I like my sleep. Given the chance, I would sleep until the afternoon everyday, wasting away in the pursuit of the perfect lazy lifestyle. Sadly, I have to be a productive human being, a status quo that sometimes finds me getting little sleep. For this reason, any sleep I do get is rather precious.
A lack of sleep is the inciting action at the core of Party Hard's plot. The game tells the tale of the Party Hard Killer, a masked man who was simply trying to get some sleep only to find a nearby neighbor's party was making too much noise. When 3am rolls around, our lead decides to take matters into his own hands, beginning a nationwide killing spree with parties as his target.
When I first heard the premise of this title, I admit I was a bit reticent to play it. This is the kind of idea that can go awry if executed poorly. Luckily, things stay on the humorous side of the line, playing the entire situation with some heavy black humor. The game's art style, presenting each character as a faceless mess of pixels, was probably the right choice here. There's a layer of unreality for a game largely focused on murdering entire groups of people.
In the shoes of the masked murder, you'll wander across homes, ranches, yachts, and beaches murdering loud partygoers. Your basic method of dispatching people is your knife; walk up, hit a button, and you'll do a quick stab. This is good enough to take down most people, but the trick in Party Hard is you can't be seen. That means you have to wait for people to go into offices, bathrooms, and other rooms alone before you attempt to kill them. Even after you've killed them, you also need to find a place to stash the bodies.
If you're witnessed during a murder or someone finds a body, the police will make a visit. In the former case, the police will chase you down and take you to jail, ending your shot at that level. In the latter situation, you have a chance to hide amongst the crowd at a party. Sometimes, the police will even take the wrong person if you hide well enough, which is immensely satisfying. Get in the crowd and bust a move - there's a dance button - and you may find yourself avoiding jail time.
There are other, less-direct ways to take out your victims though. There are points around each level where you can activate certain traps to kill your victims. These traps include letting a car run free to mow down unsuspecting outdoor party goers, poisoning the punch, leaving open wires near a puddle of water, or pushing partygoers into the mouths of waiting sharks. These traps shuffle around a bit in each level, but there will always be a go-to trap available. In addition, there's the trenchcoat salesman, who will sell you smoke bombs and other small items to help you in your quest.
The problem with Party Hard is while the opening parts of any level are fun - taking out party people left and right, stashing bodies, and avoiding the cops - the latter 15 victims are like pulling teeth. Those last few will take up half of your playtime on any level, as it becomes a huge waiting game. Generally by this point, one of your previous kills has been discovered, so the game has added a few new obstacles: cops, bouncers, the FBI, or a Mario-like carpenter who boards-up escape routes. This means you have throw 15 minutes at a level, only to be tripped up in one of the last few victims. In the end, you'll pick the safe route, finding a single kill room or trap to work with again and again. This makes Party Hard feel tedious at times.
The tedium extends to the levels, which offer new scenery, but no new gameplay. The game only has around 10 distinct levels plus a bonus round, so once you've played the first three levels, you've gotten most of what you need out of Party Hard gameplay-wise. You're playing for that new coat of paint, to see what new traps are featured in each environment. In fact, the addition of more trap options would probably be great for Party Hard, bringing closer to something like Tecmo's Deception series. The developer has already updated the game twice, so this is an issue I can see being resolved later. Variety is what Party Hard is currently lacking.
The game is built on a solid core idea and you can tell the developer had a ton of fun populating the world with interesting visual diversions. Sadly, you never escape the feeling that there should be more to Party Hard. Especially on the back end of any level, you'll find yourself getting tired of waiting to shove each person from the final round of victims into the same trap. Even a game as short as Party Hard ends up feeling too long, because there's just not enough here yet.
The Twitch support, which lets your audience vote on what's happening next, lengthens the experience a bit, but the core Party Hard experience is rather simple.
The soundtrack is jamming if you like electronic tunes.
Pixel art and the perspective gives the entire game a Where's Waldo feel.
Party Hard is good clean fun, but that fun tends to devolve into waiting and tedium towards the end of any level. The core gameplay is an idea that can be expanded upon though, and the developer is already adding new content to the game to resolve the issue.