlock by getting punched while dancing, so there's that.
Any bugs I have encountered so far have involved the police, like not being able to exit the screen and just walking into the right edge for a while as the guests in the house just next to him are getting brutally stabbed and dumped in a drain. Other officers have got stuck in or behind textures or objects, which in retrospect only worked to my advantage and enabled me to escape as they lost interest.
These aren't huge issues but they are noticeable when you're trying to avoid the police at all costs and there are just some lurking about through no fault of their own.
I want your boots, your clothes...
So, you've been a bit of a bad boy. Someone saw you kill the person dressed as Darth Vader, and now they're off to call the police. What do you do now? Killing panicked callers before they have a chance to dial stops the police arriving this time. They will continue to be called as long as there are bodies to be found. A handcuffs symbol hovers over your head while you're wanted. You can try to evade the police by 'sprinting' away, which is really more of just a slightly faster walk. If you're lucky, the officer will just get tired and claim he's too old for this and give up the chase.
Masterfully hidden around the levels are briefcases which contain various items. Some will contain costumes which you can use to 'disguise' yourself to help get the heat off you. Other incredibly helpful finds have been smoke bombs, running shoes, samurai swords, poison, and explosives. Perhaps you could walk around and just discreetly spike someone's drink, or throw down a smoke bomb and vanish like a ninja warrior.
Some levels have shortcuts which can double as an escape route. Utilizing these while being chased by a policeman will cause him to run backward and forward between the two exits and eventually give up; but should you abuse them, a Super Mario-esque figure will come and block them off. The number of times you can use an escape varies between tries, so that window that you've been hopping back and forth through all this time will possibly only have two or three uses the next time you restart. It forces you to stop being lazy and taking things for granted. You have to rethink your next steps from a new angle, taking into account that certain routes are no longer available; so how will you hide bodies without being caught carrying them across the room now?
Party Hard offers a frustrating yet fun and addictive experience. Not being one to let a game beat me, I've thrown people into fires, stabbed a bus full of people (beginning to feel like a real serial killer here...), killed harmless animals, and burnt down rooms with people in them, all in the name of peace and quiet. The storyline between parties loses its way eventually, but Party Hard keeps changing up the game plan by switching up traps and guests movements, unlocking new characters, and Twitch integration allows your viewers to interact with your game — they can send in SWAT or a team of marauding bears to help or hinder you.
- A wide range of killing methods
- A variety of party scenarios
- Pop culture icons make up the crowds
- Lots of replayability through unlocking new characters
- Hard to work out if some actions are bugs or intended mechanics
- One music track per party becomes monotonous
- A strong start to a story quickly loses its way
This review was conducted on Xbox One using a copy provided by the developer.