Party Hard 2 Review | Kill Them All

Party Hard 2 is the sequel to the 2015 stealth action game Party Hard from developers Pinokl Games and Kverta. Let me start by saying that I have not played the first Party Hard game, however, if my experience over the last few days is proof of anything, it's that it isn't necessary to play the first game to enjoy the second. But, for your sake and my own, I'll summarize the gist of Party Hard in a short poem of sorts. It's 3 AM. You want some sleep. Your neighbors are partying. Kill them without a peep. Not my best work but you get the idea. Now let's move on to the review.

In Party Hard 2 you play as a masked killer of your choosing, in my case the Party Hard Killer, as he ventures out into the night, knife in hand, to ruthlessly take out party-goers. The game's 14 levels, that range from bars to hospitals, are separated by short animations that push the narrative forward. The cutscenes are snippets from an interview where a news anchor and psychiatrist break down the killer's murderous rampage. While the story isn't the main focus for a game like this, the presentation of the story in Party Hard 2 is intriguing nonetheless. Party Hard 2 also has a great sense of humor. Several of the tiny pop dialogues and randomized events genuinely made me laugh. But I won't say much more here because I think it's all better when experienced naturally whining the context of the game.

Narrative aside, the most important aspect of a stealth action is the gameplay, and, thankfully, Party Hard 2 almost nails it. You spawn into the sprawling levels with a series of tasks that appear on the top left-hand corner of your screen. Usually something like Kill All the Dealers or Access the Safe, but there are also some secondary tasks, most commonly telling you to just wipe out everyone on the entire map. You can explore the levels relatively freely though later ones are patrolled by enemies that will one-hit kill you if they spot you. From pushing pianos over railings to rigging gumball machines to explode, there are a surprising amount of options in Party Hard 2 and the freedom allows the player to tackle each level how they want. And if you ever get stuck, there is also Killer Instinct which helps highlight all the deathtraps that you can utilize to complete the objective.

The game has only two difficulties, Medium and Hard, but to make it easier you can play as the Wannabe Killer. He comes with some buffs and extra items but, be warned, achievements/trophies are turned off when playing as the Wannabe. If you want to earn some gamerscore or level up your trophy level, you're gonna have to work for it. In all honesty, I did play as Wannabe for a few minutes and while he has his benefits, he doesn't make the game that much easier and I ended up switching back to the PHK pretty soon. However, no matter the difficulty, unless you're a stealth action pro-gamer I suppose, Party Hard 2 is challenging and that's what makes it fun. The gameplay loop of going into a level, scoping it out, getting caught because of a stupid decision, and rethinking your approach as you spawn in again is addicting. This is an easy game to say "just one more attempt" over and over again until you realize an hour (or more) has gone by. At the same time, if that loop doesn't interest you initially, chances are the rest of the game won't change your mind.

Now that's not to say that I find the gameplay to be perfect. As I said earlier, Party Hard 2 almost nails it. The main drawback for me is the AI that populates the map. Unlike other stealth action games, the NPCs and the death traps set to kill those NPCs are randomized in Party Hard 2, meaning that they don't appear based on any memorizable pattern. This can certainly make for an organic experience with drunk NPCs running over to a corner to vomit or picking a fight amongst themselves for one petty reason or another. But when the level is mixed up every time you reload, the satisfaction of perfecting said level can be hard to attain. There is no elusive "Perfect Run" to strive towards because each run has different variables. Some players may actually find this more appealing, but personally, this didn't work for me.

Moving on from gameplay, the isometric pixel art style of Party Hard 2 works well with the night club setting of most of its levels. The visuals pop with glowing neon signs and the flashing sirens of police cars. I'm usually not a fan of this aesthetic in games, but here it absolutely works. The pulsing electronic music that makes up most of Party Hard 2's 27 track OST is also appropriate within the aforementioned setting but after respawning into levels for the 10th or 15th time it can get repetitive. This wasn't a huge deal-breaker for me though because after the first few levels of head bopping to the game's score I found myself muting the in-game music in preference of a podcast or playlist of my own.

In the end, Party Hard 2 is a challenging, but fun stealth action game with a great visual style and electronic score to match. Despite over randomization that makes the levels difficult to memorize, the gameplay loop is addicting and the story is engaging. Party Hard 2 is out today on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. A review code on the Xbox One was provided by the publisher.

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