I’ve faced off against Satan in vicious battles plenty of times in video games over the years, but I’ve never had to try out-drinking him in a wild party in Hell. That’s what you have to do in Afterparty, the new release from Oxenfree developer Night School Studio, and believe me, it’s as bizarre as it sounds. Unsurprisingly, it almost makes for a very entertaining experience and one that Nintendo Switch gamers can indulge in too following its recent release on the console.
Afterparty tells the story of Milo and Lola, two best friends that have somehow ended up in Hell following their unfortunate demise. Besides having no knowledge of how they died and being pretty peeved to end up in Hell anyway, things take a turn for the worst when they find out that they’ll face an eternity of endless punishment. However, they do have one glimmer of hope when they learn that they can escape their fate in Hell and return to humanity if they can do one thing: out-party Satan himself. This leads them on a journey across Hell’s treacherous (yet somehow vibrant and colourful) landscapes as they look to party hard and maybe, just maybe, learn something new about themselves as they face their own personal demons along the way.
The concept behind Afterparty’s tale itself is bizarrely-brilliant, but the fact that the writing in-game is both hilarious and well-written makes it all the more enjoyable. Milo and Lola are genuinely likable protagonists that have a relationship-dynamic that is endearing and intriguing to see unfold, whilst the encounters with characters like the friendly Taxi Driver Sam, your (literal) personal demon Wormhorn, and even Satan himself are always a lot of fun and are genuinely humorous thanks to their over-the-top nature and brilliant use of sarcasm and dry wit. It’s just a fantastic little tale that blends together humour with genuine human emotions, and I found myself totally absorbed in Milo and Lola’s escapade right until the very end.
You’re able to make choices during your time scouring through Hell, with some directly affecting gameplay and others simply changing up the story a little. Do you decide to help out a demon chasing a human when looking for a VIP pass to a Satan’s party or do you instead help out a dead rockstar that simply wants a drink? Do you face off against a demon in a dance-off to win his approval or do you help him win back his ex-wife? These sort of choices will affect how events pan out in Afterparty and with multiple endings on offer, it’s certainly worth playing through more than once to see how different events can play out.
There is another little feature in Afterparty that can make conversations play out a bit differently, with your choice of drink giving you additional dialogue options. Most key locations in Hell have a bar where you can grab yourself a cocktail, with each cocktail changing up your personality with additional traits such as being extra courageous, flirty, witty, or even piratey (shut up spellcheck, it’s a word). These then offer additional responses to give characters in conversation – admittedly, they don’t change things up too much, but it’s comical to be able to tell demons terrible jokes or demand that they ‘sit the f*ck down’ just because you’ve got an extra bit of Dutch courage.
Whilst seeing the narrative unfold and interacting with Hell’s citizens is at the forefront of Afterparty’s gameplay experience, there will be times when you get to indulge in a few mini-games too. Dance Offs will see you match button sequences to prove you’ve got the best moves in hell, Beer Pong will bring you back to your college years as you carefully line up each shot, whilst trying to out-drink a demon sees you having to carefully stack up your shot glasses as you get drunker with each round – basically, they’re the kind of mini-games you should expect from a game where your goal is to out-party the lord of the Underworld himself.
They’re all fun little endeavours though and do add something fresh to the experience. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all simple in design and don’t really offer too much of a challenge, but their presence is certainly appreciated and made for plenty of fun little moments in-game.
One thing that deserves a lot of praise in Afterparty is Hell itself, with the game world proving fascinating to explore and full to the brim with vibrant sights to see. Whilst the 2D-style gameplay does limit you to following fairly linear pathways, it’s hard not to be impressed by all of the different landmarks you’ll see as you explore, whether that’s the huge night clubs, a massive evil-looking door in the distance, or even the chasm left by Satan when he came crashing down to hell. Of course, it’s not all pleasantries, with the occasional hanging body or S+M dungeon to be seen along the way, but it all feels fitting of the environment and makes Afterparty’s representation of hell a very compelling one to explore.
Whilst I do have plenty of praise for Afterparty, unfortunately it does have its fair share of technical issues. For one, there were a few moments where I’d notice the frame rate stutter – whilst this wasn’t a problem when it would occur during the loading screen transition taxi rides, there were a few times when I noticed it in the middle of a conversation with another character or when simply walking through the environment.
There were a few other oddities too, such as the music from a previous scene not cutting out, the voice over volume dropping to a low level, the control icons above a character’s head not disappearing unless I reset the game, and even a few visual glitches such as characters clipping through each other. In honesty, these aren’t game-breaking issues and felt more like minor annoyances that are pretty easy to ignore, but it’s clear that Afterparty could have done with a little bit more touching up before release.
Afterparty offers a genuinely hilarious glimpse into Hell, with Milo and Lola’s drink-fuelled escapade to escape Satan’s wrath proving to be incredibly well-written and a lot of fun to play. Admittedly, the Nintendo Switch port does have a few small technical issues here and there, but there’s nothing game-breaking that will stop you from enjoying your romp through the underworld.
Developer: Night School Studio
Publisher: Night School Studio
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC