Party Hard PS4 Review
Publisher: tinyBuild Developer: Pinokl Games Genre: Stealth Players: 1
Age Rating: 16+ Other console/handheld formats: Xbox One
Most of us have had that experience with the completely oblivious or ill-mannered neighbour that has their TV or music blasting out for hours at a time, that it almost drives you to the point of insanity that it makes you want to pick up the nearest glass bottle and shove it into them, hard. Almost. There is always something, that little voice in the back of your mind telling you it is wrong, or the fear of consequence holding you back. In Party Hard, however, the protagonist – or should I say antagonist? – sees red, and takes matters into his own hands as he drives from party to party full of these inconsiderate people and wastes them away with ease. That is the basic gist of Party Hard, though there is a little bit more to it than that.
Party Hard follows the story of Detective John West as he is being interrogated about his dealings with a killer that has come to be known as The Party Hard killer. The story doesn’t have much substance and players will probably find it easy to guess the identity of the killer or where the story is heading, but for what it’s worth, the story does its job at conveying what it wants to, though some may find the voice acting a little irksome or over-the-top, though you can tell they were at least trying.
Party Hard has been compared to Hotline Miami, where the gameplay is viewed from a top-down perspective, but whereas in Hotline Miami you go in guns blazing, in Party Hard, the gameplay has you being a little bit more sneaky than that. Stealth is the aim of this game, killing the party-goers by any means necessary by using many varieties of traps, weapons, or just killing them when no one is looking with a quick slash of your knife, all whilst trying not to get caught out and handcuffed by the police.
As you begin a level, you find yourself in a contained environment, the level taking place all on one screen. There are numerous rooms and areas for you to walk around in, each level having its own specific theme, be it a rooftop party, pool party, frat house party or a party on a bus. At each location there is a party in full swing and booming electronic music blasting away with lots of people milling about for you to maim. Party Hard comes across as a game that will give you a lot of freedom to kill people any way you want, but that isn’t entirely true. The levels are randomised and while the layout of the environment stays the same, what actually appears in that environment can be different, though the levels didn’t change enough for me to warrant the game as truly random. In each level there are a set number of means to kill people, such as a gumball machine exploding, setting fire to the loud speakers so they explode and kill people, poisoning food and drink, using animals to kick people to death and using vehicles to mow them down. These elements can change, though the game isn’t random enough that you won’t see the same object layout twice. The game is also random in how many people appear at the party for you to kill; it is rare that there is the same amount even when you restart a level, and you will be restarting a level a lot.
In fact, one of my peeves is how easy it is to get caught in such a stealth game. Party Hard is a game that is very much about luck and hoping that when you restart, you’ll be given the most advantageous tools in order to kill the 30/40/50/60+ people roaming around. Once you become familiar with the area and what objects have appeared, you will start using them immediately, though once used, they can’t be used again and I found that the traps didn’t kill enough people, meaning I had to resort to covertly stabbing everyone and praying that with each kill that I didn’t get caught, because after a while, you really don’t want to have to do it all again.
You are given the option to also hide bodies, but that is near impossible as there is no way to tell if you won’t get caught as the people in the game move about randomly also – you could take a chance and hide a body, but the risk of being caught is high and escaping from the clutches of a policeman is difficult thanks to the quickly-used stamina. Party Hard is very much about taking chances and luck, and is not a stealth game where you can strategise your movements and plan accordingly. But it’s not only other people who can catch you and rat you out to the police – a lot of the parties will also have bouncers and they will also attack you if you get too close to the VIP areas. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and they will only stun you and you’ll wake up to continue on, but the majority of the time they will bust you which results in a failure and you having to start all over again.
The graphics of the game are very eye-catching and have a very 90’s retro feel to it, especially coupled with the pixelated graphics and electronic soundtrack. However, as eye-catching as the graphics are, sometimes it can be difficult to find your character, or keep track of your character on-screen; with so much colour being used, it is easy to lose your character amongst the many different shades. You can press a button that will allow your character to start dancing along to the beat, a swirling wheel of colour surrounding them, allowing you to locate them, but it can cause some exasperation when you kill someone and there’s another person nearby that you didn’t previously see. Yes, you do have the ability to also ‘listen out’, which allows you to track traps and what people will see you kill, but sometimes you’ll be absent-mindedly wasting them away and one unseen person can bring down your progress as they speed for the phone at twice the pace you can travel and call in the police.
Despite the many items given to you to help you kill as many people in as little time as possible, Party Hard is actually a very repetitive experience, despite it’s randomness. A level will feel fresh and fun until you have played it for the umpteenth time. You do have many options given to you to help you out; as well as using traps and your own weapon, you can also call in help. People will arrive at the party; a shady guy in a trench coat might have an item to give you, or a group of men will arrive disguised as pest control and will gas people to death. You can even call in some helpful zombies to turn the party-goers into the living dead.
As frustrating as I found Party Hard, it isn’t without its fun quirks, and there are times that, if someone notices you killing someone, they may call the police, but you could also be faced with a mob of people taking you down. Some of the later levels have a lot of character, one including a trippy level with aliens, there is a big alien eye in the centre of the level that you have to feed party-goers to, or it will attack everyone, but this also includes you. In the background of this level there is also a tree smoking a doobie, and there are living loud-speakers bobbing away to the music. In another level you may also be killing lifeforms other than humans. When your character also dances, party-goers may or may not be impressed and they will either join you for a dance or walk away; this can also be used to your own advantage if you want to move some characters around to help you stay stealthy when you kill. There are also 5 characters for you to unlock, each with their own special abilities and ways to complete the levels and with 19 levels in total, the game will keep you very busy.
While Party Hard doesn’t really give you the freedom to kill people how you want – as though it wanted to be a scaled-down version of Hitman: Blood Money and still offer a variety of ways to kill, but actually doesn’t – it is still a fun game with a lot of challenge, though is one that requires a lot of patience and tact. It is very much about luck and taking chances, and even though completing a level doesn’t offer much in the way of rewards for your efforts, the sense of relief for completing a level after so many attempts certainly feels rewarding in itself. There is a lot going on in the backgrounds if you take your time and are observant enough, though the repetitiveness of the game does bog down the flow and replaying a level over and over can come to feel very tedious. Besides this, the game is certainly quirky and if you do enjoy stealth games and are a bit of a misanthropist, then this should definitely be given at least one playthrough.