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Party Hard 2 Review

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1322744118_PartyHard2logo.jpg.ab5b35d88c281686c6f3762d4a23c450.jpgThe party killer, determined to silence every noisy gathering he can find, is back again in Party Hard 2 from developer Pinokl Games and publisher tinyBuild Games. As before you're able to systematically dismantle each raucous party by killing everyone in attendance through a variety of traps, explosives, and your trusty knife. But instead of simply massacring every stage, you're also now given specific tasks to complete, including dispatching key targets at the party, finding valuables, or destroying valuable items. The new mission system is a welcome shake up to the original game's format, though doesn't fundamentally change the tedious nature of the gameplay.
What little story there was in the first game is continued here with short cutscenes narrated by the killer's psychiatrist, explaining the murderer's actions and path of bloody destruction. Even though the cutscenes are pretty brief they manage to be a little difficult to follow—it may also just be that they are, frankly, rather boring and put mostly unnecessary context on the killer's actions. This isn't the kind of game that needs a detailed story, especially if it's done in a rather clumsy manner like this. The wooden voice acting also doesn't help sell the writing, and really just makes the whole attempt at a narrative feel a bit sloppy.
In the first game, your goal was to simply murder every person at each party, which often meant taking out over fifty people through various traps, items, and weapons. If you're seen in the act the witness will call the cops on you and it's game over, so your strategy has to focus around stealth and finding ways to kill that don't draw too much attention (which can be somewhat nonsensical at times—no one reacts when you throw a grenade from a short distance away? Really?). That's more or less the same MO in Party Hard 2, but this time the game provides a variety of optional objectives (some of which are hidden until you stumble upon them) that provide a bit more guidance and nuance. For example, in one stage you might be tasked with killing all eighty party people or instead you could find the hidden target list somewhere in the level and then kill only the people on that list.
Having actual objectives is a big improvement for Party Hard 2. The first game's formula was okay but quickly felt repetitive, especially when you were stuck just waiting for people to peel off into small groups so you could strike. Now there's much more incentive to fully explore the stage and really consider your approach. And the fact that you can still just murder everyone in sight should satisfy any bloodthirsty players as well. The only downside is that some objectives can be annoyingly vague which, paired with the game's habit of not fully explaining what different items actually do, can leave you at a complete loss as to how you're actually supposed to complete the objective. At least you can always fall back on wanton murder if pursuing the objectives isn't working out for you.
The objectives can make the game progress a little more easily, but to compensate Party Hard 2 makes things harder for you by adding aggressive guards that will attack you on sight. These guards can be a huge pain since you don't need to be caught in the act for them to attack you—your very presence is enough to draw their ire. As a new obstacle to your murder sprees, the guards make sense, but oftentimes dealing with them just isn't very satisfying. They're more like a chore that you have to deal with before getting back into the actual interesting part of the game. It certainly doesn't help that they are just one more way of ruining your plans, and restarting a stage has the added annoyance of sitting through a long load screen every time. For a game where retrying repeatedly seems totally natural, it's a real shame that reloading isn't snappier.
Finally, Party Hard 2 also shakes things up by adding boss fights. Kudos to the developers for trying to add some new flavor to the game but these battles are horribly misguided. The stealth and strategy gameplay doesn't translate well to boss fights in small arenas at all, and the final boss in particular feels more like an awkward, stilted battle from an action-adventure game rather than something that suits Party Hard 2. Like the first game you simply don't move very fast so trying to dodge attacks and strike back in turn feels terribly clumsy.
With just fourteen levels, the game could potentially last you only a few hours, but more realistically it'll take plenty of deaths, retries, and some frustration to make it through the whole adventure. However, Party Hard 2 is also packed with replayable features, including co-op, alternate playable characters with different abilities, and of course replaying each level to complete every challenge. If you don't mind the game's repetitive nature there are plenty of incentives to redo each level over and over again.
The presentation of Party Hard 2 upgrades the original's retro pixel art style with a mix of 2D and 3D effects. Characters are still 2D pixel art images, but they now move around in a 3D environment, like paper cutouts in a diorama. The effect is a bit underwhelming. It's striking at first, but it also makes details rather hard to make out. The game thankfully introduces a Party Vision ability that highlights objects of interest, but if the graphics were a little more clear you wouldn't need to be constantly scanning the environment with it in the first place. The soundtrack also certainly captures the repetitive dance party tracks you might expect to hear at a rave, but none of the tracks actually stand out well.
Party Hard 2 makes some welcome improvements over the first game, though it also doesn't feel like it improves everything it should have. The core concept of using inventive traps and items to pick off party goers one by one is still charmingly macabre, but in execution it leads to some pretty repetitive gameplay, even with the addition of optional objectives. Still, if you enjoy the challenge of stealth games and don't mind the grisly concept, Party Hard 2 is a decent continuation of this indie series.
Rating: 7 out of 10 Parties
Review copy provided by publisher
Party Hard 2 is available now on the Switch eShop for $19.99.
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