Three years after their critically acclaimed debut title, Oxenfree, independent developer Night School Studio have returned with the narrative-driven adventure game, Afterparty.
The game begins with a scenario few would want to find themselves in – an awkward social interaction at a college graduation party, plagued by the sound of derivative name calling and populated by snobby teenagers discussing philosophical ideas. Playable protagonists, Milo and Lola are at the centre of this hellscape, despairing at their college experience and eagerly anticipating the next chapter of their lives. That is, until the pair realise they’re dead and are actually in Hell.
Upon meeting a few of the inhabitants, Milo and Lola discover that in order to escape they must out-drink and out-party the Devil. What ensues is utter hilarity, despite the journey being overwhelmed with technical issues.
Your main actions in the game are to stand, drink and sometimes say things. This makes up a considerable amount of your time and if you’re familiar with Night Schools’s previous title, Oxenfree, then you won’t be surprised to find Afterparty follows in its mechanical footsteps. Much of the gameplay involves navigating through small-scale areas, engaging in dialogue with NPCs and completing the odd mini-game here and there. There’s not an awful lot to do outside of moving from one story beat to the next and exploration is practically non-existent. On the whole, Afterparty isn’t overly interesting but it moves at a quick enough pace so that playing never really becomes a chore.
Dialogue plays a large role in Afterparty and your conversation choices can have a major impact on the story path. Throw in some alcohol (more aptly named ‘Hellcohol’) and additional dialogue choices are included. You regularly switch between the two protagonists, understanding how each reacts to the chaos they find themselves in. For the most part this switching is pre-determined, however during important narrative moments, you can select between characters and change the direction of your playthrough. Unfortunately, these moments were few and far between and I found myself wishing that the mechanic had been used more liberally.
When you’re not engaging in dialogue or moving to your next objective, Milo and Lola often participate in a range of mini-games. These include playing beer pong in the local bar, participating in dance-offs and becoming backup dancers for a musical group. Whilst some of these are merely button prompt moments, they help to break up the monotony of meandering through Hell – even if they do become rather repetitive. Afterparty makes a conscious effort to put you in fun and interesting scenarios, it’s just a shame that they’re not that enjoyable to play.
Afterparty’s sound and writing are definitely its strongest features. The voice cast features an abundance of well-known actors, including Janina Gavankar (Star Wars Battlefront 2) and Ashly Burch (Horizon Zero Dawn). Satan himself is voiced by one my favourite actors, Dave Fennoy (Telltale – The Walking Dead) and delivers a strong performance. The demons that inhabit Hell are well-executed, with witty humour that almost always lands successfully. Throughout the roughly six-hour playthrough, you get to meet severable memorable characters, each with their own unique personality. These meetings may be fleeting, but the delivery and writing is stellar.
Night School Studio have opted for a bright, neon colour palette and, aesthetically, Hell looks great. On the other hand, Afterparty is far from graphically impressive and I experienced several performance problems. Significant framerate issues were far too regular and transitioning between areas often resulted in the title freezing for seconds at a time. On two occasions, the game crashed and this resulted in some progress being lost. This was a major disappointment, given that Afterparty is far from graphically demanding.
With several narrative paths to experience, Afterparty continues to show that Night School Studio are highly capable of developing strong adventure titles. The writing is smart, witty and delivered by one of the strongest casts I’ve experienced in an indie game. In terms of gameplay, Night School haven’t shown much growth since Oxenfree and the myriad of performance issues is disappointing. Afterparty’s cast truly shine but they’re let down by an inconsistent framerate and lack of gameplay depth.
Rapid Reviews Rating
If you would like to buy Afterparty for your PlayStation 4, you can pick it up here: https://store.playstation.com/en-gb/product/EP0965-CUSA13004_00-AFTRPRTYBASE0000