Categories
Gaming PC Reviews

Review: Party Hard 2 (PC)

Developer: Pinokl Games, Kverta, Hologryph

Publisher: tinyBuild

Genre: Stealth, Strategy

Platforms: PC

Price: $22.79

Sometimes getting into a series late can be a blessing. Certainly, you might miss details from one game that aren’t translated into the next. Bits of non-critical story might fall between the cracks, and you lose out on that feeling of seeing an annoying game mechanic fix or even turned into something fun. Then again, coming into the second game in a series with nothing to go on means you can look at it with fresh eyes. All of this is a long winded way of saying I’ve never played the first Party Hard game, and I can judge the sequel entirely based on its own merits, the one thing any sequel truly deserves.

Content Guide

Spiritual Content: There is some graffiti or posters with some dark symbolism involved but little else in the way of negative spiritual messages.

Violence: Party Hard 2 has heavy violence as a core feature. Most methods of eliminating targets involve a great deal of bloodshed. Those that don’t are still fairly graphic, such as setting them on fire or electrocuting them. While it is possible to finish a level by only eliminating certain “deserving” targets, there is really no incentive to avoid injuring other people whose only crime (that you know of) is being too loud. In fact, to get the most progress, wanton violence is often the best way.

Language/Crude Humor: Characters frequently use profanity in this game. Most of it is in unvoiced dialogue, but some comes up in the voiced cutscenes as well.

Sexual Content: Several female partygoers dress in extremely revealing outfits. There is also one male character sprite that wears nothing but a speedo. At one point in the game it is possible to pay a woman to do a striptease, which will result in pixilated nudity. There are posters that depict topless women with their breasts obscured. You can obtain a condom as a random item in any given level; giving it to a character will cause them to follow you, presumably with the intention of having sex. It is implied the protagonist has sex with his girlfriend and both are shown in revealing sleepwear.

Drug/Alcohol Use: It is easy to obtain alcohol and various types of pills in most levels. The main character is explicitly an addict, though others coerced him into drug use. Partygoers will frequently drink to the point of becoming sick or passing out. They will also exchange money in what are obviously drug deals.

Other Negative Themes: The police in general are an opposing force to the main character. If you’re not avoiding them, you’re manipulating them into doing something for you. (Spoilers) The game eventually reveals the main character’s therapist is manipulating him; while likely not intentional, this may paint a negative picture of mental health professionals.

Positive Content: Honestly there is very little, and what is there is largely up to interpretation. There are optional missions to save hostages and prisoners late in the game. While not depicting addicts as blameless, the game spends little time focusing on their fault and points rightly to those who prey upon the weak by distributing drugs as the real problem.

Review

In terms of its simple core gameplay loop, Party Hard 2 has a strong foundation. The general idea of each level is the same: you must eliminate all your targets and avoid the police. Considering how crowded each party is, this means you will have to use a great deal of stealth to get away with your crimes. Stalking or luring partygoers into secluded corners is a valid strategy, but there are certainly others that can be employed. Apart from your trusty knife, you can find many items strewn about each level randomly. From gasoline to frag grenades, you will have several options to take out those loud nuisances. On top of this, the environment itself has plenty of places to interact with to create further traps and obstacles.

Just remember: walking away from explosions isn’t just cool, it helps you avoid incrimination.

Speaking of the environment, it is exceptionally well designed. While all characters are blocky 2D sprites, the levels themselves are largely three dimensional. This not only makes them feel a little more lively but also helps to make sure that each and every target on screen stands out. Each level is distinct and offers its own unique opportunities and difficulties. The musical backdrop is a slightly different matter; while there are several tracks in the game, it should surprise no one that they are all of the electronic dance genre. If you’re a fan of it I’m sure there is enough variety to appease you. If not… well, be thankful that unlike the game’s protagonist, you the player can control how loud the music is.

Avoiding or eliminating guards is a skill you’ll have to master by the end of the game.

One game design choice that I love is the inclusion of optional and hidden missions in each level. For the most part, you could simply focus on slaying your target or the whole party as quickly as possible. However, each level has various unique missions apart from this that can be accomplished. Some you know from the beginning, others you discover only through trial and error. In this way, Party Hard 2 pushes you to explore each level and figure out its unique quirks. Completing missions of any kind will reward you with one of four types of experience, which unlock new items and characters.

While the two default characters are essentially identical, unlocked characters offer distinctly different experiences. They not only give you different abilities and starting items, but also have their own unique complications. For instance, playing as the alien means that staying out of sight is now more critical than ever; whereas the masked Party Hard Killer can blend in easily by being discrete, one look at an alien will cause anyone to call the cops. With all these combinations of characters, items, and environment, it’s easy to personalize your playstyle.

The default character’s multi-kill ability can get you out of a tight spot- or into a lot of trouble.

One thing that might surprise a player looking for mindless, dark humor fueled fun is the fact that Party Hard 2 actually features a story, and a somewhat serious one at that. Between levels, you see bits of an interview of your therapist on a talk show. At the beginning of each level, the game tells you how long before the interview each one takes place. The storytelling gets a little harder to follow in the second act, where you jump around back and forth in the timeline. For the most part though, the story is fairly engaging. It lends a sense of mounting tension and purpose to what would otherwise be a series of meaningless murder sprees.

Scenes like this help to humanize what could be a very unsympathetic main character.

For all its good points however Party Hard 2 is not without flaws. And I’m not even talking about the questionable nature of the game’s moral content. There were a few minor but very noticeable glitches throughout my playthrough. Things like timers that would fail to disappear if I  restarted a level. Every now and then however, there were issues that directly impacted the gameplay. In one level, a character called the police, but they never showed up. Party Hard 2 has been receiving regular patches so it’s very possible that these issues will be sorted out by the time this review is published.

What can’t be patched out though is one very unfortunate design choice: bosses. At certain points, Party Hard 2 abandons the stealth gameplay that forms its core identity and forces you to run circles around a more substantial enemy who you simply can’t hide from. To be frank, this is an unnecessary mistake. Thankfully it only happens twice, but unsurprisingly these bosses are at climax points in the story. Taking away the chance to enjoy a sneaky massacre and being forced to play keep away while whittling down a boss’s health can take you out of the moment to say the least.

Sure it looks exciting… for the first minute.

All that being said, a few glitches and two fairly noticeable missteps shouldn’t be enough to ruin your enjoyment of the rest of the game. Overall Party Hard 2 is a good game. It rewards creative problem solving and generally makes you feel pretty awesome. Whether you want to be a relentless vigilante bringing down the scum of the underworld, or just the unstoppable bad guy from a cheesy slasher, you can enjoy yourself with this game.

Review code generously provided by tinyBuild.
Categories
Gaming PC Previews

Preview: Party Hard Tycoon

Party Hard Tycoon is a spinoff of the indie game Party Hard that was released in 2015. The original is a stealth strategy game in which the player takes control of a killer who shuts down parties by killing everyone in attendance. Party Hard Tycoon takes a much different approach as a management simulation. The main goal is to manage and maintain various venues across the city and build up hype to people will keep coming back. To be honest, I had so much more fun playing the game than i ever expected I would.

I took on this preview having never played the first Party Hard. When the opportunity came, our writer who wrote the review for it was tasked with another project, as was the remainder of our entire gaming team. With my limited experience I did some research by reading up and watching gameplay videos. I was very pleased to find that the Party Hard falls on a more humorous side of things rather than carrying a dark tone like Hotline Miami. I also expected very much drug use, which is only represented in the loading screens.Party Hard Tycoon ditches the killing and focuses on the parties. The story is represented through conversations that the player is having with others via text message. In the Early Access build, these act as a tutorial, and they even let players earn some rewards when completing special tasks. The story elements are purely optional; I was able to jump right in without responding to the messages. A great option for anyone who likes to experiment with multiple save files.

Getting a party started happens in two phases once an venue is chosen. In the first phase, I was choosing the theme of the party and hiring the appropriate staff. There are a variety of themes that are built for different types of party goers; some of the your staff may even be more effective when used with particular themes. For example, when I was in the hole without profit, I’d set up a biker-themed party and hire a biker of my own to beat up people for their money. On the plus side, the hype meter increased, and more people showed up because fights are expected at biker parties.

The second phase is the actual set-up work. This is where I spent my time setting up equipment, decorations, including the food and beverages of course. When placing the lights and speakers, there is a colored circle that gives a helpful visual on how far that piece of equipment can reach. Various kinds of tables, kegs, and bars can be set up; the waiter has to refill them multiple times throughout each event which costs money as well. Finding the right balance between all of these things can lead to a successful night, while any failures had me in the hole by thousands of dollars.The party can start once all of the preparations are made. I had the ability to direct my hired staff to go various places across the venue to entertain guests. It was quite nice to have some slight control over the event rather than simply watching it take place. The party only lasts a few minutes in real time, so things don’t drag on too long. The game transitions to a screen that shows the results of a party, such as how many people showed up and how much profit was made.

The strategy of Party Hard Tycoon is all about throwing parties for all types of people. Fans are divided up into color coded categories. When starting out I had a sizeable fanbase of underground party-goers because the only venue I could afford was an abandoned building. Once I picked up some nicer venues, I was able to set up some high-end gatherings and gain a ban-base of folks to where much higher on the social ladder.

It’s taken some time to master all the systems in Party Hard Tycoon, but I found myself playing it for an hour or two every night during my first weekend with it. There are many improvements that need to be made in such an early phase, but it’s off to a solid start. Management simulation games are not my prefered genre, but I appreciate how they work and enjoy them on occasion. Party Hard Tycoon happens to be one of those, I look forward to see where it will go in future updates.

Preview code generously provided by tinyBuild Games

Categories
Gaming Mobile PC PS4 Reviews Xbox One

Review: Party Hard (Xbox One)

Developer: Pinokl Games, Kverta
Publisher: inyBuild
Genre: Action, Strategy
Platform: PC, Xbox One, Play Station 4,
Rating: Rated M
Price: $12.89 on Steam

Wild and action-packed, Party Hard largely took both YouTube and Steam by storm when it first came out. Hours were poured in and mods were made for this addictive murder spree. While much of the hype has died off, is Party Hard still worth the possible addiction?

Content Guide

Violence

The whole game is about murdering partygoers. There’s blood, dead bodies, various kinds of homicide, and lots of death as a result of direct player actions. While the pixel art helps the game not be very graphic visually, there’s still plenty of red pixels after you throw somebody into a giant saw.

Language

During the cutscenes, characters will swear. The f-word and others are used throughout the game, but not to the degree that they cannot be ignored.

Sexual Content

There are pixelized strippers in one level dancing around a pole, and some party-goers will go off to make out (mainly to give you the chance to sneak up and kill them easily).

Alcohol/Drug Use

Many of the parties you go to hint that alcohol is being consumed, but you never have alcohol and drinking isn’t a part of the game itself.

Positive Content

This is a super, super fun game. That is about all the good morals I can get out of Party Hard. Please don’t do anything that you ever do while playing this game in real life.

Review

I remember finding Party Hard. It was already 10 at night and my friend was over for a sleepover. In a mad race against the onset of boredom or tiredness, I purchased what looked to me like an interesting pixelated strategy game. 20 minutes (or was 2 hours?) in, my friend and I had laughed, cried, and traded off the Xbox remote so many times, we’d forgotten what sleep even was. I remember looking at my then bright green wall, seeing the golden streaks of sunshine, and genuinely being confused that the sun was already starting to rise. Come to find out, it was 5 a.m. We hadn’t looked at a clock in 8 hours because who cares about time when you only have 5 people left to kill? I know I don’t.

Party Hard is based entirely on the premise that you are a guy who’s tired of being awakened by loud parties. While the actual story is entirely skippable (waitthere was a story?), the gameplay itself is immediately addicting. I totally get being frustrated by being awakened in the middle of the night by rowdy party-goers. Now, while I personally won’t be going on a murder spree, you as the player get to go across the nation doing just that.

From backyard bonfires to casino pool parties, you’ll be finding the best ways to kill parties consisting of 20-50 people with your knife, wits, and whatever you can make happen. The tutorial is 5 seconds long, and then you’re right into the action where the beautiful formula comes into play that I simply can’t get enough of. While you are totally going on a homicidal murder spree, there’s enough thinking involved in your rampage that it’s fascinating but not so much that it’s exhausting. You’re hacking and slashing enough for me to say it’s action-packed, but you also have to strategize that hacking enough to where it feels more fulfilling when you win. Emphasis on the WHEN you win. Some levels took my friend and me 30 or more times to get through, while others only took four of five. However, the levels do like to randomize their events, accidents, and people, which makes the trial-and-error much less tiresome, especially when you’ve played the house party 10 times and on the eleventh load there’s a golf cart out front. You wanna know how many people a golf cart can kill? THIRTY (if timed right).As you go across America, you’ll encounter different kinds of parties which will, in turn, require you to apply different strategies. Even so, there are always tons of ways to approach every level. There’s different little power-ups you can get, different accidents you can trigger, and different methods you can use. Wanna kill 20 people by just hanging out in the sawmill during the outdoor party? Great plan. But that that sound boring, so would you rather trigger all the accidents and watch the world burn? Also a completely viable option. But the parties and their challenges vary enough so that you won’t be able to always do the same thing. This clever way of forcing you to be creative once again makes the gameplay super addictive.

As you continue playing, you’ll unlock other characters you can go on your murder sprees with. The different characters force you to employ even more kinds of strategies and face even more challenges. For example, the cop allows you to carry bodies without suspicion, but you can’t use traps, and the ninja allows you to be super stealthy and fast but you can never be seen by anyone. These new challenges only make this game more exciting. Especially on PC, Party Hard never really ends. There are mods, DLC, local multiplayer, and so many features that make each experience something unique. Even if you get through all the levels, you will definitely want to go back just to see how else you could have beat the game.

So… this review has frequently discussed murder extremely casually. This brings me to probably the biggest concern about the game: just how violent it is. There’s nothing moral about this game. You’re clearly the bad guy who is killing tons of innocent people, annoying or not. Considering this was one of the first games I really got into, my mom was understandably concerned. She wasn’t used to hearing discussions of how exactly murder 50 people without getting caught. So, if you are a concerned parent or younger individual, it’s simply something to be aware of. However, this game is so incredibly outlandish that it’s not like the more realistic kinds of violence found in games like Grand Theft Auto.

Another strike against Party Hard is its story, which doesn’t even really exist. I almost entirely forget what it even is. Just click an extra button and ignore it. There’s something about a cop and he’s trying to catch the killer, and there’s a daughter at some point? You can’t see my confused face right now but it is definitely there. Beyond the original premise, any story isn’t really needed and just 30 seconds wasted that I could’ve spent killing more people.
Party Hard is an addictive, fun, probably questionable game that will provide you and your friends hours upon hours of entertainment. It’s great for a quick game before going to school, an all-nighter, or some serious stress relief. While mom or the kids may not want to hear about you slaughtered 50 people, you will inevitably bond with anyone you play Party Hard with. The thought and creativity that was put into such an outlandish game are wonderful.

Alright, I think I’ve written enough for this review. Can I go back to playing now?