After a long day of work, you come home exhausted, make yourself dinner, take a quick shower, watch some television or play a video game. Then you try to get some sleep. After a few unsuccessful hours of tossing and turning, it’s already 3AM. You lie in your bed wide awake. The massive college party next door, with its obnoxious electronic music, isn't letting up. Do you complain? Do you call the cops? Nope. Instead, you put on a hockey mask, grab a butcher’s knife, and kill everyone at the party.
The premise for Party Hard is disturbing. You play as a psychopath, Darius, who goes on a nationwide killing spree just because he can’t get any sleep. Darius seeks out the biggest parties around the United States, repeatedly stabbing and beheading people left and right. But developer tinyBuild sprinkles much-needed levity and dark humor throughout--Party Hard, thankfully, doesn’t take its premise seriously.
Party Hard plays from a top-down perspective, and is separated into several types of parties. Each level consists of five or six different areas, from kitchens and bedrooms, to private VIP balconies and dance floors. Your objective is always the same--kill everyone at these parties without getting caught by the police. Beyond taking out partygoers with your knife, there are several different ways of getting the job done: you can also set off traps, and have other people kill for you.
Setting rooms on fire, poisoning people’s drinks and food, and rigging dance floors with bombs are a few colorful options. During one level inside a famous Los Angeles nightclub, I was able to summon a UFO. A few aliens started abducting people for me while I hid backstage. In another level, on a boat party in Miami, I dispatched a smoke bomb, which allowed me to quickly stab a group of people while remaining hidden. Party Hard is slowly paced, requiring you to constantly strategize and analyze your surroundings. Rushing in, and killing people without any thought and care put into your attacks will likely get you caught.
This slow nature reflects Darius' disturbingly dispassionate nature. He wants to enjoy every one of his murders and leave the crime scene without any trace. It's challenging and enjoyable to plan your kills, and make full use of your environments. Party Hard is like a deadly game of cat and mouse, always testing your ability to adapt and observe. Should I carry this drunk person to a hidden bush? Should I set the kitchen on fire now, or wait for more people to come in? Will I able to kill all four of these stragglers before someone spots me and calls the police?
The levels are well designed and visually distinct, giving you enough room to breathe while also making it difficult to slip away unnoticed. The LA night club level, for example, has a pair of hidden stairs that allow you to swiftly move from the kitchen, all the way to an abandoned alley on the other side in mere seconds. But be wary of an eccentric man dressed as Mario at this nightclub, because he'll demolish the stairs if you use them too much.
But for everything Party Hard gets right mechanically, it suffers from being repetitive. It's a shallow affair. While the first few levels are engaging, they introduce everything Party Hard has to offer. In every level there are always the same traps and items you can utilize, and the overreliance on your knife grows monotonous. I spent a lot of time waiting for people to fall asleep, or for them to move to an isolated area. When cops give chase, they can easily be exploited by employing basic tactics. I quickly found out that circling large fences, pools, and stages confuses the AI, forcing the cops to give up after a few seconds.
Party Hard employs a beautiful neo-noir, pixel-art aesthetic and ‘80s soundtrack. It's similar to Hotline Miami, with heavy doses of purple and pink. The parties are frenetic spectacles replete with neon lights, eccentric character designs (the aliens look pleasingly weird), and plenty of blood and gore. The pixel-art visuals are another source of levity, as everything looks a bit fantastical. The folks you're killing are pixelated messes, without any facial details. This layer of abstraction is needed for a game about murdering innocent people.
The up-tempo, funky soundtrack juxtaposes the slow gameplay, and there's a great variety of tunes for every party. Party Hard also tells a story of a detective chasing after Darius, with short cutscenes sprinkled in between each level. Both the writing and voice acting are awful, but they successfully come off being intentionally bad. It complements Party Hard’s silly tone and premise, and thankfully, storytelling isn’t the game’s focus.
Your entertainment will come from planning deadly attacks in outlandish scenarios and environments. There’s enjoyment to be had with Party Hard’s dozen or so levels, despite the game’s lack of imagination in its later stages. It’s a wacky, bloody affair that never aspires for more.