Afterparty Preview - E3 2019
Having some shots with a few fellow demons
Every E3, I see a lot of familiar games. Not just the same franchises; even with new IPs, there are a lot of familiar themes and settings. Generic fantasy worlds, time-travel, space sims, crafting, hack-and-slash - it’s hard not to feel like I’ve seen it all sometimes. Then a game like Afterparty, the second title from Night School Studios, comes along and reminds me that I really haven’t.
Afterparty is a game where you play as Lola and Milo, two recent college grads whose untimely death has led them to the underworld, more specifically, to Hell. Now, in order to escape, they have to drink their way out of Hell, out-partying the Lord of Lies/Partying himself, Satan.
Video games have always had a weird relationship with alcohol. In most games, drinking might offer some minor benefits, but usually, games turn the motion blur way up and make the controls clumsy. Few titles truly simulate that feeling of partying, that idea of starting the night out doing shots at home or ordering a beer in a bar and then slowly watching the events spiral out of control. You go from party, to bar, to party, doing a drink of this, a hit of that, playing a drinking game with someone you just randomly met, exchanging numbers with someone you never intend to see again, and waking up the next morning with a series of dumb stories to tell.
To be honest, my partying days are largely behind me. These days, I’m usually in bed before midnight and the most I tend to drink is a couple of glasses of wine when I’m having dinner with friends or family. But I still enjoy the stories I can tell from my wilder days. Stories that start out, “Oh, let me tell you about the time Bow Wow poured me champagne in a club...” or “Let me tell you about the time I got $200 worth of free drinks in Vegas…” While Afterparty is obviously an extreme version of those stories, it channels that same energy at its core.
At the beginning of the game, Milo and Lola have been ferried to an area of Hell called 1st and Izzard by a demon named Sam. It’s all very gloomy and rundown in appearance, but the energy feels like that of a party street in a college town. A couple of damned souls have been hung by the neck and tell bad jokes as you pass by. Demons stand together in packs like groups of friends, heckling the humans.
Sam exchanges a greeting with the bar owner and gets Lola and Milo into a bar where a human is having their death-day party in an upstairs VIP room. While Sam is invited up right away, Lola and Milo get blocked by the bouncer and have to find a way to get up there. Luckily, Tom, the deathday boy, comes downstairs with a demon friend and orders a drink at the bar.
Milo and Lola do a shot with Tom and his demon friend, then order another drink off the menu. Drinking in Afterparty is the main mechanic as the drinks will open up dialogue options for both Milo and Lola. Every time you down a drink a meter comes up that shows how long you’ll have until the effects wear off; during that time you’ll have specific dialogue choices available based on the drink you chose. Some consumables will make you a mean drunk, others will make you a little more charismatic.
It’s also important to point out that you can’t flip between Milo and Lola at will, as the two leads take turns being the player-controlled character depending on the story and the actions being taken. So when Milo decides that he wants to challenge Tom to beer pong, you’ll play as him - then, when Tom’s demon friend mouths off to Lola, you automatically switch to her to respond.
The tone of the game is similar to that of the hit NBC show, The Good Place, another comedy about the afterlife. Hell isn’t so much an evil place as much as it's a place of monotony and douchebaggery. The demons torture humans, but it’s all treated like a 9-5 job that no one really enjoys. However, as opposed to The Good Place, Afterparty is definitely on the more extreme end of the interpretation, with more swearing and M-rated behavior.
If you’ve played Night School’s previous game Oxenfree, you might feel like you know what to expect. Oxenfree was a narrative-driven game where the majority of mechanics were built around the dialogue options. That is still the main mechanic in Afterparty, but there are more interactive moments. For instance, when you play beer pong with Tom and his friend, it turns into a little mini-game where you have to aim the ball at the cup using the analog sticks.
After playing beer pong (which was actually blood pong because the drink was the blood of loud eaters), Lola and Milo talk their ways upstairs by dealing out some trash talk that impresses Tom. Tom gets them on the list to his party and they finally get upstairs to find Sam. Once they do, Sam explains the premise: the only way to escape Hell is to get to Satan’s mansion and out-party him. Which is pretty great as far as video game scenarios go.
My time with Afterparty largely reinforced my initial interest in the game. Afterparty feels like the kind of thing that Tim Schafer or Ron Gilbert might have dreamed up in the golden age of comedy adventure games, and I’m excited to finally play it this year. Afterparty is planned for launch in 2019.