Party hard is a game wherein you, a boring old adult, gets too annoyed at those annoying, crunked, mullered, and hammered-up kids that you just have to go and, well, murder them all.
The plot is delivered in a series of short cut-scenes between the missions, detailing the debriefing of the detective assigned to the ‘Party Hard’ killings. As you progress through the country, hitting larger and larger parties, the detective slowly unravels the story giving it a slightly unnatural overtone. And unnatural the story is, with several mechanics that give the game a very otherworldly theme.
The core of the game is to eliminate all people in the level through clever usage of traps, high ledges and sharp knives. Successfully murder everyone in a level and you get to go to the next level, but get caught and you go back to the start, so these single-screen levels can easily take half-an-hour or more.
Each level is filled with between 40 and 70 people, each who must be rend lifeless. The easiest way to murder people is just like in real life. [Editors note: Whoa this got dark] It’s is to wait for people to pass out, carry them to an out-of-the way place then shank them. If a bystander notices a dead body, then they will get scared and go call the police. If you are standing nearby a dead body, then they’ll also dob you in at the same time. The police are unforgiving, and you’ll be their number-one priority. That said, it’s the nearest person to the corpse who gets fingered for the job – so you can engineer it so that a bystander will get arrested, making your life a little bit easier.
The cop’s main job is to come into a level, pursue the suspected criminal, and bag up any corpses which serves to prevent bystanders from getting scared. Most often though they’ll be chasing you around the level like a lawful terminator. There are several ways to escape the cops, but each time you do it gets harder for the next time. The simplest method is to just run away, as the cop will give up after walking a certain distance. Next time though, the cop will walk further before giving up and will be slightly faster, making it harder each time and encouraging the player to innovate over time.
If you use escape routes that some levels have, a plumber will come along (if the level has a sewer they will come out of that) and block up the route. If you manage to kill enough cops, then some form of special agents come over to the party, and they are really scary. They will secure the level area by area, and they know you by sight for some reason, so you really do need to hide from them.
If cops and special agents aren’t bad enough, some levels also have bouncers, who roam through the level. If they see you, they will chase you for a short distance, and will try and beat you up if you get near them. They will also guard a VIP area, who seem to always end up being the last few people alive, partying a short distance from a sea of dead bodies and blood. Bouncers are a good choice to quickly kill, as they check all areas and have a nasty habit of walking in whilst you are stabbing a dude to death.
Besides your trusty knife, there are also traps and hidey holes around the level. Some traps are single use, such as an air-con fan you can push someone into, or a big speaker you can rig to explode. There are others which can be used forever, such as a man eating panda in a cage or a big ledge you can throw people off of. The hidey holes can be used to get rid of dead bodies, but will take a while to refresh after use. One of the most enjoyable things in the game for me, is idiotic people standing right next to a blood soaked traps, in the perfect position for me to push them into an in-motion saw blade. But, what do I know about their wish to continue life?
Different types of murders will net you some points; with a straight up knife attack netting the most points when compared with traps. Killing a bunch of people in a row will earn you a combo, and large scale traps will also get you a bunch of points. When you finish a level, you get graded based on how well you killed everyone, how many times you got noticed, along with how quickly you did it and how many traps you used.
Each level has two phones somewhere in the level, which can be used to either help or hinder you. Bystanders will use the phone to report deaths to the police, meaning that you will often end up chasing after a bystander, trying to kill them before they get to the phone and report you to the police. You can use the phone to call in a ‘special’ event once per level. These are specific per level, and are arguably one of the weirdest parts of the game.
Some of them are simple, such as a mad max car turning up and dropping a bunch of angry people who will then join the party and try and murder a person. Then there are the strange ones, such as zombies infesting the level, or aliens coming to abduct a person. The zombie invasion is very nice, as they infect all the party goers, who can then be killed without repercussion. Downside is that zombies will occasionally decide to swarm and murder you, so it is best to have one or two zombies converting everyone else, and then murder anyone who is turned into a zombie.
The basic mechanics of the game and the controls are explained in a short tutorial mission, but more complex mechanics are explain in newspaper clippings within the levels. A clipping has a short sentence explaining the mechanic, as well as a few diagrams with helpful arrows describing what to do. I really like this method of learning mechanics, as it encourages you to learn and test as you play the game, and makes it much easier to jump back in after a long time away, and remembering as you play the levels.
Alongside your primary murder weapon, your trusty kitchen knife, there are also tools within the levels. There appears to be 2 or 3 tools designated for each level, which can be gotten either by finding the briefcase that is in most of the levels, or talking to the shady black market dealer that is also in most of the levels. Weirdly, even though this guy will give you a variety of tools to murder people with(stun and smoke grenades, a big katana or maybe some poison) he will still run away and report you if they see you murdering someone.
There are 12 levels in the base game, detailing your travel across the united states, murdering and shanking through your long range road trip. After playing through a few levels, they seem to fall into 3 or so ‘layouts’ with the same positioning of the rooms, but with different placement of people and room functions. Individual levels have a small amount of randomness however, with traps and equipment in different places or not there at all. While this does make the game more interesting to play through, it is very frustrating when you have perfected a play style for a level, then accidentally get seen, then must relearn how to play through a level as a crucial trap is now missing. There is also workshop support, with the ability to make and play custom levels.
The DLC contains its own set of 5 levels, which take on a fairly different style. While the base game focuses on murdering everybody, instead give you a single target to kill, and task you with navigating a complex level to get to them. These are really bloody hard, with a whole different set of puzzle mechanics to master. You must sneak through the levels, hiding away from guards and dogs. The first level is guarded by many dogs, so you need to kill a bunch of bystanders to collect enough money to buy food to satiate the dogs, allowing you to get by them to the next area. The DLC keeping the core game concepts but going in a completely different direction is a really nice decision and one that I really like.
There are 6 characters in the base game, all with the same core skills but slightly different mechanics, such as the cop who can carry dead bodies around without anyone getting suspicious, but cannot use traps. All characters require you to complete a difficult objective to be unlocked, such as the ninja who requires you to finish a level without a single body being discovered, a very annoying objective. There is one character who is unlocked for a single level, but then remains unlocked for the rest of the game before being unlocked in the normal method.
This character, Katie has perhaps my favourite skill set, where before she murders someone she kicks them and knocks them out. This means you can knock someone out in the middle of the crowd without causing suspicion, then carrying them off to somewhere remote and slit their throat. You can also knock out a group of people, then murder them one by one. There is also one playable character which comes with the DLC, but is usable for the entirety of the base game as well. This dude is a frantic murderer, who needs to constantly kill or die. He can lose some of his health to gain a short increase in speed, making police chases much more tense.
There is a co-op mode included, where you and a good friend can get your killing faces on together, working together to slaughter a whole bunch of innocent people. You can either use a controller for your second player, or you can both play on the one keyboard, though the secondary key controls are a slight strain on the ol’ fingers.
One really cool ability you have is the dance button, which allows you to break into a amazing dance routine. For some strange reason, most of the other party goers seem to hate your dancing, often walking away (really good way to break up a big group into lots of smaller killable groups) or even going as far as to knock you out, leaving you to wake up a bit later. Of course the terribleness of the in-game dancing of course has no relation to my amazing dancing of course, which is reference by the few bystanders who love your dancing and start rocking out with you, which is really annoying when you’re trying to get them out of the way.
Finally, we got given the soundtrack, so I kinda feel like I have to review the sound track too. It’s pretty good, nice rock music with just a hint of chip tune. Its definitely an album that I’m putting on my phone, which I don’t often do.
A solid party murdering game, Party Hard is fun and enjoyable, though it does get incredibly frustrating at times. With a delightful art style, and many hours of gameplay, it is a great game to pick up. The DLC is also great, expanding and growing the core concepts.The atmosphere is great, the little dance you do at the end of the level makes the character feel like an uncaring psychopath. Everything about the game is wonderful.