Party Hard by Pinokl Games is a top down stealth game in which “hero” must murder everyone at a party in order to get some sleep. The games interesting mechanics are buried beneath ambiguous explanations and a story that is tonally indecisive.
As you progress through the game the idea of the guy just trying to get some sleep falls apart as each mission takes place in a different part in a different part of the US. After completing each mission, the loading screen is accompanied by a cutscene in which a cop, obsessed with catching the “Party Hard Killer”, recalls the agony he faced trying to catch this serial killer. These scenes alone turn the otherwise darkly comedic game into a sad story that the game itself makes fun of, and is just in bad taste.
At its most basic level, the gameplay is easy enough to grab. You must kill everyone in the given level without being caught or killed. Usually this number is between fifty and sixty people. If a party-goer sees a body, the will obviously call the police. Upon arrival, the police officer will stay around long enough only to put the body in a body bag, before speeding off, possibly doing your job for you as he will run over anyone in his path. Bouncers however, discernible only by the slightly larger size of the sprite, will kill you on sight even if you haven’t actually begun killing anyone. Should someone actually see you kill someone and call the police specifically on you, the officer will arrive and instantly beeline to your position. If you’re far enough from the street, however, odds are the officer will get tired, say “Screw this” and leave. If a police officer does happen to catch you, it is an instant fail and you must repeat the current mission from the beginning. Each time you play a given mission, you may or may not have access to various traps at your disposal in order to kill discretely. Each time you replay a mission, the map, seemingly randomly, moves, adds, and removes traps, so any lesson you may have learned in order to better plan around the map is useless. Only at about five hours in did I, by happenstance, find a piece of paper on the ground explaining that each time you escape the police, the next officer will follow you longer before giving up. Almost all the game tutorials are done via slips of paper on the ground, that you have to go out of your way to find and read. Until you read the paper regarding a specific mechanic, any type of feedback the game feeds you is gibberish as there’s no other means of deciphering it. NPCs behave unpredictably and sporadically, making it difficult to adequately plan. At some points a black market dealer will appear with a one-use item to give you an edge. The last thing I expected was for my black market dealer to call the cops on me when I killed someone in front of him. The items he brings you are incredibly helpful and smartly designed. The smoke bomb makes you invisible within a given area, the stun bomb will stun all party-goers in a room, and the change of clothes allows you to escape what is a clearly inept police officer should he start chasing you.
Despite its faults, Party Hard offers a unique stealth experience and enough variation to keep the game fresh to the player. Its fun art style and interesting trap mechanic are enough to make Party Hard a memorable experience if nothing else.
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