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Review: Party Hard

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Scene is dead, but I'm still restless...

“I get wet when I know that you're dying,” sang Andrew W.K. on his debut album closer, I Get Wet. It’s actually a fine anthem for the terrible things you get away with in Party Hard, far more than the phenomenal single it takes its name from. Then again, Pinokl Games could've taken it from Pulp's lesser known single of the same name, but I digress since it would totally ruin the smart-alec direction of this intro.

As a masked serial killer, you silently move through the crowd, causing all sorts of kegger-related accidents and mayhem. Beach parties get bodied, dancefloors get dicked with, and all the while, your silent avatar calmly takes in the carnage to a Herbie Hancock inspired soundtrack. Yes, I got wet when I knew that they were dying. I got wet without even trying. But it was only a matter of time before the scene was dead, even without the bodies piling up.

Party Hard (PC [Reviewed], iOS)
Developer: Pinokl Games
Publisher: tinyBuild Games
Released: August 25, 2015
MSRP: $12.99

 Party Hard tells the tongue-in-cheek story of the Party Hard Killer, a man who just wanted to get some sleep at 3AM and eventually went on a murder spree around the US in the early '00s. It’s all played for macabre laughs, though there are flashes of genuine subversion throughout. In the narration, one random victim's identity turns out to be a slap to the face when you're in mid-chuckle, but other twists and turns rarely pay off. Though, in its favour, Party Hard is completely self-aware of its own weaknesses. It’s not trying to be the next Hotline Miami in that regard.

Despite the pulsing and rather solid electro soundtrack, Party Hard is actually a slow and methodical game. As the Party Hard Killer (and other unlockable characters), the main aim is to divide and conquer a crowd of people by any means necessary. Of course, stabbing someone in plain sight means someone’s going to call the cops, so it's up to you to manipulate and set off environmental accidents.

Dotted around the map are things you can use to flatten, poison, or blow up unsuspecting victims in order to achieve your goal. It's a sandbox game to a point, with a bit of improvisation thrown in for good measure, and watching several timed accidents go off at once is a dark joy to behold. But once all the environmental tricks run out, the game suddenly turns into a fiendish stalk-and-slash. Hiding bodies and killing in secrecy become a must, since the police are relentless in their pursuit of you. You can bump off the cops, but that means the next witness will bring in the more efficient Feds, and the escape routes are eventually boarded up.

Finishing off the last 10-15 victims does become a drag, especially after the initial outburst of comical violence. Party Hard lacks the kind of distractions needed to splinter off the remaining survivors, so the last half of every level degrades into a waiting game. Along with the knife, you can bust-a-move that will either get people to dance in place, spurn them away, or give you a good kicking. It’s a little random and mostly useless, considering how everyone wanders around when left to their own devices.

To speed things along, there are randomised power-ups to collect; smoke/stun grenades, bottles of poison, and new disguises. Bombs can cause a massive amount of damage, but on the negative side, a fascist SWAT team show up and start attacking everyone, including you. In one particular level, calling in a fumigation crew ends with them gassing out a good third of the party.

Party Hard is a genuinely humorous game, crammed as it is with an assortment of “Where’s Wally [Waldo]?” pop culture references. A lot of it is anachronistic for the period, along with the excellent soundtrack, as it self consciously distances itself from the current '80s/'90s aesthetic trend, but it’s still amusing to watch the party unfold, as potential victims get drunk, pass out, or dance with bears that wear gold chains and shades. What Party Hard lacks in complexity, it makes up for with personality.

And while it does run out of steam about two thirds of the way in, Party Hard doesn’t outstay its welcome. At only 12 levels long - one being a bonus round and another being a remix - it can be finished in a single evening. Despite owing a lot to Hotline Miami in terms of sight and sound, Party Hard is almost the antithesis of its most obvious influence. On a personal note, it's actually more reminiscent of How to be a Complete Bastard, a similar (and ancient) game involving house parties and a destructive protagonist.

It’s not quite a lost weekend, and it’s barely an all-nighter, but Party Hard manages to do its thing before the parents get home.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Party Hard reviewed by Stephen Turner

6

ALL RIGHT

Slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy it a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.
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Stephen Turner
Stephen TurnerPodcast Crasher, Total Hack   gamer profile

Once worked in a chocolate factory. There were no Oompa Loompas. Thanks for reading! more + disclosures


 


 


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