Party Hard, developed by Pinokl Games and published by Tiny Build, puts an uncommon spin on the horror genre-you're the villain, and you know it. Donning a mask reminiscent of Jason Voorhees, the "Party Hard Killer" decides that enough is enough, and begins his quest to end noisy house parties by any means necessary.
Frankly speaking, Party Hard nails the atmosphere, bringing a classic 80's horror vibe. From the arcade-style graphics and art to the various slasher tropes present throughout, the player has an easy time diving knife-first into the game, slashing away at drunk bikers, bank robbers, and teenagers hiding away in lonely corners, engaged in the cardinal sin of horror films.
From the main menu on, it's evident that the production team knew exactly what feel they wanted. The mission select menu is a set of movie-style posters across the top of the screen. A map with the classic red pins strings together the locations of the massacres.
Once in the game, the classic feeling is overwhelming. The simple controls would be right at home on an arcade machine. The electronic soundtrack is a bit more modern than anything that ever filled a gaming hall, but still holds an 80's vibe through the beat and rhythm.
Party Hard has its fair share of pixelated blood, but keeps the tone a bit lighter with some odd humor (whether it's all intended or not). Paramedics "help" their patients by kicking the hell out of them before eventually flipping them over their shoulders and tossing them unceremoniously in an ambulance (hope they don't have a spine injury). Police officers rushing to the scene will mow down any unlucky partygoer standing in the street, which on a few maps, caused more deaths than the Party Hard Killer's knife. Though the game contains such classic methods of murder as swords, explosives, and saws, it also provides an elegant set of weapons meant only for the greatest experts-the ferocious panda, the proud porta-potty, and the devastating gumball machine. Interspersed throughout are various random events that can occur in certain levels-everything from a SWAT team drug bust to... well, I'll just leave it at "Enough Said"!
Most likely, if you're playing an arcade-style stealth-based horror/slasher animated with pixel art, it's not for a big cinematic story-but to nail the atmosphere, Pinokl had to include some narrative. It's not long at all, being mainly told in cutscenes roughly a minute in length between levels. It does, however, contain some of the classic horror tropes that couldn't really be shown during gameplay. That's its main strength-adding to the atmosphere. On its own, the story is relatively simple-a cop pursuing a killer. There are three "twists" throughout the tale, though one is so glaringly obvious (the somewhat weak voice acting is a dead giveaway) that it may be the only thing that keeps the player from guessing the other two. That said, the simple story is pretty standard for 80's slashers, and it does serve its purpose, though nothing more.
The obvious mechanics are very simple. Go where you please (just not too close to bouncers), stab who you want, just don't get caught. If you do, they'll call the police, and an officer will chase after you. If you escape, your rampage continues, if he catches you, well, you'll probably get a nice new jacket.
Under the cartoonish violence, the game hides some pretty well-designed AI mechanics-witnesses to your crimes will run either to the closest phone or the one that's farther away from you, if you're on top of it. A pursuing officer won't just follow at a slightly faster pace, they'll attempt to cut you off as well. A crowd of onlookers won't all run in the same direction, they'll scatter, making it difficult to herd anyone anywhere. Finally, if a police officer is already in the area when your crimes are discovered, they'll run to him and report you or even other AI suspects seen in the area.
The game also reveals a few of its flaws here. There's no scalable difficulty, so for someone like me who generally sucks at stealth games (though I enjoy them immensely), going from taking down four enemies in the tutorial to 45 in the first house was a big jump. With a little skill and alot of luck, I got past that level and the next few-only to find that levels 4 and 5 were the easiest yet, 6 was nearly impossible and took me three hours alone, and 7 was so easy it felt like a band-aid for the previous level. The difficulty seemed like a roller coaster throughout, and tossed me in like a baby in a swimming pool. Several sequential rounds of failing get frustrating, and although part of that is my skill level, the fact that I could do three levels in half an hour then spend the next three hours on the following was frustrating.
So... Is It worth it?
The short answer is yes.
It's an entertaining game that mixes nostalgia with some genuinely great mechanics. Sure, the difficulty can get frustrating, but the random events and slight changes in configuration each time you compete on a map makes that bearable-obviously, I was able to sit and play the same map for three hours without being frustrated to the point of quitting.
Party Hard is now for sale on Steam today!