‘Party Hard’ Review

Platform PC

Developer Pinokl Games Publisher tinyBuild

Genre Arcade

Most people will agree that parties are not a terrible thing, even if they can get a bit noisy at times. However, the protagonist in Party Hard strongly disagrees and simply wants some peace and quiet, opting to attend parties and murder everyone there. Initially beginning with a party next door, the serial killer travels across the United States, stopping at parties in various locales and slaughtering all of the attendees. Between each level there are brief cutscenes consisting of a dialogue between a police officer assigned to the case and another individual. It becomes apparent early on who this other mystery figure is, but over the course of the campaign, you learn more about the individuals who are involved with these killings, including someone close to the police officer. The plot itself is nothing revolutionary and will not satisfy your desire for an extensive plot, but it serves the purpose of providing some context in which these killings take place so that the game is not exclusively killing mindlessly.

The control scheme is incredibly minimalistic, only using input commands for movement, deploying traps, stabbing people, determining who can see you, carrying bodies, and dancing. No, you did not misread that, there is actually a button which serves the sole purpose of dancing. Why is dancing a mechanic in Party Hard? Well, as you attempt to slay an entire party’s worth of individuals, you need to blend in and distance yourself from any corpses found laying about, and there is no better way than to jump into a crowd of party-goers and dance with them. You may also find locations to hide bodies so that nobody will alert the authorities, and some traps will even eliminate the body altogether such as the bear trap, horse, or car. A charming twist is the possibility that someone else at the party will be accused of murder if they are spotted near a body when it is first discovered. It will not always happen, as the NPC’s wander around aimlessly and luck plays a significant role, but it is thoroughly enjoyable to watch a small handcuff symbol appear about someone’s head shortly before they are wrongly hauled off to prison.

Party Hard does a phenomenal job presenting a challenge without being merciless. Everyone at the party has a range of sight in which they will notice things such as bodies or someone being killed. While the NPC’s mill about the party, they will inevitably stumble upon some bodies and it is imperative you not be spotted near the corpse when they do, as they will tell the police you are the murdered. Once the police officer shows up, he will attempt to arrest you, giving you only a handful of choices. If you manage to evade him long enough, he will simply give up and leave, you may use a change of clothes to instantly escape his pursuit although you only gain this item if you happen to find it, or the final possibility is that he will catch you and arrest you, at which point you have failed the level. There are also a number of other special characters who have the ability to bust you, significantly increasing the difficulty in the later levels.

There is a great variety of environments within the game, ranging from a party bus, a camp site, a cruise ship, a biker gang house, and more. Each level has its contents randomly generated, producing a slightly different selection of traps and people each time you attempt it. The differences are never extreme and do not provide immense quantities of replay value after the story is completed, but they are enough that you must take a few seconds to familiarize yourself with the environment prior to attacking your victims. This results in the inability to simply memorize where specific characters go or where traps are, because those same people or traps may not spawn again once you retry the level. This is easily Party Hard‘s biggest strength as it can be a source of frustration while you try to complete a tricky stage, but it also ensures that you are always planning ahead and adapting to changes, rather than simply memorizing patterns. Unfortunately, the hints found in each level are also randomly chosen, meaning that you may encounter bouncers before learning how to defeat them and become frustrated while attempting to figure out how to not lose every time you pass by one.

There are several small aspects of the game which make a significant difference in how it is received. It is very clear from the outset that Party Hard is not meant to be taken incredibly seriously, particularly with some of the directions the narrative takes or the fact that you will get beat up for dancing too much. The game is not dark or dreary as it may have been, instead being more upbeat and over-the-top, effectively dismissing any potential claims that it is some sort of murder simulator. The soundtrack in the background is reflective of the party theme, but lacks any vocals or drastic change in tempo, making it incredibly easy to forget about as you slash your way through the level. This may seem like a negative aspect, but it is actually a very substantial positive, ensuring that the soundtrack does not dissuade you from re-attempting a level after numerous failures.

The simple objective combined with the ever-changing levels produces highly entertaining gameplay, albeit moreso the first time you play as the sole reason for replaying previous levels is simply to better your score. The absurd nature of gameplay, ridiculous traps, and integrated streaming capabilities all but ensure this title will be loved by many, however the lack of true replay value will certainly affect the longevity of that sentiment. The plot found within Party Hard does not offer much depth and really only offers as a weak link between parties, but the game is so evidently focused on letting the player enjoy themselves and have a good time that the lack of substantial plot is not missed. Small design choices help in having this desired effect and the end result is a title which will inevitably force those exposed to the game to try it out for themselves due to how enjoyable it appears to be.

The Good

  • Fantastic variety in traps and environmental kills
  • Special party guests increase difficulty significantly in later levels
  • Randomly generated aspects of levels force you to adapt

The Bad

  • Very little replay value
  • No significant aspects of levels are randomly generated
  • Hints are randomly generated

The Score: 8.0