In case horseplay hadn’t tipped you off, the games tongue is firmly in bloodied cheek. The strategy is lethally serious, the carnage difficult to navigate, but it’s also a game where a bear with a gold chain and sunglasses can show up on the scene and maul people before being hauled away by cops, a game where you can torture someone who definitely isn’t Darth Vader at a Halloween party or stab Ronald Mcdonald. The attention to detail is sublime on the art side, and it’s genuinely a pleasure to plough through the games 12 levels.
There’s a minimal story that’s actually fairly well written although confined solely to occasional cutscenes. It’s schlocky and camp in an 80’s way and tells the story of the one cop chasing down the masked killer terrorising the city. You’re playing the masked killer for your first playthrough, but you get to play other characters later on with differing abilities.
Sadly the real problem with replaying it isn’t the theme or the art style, but a one-two punch: the iffy failstates that lead to you getting beaten up by a hidden bouncer of spotted through a wall start to grate massively on the 30th time you’ve replayed a level, and you can’t rely on what civilians will do: games with a high skill cap and high replayability will allow you to take calculated risks, whereas with Party Hard even the simplest action is a massive risk because you don’t know how the game will react. Sometimes you’ll stab a bouncer, sometimes the bouncer will decide to kill you for no good reason.
This may be by design, the random chaos that so infuriates me. It’s embraced by Party Hard’s Twitch integration - this is the first time I’ve ever played a game with Twitch integration I think - lets stream viewers call in a variety of mishaps: a swat team to assault the party, pest control or if they’re feeling really cruel, extra party guests to slow your progress. This integration is entirely optional, but I had a lot of fun with it once me and my twitch audience reached an agreement
It’s very close to an ideal little game here, set back by a variety of little niggles that somehow make the overall package lesser: I absolutely love the core concept and the basic play loops are there. It is incredibly satisfying to clear the party guest by guest. But then I remember repeatedly being confused about why FBI agents were attacking me for no reason and the soundtrack that starts well but quickly devolves into aural hell after repeated retries.
With bundles of character and a real sense of style, there’s no doubt that Party Hard can get the party started and you’ll have a great time with it but it’s probably going to steal some of your cutlery and you won’t invite it back.