In Afterparty, you’ll play as a pair of best friends – both freshly minted residents of Hell – Milo and Lola. Neither is positive how they ended up in the underworld, but they sure don’t want to stay there. Lucky for them, it isn’t long before they discover a loophole to this whole afterlife thing. All they have to do to get out of Hell? Outdrink Satan. A tall order, no doubt, but it is exactly what you’ll set out to do as you guide these two through one wild night in the fiery pits below.
Afterparty comes from developer Night School Studio, best known for their spooky 2016 adventure Oxenfree. Like that indie gem, Afterparty is driven by its dialogue. It utilizes a walk-and-talk style where you’ll choose among conversation options as you traverse the game’s world. The dialogue itself features the kind of clever repartee that would feel more at home in my favorite television series than any video game I can think of. It’s full of snark and sarcasm that kept my funny bone tickled throughout, but it delivers more than just laughs. There are plenty of thought-provoking conversations here too as it explores worthwhile themes like friendship, growing up and morality, just to name a few.
On top of the wild scenario and crackling banter, I love the setting Night School has created here. In Afterparty’s version of Hell, the demons torture humans by day and party all night. Dark alleys give way to streets peppered with neon signage; bars and night clubs on every corner to sate the demon’s debaucherous ways. Small details help give it some extra life. Like the commentary related to the sports bar “Fiesty’s” that you will visit. Or the absolutely disgusting drinks you will consume on your journey. For instance, there’s one beverage called a “Bloody Stool” and another called “Literally Acid.” And there are plenty more cleverly-coined cocktail names with both hilarious and disturbing descriptions awaiting you in the game. I think the developer did a good job of sprinkling in some fascinating background info about their setting as well. Tidbits about its history. Satan’s backstory. Some of the politics and policies that hold Hell together. Afterparty isn’t a long game – it will take about five hours to beat – but they still did enough to intrigue me about how exactly their version of the underworld operated.
These aspects make up a large part of the appeal of Afterparty. This is very much a story-driven experience. Most of the gameplay is simply about making dialogue decisions. Imbibing different drinks will give you a third dialogue option in most conversations. The type of drink determines what type of response gets added. Some seem to be there just there for laughs – like one that makes you talk like a pirate – while others may give you a confidence boost or up your flirting skills. There are multiple ways to handle various situations as well as points at which the story branches, giving players a reason to revisit the title after the credits roll. Beyond decision-making, the game features a trio of mini-games – beer pong, stacking and dancing – that are fun and fit in well thematically, but are utilized quite sparingly. I liked them, but by the time I got the feel for how they played, they were over. I wish they had popped up a little more often just to spice up the typical walking-and-talking.
And much like the lack of frequency with which they deploy those mini-games, I seem to have a small niggle with most aspects of Afterparty. Take the extra dialogue options available from drinking. Cool idea, but you can’t drink outside of bars, so convos outdoors seem more limited. Or how despite the fact that I love the look of the world they have created here, there isn’t much incentive to go anywhere other than your intended location. Going off the beaten path usually just leads you to a dead end. Perhaps being able to discover more lore or meet interesting side characters by exploring would have helped. The game features a striking artstyle, but its technical performance often leaves something to be desired. Finally, the game doesn’t always give you enough time to fully explore a conversation as you walk between key story junctures or locations unless you purposely slow your gait.
Despite these quibbles, I still really enjoyed my time with Afterparty. Its witty dialogue feels pretty unique among its gaming brethren (I’m pretty much in for whatever Night School does next based on the strength of the dialogue alone) and the story took some wild turns, so I was always excited to see where it would go next. Those looking for a new story-based game to sink their teeth into will find plenty to like and laugh about in Afterparty’s absurd scenario.
A few more things:
- I tried to avoid comparisons too much, but I did like Oxenfree better. It definitely handled giving the necessary space for the walk-and-talk mechanic better. But I think the big reasons why I preferred Oxenfree were that I liked the group dynamic of the friends better than just Milo and Lola (I think they really nailed the joking around between friends aspect perfectly in Oxenfree) and I just dug that spooky atmosphere it had so much.
- While I played it on PS4, Afterparty is on Xbox Game Pass. If you have that already, this is definitely worth a try at the very least!
- I did not see what would ultimately surround the climactic scenes coming at all! This game really did have some unexpected twists.
- The personal demon scenes were definitely a highlight of the game. Hilarious and really made me think about some of the decisions I had made.
- I definitely want to do another playthrough at some point, particularly to see one of the other endings and how two of the other branching paths play out. Maybe go for the platinum trophy too!