Critical Hit: Party Hard
Quick Breakdown: A stealth game where you play as a man who just wants to sleep, so he decides to murder everyone who is out partying. It’s a fun premise, but the game suffers from some shortcomings, primarily that it is often unclear what the mechanics of the game are.
Length: 6-8 hours (Main game)
Genre: Stealth / Action / Murder-Sim
Available On: PC
Review Date: 2016-01-04
Full Review: A friend of mine told me about a game where you play as a serial killer, and that description alone was enough to sell me on it. Sadly, Party Hard wasn’t able to deliver as well as I’d hoped. (It didn’t help that I originally had it compared to Hotline Miami, which is a very different game).
The game offers very little in ways of tutorial on how the mechanics work. As such, most of the gameplay must be determined via trial and error. Even after having completed the game, I still don't know how some mechanics work. Mind you, trial and error isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a game, but Party Hard doesn’t implement it as well as it should. I'll elaborate:
You play as a man who just wants to get some sleep, and because a loud group of party goers are preventing that, you grab your knife to try to kill everyone at the party. If you're spotted, the police will be called, at which point they will arrive to try to arrest you. You move much more slowly than cops do, so you can't outrun them unless you take a secret passage.
You knife will be the main method by which you cause murder and mayhem, but you can also have to kill people using various traps strewn about your environment; these traps range from poisoning food, setting a bear trap, lighting a room on fire, and rigging things to explode. That probably sounds like a lot of fun, but the execution falls short.
Both the layout of the traps across the floor, as well as the behaviour and number of people in a level, are determined randomly. This is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it helps create more variety and replayability; on the other hand, the game forces you to learn from your mistakes, which you can't do if the changing level design means you are constantly making different mistakes. The game is often too unpredictable for its own good. While it’s fun when a cop decides to arrest a random civilian, or the party goers proceed to beat the shit out of a random guest, it's infuriating to spend 15 minutes in a level, only to have it ruined by a partier randomly beating the shit out of you.
And sometimes there’s aliens.
This problem is exacerbated by the fact that levels take a long time, and the gameplay is very slow. Neither of those things would be problems in and of themselves, but when you're killed by something you couldn't reasonably predict, it's aggravating to have to redo a 20 minute level from the beginning. I understand that as a stealth game Party Hard isn't going to play at a breakneck speed, but it would still be nice to be able to move a little faster. Even when sprinting, your character is still slow as hell.
This isn't to mention that you exert almost no control over the behaviour of your intended victims, so you must wait for them to move near a trap, or to an isolated area, so that you can kill them without anyone else seeing you. Your influence extends no further than you dancing awkwardly, which will randomly either repel or attract people from you, sometimes both at once. The unpredictability and unreliability make it useless most of the time. This is the key reason why levels take as long as they do You have to patiently play a long waiting game for the right opportunity to strike, otherwise someone will call in a 1-8-7.
The game uses a pixel art style of graphics, and while the art is passable, it doesn't impress me that much. The music is better, but ultimately not too memorable either; it's at least enough to be occasionally entertaining while you're playing.
The game has a simple story about the protagonist murderer and the cop who tried to catch him, but it's predictable uninteresting, and features so-so voice acting.
The game will probably take in the neighborhood of 6-8 hours to complete. I put in about 8, but it should've been less, as I had a few levels that glitched out on me at the end, requiring me to replay the entire level again. (Specifically I killed all the victims, and even though my counter read it as 50/50, the victory animation didn't trigger, and the game wouldn't progress at all).
This all works together to hinder what could be a really great game, but instead is just an okay game; I hesitate to recommend the game, but I know it'll have its niche audience that it'll appeal to. If you think you might be part of that audience, it might still be worth a shot, but I'd recommend waiting for a Steam sale.
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