Is this a hit, man? Or is it a party pooper? Find out more in our Party Hard 2 review.
I feel like Party Hard 2‘s reach exceeded its grasp. At its best, this is a sort of clever puzzle game, except the “puzzle” is getting away with mass murder and all the pieces are screaming. At its worst, it’s random for the sake of randomness, both in its gameplay and its sense of humor, and it isn’t much fun.
Party Hard 2 is inexpensive, though, and like most of what tinyBuild publishes, it’s weird as all hell in a way that I have to respect. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it sort of game. Either you can forgive it for its jankiness—after all, it’s not like there are a lot of games that let you feed an entire biker gang into a wood chipper—or you’ll end up frustrated.
The Party Hard Killer has calmed down a little bit for the new game. Instead of just being a mass murderer, he’s now more like a vigilante that doesn’t care about collateral damage. He’s on the trail of the participants in a pharmaceutical conspiracy, who have all done him the serious favor of holing up in a series of well-attended parties throughout the continental United States, because the only thing worse than not killing them all would be if he was forced to do so while not remaining firmly on brand.
A typical stage in Party Hard 2, like the first one, is a sort of logic puzzle. You start off on the outskirts of a big map filled with people, secrets, improvised traps, murder weapons, and shortcuts. You can clear the stage either by killing everyone inside it, in whatever way you can manage to do so, or by accomplishing a slightly less straightforward set of bonus objectives. This usually involves collecting some information while selectively assassinating a few specific targets, although you are in no way penalized for any random bystanders that get chopped to bits along the way.
The trick to it is that most of the people in any given stage will freak out and call the cops if they see a fresh corpse or an act of violence, and the cops in Party Hard 2 are low-rent T-800s. You can sometimes drop one with a stun gun or a well-timed trap, but they always show up in groups of two, stick around for a long time, and sometimes know exactly where they need to be in order to most efficiently cancel your Christmas.
The best option you’ve got is to avoid having them show up at all, which means you have to be very careful about who you kill and when. You need to create distractions, take people out with convenient “accidents” that won’t leave bodies behind, stow corpses in whatever hiding places you can find, and pick off lone victims on the outskirts of the map for as long as you can. It feels a lot like a playable version of the first two reels of a slasher movie, when the killer’s roaming around making the first few teenagers disappear, and there’s a unique satisfaction in doing it well.
What makes things irritating is that Party Hard 2 has a lot of randomization. Your objectives remain the same, and a few items on each stage seem to be permanently placed, but other than that, most things are in flux. A room that was a totally safe place to stow a few fresh bodies might turn into Mardi Gras on your next attempt; a storage locker that gave you exactly the right weapon on one run may be empty, useless, or entirely absent on the other.
The partygoers have no fixed locations and no set routines. In fact, they commonly decide to start fights among one another, go to sleep in empty rooms, get dangerously drunk, or occasionally jump headlong into deathtraps. I got a five-kill combo on one stage without knowing why at one point, and it turned out someone had called an ambulance, which had plowed over a crowd in the street outside.
I’m making it sound kind of fun, which it can be. It’s just that there aren’t many reliable strategies in Party Hard 2. There are a couple of useful go-to tactics that might work, depending on the stage, but you have no guarantee of success. Unlike, say, any given Hitman game, you can’t memorize patterns and blaze through a given map using a single predetermined path. At best, your first few steps are usually pretty consistently effective, but after that, you’re forced to improvise. There’s no real way to get a clean, ideal run through any map, because something is guaranteed to go wrong.
On the other, it doesn’t really force you to change things up. All it can really do is hinder you, or slow things down. The idea seems to have been that it would result in dynamic gameplay since you couldn’t count on anything but the most basic elements of a particular strategy being in place, but instead, it’s just a variable, unpredictable difficulty shift. It can be funny—like when important NPCs get destroyed on arrival by random drunken bystanders—but it isn’t particularly satisfying.
I’ve got a laundry list of other minor complaints, like how dumb the “boss fights” are, but the randomness is my biggest issue. It turns what could be an interesting, thoughtful sort of puzzle game into a series of pulls on a slot machine. That’s not necessarily entirely bad, and you can get some fun out of it regardless, but it’s a mixed bag.
Party Hard 2 review code provided by the publisher for PC.
Party Hard 2 is out now on Steam PC