Afterparty is a narratively driven adventure game developed and published by Night School Studio. When lifelong friends Lola and Milo find out they’ve died and gone to Hell they won’t except that this is their eternal fate. They soon discover that there is a way back to the land of the living. But to get back they’ll have to over come Satan himself. Well, beat him at a drinking game at least. But given that The Prince of Darkness has been partying every night since he fell from Heaven this is bound to be one Hell of a drinking game.
While the final goal of Afterparty is to face down Satan from across the table there is, of course, a lot more to it than just that. After all, the Lord of Darkness doesn’t just let anyone challenge him. Before Milo and Lola can earn their seats at the big table they have to acquire two seals from some of the most powerful demons in Hell. To gain these seals they will have to wade through some morally dubious waters. Being tasked with an assortment of missions from participating in trails to sneaking into Deathday parties the duo must be willing to put their minds, hearts and livers to the test.
Afterparty strives to do a lot. It strives to present the player with a unique visual style, a humorous story of drunken escapades, and force the player to face moral choices with uncertain outcomes. Sadly it only fully succeeds at the first one. The visual style present is very unique and memorable. The denizens of the netherworld are interesting in design and help lend a comical air to the setting. So no matter how much you hear about torture or suffering it never really sinks in. Everything is just too silly looking.
While the visuals work hard to give the game a fun vibe the script fails to match this feel. With drunken demons everywhere the game tries to use these situations to create farcical moments. But they never really land. A few chuckles here and there where the most I ever got out of it. The fact that there are numerous scenes with serious emotional weight sprinkled throughout Afterparty didn’t help the humor land any better. Often feeling much to close to a more serious discourse, these jokes felt out of place. Almost as if the game couldn’t decide if it wanted to be serious or fun.
Like many games, today Afterparty gives the player a lot of choices to make. As they maneuver the many clubs and dives of Hell they are presented with decisions. These are often laden with apparent moral weight. These moments suffer from a couple of problems though.
The first problem is that they often have a very obvious answer. Whether it is from a moral standpoint or how you think the game wants you to make the choice. There are lots of cues given to the player as to which path will lead to the outcome they want. These cues rob the choices of any stress or trepidation as you know what you should do. Also, when there is a choice with a level of morality attached to it there is no ambiguity to it. Even though the game tries extremely hard to make the player worry about whether they’ve done the right thing or not. It attempts to sow these seeds of doubt through dialogue that happens between Lola and Milo. And this is where the most egregious hole in Afterparty’s narrative appears.
Throughout your journey, you swap control between Milo and Lola. Making important decisions with first one then the other. The problem with this system is that, as only one player controls both characters the decisions made all tend to align. When I speak as one I give the same sort of answers that I would with the other. This makes scenes when they are disagreeing feel out of character for them. It made it so I never really felt like I got to know either character.
Beyond choice-driven dialogue, the game also sports a number of mini-games the player engages with. Bar staples like beer pong and others are represented and well done. These are sprinkled nicely throughout the game. They always manage to come along at just the right time. Their presence keeps Afterparty from being just walking and talking.
The only other thing about Afterparty that I feel bears mentioning is how often the game’s visuals tend to chug. This is especially true in sequences when the player is traveling between the island locations the game occurs on. The game’s visuals struggle during these sequences so bad that if it was running off physical media I’d think my disc had scratches on it. With outright pauses and visual stutters marking these moments.
So, while Afterparty provides some charm and fun it was ultimately a letdown for me. The writing, which the game hinges on more than most, failed to really engage me. Coupled that with inconsistent main characters and it ended up being like most nights drinking. Initially full of promise, but never living up to the hype.
Afterparty is available now on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Game Pass.
- Rating - 6/106/10
So, while Afterparty provides some charm and fun it was ultimately a let down for me.