I’ll admit that when I first saw Party Hard 2 and its premise of “party-targeting serial killer kills lots of party goers”, I immediately formed a lot of assumptions. Initially, I pictured Andrew WK running around a nightclub with a claw hammer. Or perhaps, I thought, it’s more of a top-down Hitman-a-like? Maybe it’s a wacky, anarchic satire? In reality, it isn’t really any of these things. Party Hard 2 is an unexpectedly tricky game. A homicidal puzzler that requires more patience and planning than its title and aesthetic would suggest.
Party Hard 2 originally launched on PC in October 2018, but it has recently been released on consoles. I played the Switch version. It worked well enough in handheld mode, but some of the details are relatively small and there are no touch controls. I got on much better with docked mode.
The setup is that you play as Darius, a.k.a. The Party Hard Killer. Darius seems awfully cross about people having parties, and not because they’re breaching COVID restrictions. Every level requires you to kill quite a lot of people without you getting arrested or killed yourself.
At the outset there are two characters to choose from, with two more unlockable as you complete levels using certain play styles. Each has different abilities and equipment. The story cinematics which (rather tenuously) link the missions together all centre on the Party Hard Killer, regardless of which you pick.
The PHK, as I’ll be referring to him from now on, starts equipped with a knife and a murderous imagination. Each level has various objectives, most but not all of which involve killing people. Offing absolutely everyone is definitely one option, but the more discerning slasher can opt to kill only specific targets. Levels also have hidden objectives, which, although not required, go towards unlocking the other characters as well as additional items to use.
Items are found scattered about the levels. They include Molotov cocktails, grenades and bear traps; usual party fare, then. A relatively limited crafting mechanic means some of these items can be combined to make others. There are also ample opportunities for environmental kills. Speakers can be rigged to explode, water coolers can be set up to electrocute people. Few are as reliable as a quick stabbing though.
Party goers who notice something amiss (e.g. a corpse) will quickly call the police. They’ll then arrive and, generally, have a good look around before leaving. If you’re actually spotted being a naughty little murderer though, then the police will know what you look like, making successfully evading them much more difficult. The police are remarkably restrained, however; armed with just a nightstick and an irritatingly high resistance to being stabbed, they will arrest suspects rather than being all ‘American’ about it.
Individual levels play out a little differently each time, with items and party goers distributed somewhat randomly. Sometimes, a Terminator shows up (no, really). Between this and the multiple objectives, there is a good amount of replay value in Party Hard 2. However, despite this, it can feel a little shallow in terms of gameplay options.
What I mean by that is that, for example, the environmental kills are repeated across levels. Most levels have speakers which cause implausible explosions, most levels have badly-wired water coolers. Most levels, with a couple of exceptions, are just variations on a theme with little to distinguish them. That’s fine if you enjoy the theme, but it does get quite repetitive.
To its credit though, Party Hard 2’s levels put on a good show. The pixel-art style is well executed (pun intended), and the synth-heavy soundtrack is something of a banger. On the other hand, the cut scenes that link the levels are a little less impressive. They’re partially animated images, with less-than-stellar voice acting narrating a pretty lightweight story.
Essentially, Darius is on the trail of those who have done him wrong. The story is framed by an interview with his therapist for a true-crime show, with the levels playing out as flashbacks. I think they eventually give up trying to explain why massive parties are occurring at locations like hospitals, factories and laboratories. The narrative is a dark albeit over-the-top tale of revenge, but the levels themselves are rather wacky; it’s quite a jarring juxtaposition.
My greatest frustration was just how easy it is to fail. Although your health regenerates, player characters can only absorb the bare minimum of damage. If you’ve been identified, the police are extremely persistent – the most reliable way to evade them is to exploit a shortcut, which lets you hop between points in a level. There are no mid-level saves, so if you’re killed or arrested then you need to restart, potentially costing you 10-15 minutes of progress each time for the larger levels. As such, it requires quite a lot of patience.
Overall, these frustrations really outweighed the moments of enjoyment I derived from Party Hard 2. It’s OK. It’s a perfectly acceptable game, and maybe if you’ve got more patience than me (which is not difficult to achieve), it could be a fun game to jump in and out of. However, despite the extra objectives and options, I’m not especially interested in diving back in.
Party Hard 2 was developed by Pinokl Games and published by tinyBuild, and it’s available on PC, Switch, PS4 and Xbox One. We played the Switch version.
Disclosure statement: review code for Party Hard 2 was provided by tinyBuild. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.
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