Party Hard (Xbox One Review)
When it comes to parties we have all had some semblance of an experience. Some of us, in fact most of us, tend to gravitate towards the kitchen, others might pick a comfy spot on the stairs to sleep, the odd “music enthusiast” will attach themselves to the closest stereo, and finally the couple that sneaks away to the toilet/empty bedrooms when they think nobody is looking. Well Party Hard doesn’t quite represent any of these roles, in fact it represents the deepest, darkest, innermost thoughts of the guy that wasn’t invited or the neighbours who have to tolerate a group of people that usually fall short of the legal drinking age causing a ruckus, and sets them on a path of destruction. That is to say Party Hard lets these people enact their inner most desires and slaughter every giddy partygoer instead of the usual noise complaint to the police.
Developer Pinokl Games have a large focus on social games and Party Hard certainly isn’t their first foray in to the industry, although it is definitely the first of this kind. With years of experience with more socially and mobile based games there is a feeling of simplicity in the design of Party Hard. That being said Party Hard had originally had its own unique take on social interaction through Twitch, allowing users to interact with the game, on computers that has since been removed for the Xbox One version.
The story of Party Hard focusses on Detective John West’s recounting of a spree of murders committed by an unknown killer, Darius (You) and how West gradually became more involved in the case due to his daughter being at the first party in the game. The story is very simple in terms of motives and little to no direction is really given to the serial killer early on, resulting in a little bit of confusion for the player and why they are taking to these glamorous parties to ruin the fun. For by the initial confusion the execution of the small cutscenes between missions is weak and poorly delivered to a point that it was hard to tell if this interview was tongue in cheek or if something far more sinister was going on. Ultimately I felt disengaged from the story and the only real driving force to continue was out of curiosity for the kill above all else.
Although the perspective of the story is through Detective John West, Party Hard’s protagonist is Darius the serial killer. As you enter an area you are welcomed with Darius’s awful dancing moves, a mechanic used to encourage other party goers to vacate the area (or knock lumps out of you) to make it easier to murder them. And that’s pretty much it. Darius has to kill everyone through poisoning the punch, setting off traps, pushing people off buildings, and a whole host of level specific ways to become the world’s biggest party pooper. If caught partaking in the carnal desire to rid the world of partying cohorts then the police are obviously called to remove you from the scene. Although the arrival of the police can also be triggered if dead bodies are found or a riot breaks out between the grizzly bikers in certain levels. So it’s up to you to evade the police by hiding in rooms, using escape routes and hiding the bodies to prevent a stramash. Although once you have used an escape route Mario, yes the Mario, will come and block up that specific area, preventing you from navigating the map with the previous ease the next time the 5-0 show up. Ultimately Party Hard’s longevity is comparable to the excitement brought on by giving a child a magnifying glass and pointing the in the direction of a group of ants – those willing to stick around probably need counselling in both events, although in short bursts you can understand the appeal.
Party Hard’s only saving graces lie in the visual and audio departments as Pinokl Games seem to effortlessly blend the subtle beats of what feels like a Drive inspired soundtrack with the simple retro aesthetic of Party Hard. The combination of these elements are essentially prevent Party Hard from becoming its older, edgier cousin Hatred. More often or not I found myself progressing through the story just to experience the next area and partake in that awful shuffle Darius calls dancing to a new beat.
I am not sure if this is what Andrew W.K. had envisioned when he first sang Party Hard. Party Hard was a song about embracing the atmosphere and having fun at a party, but in a way this game has really embraced the song wholeheartedly in the most psychotic way possible. Through my time with Party Hard I found the atmosphere to be almost hypnotic, wandering from bloodied corpse to soon-to-be bloodied corpse I found a sort of serenity where I enjoyed the music and really moved with the rhythm, it’s just a shame that this euphoria was so short lived. After a few hours with the game the cracks appear as some randomly generated items would make or break the level and the repetitive nature of the missions droned on for as long as Detective West.