There’s not many ways to get out of being dead, and certainly, if your chosen religion’s Good Place is all it’s cracked up to be, why would you want to? But what if you weren’t particularly virtuous during your days on Earth? What if you end up getting sent down to the Bad Place? Well, then there’s only a handful of people who can help you out of this particular jam.
You’ve got Death, who’s known for letting good chess players off the hook (unless you can trick him into playing something like Battleship or Twister), and then there’s the Devil himself, who’s open to the occasional Faustian deal or two. As college student best friends Milo and Lola find themselves facing eternal damnation, there’s only one loophole: drink Satan under the table and he’ll let them return to Earth.
Night School Studio’s follow up to the acclaimed teen adventure Oxenfree is not what you’d expect. Where Oxenfree had you chasing after supernatural events, Afterparty is full of foul language and twisted characters, as Milo and Lola find themselves dropped into Hell and trying to find their way back out. That’s why they’ll be cosying up to serial killers, having drinking competitions with terribly rude demons and, well, drinking just for the hell of it.
Oxenfree’s style of strolling side-scrolling adventuring and fluid conversations returns, shifting you between control of Lola and Milo as they try to process this. You’re regularly given a few conversation options, which can be new questions to ask or responses that range from trying to be humorous or downright offensive.
But maybe Hell isn’t quite so bad, after all? Having been processed, River Styx taxi driver Sam Hill takes you to a bar to drown your sorrows at the Schoolyard Strangler. What sort of becomes clear, as demons and humans mingle, is that Satan’s demons kind of got bored with the endless torture and having to come up with new punishments, so they instead let the people who regularly drop down just drink themselves into oblivion. In fact, they’ll even be happy to party it up, such as with the first death day of Thomas Tulaney. Sure, he’s a serial killer who tortured and killed thirteen victims, but nobody’s going to hold that against him down here.
Anyway, you don’t have liver failure to worry about, so why not just go all out? That’s probably why you won’t find staples from the average cocktail menu at this bar, but much stronger and more… unusually named drinks like Bloody Stool, Dead Orphan, Pear of Anguish, and The Great Emathian – a tasty mix of vodka, horse blood and “demonradish”. Knock one back and it’ll get you a bit smashed and start distorting the screen, sure, but they’re strong enough to alter Milo and Lila’s personalities a little. I’m not completely clear if different drinks have different effects, but at the very least it’s quite obvious which of the dialogue options have been influenced by the drink, as they’re highlighted red.
How Milo and Lila going to prove their drinking prowess is, as with many a college party, with drinking games, and beer pong is first on the list. Tulaney’s nice enough to show you the ropes and go a bit easy on you before you face off against a denim wearing demon, but it’s pretty much what you’d expect. You take turns throwing ping pong balls at cups, and if one is landed then that person has to down it. In this case, it’s cups filled with the blood of people who eat annoyingly. Lovely.
It’s relatively straightforward to get a shot just right, aiming an arc up into the air, and then simply shift the analogue stick ever-so-slightly in either direction to hit the next cup along. More effects from the insults being flung back and forth, which feels like it’s taking inspiration from Monkey Island Insult Sword Fighting, and from the alcohol being consumed when a ball is sunk would really help to liven this up. Then again, what I played was literally the introduction, so I’m hoping these come more into play later in the game.
The premise for Afterparty wouldn’t be unexpected fodder for booze-filled comedies that were all the rage in Hollywood a decade ago, but this game plays it more straight-laced than that, at least to start with. I doubt it will go to quite the same depraved lengths as those films, and I’m hoping for a little more depth and nuance to the drinking mini-games, but there’s a really interesting style and tone that makes this a game I’m very much looking forward to.