Indie Quickie: Party Hard

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What is it and who made it? A dark comedy stealth game about a crazed dude touring parties across the USA on a mass murder killing spree against loud partygoers. It was made by Pinokl Games and published by tinyBuild.

What platforms is it on and how much does it cost? The original Steam PC release dates back to last summer. A console release on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One just dropped in late April, with mobile Android and iOS versions still to come. It’s $12.99 at full price. (There’s a 75% discount for the PC/Mac/Linux version during the Steam Summer Sale until July 4th.)

How much did we play? Playing on Steam, I successfully slaughtered four of twelve parties in around two hours while wracking up a body count of 590 kills and getting busted or killed too many times to count.

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements, or other details you should know about? One time coming out of a level restart the framerate slowed to a stuttering crawl. Fortunately, pausing and restarting the level again put things back to normal. Another time I went through a whole level and got down to needing three kills to clear the party, except for the fact that there weren’t any more people left on the screen to actually kill, so I had to restart and do the whole level over again. That was annoying. I haven’t tried them yet, but a couple other notable features that have been added to the game since release include Twitch integration for viewer-influenced events, as well as a level editor with Steam Workshop support. Playing through some user-created party maps should a fun way to extend the replay beyond the base content.

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Why should you play it?

    • It’s Not My Party, But I’ll Kill If I Want To: Have you ever had an annoying neighbor keep you up at night with a loud party? Or maybe wake you up doing loud yardwork at the crack of dawn on a weekend? Or just being an inconsiderate dick in one of many other ways inconsiderate dicks excel at? Party Hard lets you take out some of your suppressed “I’m gonna kill that asshole!” rage from the comforts of your home and vindictive imagination, all without doing the gruesome deed for real (because that would be wrong, and illegal). Party Hard is a tactical action game that challenges you to kill every last person standing through a series of backyard BBQs, biker bars, casinos, rooftop and boat parties, and various other settings of excessive dancing and blaring music. The objective is to be discreet by triggering traps around the party for maximum carnage (knocking over trees, pushing people into grills, poisoning food, placing bombs, sabotaging speakers and dance floors, startling horses into back-kicking people upside the head) and systematically knifing partygoers in the back whenever the coast is clear, using dumpsters, open manholes, rooftop ledges, and spinning ventilation fans to dispose of bodies so no trace is left behind. If bodies are discovered or you’re spotted directly, witnesses will call the police (unless you cut them down first), who will begin investigating the scene and attempt to bust your ass before all blood has been shed. Through evasive action–by dancing to blend in with the crowd, changing clothes (if you’ve found the necessary power-up), or simply staying out of direct line of sight during the search–cops will eventually give up and leave the scene, allowing the murderous mayhem to ensue. Cops should be the least of your worries, though, because if things get too out of hand S.W.A.T. will get the call. Oh and watch out for alien abductions and other weird events.

    • Dial ‘M’ For Murder: Despite being more stealthy and methodical and up-close-and-personal in its approach to pixelated violence compared to Hotline Miami‘s brand of fast, twitchy, bust-the-door-down arcade action, Party Hard‘s overall mentality is very similar to Dennaton’s neon-soaked top-down shooter. Parties can be ransacked at leisure and with little effort to be skillful, or you can attempt to carefully map out a plan of attack to chain together kill combos, maximize the death toll of each trap, and remain undetected to set a high score to be proud of. You can also expect to fail. A lot. Often in rapid succession as you experiment with trap effects (many will kill you if you aren’t careful) and get into a flow with the room layout to best avoid arrest should the po-po arrive to investigate. On a successful completion a level generally takes no more than five to ten minutes to clear, but the abundance of watchful eyes combined with the partially randomized maps (the physical layouts are constant, but traps, item pick-ups, and NPC movement patterns change each time) leads to a lot of dying and retrying until you pull off the perfect run. Dying or getting busted at any time, even if there’s only one last human life to extinguish, means game over and back to the start of the party. Case in point: I’ve finished four stages with a combined completion time around 28 minutes, and yet my actual calculated play time is over two hours. That’s a lot of time spent on failed attempts. The gameplay mechanics are basic and easy to learn, but utilizing them to full effect can be quite a challenge to master.

    • It’s an AlienFX Party Right Up in Here: PC gamers with an Alienware rig are in for a cool treat thanks to the game’s support for AlienFX lighting. While playing the game and cutting a rug (or pixelized human flesh, to be more accurate), the PC tower becomes a disco ball of flashing colors synched to the beat of the background music. It’s a small, inconsequential thing really, but as an Alienware owner myself I thought it was a pleasant little surprise that added to the mood I was in playing the game.

Parting Thoughts: Party Hard does involve a fair amount of trial and error, and that will no doubt be a turn-off to some folks. Actually, the one main drawback to the game is the inconsistency with AI detection and line of sight. Sometimes NPCs seem oblivious to a nearby murder, and sometimes they are uncanny in their ability to finger you as the killer. Sometimes they react to you interacting with a trap, sometimes they don’t. Never knowing with certainty how NPCs will react is both a blessing and a curse; the randomization keeps you on your toes by making each attempt feel unpredictable and in the moment, yet at the same time repeating an action that was successful before but somehow doesn’t work the same way the next try can cause feelings of frustration to bubble to the surface. The overall don’t-take-it-seriously tone of the game, for me at least, took the stinging edge off of the die-and-retry repetition, because even if a run ultimately ended in failure the gratuitous pixel art violence still brought some level of satisfaction. Surprisingly, I’m also enjoying the gritty, hardboiled detective investigation storyline that unfolds via low-fi cutscenes between stages. Sure the gravely-voiced acting is bad, but in context it blends well with the dark comedy vibe. I wasn’t expecting any plot of redeeming value, so to actually now find myself looking forward to the next pixel art cutscene is an added bonus.

What is Indie Quickie? It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

Disclosure: A Steam code for Party Hard was provided to VGBlogger.com by the game’s developer.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!