In this top-down perspective, retro-looking serial killer simulator, a man that’s just trying to get some sleep is pushed over the edge by loud party-goers. Little did they know that these festivities would be their last, because Sleepy McSleeperson decides to take matters in to his own hands. So, if violence bothers you, perhaps give this a miss. If you’re still with me, know that this game didn’t resonate with me. I appreciate what it’s trying to do in the strategic wait-and-see for victims to move out of sight, but the inability to influence that aspect made what could have been a well-paced, strategic gem in to a bore-fest after a short time. This is our full Party Hard Review.
Look and Feel
There’s a distinct 80’s feel to the Party Hard game. The soundtrack has that synth-pop bumping on full blast as well as the retro characters and the neon signs in the levels. It’s heavy on that theme, and I found that to be enjoyable. It’s fairly easy to tell the difference between victims, bodyguards, police and your own character and the level design makes it simple to recognise the borders between rooms you can enter and wait out the police inside of. Overall, it’s well done, but there are issues, mainly in the performance of the game.
Playing on the Playstation 4, the game completely skips out when killing several people at once. It seems to just freeze and then poof – people are dead. A game of this level being unable to render several basic character deaths seems odd to me, especially as it has seemingly been this way ever since its initial release on PC.
That aside, it’s fine aesthetically. Nothing to marvel at, but a well-done call-back. The performance issues can be jarring, however, and that’s a problem that should have been addressed before the console release.
Surprisingly, Party Hard comes equipped with a pretty good narrative thread to tie the events of the game together. It’s not designed to be a full-blown story so much as just a bit of exposition during the transitions to new levels, but it lends a small amount of purpose to the events of the game.
In the story, two men are having an exchange. A police officer details the recent massacres of the Party Hard Killer to a psychiatrist. Both with over-the-top, cheesy voice acting as the gruff, shaken officer is riled up by the high-pitched, obnoxious prodding of the person he’s talking to. It’s fairly easy to deduce from the way the dialogue is delivered, but it was an interesting ride nonetheless.
That said, there’s no real weight to the story, and I didn’t expect there to be. It’s absolutely suitable for what it’s designed to do and I have no real problems with it.
In the beginning, as the Party Hard Killer, your aim is to kill all of the party participants without being arrested or killed yourself. The kill counter in the top left tells you how many people remain before you’ve finished the level. After completing the level, you’ll be given a score based on factors such as creative kills, escape from police, hiding bodies etc. Then you’ll progress to the next level. Rinse and repeat.
In order to kill the people at the party, you have a basic melee attack. You can also manipulate some objects and get away unseen. You can poison the beverages, blow up speaker systems, throw people on to barbecues, trigger a horse or zebra to kick them in the face – plenty of options but they ultimately fall short of being fun to do. They don’t quite reach the level of ridiculousness that one might want from a game as crazy as this appears to be on the surface.
If you kill a person in sight of other people, or somebody sees you in close proximity to a dead body, they’ll make for the nearest phone to call a police officer. The officer is faster than you can walk or run, and your stamina is pitiful, but if you’re far enough away, the officer will give up. Every subsequent call to the police for your arrest will unleash a much faster law enforcement official that’ll eventually take you down, so stealth is necessary to an extent by killing people out of sight as they move from room to room and then escaping the area, then running back in.
On top of the police, other threats including bodyguards that’ll kill you if they catch you, FBI-like agents that move quickly in the area and can also arrest you, zombies that infect the group and then move in a group to your position, aliens that abduct the party residents and wild bears can be brought in to the fray as the level generates a few things randomly. Some work against you, some can work to your advantage.
Then there’s the items that can be picked up. Sometimes found in a small orange-yellow briefcase, these can hold bombs, smoke bombs, running shoes or spare clothes. Smoke bombs being the most effective, in my opinion, as it obscures you entirely from the view of others, allowing you to commit a spree of murders and make a quick dash away. The rest of the items had a far less effective level of use.
So ultimately the most disappointing thing about this game is that you can’t manipulate the actual people at the party. More often than not, I found myself waiting ten minutes for somebody to move to another room when I’d been down to my last 10 kills or so. The kind of group of people that refuse to leave each other’s site, and you can’t take down all 10 without one managing to get a call to the police and getting away from you. Nothing you physically do can influence the victims and this hurts the pacing of the game a great deal, because the moment to moment gameplay is quite fun when it’s going your way, but it demands far too much patience at times towards the end of a level. An exploding speaker doesn’t convince the residents to run to other rooms, and even if some do panic, they soon enough return to their awful A.I. routine. This is the case for every level of the game, so whilst it does feel good to finally manage your way through the massacre, a lot of it comes down to luck and zen-like patience. I appreciated the strategy to it, but the strategy comes at the cost of decent pacing. So many of the buttons on the controller have no use. A few more options would have worked wonders.
Other usable characters can be unlocked by gaining trophies on the Playstation, so I’d assume Achievements on the Xbox One would do the same. These characters have their own special abilities and restrictions. The chainsaw-wielding maniac can’t hide bodies but he can massacre a room of people with his technique before being rendered immobile for a short time whilst he catches his breath. Another character can signal a party-goer for arrest but can’t activate traps around the level.
It should be made clear that I did enjoy the general gameplay, and it has good ideas, but the traps don’t do what I want them to at all and having to wait for victims to make their own moves when they rarely make any that’ll benefit me is a nuisance I didn’t like dealing with and led to many a rampage, leading to many arrests and the occasional lucky break.
Party Hard is a fine game with some genuine issues, some of which are so embedded in the basic mechanics of the game that it doesn’t look as if they’ll be fixed because they’re not seen as a mistake, but giving the player more options to manipulate both the victims and the environment would be a solid step in to making Party Hard a much more fun game to actively play. As it stands, it asks too much of the player to remain in one place doing nothing whilst their potential victims continue to party. Hard, one might say. There’s potential in this idea, it’s just not achieved in this release, but it may well be worth a shot if you’re in a gaming lull, waiting for the bigger releases of May to come around.
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Game: Party Hard
Review Format: Playstation 4