The protagonist of Party Hard is a lot like rapper Charles Hamilton. No, he doesn’t have an affinity for all things SEGA, but boy does he hate parties. So much so, that he spends his free time crashing parties and murdering every single partygoer in attendance. It’s a strange hobby, but who am I to judge?
Pinokl Games’ latest title is all about mass murder. It’s a very dark subject matter to tackle, but it’s presented in such a lighthearted manner that it’s more wacky than grim. Sure, the goal is to kill every person you come into contact with, but to do so, you’ll be siccing bears that wear sunglasses on unsuspecting people. There’s a bunch of fun ways to murder people in Party Hard, and finding out how to do so is half of the fun.
There are 19 different parties to massacre, and 12 of them comprise the main story. Party Hard‘s narrative starts off strong, and takes place from the perspective of a cop who has been chasing down the serial killer around America. The cutscenes that appear between levels are short, typically lasting less than 40 seconds long, and don’t give a ton of information. It does just enough to get the player invested in the story, though, even if the ending it provides is a bit underwhelming.
Sunday Morning Testimonial
Despite having quite a difficult task at hand, the gameplay is relatively simple. The player may only be armed with a knife, but a simple press of the square button is enough to subdue anyone permanently. The difficulty is doing this without other people witnessing the crime, as if they see the act they’ll call the police who will promptly try to arrest you. It ultimately becomes a game about picking off people one by one as soon as they find themselves alone.
While stabbing people will be your primary attack, you’ll also be able to use the environment to your advantage. See a horse? You can frighten it so it kicks anybody who has the misfortune of standing behind it. That’s just one example of the dozen different environmental kills you can do, and they’re really the highlight of the game. I always looked forward to seeing what unique ways I could dispatch partygoers, and Party Hard always delivered over-the-top kills.
Actually getting to see all of these kills is quite the challenge, though. Party Hard is a difficult, completely unforgiving game. You’re often tasked with taking down over 50 people, and if you get caught once you have to start all over. It’s heartbreaking to get caught when you’ve whittled down a party to just a few people, and that’s potentially dozens of minutes down the drain.
Initially, I had a very difficult experience with the game. It took me over 45 minutes to clear the very first level, and once I managed to succeed it felt great. It was satisfying to see my smart play pay off. Surprisingly, I then went on a hot streak where I cleared the next two levels on my very first try. The levels weren’t necessarily easier, I just got lucky and played well. Then I once again got stuck on a level for over an hour, but c’est la vie.
Difficult games tend to succeed or fail depending on if they feel fair to the player. I don’t ever mind dying 40 minutes into a run of Enter the Gungeon because I know I screwed up. Sure, I’ll curse a few times, but I quickly jump back in to try again. That just isn’t the case with Party Hard as some technical issues make it a pretty lame affair.
Well, Isn’t This Awkward
The biggest, and most fatal, flaw that absolutely hinders Party Hard is that it runs rather poorly. If too many people die at once (which can happen often since you can set up explosions), the game will seemingly freeze for a moment. The issue is that the game is still running in the background, you just can’t see what is happening. I got arrested several times because an explosion happened while a cop was chasing me down. That sucks, and there’s really no reason why the game should be running so poorly on PS4.
Another issue is that sometimes, seemingly at random, you’ll become a murder suspect despite not standing anywhere near a body or even doing something heinous. It’s honestly hard to determine if the game glitched or there’s information it just isn’t telling the player. Either way it’s a huge buzzkill to get a game over for simply standing still.
Those issues really cripple a game that is otherwise quite enjoyable. There’s even a number of unlockable characters (including a ninja!) that players can unlock. These all have their own unique play styles and can make levels harder or easier depending on how you gel with them. There’s also 7 bonus levels that take the zaniness of the main campaign and take it up to the next level.
Party Hard is seemingly a patch away from being a much better game. The stealth gameplay is satisfying, but a game can’t be this difficult while also being unfair to the player. The technical issues that bring down publisher tinyBuild’s latest game are disappointing and really tarnish a solid base.
Review code for Party Hard provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here