Afterparty is a game made by independent developers Night School studios. The game revolves around close friends, Milo and Lola, who find themselves in hell after mysterious deaths, where they learn the only way they can escape hell is by out drinking Satan.
I love the studio's previous game, Oxenfree. I found it uniquely charming, mysterious and gripping as I grew to care for the characters and wanted to see them escape the plight they found themselves in. Although both games are functionally and narratively similar, I didn’t care much for Afterparty.
Afterparty is a game I kinda had to force myself to finish (thank God it's only about 5 hours long). The game never engaged me on any emotional or intellectual level, and I struggled to really care about anything that was happening in the game as I played it. The game has brief flashes of fun; you get instructed to make a seemingly innocent man get a guilty verdict and you get chastised by a demon for the decisions you made, but even those are brief and far between. The repetitive drinking minigame that’s more frustrating than fun certainly does not help the game at all.
But it all falls flat when there's nothing to keep me truly invested in the game, and I feel like this is a problem that has been affecting adventure games recently. They sacrifice almost all gameplay at the altar of narrative but forgot to make a story or world that you actually care about.
I love adventure games. I have played most of the classic Lucasarts adventure games, I have a particular love of Grim Fandango and the first Monkey Island. I also love modern adventure games like the previously mentioned Oxenfree, Firewatch and What Remains of Edith Finch.
Throw any kind of adventure game from almost any year in my face and I can guarantee I’ll find something to enjoy in it. This is maybe the main reason why I forced myself to finish Afterparty as I love the genre so much. I had to go on and find something that I would genuinely like in the game, but as I got further and further, I found less and less to enjoy until it just kind of ended.
An easy and apt comparison to Afterparty especially in its presentation and setting would be Grim Fandango. Although Grim Fandango does not take place in hell, it does take place in the land of the dead, the place where souls go before they reach their final destination - whatever that may be. Grim Fandango pulls strongly from the iconography and culture of the Mexican day of the dead festival and classic noir films like Casablanca and Double Indemnity.
Grim Fandango establishes an extremely strong visual identity that could not be mistaken for anything else. The hell of Afterparty is bland, it's just a few bar ridden islands floating on lava with little to do and little to really look at, it is virtually indistinguishable from the hell of the Saints Row Gat Out of Hell although you could make a case for even that having a more interesting hellscape.
Afterparty has no real identity and the game would have greatly benefitted from a much stronger art direction.
Firewatch is one of my favourite games. It’s a deeply affecting game that draws you into its world through its sharp, charming writing and its beautiful world that you could spend hours just walking around aimlessly. You could argue that Firewatch has even less going on mechanically than Afterparty as you can really do little else besides walk and talk, occasionally you use items to get over obstacles, simple stuff. But it works so much better than Afterparty, Firewatch gets you immediately invested by having you make decisions that actually matter almost as soon as you hit play and the narrative is consistently tense and engaging. Firewatch works better than Afterparty through giving you a stronger sense of control over your characters and by getting you to actually enjoy spending time playing the game by giving you interesting people to talk to and interact with.
I don’t hate Afterparty, I like some sequences, characters, and its overall presentation but all in all it feels limp and lifeless despite its premise which should have almost guaranteed the game being a must play for fans of indie games. Despite that, I implore you to play Oxenfree, it's 4 hours long, wonderful, and usually cheap.
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