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‘Party Hard’ review: killing the noise

Have you ever craved a bit of peace and quiet or a good night’s sleep, but your next door neighbour is hosting a rave well into the early hours of the morning? Have you ever, in a situation like this, imagined inflicting a series of horrible and painful deaths on all those who are partaking in this festival of noise?

If so (you’re probably old and mentally unstable), then Party Hard might just be the game for you. Developed by Ukrainian-based indies Pinokl Games, will provide you with the opportunity to live out your morbid fantasies in your quest for silence.

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At first glance, the game might not seem like much with its simple pixel art and standard game mechanics, but I would urge you to at least try it out.

It won the Critic’s Choice Award at Casual Connect Europe’s Indie Surprise Ceremony for good reason and as it was created by a team of no more than three people. It shows that you don’t need an army of a developing team to create a truly fun and engrossing game.

Story Time

Party Hard puts you in the shoes of a man who simply wants to sleep undisturbed. Unfortunately for him, his neighbours are engaged in an all-night pursuit of promiscuity and inebriation, and aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. Unfortunately for them, this man doesn’t possess a moral compass and is coming to cut the party short, so to speak.

What starts out as a single inconsequential mass murder spree soon turns into a more noticeable massacre of party animals. From rooftop parties to outdoor festivals, this man has had enough and has made it his mission to eradicate the world of the perpetually intoxicated.

The story is told from the perspective of the rather gloomy and grumpy Inspector, John West, who is being interviewed (by what I assume to be a journalist) about the “Party Hard Killings”. He tells him how he has been trying to catch this “fucking psycho” for months but somehow the bastard keeps slipping away.

The story is presented in a series of short snippets of the interview with Inspector West, which connects the series of levels you will be taking part in as the game progresses.

It’s quite a straightforward storytelling scheme but one that is executed well in Party Hard, and fits well within the game’s simple but unique atmosphere.

Even though the story itself is also fairly simple, I still found it captivating, providing a healthy share of plot twists and enjoyable B-Movie dark humour. The gameplay sections slot in well between cut scenes and spurns one seamless and uninterrupted narrative experience (something that is surprisingly rare in my experience with games of late).

One reoccurring thought I had while playing Party Hard is that it really understands the concept of “simple yet effective”. Nothing is overdone or overly complicated and it understands that a game is meant to be played and not viewed — one of the main reasons I fell in love with this game.

Play Time

Pinokl Games describes Party Hard as a “third-person urban conflict simulator”.

In essence, the game relies on uncomplicated gameplay mechanics, but skillfully strung together to provides a gaming experience that is both engaging and increasingly challenging.

You will always enter a party armed with nothing more than a knife, and your objective will always be the same: “Kill them all”.

Unfortunately, you can’t just walk around stabbing people in the open. As soon as you’re witnessed committing a murder, the terrified onlooker will immediately run to phone the police, which will result in your eventual arrest. Therefore, you’re reliant on the stealthy and strategic approach to complete your objective and progress through the game. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be conducting a sweet symphony of murder and destruction.

The first and most apparent way to take care of a victim is the “Quick Stab”. I’m sure this needs no explanation. Find party goers that are located in secluded areas of the party, such as alleys or bedrooms, and give them a quick jab in the back (or face, if that’s your thing). Once you’ve done the dirty deed you should hastily move along before someone spots you at the crime scene. Certain stages will provide you with dumpsters where you can stash the bodies and fortunately, they are also usually located in isolated areas.

Party goers will also sometimes pass out, creating the opportunity for you to carry them without any suspicion and take them to a more acceptable killing location.

But to take out a party of about 50 people like this can be a rather lengthy ordeal and there is always the ever-present risk of being caught. Luckily, each level will provide you with a plethora of other interesting and more inconspicuous death- inducing methods, most of which will be able to take out a large number of people simultaneously.

Some of these include poisoning the food and drinks, rigging appliances to explode, and throwing victims into the cage of a flesh hungry Panda (damn, my parties are boring). There’s also a tornado-flung shark that crashes the party at one point too, but unfortunately, I was the victim in this instance.

Sometimes you’ll be lucky enough to see a briefcase lying around the party. These briefcases will provide you with some extra arsenal for your sadistic mission such as smoke grenades (which will cover people from seeing you stabbing a victim), a stun bomb (which will knock out a large group of people) and a spare change of clothes you can use to evade the cops.

If you are spotted (without a spare change of clothes) and a cop arrives, you’ll have to run around the party until he loses interest, after which he’ll say something like “Next time” or “Screw it”, and presumably grab a pina colada. That being said, it’s easier said than done. So don’t get caught, otherwise you’ll have to restart the entire stage from scratch.

Cops won’t be your only worry either. Every party will always have bouncers present. As you are never invited to any of these events, once they see you they will start chasing you and beat you to death when they catch you.

Fortunately, they lose interest a lot quicker than cops. But it would be wise, if possible, to take them out first as there were moments that I didn’t spot them quickly enough.

Something I have to make clear is that at some stages you will probably fail a lot (I did at least) as there will fewer stab-friendly areas and a lot of wandering eyes. But by failing you do notice that the levels undergo small changes after each restart. Sometimes there will be a briefcase and sometimes not. The various extra methods of killing will also take on different forms such as the keg of beer you poisoned earlier, will become a barbeque that you are able to rig for explosion.

It’s one of the most prominent and enjoyable features of the game and demonstrates Party Hard as a wonderfully perpetual and procedural experience hidden beneath a simple façade.

Game information

Release Date: 25 August 2015
Developer(s): Pinokl Games
Publisher: tinyBuild
Genre: Third-person strategy
Platform(s): PC (review platform), Steam
Price: US$12.89
Steam Score: 9/10; 358 positive reviews, 45 negative reviews

Verdict: Party Hard’s blend of simple pixel art and challenging recipe of stealth and strategy makes is a wonderfully unique and eccentric gaming experience. Its difficulty, especially in latter stages, and repetitive gameplay might put off certain players to see in through until the end. But I doubt many will walk away and call it a bad game. It has an original approach and balances gameplay and narrative extremely well. It’s definitely a game I will remember for quite some time.

Score: 8/10

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