What happens to us when we die? Do we simply cease to exist, or do we stand to be judged for the many rights and wrongs we did throughout our lives? We have no way of knowing what awaits us beyond that great veil of time and space, but I assume most people like to believe they’d end up in the good place. At the same time though, we’ve all got our demons that we struggle with day in and day out, and even more that we choose to ignore. Are we really as good as we think we are? Afterparty succeeds at finding an amusing narrative that brings up many of these concepts as well as several other philosophical conundrums while keeping players thoroughly entertained.
Hell is other people
Milo and Lola are dead and they’ve gone to Hell. How did they die and why did they end up in Hell? Who knows? For some mysterious reason this pair of BFFs are still bound to each other beyond their natural life span and both are pretty convinced that they don’t belong in the bad place. Fortunately for our damned dynamic duo there is a way out. You see, in the afterlife there’s a day and night cycle still. Demons work during the day torturing the damned in all sorts of horrendous ways, but at night everyone clocks out and everyone goes out drinking.
No one parties harder in the evening than the main devil himself, Lucifer. He throws a big rager at his mansion and everyone’s looking to get an invite to the party. He even has a cool clause that anyone that can out-party him can get a second shot at life. Now, all Milo and Lola have to do to get back to their normal, day-to-day lives is beat the eternal prince of darkness in a drinking contest. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? They’re already in Hell, right?
Getting into the party itself is no small task and players will find themselves presented with several options to get from point A to point B. Much like Night School Studios’ first game, Oxenfree, much of what you do is dialog driven. Only this time the third dialog option comes from having a couple of cocktails usually. Different drinks will offer up their own unique dialog options like maybe one makes you sassy and another makes you talk like a pirate or a snobby rich person. Most of the game feels like a narrative-driven choose your own adventure book, but there are a handful of times that players get to experience minigames like beer pong or a rhythmic dance-off that could change the tide of the story as well.
It’s a dead man’s party
It’s true, Afterparty’s concept is pretty out there, and there’s a plethora of jokes that run the gamut from gut-punching funny to something your dad would be proud of. It’s not hard to find the real sentiment in the story though. Milo and Lola go through a lot of heavy stuff throughout the game’s story arc. They deal with difficult decisions while coping with physical manifestations of their own inner demons. The deeper the story goes, the more that is learned about our two damned heroes, and players may be surprised at what they find out on their journey.
The voice cast is made up of an excellent ensemble and they carry the story extremely well. The cavalcade of characters you meet in Afterparty are interesting to say the least. Everyone from serial killers to the upper echelon of demons will cross your path along the way and you may even make friends with some of them.
Human character designs reminded me of classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons like the Jestons with the beady Elroy eyes and lanky arms and legs. Demons have more of a Disney’s Fantasia thing going on with stoic stone outsides and vibrant inner glows that radiate from their orifices. Many of the backgrounds and environments had a mix of a neon-hazed red light district glow and the eternal wasteland of forgotten souls that harkened back to the Beetlejuice film and animated series in my mind.
The Devil’s in the details
While most of Afterparty is well put together, I did have a few issues throughout the game like characters clipping through other characters, or getting awkward camera angles when the screen tried to zoom or lock in for the more cinematic moments. None of it is really game-destroying but it did wear at me and was very distracting at times. I also had to reset my game several times but to the dev team’s credit I never lost a lick of progression throughout the game.
Even with a few technical flaws though Night School Studio’s Afterparty feels like a masterpiece of narrative gaming. And if you're wondering how it compares to Oxenfree, I'd suggest just letting Afterparty stand on its own as its own story and piece of work. The humor shines bright and the emotional moments are balanced. When you mix that in with a solid ensemble cast, you’ve got a game that’s bound to be pleasing for fans of the genre and creative, story-driven games in general. The amount of branching paths and dialog options will have players ready to hop back into Hell after their first playthrough just to see everything that Afterparty has to offer. I’m already planning what I’m going to do on my next visit to Hades myself.
This review is based on a download code provided by the publisher. Afterparty will be released on PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Xbox One as well as Xbox Game Pass on October 29, 2019.
- Drinking your way through Hell
- Great Cast
- Dynamic storytelling
- Solid humor
- A lot of replay value
- A few visual glitches
- Annoying technical issues
Blake Morse posted a new article, Afterparty Review: Demon in a bottle
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