Upon purchasing my Nintendo Switch, I did what any sane gamer would – aggressively hunt down any and all Top 10 lists for all genres I was interested in. I am a huge fan of story-driven games, and Oxenfree was a game I couldn’t wait to buy. I waited until it was on sale, and absolutely loved it (even as a scaredycat who’s terrified of ghosts!). It went without saying that I would buy the next game developed by Night School Studio – Afterparty.
Afterparty is a story-driven adventure game that follows two young adults, Lola Woolfe and Sang “Milo” Bong, who realise that they have died and gone to Hell (no, literally, they are in Hell). As would be the case with most people who end up there, they are adamant that their placement was a mistake, that they weren’t bad people, and that they need to leave, immediately.
It seems that the demons who are running Hell have heard this story before (big surprise) and don’t seem too concerned with their request to be sent back to Earth. Not only that, but they’ve also found out the hard way that people who go to Hell are assigned a Personal Demon, whose job it is to psychologically torture them. Their Personal Demon is Sister Mary Wormhorn, who is not at all shy about re-enacting moments of their lives during which they felt the most insecure or embarrassed.
They are soon given the run-down of how Hell works by a psychopomp cabbie named Sam, who explains that demons and humans like to hang out and go for drinks after a hard day’s work of torturing and being tortured. She also lets it slip that there is a way for them to leave Hell – the loophole. Anyone who wishes to leave Hell may do so, but only upon beating Satan in a drinking game. Yep, you heard that right. Satan. The Devil. Lucifer. The same Satan who has been hosting a Hell-wide party every single night for thousands of years. It is up to Lola and Milo to find a way to meet Satan’s demands, and hopefully find a way back home.
Afterparty is a very… purple game. Set in Hell, the majority of scenes take place among caves, cliffs, or on the inside of dingy bars with low lighting. Pops of colour come out in the neon signs outside of buildings, and in scenes where Sam ferries Sam and Lola across the River Styx to various locations. The game has a lovely lineless art style, with each demon and human exuding personality. Dramatic shapes are used for main character designs that make each one easily distinguishable in a place full of demons.
Unfortunately, the game takes you out of the immersion with pretty poor performance. I must give a disclaimer and say that I did play on the Nintendo Switch, but I always played docked, which supposedly meant it would perform better than it would in handheld mode. I am generally not an FPS snob, and often can’t tell when a game drops a few frames, but in segments like the cab rides or when many characters were on screen, the game slowed to a horrible stutter. This is my only complaint about the visuals, but it was quite annoying when it happened.
In Afterparty, you play as both Milo and Lola in alternating segments, navigating the world with Sam as your cab driver. To advance the story, Milo and Lola talk to people by selecting from up to 3 dialogue options, which influence how others respond to them. The catch is that you have the option to drink before speaking in many situations, with various drinks having various effects on what you can say. Some drinks make you mean, a sports fanatic, a huge flirt, or even talk like a pirate.
Unfortunately, this is where the game lacks for me. Choosing various drinks make for some witty dialogue options, but overall, there is no strategy to choosing what you drink, as specific effects like being flirty or mean have no real bearing on how the game progresses. I ended up playing about half of the game mostly sober, after I realised that it didn’t really matter what I drank.
There also exists a Hell version of Twitter called Bicker that allows you to sift through the (mostly drunken) thoughts of demons and humans around Hell. Sometimes, Bicker posts will pop up in the overworld as you pass people by. However, it was not at all relevant to the story, and I largely forgot it existed until I started writing this review. It would have been nice if I had to discern someone’s whereabouts via the app in order to progress, or if I had to keep in someone’s good graces by laughing at a dead cat post. Something. Anything.
A running theme in Afterparty is the presence of many ideas that never quite materialised properly, leaving only a shadow of themselves for us to interact with. I won’t spoil the story, but it involves themes of friendship, forgiveness, and familial love, which I have a feeling were supposed to be deeper than they actually came across. As for the gameplay, the poorly fleshed out drinking mechanics and the forgettable Bicker app made me feel… duped, almost, as I expected my choices to matter more in the story, like they did in Oxenfree. Overall, there were many good ideas, and good intentions, but their execution didn’t quite go all the way.
VERDICT – “Liked It”
Rating scale for games, from best to worst:
- Loved it
- Liked it
- I mean… it’s aight
- Just… don’t.
- Certified trash, burn immediately
Afterparty is available on Nintendo Switch for $19.99 USD.