Gaming

'Afterparty' review: A boozy, snarky underworld romp with a few hiccups

All you need to do to escape Hell is outdrink the devil himself. Easy peasy, right?

Night School Studio

Afterparty, the new point-and-click adventure game from indie studio Night School games, has a pretty simple premise: two best friends find themselves (accidentally?) sent to Hell, and in order to return to their normal lives, they have to outdrink Satan himself. You’ll soon discover that — like any good madcap adventure — there’s a lot more to it than that, and many more people to meet along the way. The game bursts with personality and wit, and is generally a lot of fun… when it works.

The game plonks you into the shoes of Milo and Lola as they celebrate the impending end of their college days, tossing back brewskis with a bunch of acquaintances they barely know. Turns out these childhood pals weren’t the coolest kids on campus, and spent most of their time just hanging with each other rather than making new friends. Suddenly, the frat party takes a rather dramatic turn for the worse, and the pair wake up in Hell, with no clue how they ended up there. So they explore the underworld, make friends with some demons, and learn to live a little now that they’re technically dead. As it turns out, demons aren’t all that different from humans: they’re insecure, overworked weirdos who just need to unwind a little every now and again.

Milo and Lola's personal demon re-enacts some unpleasant memories of Milo's dad.Night School Studio

Unsurprisingly, there’s a fair amount of drinking to be had in Afterparty, and each time you have a swig of something the screen gets a bit more blurred and wobbly. But the real thrust of the game is figuring out how to be a smooth talker, since making pals with demons is the key to finding a way home. Each drink will open up new dialogue options, color coded to match your cocktail of choice. Booze does a variety of different things, making you more charming, seductive, or brash. Generally speaking, these are the options you want to pick — even if they seem a little over the top, they tend to elicit the best responses. One brew will make your character talk like a pirate. Another will make Milo literally barf out his conscience, Jiminy Cricket-style, rendering him less inhibited (but totally obnoxious) until it’s reabsorbed. It’s all a bit like those point-and-click LucasArts graphic adventures from the 90s, like Monkey Island or Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, but with more branching dialogue options, swearing, sexual innuendoes, and references to dating apps.

Lola arm-wrestles a demon in *Afterparty.*Night School Studio

There’s more going on beneath the surface in Afterparty than meets the eye. You’ll alternate between Milo and Lola as the story dictates, and at times be able to choose between drastically different approaches to a scenario. Will you help a demon reunite with his girlfriend or challenge him to a dance off? Will you damn an innocent man to eternal torment to save your own ass, or stick to your principles? The game’s generally lighthearted, sarcastic mood sometimes gives way to darker ruminations, when we learn about some of the simmering beefs between our besties, or their deepest insecurities and regrets. Throughout, the game does an impressive job of balancing snark and heart, never feeling like it’s going overboard on one or the other.

Night School Studio’s vision of Hell is full of character and charm, with loads of fun little details dotted throughout the various stores, bars and landscapes in the nine circles. But as nice as they are to look at, the explorable environments often feel quite limited. You’ll walk past a lot of cool stuff and NPCs, but you generally aren’t able to interact with much of it. There are five main environments in the game, and you’ll travel between them with the help of your friendly demon taxi driver, Sam, who’ll give you the lowdown on the world as you jaunt from place to place.

There’s a lot to like about Afterparty, but sadly playing the game on my MacBook Pro was a bit of a buzzkill. Several of my gameplay sessions saw the animations gradually slow down to a near-complete halt, rendering the game virtually unplayable even after ratcheting down graphics and resolution settings as low as they could go. This was usually resolved by quitting and restarting the game, but that often meant losing progress. There’s no manual way to save, and the autosave function also isn’t consistent. Sometimes it seems to log your progress on every screen, other times I had to re-do pretty extensive sequences because my progress just never saved. Hopefully Night School will address these issues in a future patch, because it seems like there’s a lot of potential replay value here with the branching choice system.

Afterparty comes to PC, macOS, PS4 and Xbox on October 29.

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