In the Fall of 2019 Night School Studio released Afterparty, the second game by the folks who brought us the highly praised title Oxenfree. Afterparty had players delve into a unique bar hopping version of Hell. The journey was bizarre, dark, funny, and creative. The setting had as much personality as the characters themselves. Playing through the story allows enough choice to invite a second playthrough, but when the credits roll, it’s hard not to wonder what wild fun a sequel could bring us. Not only does Afterparty deserve a play, but it also deserves a sequel, and here’s why.
The Setting is SO GOOD
Style = Tim Burton on Acid
For a lot of people, the visual setting of Afterparty is what they think about when they think of the game. It certainly was the main element that first caught my attention. The developers did a great job of making a world that both met and expanded on the player’s expectations of what a modern depiction of Hades would look like. A mix of Dante’s Inferno and Tim Burrton blend with neon, creating a world filled with demons enjoying a hellish urban nightlife.
While players can often choose between two destinations to complete a mission, there are only enough to allow for a minor divergence in players’ compared experiences. It would be great to see more of the islands across The Nine Realms (the official name of the underworld you explore). The best levels in the game took players to crowded clubs, and grungy dive bars. These locations felt great, but would really do well given more space and more characters to interact with. Expanding level size and scope would enhance the feeling of the late-night party crowd that the developers crafted.
The Lore of The Nine Realms
In Afterparty, players learn a surprising amount about the history and lore of Heaven and Hell, more than the plot actually addresses. Though some of the lore elements circle around for the game’s last scene, they are mostly unexplored. The lore is primarily about the past, and while it’s valuable as general world-building, the deities in the story don’t have much of a story arch. Interacting with more characters, visiting Heaven, or seeing more of The Nine Realms would all be welcome inclusions in a sequel.
Drinks, Bars, and “Bicker”
So much of the appeal of Afterparty comes from the simple joys of wandering through what seems to be an endless Friday night of bars. The setting is less about the location and more about feelings. You feel the music, the lights, the buzz, the energy of the nightlife. Whether you find the atmosphere oppressive or you revel in it, it’s there. Afterparty does little things to mix these elements into gameplay, like having players occasionally play beer pong, or have a dance-off. Players can also check their hell specific social media app, “Bicker.” These elements made for a great combo, but also have so much potential for expansion!
Bicker was something I got used to actually checking periodically, like a real social media app. It made the world seem bigger than it actually was, and it really drew you into the setting. Reading people talk about parties, late work hours, new drink specials, and local gossip made me want to see more of the street level character interactions. A bigger city with more locations would really help to fill the world that Bicker continuously eludes to.
Lucifer was not on-screen enough
Satan, of course, is an essential character in Afterparty. Though he is seen at a few points through the story and the game does end with the player competing against him, he was absent for a lot of the middle of the game. To me, the Lucifer character was one of the most interesting and entertaining non-player character in the game, and Dave Fennoy‘s performance begs for an encore. As with all of these criticisms, they stem from a love for the project, and a desire to see more of it. If a sequel is ever in the works, hopefully, we get more screen time with the charming sardonic “Lord of Hell.”
A Soundtrack from Heaven, Made for Hell
The original soundtrack for Afterparty somehow captured the energy of a club, with the grandiose scale of Biblical events. It’s part rave and part Catholic choir (organ included). It really has a character and a presence in the game, not just occasionally, but throughout the whole experience.
Afterparty should be in the same category as other games like Celeste, Shovel Knight, or Transistor that are praised for their soundtracks. You could easily play this OST at a Halloween party, and it would fit right in. If we are blessed with a sequel, the soundtrack’s artist scntfc, has to be involved with the music.
There Should be More Mini-Games
The “drink puzzles” should be a gameplay puzzle.
Drinking in Afterparty grants players unique personality changes. Want to be a flirt, there’s a drink for that. Need some liquid courage? They got it. Want to talk like a billionaire? Somehow they got that too. But the personalities you can adopt don’t feel like important puzzle elements when talking to NPCs, but rather just more flavor for the setting. Expanding on this game’s idea (especially with larger crowds and cities) could make for some incredible, contextual based puzzle solving. Bicker already gives light clues to players about location-specific data, why not make those clues more vital to beating the game?
The focus of Afterparty seemed to be to get the players to move through the world in a mostly linear fashion while giving them as much flavor and style as they could. This worked really well in the first title, though many locations in Hell made me WANT to wander away. Afterparty‘s setting is amazing, and It would be awesome if players could explore it more freely. Meeting lots of different kinds of people/demons and having to match drinks for the situation intentionally is an idea worth expanding on. You can do that now in the game, but again, it’s mostly for flavor, though it could be a compelling and original mini-game challenge.
Still Thirsty After Leaving the Beer Pong Table
Even if an Afterparty sequel didn’t change the drinking mechanics into more of a game, we should at least get more of the existing mini-games. For a title that’s elevator pitch is that it’s a game where you have to outdrink Satan, you don’t actually practice the drinking games that much. Though too many beer pong sessions or shot stacking competitions would get tedious, I felt I was still ready for a lot more when the credits rolled.
This article is, in some ways, a list of what Afterparty did right and just asking for more. But it’s also more than that. Afterparty is a game that holds many unique and cool ideas that are used sparingly, despite their larger potential. I will go back and replay the story with new paths, and I will enjoy myself. But I would love to see Night School Studio continue to expand their bizarre creative world. I think the dreamers and art lovers of the world would love it too.
Happy Gaming Friends!