Party Hard was created at a GameJam and this shows. Far from being a labour of love, it appears as a cheap cash-in attempt to emulate the incredible Hotline Miami, but fails at nearly every hurdle.
There’s some snippets of catchy music that might remind you of some of the tunes in Miami, but here they’re incredibly short and played on a loop throughout each level so you’ll be sick of them within five minutes or so. There’s pixel-art graphics that lack nearly all of the charm and identity of Miami, instead falling back on references like ‘huh, that one’s dressed as Leeloo from Fifth Element’ or ‘that one’s a clown’. There’s unlockable characters to play through the levels with, there’s a gaudy colour palette, there’s some vaguely confusing and obscure cut-scenes between the 19 missions on offer, there’s mass murder.
But the mass murder is where this game gets it all wrong. While the game might be forgiven for the shoddy presentation (there’s even a typo quite early on in a cut scene) and the absolutely awful dialogue (early on the main character explains how horrific it was to see his daughter murdered, she was so bad that he couldn’t even ID the body… so how did he know it was her?) the greatest flaw is that there’s no explanation for any of this beyond some kind of puerile outcast teen fantasy that these people are enjoying themselves so wouldn’t it be great to kill them all? With the first (and main) character your only motivation is that the party is keeping you up so rather than ringing the police you decide to kill everyone. I mean the police turn up regularly, but don’t stop the party anyway, so maybe they wouldn’t have been effective, but the game never really deals with the fact that your character is purely a psychopath. There’s not even any ambiguity about what you’re doing, the player characters are listed as ‘heroes’ on the select screen, you dance at the end of each level, surrounded by corpses. This is just a mass murder game with none of the twisted narrative and visuals that made Hotline Miami so great, there’s even less motivation than games like Hatred.
OStensibly the game presents itself as a joke, as something that you can find funny, but there’s so little that’s funny about it. Occasionally NPCs will say things like ‘LOL’ or ‘OMG’ but that’s about as far as the social commentary goes. To begin with the ways you off people (and you must kill everyone in a level to continue) are simply mundane and disgusting. You stab people, mostly. Eventually you get access to zombie hordes and pretending to be a police officer, but at best it comes off in bad taste. At worst it’s downright offensive and that’s not something I say often about videogames.
The murder in this is so trivialised that while NPCs are meant to react to seeing corpses or blood etc, often they’ll just forget about it. Towards the end of each level they will happily dance around bodybags and blood splatters, ignore that parts of the building just exploded or were on fire, and even stand idly by while their friends are murdered around them. Clearly it’s shoddy programming but it’s hard not to see it as part of how the developers see killing in games. It’s not a big deal, whether you get seen or not doesn’t really matter. They seem to think that murdering 40 people in a level and then moving on to the next one is enough for gamers. They’ll make you lose occasionally, a policeman will turn up and seemingly randomly run towards you or just potter about then leave. If he runs towards you, you can just hop out of a window and he gets so confused he’ll leave. You can kill him with all manner of traps but another identical police officer will just turn up next time someone calls.
There’s no depth to this game, no strategy (level layouts and objects are randomised so you can’t perfect your run like in Hotline) and restarting a level (which you will do often) involves sitting through a brief but annoying loading screen, an absolute sin that Trials and Hotline Miami were clever to avoid.
I can imagine some people playing this and thinking it’s great because you get to stab lots of people at a party. If you’re that kind of person then you’ll probably enjoy this and please stop reading my site. Everyone else, go play Hotline Miami again.