Now here’s a game bound to polarise. Playing as a disgruntled neighbour, the idea is to gatecrash numerous parties – which vary from an outdoor BBQ to a VIP night at a posh casino – and murder every single guest without getting caught. Or in fewer words: kill innocent people simply because they’re making too much noise. It isn’t due to mere morality principles that Party Hard will polarise, however – it’s one of the most simplistic games in recent memory.
Yet within this simplicity lies elegance – it’s because of the game’s basic nature that everything works and operates in clockwork and reliable fashion. When the police come knocking, it’s always down to your own foolish mistakes. You got careless, you got caught, and now you’re off to jail. It’s as simple as that.
Each and every party takes place on a single-screen, with guest lists starting at around 30 party-goers and swiftly rising to around 60. On later levels places to hide dead bodies become scarcer too, while the amount of bouncers increases slightly. Bouncers can be a pain initially as they give chase simply because you’re an uninvited guest, but over time the AI routines of every NPC – from the bouncers to the police and FBI – soon become predictable. As mentioned earlier, this is a rather simplistic endeavour.
Fortunately, there’s a twist. To wit: all guests have to be killed in one clean run. There are no checkpoints, save points or anything of the sort. You’ll soon learn that it’s best not to take risks, instead opting to pick off individuals one by one as they enter empty rooms or casually stroll into outside areas on their lonesome. This of course requires great patience, as you’re forced to wait for NPCs to aimlessly wander. The only means of ushering innocents into different areas is to dance next to them, with the joke being that the protagonist’s dancing is so bad that it drives everybody away.
Should a fellow party-goer catch you becoming stab happy (a press of the left trigger shows who’s in earshot, incidentally), the witness will swiftly make a beeline to the nearest phone. Unless stopped in their tracks, the police then arrive in a matter of seconds and quickly home in on your location – the only means of avoiding jail are to either give the police the slip by using underground shortcuts or by luring them into a trap. An acute sense of timing can come in handy when planning ahead.
All traps are randomly placed, something that both hinders and improves chances of success massively. The chance to poison the punch bowl is a foolproof way to bump off dozens of guests without risk of arousing suspicion, but due to the random nature it doesn’t appear at every event. Selecting the ‘restart’ option in hope of finding the ideal set-up is something we eventually resorted to.
Toying with new traps is amusing though as the effects aren’t always predictable. Some will only take out one or two party-goers, while others – such as tinkering with an illuminated dance floor – can take out as many as twenty guests in one fell swoop.
Consumable items appear at random likewise, varying from a change of clothes – ideal for giving the police the slip – to a smoke grenade that can temporarily conceal your malicious ways from prying eyes.
Save for the novelty Party Bus stage – which takes literally seconds to finish when playing as the unlockable chainsaw wielding maniac – chances of beating a level on the first attempt are incredibly slim. Generally, each stage took us around an hour’s worth of attempts to beat, learning when and where to activate traps for the best possible outcome along the way. Although carted off to jail numerous times we never felt cheated by the AI, and as such was often keen to see what was next on the agenda.
This is partly down to the random events that feature, not all of which are scripted. Robbers hit the aforementioned casino around five minutes into the proceedings, who then kill anybody in their way, while during other stages a biker gang instigated fight will occasionally occur.
Amusingly, the emergency services run over innocent party-goers too, should they make the stupid mistake of falling asleep in the road. These instances help bump up the death toll, making the task at hand a tad easier. Just to further illustrate how Party Hard doesn’t take itself seriously, it’s possible to summon a pair of zombies during the Miami Beach level. They soon set about infecting the other guests, leaving you with a zombie infestation to quell. It adds a bit of variety to the proceedings, if nothing else.
Although the difficulty level rises smoothly, Party Hard still ends up growing repetitive once the novelty wears off. It also doesn’t help that the sound-effects and chiptune soundtrack both grate over time – we had to mute the volume for the last two stages after becoming fed up with hearing the same old screams and shouts over and over again. This was even enough to prevent us from giving the pleasingly nonsensical bonus stages a go. At least for now, anyway – we can see ourselves returning at a later date.
We may have partied hard and burnt out quickly, yet due to the unique premise alone we still recommend giving this curio a go. Fortunately there’s a trial version available, allowing you to sample its somewhat dubious delights before opening your wallet.