Developer: Pinokl Games
Platform Reviewed: Playstation 4
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Acquired via: PSN
This game eluded me when it first came out on PC; I didn’t first hear about it until two months after its August 2015 release on Steam. I snapped it up soon after, and snapped it up again as soon as it became available for the PS4. Now I’m wondering why more people I know haven’t.I admit that I don’t constantly check the Steam front page, so if this game hit it on release, I never saw it. I only discovered this game after its release on a Twitch stream. The concept was interesting enough that I bought it based only on what I saw on the stream. I then lost about 2 weeks playing the game relentlessly. I bought it again for the PS4 just to experience it again, and I’m ready to lose more time to it.
The concept in Party Hard is simple enough: you want to get some sleep, but the neighbors are throwing a loud party and are keeping you awake. So, of course, you resort to the only thing anyone can do in that situation: murder everyone in the party! What follows is some excellent stealth strategy gameplay, set to very 80s-ish music and pixelart visuals. You kill, you hide bodies, you set traps, and you avoid being spotted in the act, you avoid getting busted if you are spotted. It’s simple in concept, but complex – and a bit frustrating – in execution.
The traps are the easiest way to remove groups of partiers quickly. Around the level, there are some booby-traps that can be armed and set to explode when anyone comes in proximity. These include speakers, gumball machines, and stoves. A punch bowl can be spiked to poison unwary drinkers. Other objects, like loose wires, bear traps, trees, and horses, can be used to dispatch the unsuspecting.Of course, there is nothing like walking up to partygoers and simply stabbing them. You can do this whenever they are out of the sight of others to avoid notice. After the kill, you can carry their body to one of several hiding places, where their bodies won’t be noticed. You could also leave the bodies behind and escape the area, but you risk another partier stumbling onto their corpse.
Partiers who see you murdering someone else or spot a dead body will run to the nearest phone to call the police. You can, of course run to them and kill them before they make the call, but they run faster than you, and there’s always the chance of you alerting other partiers in the process of silencing that one. If the police arrive and you’re ratted out, you can evade them by using trap doors that are scattered throughout the levels. Once you use one to escape, however, a Mario-looking character will board it up, preventing access to it again and making the task of avoiding the police later more difficult.It’s the police evasion where the game’s main cheapness creeps in. Sometimes it seems that the police pick you out randomly. On a couple of occasions, I was busted by a police officer simply for being in his path after he wrapped up a dead body. Also, the amount of time a police officer takes to give up on a chase varies greatly. Sometimes they’ll only give chase for a few seconds before exclaiming, “I’m too old for this shit”, and waltzing back to their vehicle. Other times, they seem determined to chase you down, Fugitive-style, until you are busted.
The cheapness does not end there. Some partygoers can turn violent on you and beat you to a pulp. Some other random events, like a SWAT team raiding a party or another mass killer crashing in, can lead to your character’s untimely demise as well.One pretty cool game feature is social integration. If you stream the game on Twitch, people watching the stream can vote on random partygoers or enemies entering the area. It adds a cool level of audience participation to the game, although the random partygoers or enemies can make the game even more frustrating. I will say, though, that the zombie attack is my favorite. Watching them chew on partygoers, who become zombies themselves, is a bit funny. Of course, they then come after you, but at least they’re easy to dispatch.
Frustrations aside, the thrill of sneaking around and killing an entire room, a little at a time, is enormous. This game brings out all the anti-social thoughts you may have in a harmless, fun way. I found myself trying to be sneakier, looking for areas where I could kill with impunity. Beating the game as the main character unlocks the ability to play as other characters, including a policeman, an FBI agent, a Leatherface-wannabe, and a ninja. These characters introduce new mechanics, such as the inability to use traps, the ability to carry bodies without alerting anyone, and the ability to stun people before killing.
A game like Party Hard is not life-changing or severely important. It’s a small indie game with a quirky premise and a great play mechanic. But I love when I come across a game that introduces new gameplay premises and lets me run amok, losing myself in the game.
I was ignorant of the game when it first came out and missed out for two months. I hope everyone reading this doesn’t miss out anymore.