Party Hard 2 is a game about someone who’s just trying to get a good night’s sleep, but can’t because of all the partying his neighbours are doing. Sure, it’s now the second time this has happened, but rather than closing a window, putting on some noise cancelling headphones, or burying his head under the pillow, he decides to murder them all. This is a little bit of an overreaction, but it’s one that I have no doubt many people will sympathise with. Hopefully most you stop short of the actual killing part though.
Whilst the premise is a tad murdery, the game is better described as Hitman crossed with Hotline Miami. Graphically, it has what looks like a 3D, more detailed version of the top down pixelly aesthetic and omnipresent thumping dance music from the latter, but the game plays more methodically, carefully picking the right tool and moment for the job, hiding bodies, and avoiding guards or police. What results is a difficult, but rewarding stealth game with a weird premise.
Being an unhinged insomniac, the main character in Party Hard 2 doesn’t have all the fancy tools you might expect from the genre. Instead you have to rely on mundane basics: your knife; throwing people into barbecues; and the special ability to kill everyone within about a six feet radius of yourself psychically, but even that has a cooldown. “Just don’t ask how he does it,” says the game on the character selection screen, so we won’t.
There are usually two ways to complete a level, either literally killing everyone in it or going after a more limited selection of specific targets. These targets tend to be drug dealers, management, and anyone who is facilitating the party basically. They’re marked once you get near, but doesn’t mean it’s easy. There’s at least 50 people milling around most levels, ranging from partygoers through dealers, DJs, scientists working in the drug operation out back, gangs of bikers, and worst of all, guards. Most guards don’t pose too much of an issue, but some are marked with an eye icon, meaning they can recognise you if they see you. If one of these guards sees you at all, he will chase and beat you to death unless you can manage to take him out. Likewise, if anyone else sees you taking the guard out or doing anything illegal, they will either attack if they’re a guard, or run away to call the cops.
The police in this game have an incredible response time, are tough, and are mysteriously capable of following you all around the map when they haven’t even seen you. Once they catch you or someone knocks you out, it’s game over and you return to the beginning of the level, dumping you back to square one. You’ll always have to try and engineer or wait for a situation where you’re out of sight before you can take out a target.
There are all kinds of things that can be found just lying around the abandoned amusement parks, factories, and petrol stations that host these parties. There’s grenades hidden behind toilets, molotov cocktails just tucked away in corners, and drums full of acid just waiting to be misappropriated. Then there’s the barbecues to push people into, electronics like speakers and vending machines that are remarkably easy to make explode, and dangerous chemicals just waiting to be mixed up into something a little more explosive. It’s like all those guards from shooters that stand next to red explosive barrels all got together for a rave.
Curiously, nobody gets at all suspicious if you grab a petrol canister and cover the floor with it, then rig a nearby hookah to burst into flames. Similarly, they aren’t suspicious when you douse the floor with water and cause a nearby vending machine to short circuit, or that every speaker you walk past suddenly explodes, or even when you just dump a load of acid on someone’s feet. There is a lot of trial and error when you first start as you figure out just exactly what is considered suspicious and what isn’t, and given what I just described, you can tell it’s pretty lenient at times.
It also takes a little time to get used to judging who can and can’t see you, especially around obstacles like rough piles of boxes that might have gaps between them that are difficult to see in the pixelly graphics. Little things like that are frustrating enough when they cause a game over, but especially if you’ve completed a number of bonus objectives.
Each level has a few bonus objectives to complete, and some secrets to go alongside. They’re all worth exploring because they tend to be a bit more interesting than tactical knifing and grenade throwing. It could be finding a way to access a blocked off room, planting evidence on a partying cop, or… burying three partygoers in one grave to create a zombie partygoer. This offbeat sense of humour exists throughout, with what appears to be a Terminator appearing in an alley on one level that I had to avoid with no apparent explanation.
As you progress you’ll see the news reporting on your…vigilantism. The game does have a story here, but it’s not exactly captivating and it doesn’t help that it’s delivered through mostly still images with middling voice acting. You’ll probably end up skipping the cutscenes after a few levels. You’ll also unlock some new characters to play as, each of which has their own pros and cons. For example, one of them appears to be a robot, can briefly turn invisible, and has a plasma gun, but if anyone sees you they’ll immediately panic and call the police.
You do also earn points for how creatively you kill people, but the system doesn’t really feel like it belongs in the game. Where the points system encourages quick kills to rack up a multiplier, it clashes with the slower, more considered nature of the gameplay. You also get points for following certain methods of play, whether you’re being stealthy or just blowing everything up, but again it doesn’t really feel like it fits in the rest of the game.