Lava Lamps. Pet Rocks. Big Mouth Billy Bass. Bobbleheads. Novelty items, unusual and entertaining fads that blow over quickly. Party Hard releases today on Steam, and only time will tell if this game is a novelty item or not. It is unusual and entertaining in it’s own way. Party Hard began it’s spree of distinct entertainment as a flash game. It earned many a response from many players and Pinokl Games has pushed to make it a full length game. So after a year of additional work, what does the full title bring? Well, more parties of course!
Party Hard was reworked to include a story. Originally, you played someone who just wanted to get some sleep, but partying neighbors were not so considerate. Ever have someone say “if you don’t shut up I’ll kill you!?” Well, this is the tale of someone who wasn’t kidding. The full game now goes far beyond that. There’s a conversation between an unknown man, and an ex-cop. The story is delivered in noir crime drama style, but it’s really very ham fisted and tough to stomach. I challenge gamers to not roll their eyes at the heavy handed deliveries. If clichéd lines and f-bombs were hair plugs, then this game just crafted a Grizzly Adams-esque look for Moby. Considering the games scope, no one was expecting Matthew McConoughey and M. Night Shyamalan as the main stars. It is clear that the developers are not taking themselves entirely serious with the story either. Some may find the cut scenes humorous, some may revel in the cheesiness, but about halfway through the smiles stopped for me, and I wanted to get on with it.
So there you are, creepy guy with a dark pants and a blue shirt, white scary mask, and a knife. You weren’t exactly invited, so in ultimate party crashing style you take to slicing the throats of party-goers. Party Hard is part silly “social stealth”, and part “amnesia stealth”, meaning no matter what heinous act you commit, it’s forgotten in a flash. The progression of terror detection goes like this: bloody throat-less stiff is left by kitchen, you walk away, someone spots the body, red Metal Gear ! bubbles, they scream, and call the cops. Once the old windbag cop arrives he will bag the body(ies), run off, and the party absolutely continues. Right as rain. There’s a caveat, if you are too close to the scene, or linger to close to guards or cops they will deduce who you are and kick you in your brain. There’s a caveat to that too, you can lead cops into danger and kill them instead. Then the FBI might come, do a room by room search, then kick you in your brain. There’s a caveat to that too, and so on.
Every level offers various traps that can turn the tables quickly on a happy digital dancer or would be lawful pursuer. Which trap is good for what scenario can be quickly deduced with some trial and error. Occasionally items will be left for you in the level. These range from stun or smoke grenades, or a change of clothes to elude police. As with the rest of this game’s premise and AI, the effectiveness of the items and traps are wildly unrealistic. For instance, you can turn on a sports car that will careen into a line of guests. They turn into pizza sans cheese, sans bread. The remaining partyers will never know it was you. Even though you are standing there with the fuzzy dice in your hands.
Guests you slay yourself, on the other hand, are not as easy to elude,unless you are careful. Slash someone outside and slither away, eventually some party goers will be alerted to their dead friend. Problem is they don’t really care. In fact they seem to be more outraged by your dancing skills. Pressing a button activates a silly dance routine that is usually met with insults and more f-bombs. However, even when there are only 2-3 people left in these parties, they don’t change their behavior at all.
People will always leave the main dance floor and go outside, or the bathroom, or just end up alone somewhere. Easy pickings. The problem with the game is that every new section is the same. There is no deviation from this formula of picking off stragglers, setting off a few traps, and off to the next level. Hypnotic pulsing tunes is the most distinguishing factor between stages. While some of the stages become harder with more guards and crowded areas, the sheer amount of Leonard Shelbys invited to each party is mind boggling. I was able to complete the game in 5 hours and I was taking my time. I’m sure there are those that will beat all 12 levels in half that time.
The game features an array of achievements that did add a tiny layer of additional enjoyment. Nabbing them can unlock other “heroes” to play. Each has their own nuance to them. The chainsaw massacre guy moves slower, but he has a chainsaw so that’s different. You can play as a cop, who can carry bodies around without raising suspicions, but cannot use tools. And a couple of others who offer minute gameplay changes, but not much more. As a matter of fact, the chainsaw villain’s chainsaw appears to be bugged. According to onscreen instructions pressing the right bumper activates the chainsaw but it never worked.
When the game was over, there was not much else to do. I had stopped smirking at the ridiculous antics long ago. I realized that I had simply replayed the first stage silliness twelve times over. While the controls for this game are responsive and the dark humor evident from the start, there was a noticeable drop off after the initial shock or comedic values wore off. The game features a built in Twitch feature, which is an interesting addition. Broadcast your speed runs, or perhaps more your clever setups for eliminating guests, but that too will wear off quickly. I have to commend the game for some of its originality and irreverent morbid humor, but there’s not much substance and depth to consider it anything more than slightly above average.Steam