I’ve never been unfortunate enough to be kept awake at stupid hours in the morning by a loud party, but I’ll shamefully admit that I’ve been a part of one that’s caused more than a few disruptions for the neighbours around me. I look back at it shamefully now, but at least I can rest easy with the thought that none of them snapped to the point of killing everyone in the party.
That’s not the case with the hero of Party Hard though, who decides that he’s so fed up with the loud partying going on around him when he’s trying to sleep that he has to kill everyone attending. Whatever happened to simple noise complaints, right? In what is a blend of a murder-sim and a puzzler, Party Hard sees you working through a variety of different parties and disposing of everyone involved. It’s a neat (albeit dark) concept for a game, but it has this satirical approach to it that made it more than a little appealing to me to try out. Unfortunately, it has too many frustrating moments to stand out as something special – even if there are plenty of fun ideas to be found throughout the experience.
The game’s narrative is told from the point of view of the detective who is in charge of the ‘Party Hard’ murders, and it’s actually presented in a genuinely interesting way. It would’ve been easy enough for the developer to simple emphasise the shock value on the concept of the game, but instead they take a meaningful approach that actually makes the story behind the killings all the more intriguing. It never goes into too much depth, but it does more than enough to keep you engrossed in what’s going on behind the scenes.
Gameplay-wise, you’ll be tasked with sneaking your way through a variety of parties and killing everyone in sight, with the job not completed until everyone is dead. You’ve got a nice little counter on the top of the screen that indicates your murdering progress though, so it’s easy to keep track of how you’re doing.
Whilst you’re armed with a knife that offers a simple but effective means to take out your victims, Party Hard also allows you to be a bit more creative. In true Kevin McAllister fashion, you can use just about anything and everything around you as a means to cause destruction. Do you sabotage a car to run people over? Cut down a tree to fall on party goers? Mess with a stove to cause an explosion? Or do you push people into the shark-infested sea? There are so many ways to use the environment around you to rack up that kill-count, and Party Hard ensures that it’s always incredibly satisfying to do so.
One thing that remains vital is not getting caught, with other party goers quite observant when it comes to spotting dead bodies or catching you in the act of killing. This is where Party Hard’s stealth elements come into play, with the player able to stalk their victim through each location’s rooms as they look to find the perfect moment to strike. Alternatively, you could sneak into a room through a window, take out someone who’s passed out from drinking too much, or even murder a couple that have snuck into a toilet for some ‘alone time’ – the choice is yours. Once killed though, you’ll want to hide the body as soon as possible, because it won’t take much for the police to come calling. If you’ve been caught killing by someone they’ll be on your case quite fast, though if you’re sneaky enough you can evade capture or just blend into the party by dancing yourself. I mean, hey, maybe you’ll end up embracing the fun of the party after all… though it’s more likely you’ll just kill everyone instead.
The idea behind the game is inventive and neat, but unfortunately there are plenty of flaws to be found throughout. Firstly, there’s the fact that you’ll run out of creative ways to kill your potential victims. Once you’ve used all of the items in the environment you’re left with just your knife, and believe me, waiting for party goers to be at the right place in order to kill them unnoticed can be a real pain. One level saw me waiting close to five minutes to get the opportunity to strike, by which point I was starting to get completely bored of what was going on. It just grows a little repetitive and adds a real dampener to what would otherwise be an enjoyable level.
Then there’s the fact that Party Hard can be an unforgiving game, with party goers very observant of your crimes and the police force merciless in their attempts at taking you down. You can expect to fail a lot during the game, with each level throwing a variety of different obstacles your way. You know the worst part though? If you fail, you have to start a level from the beginning. With levels often featuring over fifty party goers to take out and demanding plenty of patience from the player, seeing all your hard work slip away because of one little mistake caused more than a few frustrating moments. Heck, sometimes I had to turn it off completely due to frustration, which isn’t something which normally happens with me whilst playing a video game. Party Hard has plenty of highs with its stand out killing moments, but believe me, it’s low are incredibly frustrating to encounter too.
It’s a shame too, because there’s a decent selection of levels to play through that offer plenty of variety in their design. You’ll go through standard house parties, beach parties, boat parties and even a party bus during your time with Party Hard, and they’re all impressive to explore in-game. Add to that the different killers you can unlock to play as, and you’ll quickly find there’s a good amount of variety to the game from an aesthetic standpoint.
I really loved the concept behind Party Hard, so it was particularly disappointing when I found I had more moments of frustration with the game than I did fun. Don’t get me wrong, killing the party goers in the variety of creative ways was a blast, as was the thrill of hunting them all down – it was just the unforgiving difficulty, the boring pace during those last few kills, and the repetitive nature of the experience that ended up letting it down.
Party Hard has a whole bunch of neat ideas on show and there are plenty of cool things to do whilst playing the game, but unfortunately the frustrating moments stand out a little bit too much to make it essential playing on the Nintendo Switch.
Developer: Pinokl Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux