Ever sat awake in your bed at 3 AM because your neighbours decided to crank their horrible music up to a point where your windows started shaking and the only other audio complement is their insufferable drunken screaming? Have you been so annoyed that you fantasised of maybe going over there with a jerrycan full of gasoline and making the party truly lit? Party Hard 2 is all about making those fantasies come to life in some horrific ways. But instead of a full-on insomnia-fueled rampage, you need to be methodical in how you violently murder people. It’s a game made for curmudgeons that need their beauty sleep and who may have some psychopathic tendencies, which is basically all of us if you really think about it.
You play as the Party Hard Killer, a masked lunatic who crashes various parties with one goal in mind: murder. You’d be excused if you immediately draw parallels with the other rampant murder simulator Hotline Miami in the first few minutes of the game because they share many of the same design philosophies, but they’re fundamentally different. Party Hard 2 is a methodical game where patience and planning will ultimately be the determiner of your success instead of fast reactions. You get placed into an area which is usually bumping with tunes and people enjoying a spot of hedonism and given a bunch of objectives that usually involve the lovely art of murder.
It’s a game of trial-and-error
There are two very different ways to play the game based on these objectives. One set of objectives usually require you to kill a certain group of people, mostly drug dealers or biker gangs, which places specific targets on your screen among the crowds of partygoers. The other set requires you to just murder everybody and do a few specific objectives that are usually tied to the area. Don’t worry, collateral damage is not a problem either and often encouraged so you can quite happily kill anyone and everyone on the map. While this sounds easy, the game is actually incredibly difficult when it wants to be. One small mistake can cause you to be busted or horribly murdered yourself and when that happens, it’s straight back to square one. Caution is often your best friend in this game.
Instead of Hotline Miami, a more apt comparison can be made with Hitman. There are various environmental objects that you can interact with around the area you’re in, which can set off a chain of events that lead to people dying. For instance, you can pick up a jerrycan of water and spill it all over the dance floor where your targets are dancing. Then you can break the speaker that causes an explosion that also carries a lethal electrical current that shocks everyone standing in the water. If you do it well enough, nobody would be the wiser. You also have weapons such as a knife that you start with, but you can’t just walk up to your targets and murder them because any witnesses will immediately call the cops and you’ll end up in prison faster than you can say party pooper.
It’s a game of trial-and-error. Exploring the area to find all the potential killing apparatuses and then perfectly executing everything until your objectives are met. It’s a delicate macabre dance as you come dangerously close to being spotted or becoming too ambitious and almost blowing yourself up. Sometimes you’ll find things during your third or tenth attempt that you didn’t even realise you could use. Like a car that you can send hurtling into a crowd by putting a brick on the accelerator or calling a circus bear from a poster that makes people run for their lives. It’s creative slaughter and it encourages you to be adventurous.
There’s also a narrative tied to the game that you can find between the various murder sprees. It follows the coverage of the Party Hard Killer and from the start, it’s suggested that you’ve been caught and you’re awaiting an interview with the press. The story is not the standout of the game, but it delivers some interesting twists and turns that you might not have expected a game like this to have. It’s not as existential as a Hotline Miami, but it does its own thing amicably. If anything, it’s a good diversion from the flagrant killing.
One of the game’s best features is its beautiful art style. You have 2D characters and objects on a 3D plane that are all gorgeously designed and all the garish colours and effects are a joy to the senses. Cutscenes are wonderfully hand drawn and there’s even some decent voice work that was done. The pumping party beats do the job of hyping you up for some killing, but they’re usually not varied enough to be completely blown away. On top of that, sound effects are either non-existent or just really underwhelming which makes the action feel a little flaccid in places.
Party Hard 2 is a difficult game, but it can also be massively rewarding if you do everything perfectly and end up victorious. It can get frustrating when the AI misbehaves or something innocuous completely messes up your run since it’s out of your control. There are enough missions and variations of those missions to keep you occupied for a long time and the clever puzzle murdering is quite the fun experience. Definitely pick this is up if you’re up for some party crashing madness.