• Developer: Night School Studio
    • Publisher: N/A
    • Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
    • Release Date: October 29th, 2019
    • Price: $19.99
    • Reviewed on: PS4 Pro
    • Review Code Provided: No

    The setting of Hell has, historically, been featured in a host of video-games. After all, no one knows for sure what Hell looks like, resulting in many interpretations of the underworld. From the demonic battlegrounds of Doom to the icy environment featured in last year’s God of War, we’ve seen more than our fair share of hypothesized Hells. Afterparty ditches the concept of Hell being a place with dangerous monsters ready to tear you limb by limb, over and over again; it explores more of a psychological kind of hell — one that staves off of punishing our main characters physically, opting to torture them with one of the most crippling things a person can face. It’s something we all have — insecurities. After playing Afterparty, you may be surprised to find out how close to home this version of Hell hits.

    The premise here is simple. Our protagonists, Lola and Milo, are two college graduates attending a graduation party for their class. However, things take a turn for the worst when they abruptly find themselves in Hell. But before they accept an eternity of torture, they discover a loophole that gives a chance to get out of Hell: they have to out-party Satan, while also confronting their own personal demons, literally. What we have here is a decision-based adventure game with some interwoven mini games, and you’ll often switch off on controlling Milo and Lola as you wander through different areas of the underworld. Sometimes you’ll talk to demons, sometimes you’ll dance your ass off, but above all, Afterparty wants to make sure you get a damn drink before you do anything else.

    I’m sure a lot of you have found yourselves in the following situation at least once: you’re at a social gathering, people are drinking — but you’re not. You’re trying to talk to people, but you just can’t really find the words to say. Compare this to a time where you might have been drinking, and maybe — for better or worse — you said something you wouldn’t normally say if you were sober. Afterparty understands this all too well, and implements it brilliantly in its gameplay. You’re pretty much talking to people all the time in this game, and normally, you only have two dialogue options. If you have a drink with you, depending on what it is, you’ll find a few extra things to say. Drink something that gives you Liquid Courage, and maybe you’ll have the chance to tell someone to step down if things get rowdy. Or maybe try on a drink that gives you a Flirty Floozy bonus, and turn on the charm for a change.

    However, drinking in this game doesn’t just give our protagonists a newfound sense of confidence, it also impairs them — just like in real life. There are moments where you have to challenge the denizens of the underworld to a few drinking games. At first, you may think it’s easy to figure out the arc of your shot for beer pong, or the timing needed to stack your glasses; but throw some alcohol into the mix, and things start getting tricky. You’re missing shots, your glasses are falling over — and it’s all because of the little details; those things that you wouldn’t miss if you had stayed sober. As far and few between as the drinking mini-games in Afterparty are, they do a great job of recreating what it’s like to be drunk. These games ride the line between being based more on skill or luck, which, let’s be honest — isn’t that how all drinking games are in real life? The importance of drinking doesn’t stop at the gameplay, as evidenced by the game’s story.

    The writing here is pretty great, and drives the story places you wouldn’t expect. It tells a story about not just friendship, but also addiction, depression, how to face your fears, overcome your own personal demons, and accepting you don’t have to go through all of those things alone. Afterparty deals with some pretty mature subject matter that makes you question your stance on certain things. The decisions you have to make in this game deal with some very real issues in this day and age. The game forces you not to just make decisions about these very real problems, but also mandates you reflect on it. “Is this really how I would feel” or “could I really bring myself do that?” Is something I asked myself throughout every major decision of my playthrough, and in the process learned a little about myself. I walked away from this title not just thinking “that was a great game!” But instead thinking about how I could apply the message of this game in my everyday life.

    Milo and Lola’s journey through the underworld is brought to life by some splendid vocal performances. The leads Lola (Janina Gavankar) and Milo (Khoi Dao) have undeniable chemistry throughout the whole game. Anyone who enjoys movies such as Superbad or Booksmart should feel right at home here. Dave Fennoy’s (The Walking Dead) performance as Satan could be described as scene stealing, as Fennoy gives off a performance that renders Satan as unpredictable and dangerous, but also calculated, intelligent, and even a little broken. The nuances present in the voice performances here are subtle, and makes every additional playthrough a joy — as you pick out clues in a character’s speech or mannerisms that you didn’t pick up on before.

    The characters here have a lot of depth. Even after my initial playthrough, I still don’t feel like I know everything there is to know about them — even when it comes to the protagonists. Despite many of these characters being devil-spawn and prisoners of the underworld, they all happen to be really easy to empathize with, which can lead to some complex moral conundrums. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” is a saying that rings true here. You never know when a well-intentioned decision could come back to bite you in the ass. Naturally, certain decisions close off certain opportunities when it comes to certain characters; which, in turn, motivated me to engage in multiple playthroughs. The replay value here is the opportunity to learn more about these characters and this world, as you simply cannot learn everything there is to learn about this wonderful world the first time through.

    Visually, this game’s version of Hell looks nice as….Hell.

    (Crickets)

    It really feels like the game is going for the same kind of aesthetic as that shady house you used to party at in college, and it succeeds in that sense. It allows for a sense of levity when it comes to the thematically heavy plot, but never really makes you feel safe — as you never know what shady characters Hell has in store for you around the corner. Unfortunately, while the characters themselves are written well, their actual appearances leave a little to be desired. The character design is great, but you’ll never get to see all that much of them up close. In fact, the camera is generally positioned a fair distance away from all of the characters. For as nuanced as the writing and vocal performances are, the same cannot be said for the animations, which is a shame. It’s not a huge negative, but it stands out a lot when evaluating the level of detail put into the rest of the game.

    Technical-wise, there were some pretty hard to ignore issues. Playing on my PlayStation 4 Pro, I experienced multiple framerate stutters — most prominent when traveling between the Islands of Hell, or during particular story moments. When on foot, the game runs pretty smoothly, but the game has a tendency to stutter at random moments, and even completely pause for periods of up to 5 seconds. It’s not very easy to ignore, but the overall impact of these issues end up being outweighed when compared to the rest of what the game offers.

    Afterparty is a game about out-drinking the devil, but it’s also a game about companionship, addiction, trust, and putting your faith in others. This game has some pretty obvious issues on the technical side. It can stutter, its characters can be visually uninteresting at times, but just like our protagonists, it doesn’t buckle under the pressure of its faults. Afterparty presents a version of Hell that is likely to hit home for a lot of people, and ensures nothing is wasted when it comes to its writing. The nuanced characters and world will be more than enough for fans of the adventure game genre to enjoy playing through multiple times. It’s thought provoking nature ensure that Afterparty will be one to think of for a while after its over — and the best part? You won’t feel hungover after this Afterparty.

    8.5/10

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