Afterparty Review | A bizarre, buggy bender

Michael Leri
Afterparty Info

genre

  • Adventure

players

  • 1

Publisher

  • Night School Studio

Developer

  • Night School Studio

Release Date

  • 10/29/2019
  • Out Now

Platform

  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC
  • PS4
  • Xbox One

rating

Satan is often portrayed as a trickster bent on getting people to commit evil acts and give into their temptations; a personification of sin itself. But he is rarely depicted as a party animal, hellbent on getting his fellow guests to pound shot after shot in his epic, nightly benders while granting life back to those that can outdrink him. AFTERPARTY is a game that builds a premise around that LMFAO-tinted Lucifer with an equally lively soundtrack and interpretation of the underworld. Although there are a couple of cockroaches in this cocktail that hold it back from being the best party in town.

Of course, Hell is quite the town to get drunk in. Afterparty takes place in a rendition of the afterlife that is both minimalistic because of its modest technical chops yet striking in its color palette. Whereas most games set in that area are awash with browns and reds, Afterparty’s Hell is bathed in those same reds but also complemented with a suite of neon tones. Magenta and blue hues highlight the nightlife and decorate the countless bars nestled in Hell’s many alleys. Lacing Hell with psychedelic colors gives it its own flavor — which is necessary for a place that’s been represented so many times — but also perfectly matches the partying vibe the game is going for.

ALSO: Afterparty directors speak about pushing dialogue forward in Telltale’s absence

The music also boosts the game’s atmosphere. Fitting for a night out, music thumps and bumps with a lively BPM to match the light EDM that would suit the playlist found in most clubs or bars. Scntfc’s beats are catchy even outside of the faster paced tracks that make up the backbone of this soundtrack. Songs repeat often but it doesn’t matter because of how catchy every composition is, which even extends to the pause and menu music.

Afterparty Review | The cup runneth over… with bad jokes

afterparty review

Everything else that is good about Afterparty has a caveat attached. Milo and Lola, the game’s two protagonists, carry the experience well because of the fantastic, natural performances — a quality that also extends to the handful of tertiary characters. They’re charming and effortlessly convey that charm, which is important since you’re supposed to be rooting for them to get out of Hell. Watching them all interact with each other is the highlight of the game’s narrative.

But it tries to ruin that goodwill earned from its performances by cramming in bad humor in nearly every other sentence. Loading the comedy shotgun with jokes and blasting it at the audience will ensure some bits land — there are undeniably some hilarious parts and clever lines — but the ratio of hits and misses is way off. Like a mixed drink made with mostly water and a few drops of vodka, the unfunny material dilutes the solid wisecracks.

Jokes are often forced and try to shock the player with non sequiturs that have no sensible comedic base; they’re just random phrases said with the cadence of a joke. The game’s Twitter equivalent (which is aptly called “Bicker”) symbolizes its overall style, since it has some gold buried within it yet it repeats itself a lot and can struggle to warrant a chuckle.

Hit-and-mostly-miss-humor does make up a lot of the script but not all of it. Afterparty shares direct lineage with Telltale and that means that the dialogue is always multiple choice. But like Oxenfree, players can walk around while also choosing what they want to say, which is more active and satisfying than similar systems found in the genre. Special alcohol can even give you new choices depending on the drink such as flirty options and even the ability to speak like a pirate. It still works well but has less impact here when compared to Oxenfree since it doesn’t appear to shape much of what happens. Afterparty has more explicit branching points but doesn’t have nearly as many divergent paths. While it doesn’t distract from the game’s main goal, its relatively restrictive layout is a bit disappointing.

Afterparty does, however, have more gameplay systems than Oxenfree. Some missions call for you to play “blood pong,” dance, or drain shots and quickly stack the cups, but they aren’t created equally. Blood pong and stacking cups match the festive mood and simply test your aiming skills just enough. Even though they sadly don’t evolve over the course of the game or pop up often, they get the job done and inch the title into a more traditional video game space. Dancing, however, is awful because it’s a boring, quick time event rhythm game that ironically lacks and sort of rhythm. Taken as a whole, even though they are drunken stumbles, they are drunken stumbles that are pushing the game in the right direction.

Afterparty Review | Fighting hangovers and contrived personal demons

afterparty review

Many of these mini-games take place over climactic moments in the story that is about trying to drink Satan under the table and get out of Hell. But it also attempts to go beyond that alcohol-driven plot and dive into the inner workings of its two young adult protagonists.

While attempting to portray personal insecurities is worth appreciating, these moments don’t feel earned nor do they wrap up in a satisfying way. Past traumas pop up randomly through your personal demon named Wormhorn and have little relevance to the plot nor do they affect the protagonists. Milo and Lola appear to already have gotten over these events or at least come to terms with them, meaning that these don’t serve as ways for them to evolve and mature over the story. They’ve already done that before the game has started and because of their relative insignificance, these flashbacks come off as cheap ways to feign character growth with unrelated sob stories. It would have made more sense if they were still haunted by these demons.

Their shallow problems limp along until the end where they are unceremoniously cleared up in favor of another big, personal thread for another character. This specific thread adds a layer of depth to the straightforward premise and sets up and interesting, nuanced look at self-pity and addiction. However, it’s hurriedly injected into the plot and doesn’t get the chance to organically grow and build up. One of the endings is even positioned to be a satisfying payoff to this idea but the lack of a compelling ramp up to it squanders the effect it is supposed to have. Afterparty moves through its story beats at a steady clip but it juggles too many topics and doesn’t give each of them the justice they deserve.

Afterparty Review | Hell of a lot of technical mishaps

afterparty review

The game also doesn’t deserve to run poorly. Despite its simplistic shell, the game is rife with frequent slowdown, hitches, and visual glitches where characters clip through objects and other demons. Bugs, like ones that crash the game or keep you from progressing (which have since been patched), also reinforce how unstable the game runs and makes the whole experience seem unfinished.

Hellish bugs might significantly diminish the experience but Afterparty still gives players a convincing enough argument to take an express elevator down to the fiery pits of torment. The colorful take on the underworld is unique and the characters are endearing enough to give the player a vessel to experience the aforementioned otherworldly vistas. But the game doesn’t quite live up to its superb premise because of its consistently poor comedy bits, immersion-breaking technical mishaps, and handful of rushed or superfluous story beats. It’s a rager still worth experiencing, even if it has some unnecessary hangover-esque headaches that not even a glass of water and Advil can fix.


GameRevolution reviewed Afterparty on PS4 with a code provided by the publisher.

REVOLUTION REPORT CARD

3
Rating
Box art - Afterparty
Energetic soundtrack that faithfully evokes the nightlife scene.
Colorful, creative interpretation of Hell.
Likeable characters and solid performances.
Constant barrage of flat, random jokes.
Some threads feel too condensed with rushed endings.
Glut of technical issues and bugs.
Rhythm mini-game lacks any sort of rhythm.