As a fan of Night School Studio’s previous side-scroller hit Oxenfree, I was incredibly intrigued to try out their edgy-looking release Afterparty back in 2019. The trailer immediately sucks you in with its unique art style and impressive voice acting, with a plotline vaguely reminiscent of a hellish Superbad reference gone wrong.
You play as Milo and Lola, two recent college graduates who (unbeknownst to you) have somehow died and ended up in the fiery pits of hell. No biggie, right? As you anxiously meander through the underworld to learn more about your untimely demise, you’ll stumble upon a hilarious gaggle of demonic characters shrouded in a grimy, eccentric atmosphere that feels like New York City in the worst way. Ultimately, you learn that you can escape your fate by out-partying the big guy Satan himself. This challenge and the many subsequent stumbling blocks along your way propel you through an 8-hour journey to escape hell with your best buddy.
Afterparty gets several things right in terms of narrative and overall design, which is no surprise given their last artistic gem. Nearly every character feels solidly written and relevant to the overarching plot. All the voice actors do an incredible job giving life to their characters, but I felt like I caught myself laughing the most at Erin Yvette’s rendition of Wormhorn. It takes a noteworthy game to introduce to you a character that’s specifically designed to be annoying that you still end up caring for, even enjoying, by the end. The deep techno house music and creatively crafted, gargoyle-like NPCs build an environment that feels distinctively delightful, like if Brutal Legend got a modern-day reboot by some slimy college kids.
That being said, there are some elements of the game that I wish were utilized differently. Though the developers tease the idea of autonomy and individual choices impacting the overarching plot, these choices ultimately don’t feel as meaningful as they could be. For example, while I enjoyed the idea of drinking various cocktails with mood boosts to unlock different dialogue options, I don’t feel like the idea was utilized to its potential. I often found myself drinking bizarre mixed beverages just to ultimately dislike all the prompted dialogue or be essentially ignored by the NPCs.
Even with occasionally slow pacing and a lackluster ending, the writing and characters are so hilarious and engaging that I don’t really mind. I admire Night School Studio’s innovative and immersive storytelling, and I feel like they could have pushed the envelope even more with this game. Regardless, it’s still a delight with a decent amount of replay value. If you like Oxenfree, love comedies, or you’re itching to play beer pong with Lucifer, then this is the game for you.
Developer: Night School Studio
Publisher: Night School Studio
Platforms: Steam for PC/Mac, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release date: 29th October 2019