The reason that Grand Theft Auto became such a huge success is because people could murder the hell out of almost anyone without cause. You can argue about the quests and open world possibilities of current iterations, but the original was about mayhem in an organized way. State of Emergency proved that you need to have some kind of framing device to keep it from being boring, but almost everyone I know giggled wildly while being absolute deviant monsters in Grand Theft Auto 3. And that’s because people like to be the bad guy on occasion, nothing wrong with it. I don’t know if the protagonist of Party Hard is necessarily a bad guy, but I will admit: it’s damn fun because of the killing.
Party Hard, a game made by Pinokl Games and published by TinyBuild, is a strategy game of sorts in which you play one of several very angry people who is fed up with the noise coming from next door. In the story mode (which is both necessary to play and an absolute blast), you’re following a police report that documents how one man got a bit fed up with the party the neighbors were throwing, murdered everyone there, and then proceeded to “break up” several other gatherings across the whole damn country. Starting with a simple house party, moving onto a cruise ship and even breaking up a couple of concerts, our “hero” commits several hundred brutal, complex and sometimes absurd homicides in a simple quest to simply find some peace.
Now, as you might imagine, Party Hard isn’t nearly the spree-killing simulator that I’ve just described. Believe it or not, people tend to be keen on not dying and they also have the ability to spot when someone is wielding a massive weapon and killing their friends/acquaintances. The AI for Party Hard really is bang up, and it’s important to notice some details if you want to get anywhere. NPCs have a viewing range when it comes to other people getting stabbed: if you decide to end a life with clear witnesses, someone’s calling the police. If you walk into a crowd and start killing indiscriminately, another person (usually a cowboy) will subdue you and knock you out till the cops arrive. Bouncers will prevent you from getting to their clients (literally their whole reason for having a job), other killers might crash the party and murder you for stealing their fun, and the SWAT team could get called if things get out of hand too quickly. You have to work on your skills and your strategy, and this is where the real fun of Party Hard lives.
To be a successful murderer and get through your whole agenda, you have to plan things out on the fly, which is incredibly difficult given the random nature of the game. For each of the levels, you end up with a handful of “traps” that spawn on the screen that may or may not help you make things end quickly. A giant speaker on the dancefloor the suddenly explodes could clear the room fast, but could also draw some attention that you don’t want. Poisoning the punch bowl will make characters stagger to the toilet for easy pickings. Drowning in a hot tub is possible, a horse kicking someone is always a possibility, even tricking people to stand in the road so that an overzealous police officer might accidentally run them down for you, it’s all up to chance! And besides the killing mechanics, you also have various toys that could help you out, from one-time disguises to fool the cops to extra weapons that sympathetic dealers could provide with a phone call. Plus there are escape hatches that can be used to both move between areas quickly and run from the police, but be careful: evade the cops through your hidey-hole and a familiar looking technician will come and patch it up, and, spoilier, you can’t murder him and stop the process.
What’s great about Party Hard on the Nintendo Switch is that it’s taken the good points of both the PC release and the mobile release and married them together into an altogether fantastic experience. Not only does the game run incredibly well on the Switch, you also have the ability to zoom in on your character as you mill about and murder in style. This is something that people never cared about on the computer because of their giant monitors and working eyes, but I had a hard time with because my glasses suck and so does my astigmatism. Having the Switch in hand gives me a much wider viewing window than an iPhone coupled with good, physical buttons to run, strike, and find out where I can move next. The game also brings over some of the best aspects of the PC, like achievements, unlockable extra characters to murder with, and the High Crimes DLC (which is an excellent departure from the main storyline but keeps to the core ideals) and the Dark Castle DLC, where Helsing decides to take care of things in a massive, scrolling level. Yes, the latter is a free DLC, but they didn’t have to put it in here, so hush.
Party Hard for the Switch also bakes in the ability to do local co-op, which I simply adore and really changes the dynamic of the game. The only thing better than a party beset by a calculating murderer is literally having two of them at the same time to vet and dissect the party in half the time. There are times where it can be just unnecessarily brutal, because two players means someone to take care of those running for the phone, someone to act as a distraction while the other takes care of people in the side room, and being able to go into berserker mode earlier, taking out the last ten or so without a care in the world. Then again, you also have to communicate when you’re setting up a bomb or about to let the pickup truck come rolling out of the garage, because it’s very easy to accidentally kill your own accomplice in the process.
Probably the biggest takeaway from Party Hard’s Nintendo Switch release is how appealing and exciting it is for players who love a game to be able to play it in a whole new way. There’s some pushback about older indies being released on modern consoles, and I’ve been understanding to a point. But then I look at things like Nintendo’s Online service, in which we get new NES games every month, and I realize that some players just love certain games and want to replay them again and again. Party Hard is one of those games for me, and I love Pinokl for creating new ways to keep it interesting. Unlockable characters, randomized traps, baked in DLC and co-op mode are all points that didn’t exist when the game launched a few years back, but, at the core, the main gameplay remains the same and the original party is still as much fun to break up as it was back in 2015. If you’re never played before, this is a fantastic place to come in, as it runs well, is priced right and is just as much fun in handheld mode as the big screen. If you’ve been down this party path before, I recommend considering it before saying “no thank you,” simply because the murders are truly a different game if you try it with a different character or characters. Regardless, there’s so much here to enjoy, and plenty of reasons to give it another run. After all, would it kill the neighbor’s to please be quiet?
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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