Developer: Night School Studio
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Night School Studio, featuring former developers from the defunct-but-now-resurrected Telltale Games, have brought us once again another story-driven side-scrolling adventure akin to a “walk and talk” simulator. I know that’s not necessarily a sub-genre yet, but for the purpose of this review, that’s what we’re going to call it!
By no means should that be a knock on the game, much less the gameplay. The game itself is a great character-development adventure. The object of the game puts you in control of two recent college graduates Milo and Lola, at a graduation party when suddenly, they die and go to hell. As to how they die, much less the reasoning why they go straight to hell isn’t immediately known to us, both characters are in for quite a revelation into how they can get out and get back to the living; beat Satan in a drinking contest.
Both characters Milo (voiced by Khoi Dao) and Lola (voiced by Jania Gavankar) have a complicated but close friendship, and their relationship with each other will be put to the test throughout the game. As you walk throughout the various stages and levels of the game, or Hell, you get engrossed in the lore. Hell isn’t so bad; everything is free, everyone can party all the time, and there are a wide array of different types of demons and humans you can interact with. So long as you don’t mind sitting in ridiculously long lines and waits to get into places, working as a drone in various jobs around Hell, or being slaves to the social media platform “Bicker.” Hell is almost personified in this game, well, like the atmosphere of college or high school. Graphically it isn’t much to look at, but that’s not the focal piece of the game. The focus is on the lore, and characters.
Milo and Lola encounter a wide array of demons, like Sam (voiced by Ashley Burch) and their very own personal demon Sister Mary Wormhorn (voiced by Erin Yvette) who hounds and caustically berates you throughout the game, and every choice you make in the game. She is also very good at attempting to drive a wedge between Milo and Lola’s relationship, to which she does many times throughout. And let’s not forget Satan himself, voiced by of course David Fennoy. An overconfident, but weak and vulnerable character. Yes, I’m talking about Satan, Lord of Darkness there!
Every voice actor in the game delivers great delivery and often times hilarious lines that make you just want to sit around and listen to the off-conversations happening on the street (like an exchange between two pirates, or a guy that hits on a girl by telling stories about himself pulled from Harrison Ford movies). You’re given two choices in conversation to say to people, one nice and one maybe not-so-nice, but there is a third option that pops up ONLY when you drink, and this is the mechanic that really shows what Afterparty is about. Most everywhere you go to in this game is either a club/bar/restaurant/house party/sex-dungeon, and you get the option to pick a drink, each drink having its’ own attribute. Some of the drinks have great names and features, like Famous Last Words or Literally Acid (it’s described as “yes, it’s literally acid”). Each drink gives you a different attribute that will either embolden you in conversation, turn you into a comedian, or just chill you out. It’s not too important which drink you choose for which situation and character interaction, but it does unlock different reactions depending on the character you’re talking to.
There is an occasional mini-game, like a dance off or the drinking game Jacob’s Ladder, but that’s it besides the “walk and talk simulator” mechanic. There are occasional framerate hiccups when you’re starting scenes, or even in the middle of conversations. It’s not game-breaking, however.
Overall, throughout your 5-6 hour journey, it is an enjoyable trek through Hell, and through its’ many minions. There were quite a few lines and conversations that had me laugh out loud, kudos to the writers and voice actors for delivering their lines very well. Toward the end of the game the story does take a turn and you’re almost shocked at how things are in Hell, and with all its’ characters and their stories. There are multiple branching paths, and of course more than one ending, so the opportunities for different styles of playthroughs are there for you. Not much graphically to look at, but I’m sure you’ll be drawn in to the characters you meet, the lore, and your disgust for Sister Mary Wormhorn.
Admittedly though, she was acted so well by Erin.
Great voice acting
Good story and lore
Branching paths and conversations
Occasional framerate issues
Images used from nightschoolstudio.com Press Kit