Party Hard is a game best described as a stealth homage to the slasher genre, right down to being a metaphor for the dangers of dubious behavior. As Friday the 13th warned people about premarital sex and drugs, Party Hard is about the dangers of being those obnoxious jerks who wake up their neighbors at three in the morning. Because who knows, it might cost you your life ... On the fifth or six time the killer tries the level, that is.
Party Hard is a tale simply about a man who just wanted some sleep. After being awoken by a raging party in the night for the last time, he dons his hockey mask, grabs his knife, and sets out to end parties across the nation by slaughtering everyone with a few twists along the way. The story is told through barely animated cutscenes with terrible voice acting, perhaps some of the worst I've heard in a game this side of old FMV adventures.
Every level is some sort of party, filled to the brim with clueless partygoers. Your job as the masked man is to kill everyone without getting arrested, be it with your knife, items, or traps. Traps are the most exciting part of the game, really reminding me of the high points of the Hitman series. I pushed people into barbecues, drove cars through crowds, rigged stoves to explode, and even fed a hapless victim to a hungry panda bear.
Once a body is found, the police will be called in to bag the bodies, or the paramedics will carry them off. If the player is found near a crime scene, or committing the crime if you're really unlucky, it will be pinned on them, and they will have to think of a way to escape the pursuing officers. More often than not, they would just give up and walk back to their cars after you outpace them for long enough, but if they manage to catch up with you, it's game over.
So how do you prevent this? Well, you could pin the crime on a sleeping person by dragging their body over to the crime scene. Or, you could always hide the body yourself, netting you extra points. Much like a fusion of Hotline Miami and Hitman: Absolution, the faster you dispatch enemies and the more efficiently you do so, the better your score is. However, unlike the original Hotline, the faster you kill party-goers, the more likely you are to die. So it's a nice risk/reward system trying to clear out a room of witnesses before they can reach the phone.
Party Hard claims to have randomized levels, but I saw very little of it outside of certain stages. Sure, in the opening level, the upper right room can be anything from a master bedroom to a drug lab, but don't expect this to be the norm. In the second level, the layout stayed the same in the twelve or so attempts I took of it, with everything, traps included, staying identical. Same for the following levels, with a few notable exceptions.
Party Hard's presentation is just fantastic, with plenty of unique character designs dotted around the levels. Additionally, activated traps come with fun animations, from seeing victims of a rushing car turned into a fine paste of guts and bone to a lumber mill stained with blood after someone "accidentally" falls in front of the saw. Additionally, the sound adds to the scummy 80s feel of the game, with some pumping synth tracks that remind me of those found in Hotline Miami.
The main problem with Party Hard is its repetitive gameplay. While the game attempts to spice things up with the randomization, it's simply not enough. There are only so many variations of certain levels you can see before things become a chore, especially when you're down to the single digits with remaining victims and you find yourself getting arrested, forced to start the level all over again.
Yet despite the fact that I lost over and over again, something still pushed me to complete the level. I would sit down at my desk and just get in the zone to finish a level of Party Hard, and every party slaughtered gave me that wonderful feeling of accomplishment few games can supply. Even with the cliched story I still managed to sit through the cutscenes and even get invested, despite the best attempts of the voice acting to turn me off.
To put it simply, Party Hard captivated my interest. I loved the game's style, its music, its gameplay, and eventually, even the hokey voice acting. Every death was a new personal challenge for me to conquer, and while the randomization wasn't quite as great as I hoped it would be, the levels kept me thoroughly entertained. Just trust me, this is one party you don't want to miss out on.
Party Hard was reviewed on the PC with a code provided by the developer.