Overview – developed by Pinokl Games and published by tinyBuild, the stealth based murder puzzle Party Hard gets a sequel. Take the role of a masked killer, shutting down shindigs one at a time in Party Hard 2, with new kills, an intriguing storyline and buckets of pixelated blood. This release brings more to the experience while still maintaining the chaotic, violent fun of the original. This title is available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC, with links to each version of the game available at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank tinyBuild for providing the copy of Party Hard 2 used for this review. The provision of this title has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own. Please note, this content is intended for mature audiences, with violence, blood and sexual themes. Discretion is advised when proceeding with this review and the game in general.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review. I will be skipping discussion of the story as I feel the narrative must be experienced first-hand.
Gameplay – Party Hard 2 brings a mix of stealth, strategy and puzzle solving mechanics. As the masked killer, use ingenuity and cunning to eliminate the targets. However, the police are just a telephone call away, so be careful not to get caught or the killer will be hauled away. This will end the rampage and the party will go out with a whimper rather than a bang.
The game is made up of 16 total stages, each featuring a top down camera perspective at an angle, this allows for quick assessment of each area to plan out how to proceed. Each stage has a preset list of objectives that must be completed to progress, ranging from termination of designated targets, destroying specific items or simply wiping out everyone in sight.
The objectives are separated into four different categories with their own progression bar, each focusing on a different type of play style. Upon completing a stage, the player earns points which are added to the progress meter for each of the four objective types. The missions completed will affect the way that the player progresses, with unlocks at the completion of different milestones for each category.
Alongside the standard goals presented in each stage, are secret objectives that will provide great rewards for the player. These are as simple as killing several people in a combo, using stealth and avoiding capture by the police. There are many secret conditions to maximize the points earned in each mission that you undertake.
The player has the option of selecting two different characters at the beginning of the game, the Party Hard Killer and the Wannabe, with an additional two characters unlocked as the player progresses. The two starting characters have are almost identical, however, the Wannabe has increased stamina and health, while preventing the unlocking of items and achievements. This allows for players to experience the story while taking a casual approach to the game.
Each of the playable characters has a weapon, special skill and unique ability that can aid with solving puzzles. Both the Wannabe and Party Hard Killer have a knife, party vision ability and multi-kill skill, with the unlockable characters having their own unique load out. In game players can pick up items, interact with the environment and combine objects using a crafting system to create a variety of tools.
The most basic interactions are to activate objects to cause chaos, however, if the player wants to be creative then more interactions can be set up to create a chain reaction of death. For example, a shelf can be pushed over to kill a single target, whereas a faulty water cooler can be combined with an explosion, causing targets to panic and run into electrified water. The crafting system is fairly simple also, by mixing a pills and alcohol, the player can stun an enemy and carry them away for an easy kill.
Strategic implementation of character skills, environmental interaction and items is important to succeeding during each stage. The character skills for both starting characters are effective and useful, with a skill called party vision that allows the player to see targets and more alongside an ability called multi-kill. The party vision skill has unlimited usage, but the multi-kill is single use before needing to be recharged, this adds to the level of strategy required in each stage.
But use discretion with your blade, reckless use of the multi-kill and killing in general can be very risky. If a target is killed with witnesses to the slaying or a trap is set off near others, an alarm will go off that may alert police. If the alarm is green with an exclamation mark, then partygoers are simply startled, if a green phone mark appears the risk of being caught by the cops is minimal. Although if the phone marker is red, the police will actively search for the player and arrest them if found.
The police are not the only threat however, as some stages will have guards posted that can stun and even kill the player. These guards are stronger than regular entities and may attack the player on sight, this can slow down progress, interrupting the player as a trap is being set up or a target is being led to their demise. While the majority of guards can be eliminated or bypassed with ease, there are special invincible enemies that spawn, becoming a greater threat to progress.
The last thing I want to talk about is the oddities of Party Hard 2, throughout the game are moments that can be entertaining. These events include a dancing bear being called to a party, an alien invasion and running down others with motorized wheelchairs. These instances can elicit a few chuckles when first achieved but unfortunately can fall a little flat.
Now with the gameplay covered to a degree I am happy with while avoiding spoilers, I will be moving onto the other aspects of the game, starting with the controls.
Controls – the control method for Party Hard 2 is fairly simple. The thumbsticks are used for movement and camera controls, the face buttons and shoulders for functions and D-pad for item management. The movement and interaction inputs are fluid and work very well while using a Pro-Controller, but unfortunately the comfort level isn’t the same when using the Joy-Con controls while handheld or docked. This minor flaw isn’t a deal breaker as it is easy to adapt to the Joy-Cons over time.
Difficulty – The overall challenge and experience that Party Hard 2 presents is engaging and a lot of fun, but can be a cause for frustration. While characters can run, they are very slow, this is a big issue during gameplay as it is difficult to chase down targets and escape from cops who can run quite fast in comparison. This was made worse when using the Joy-Cons, due to the fact I found that my thumb would slip off the thumbstick or I would miss an input to quickly use an item.
The difficulty of the game does spike suddenly if a target can escape or the police are hunting the player, which becomes quite irritating if shortcuts and possible hiding places aren’t close by. This title features two difficulty settings, normal and hard. Having tried both difficulty settings, I was unable to see much difference between the two except for targets and enemies requiring more hits to eliminate.
Presentation – visually, Party Hard 2 utilizes a mix of 2D pixel art and rendered 3D models. This style works well enough, however, it does cause some issues during gameplay. When travelling around each stage, usable items, objects and even people can be obscured from view as the camera is zoomed out. The camera distance renders details hard to see when the switch is docked and even more so when played in handheld mode.
The second aspect of overall presentation for Party Hard 2 that I want to talk about is the story segments. In-between stages are animated transitions, telling the story for this title. Featuring aesthetically pleasing 2D artwork and voice acting that puts the narrative across in a way that is clear and easy to follow. The voice talent play their roles well, with the dialogue feeling natural and cohesive giving the impression that the interactions featured within are organic.
Finally I want to discuss the other sound design choices for this release. The soundtrack contains a diverse arrangement of musical styles, ranging from 80’s styled night club synth, to bass heavy funk and more modern electronica. The compositions featured contrast well with the environments and the minimal use of sound effects, providing a well-rounded experience overall.
Final thoughts – overall, I went into Party Hard 2 with limited experience of the previous release, having only played the first few missions of the original and was pleasantly surprised with what the title had to offer. Unfortunately I was unable to test the co-op gameplay, but I feel that the single player campaign is strong and that this is the biggest selling point for this release. Please note, there is additional downloadable content available to purchase, I was not able to try this out so I am unable to comment.
While I did encounter some minor flaws, with the challenging A.I. for the police/targets and the difficulties of the Joy-Con controls in both system modes. However, these issues weren’t significant enough to sour my enjoyment of the experience. I can happily recommend this game to those who had played the first entry in the game and to entirely new players.
In the end, I give Party Hard 2 a final score of 4/5. This is an enjoyable and challenging murder puzzle, featuring a well-constructed narrative, engaging gameplay and many creative ways to shut down parties in style. If you want to check this title out for yourself, links to each version of the game will be available below.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)
Link to PlayStation 4 version (HERE)
Link to Xbox One version (HERE)
Link to Steam version (HERE)
Link to GOG version (HERE)