Afterparty Review

Dan Webb

In 2016 when Oxenfree hit consoles, Night School instantly jumped into my list of studios to keep an eye on. It was mysterious and full of intrigue, while at the same time supported by some savvy dialogue and a story that you just couldn’t put down. It was the video game equivalent of a good book, with gripping page turning moments and twists to boot. Afterparty, Night School’s follow-up (if you don’t count the Mr Robot mobile app, which we don’t) unfortunately, is a bit of a damp squib. Compared to Oxenfree, it's a real disappointment.

In Afterparty you play as best friends, Milo and Lola, who inadvertently find themselves in the depths of Hell with one thing on their minds: to escape. And in typical jovial nature, the only way to do that is to outdrink the Lord of the Underworld himself, Satan. While Oxenfree focused on mysteries from the beyond, Afterparty opts for a sort of juvenile, almost comedic romp along the banks of the River Styx. Tonally, then, the two games are polar opposites, and although the scope for Afterparty to add thought-provoking and compelling twists throughout still exists, the problem is they never deliver on the promises they setup. From beginning to end, Night Party shrouds Milo and Lola’s death and why they’re in Hell in mystery, but when it comes to the payoff, it falls incredibly short.

Playing as two characters in Afterparty also seems to have an adverse effect on the quality of the experience. In Oxenfree you played as Alex, you crafted relationships, got to know and love – or hate – your companions who were dotted throughout your journey In Afterparty, though, it feels odd playing both sides on the main – and possibly only – relationship. Well, the only meaningful relationships. Night School presents you with options to befriend a whole host of characters throughout the game’s 5-hour or so story, but they’re all either demons or in Hell, so they’re not exactly likeable characters.

Credit where credit is due, though, Night School has still amply demonstrated its ability to create likeable, and more importantly, hand-crafted realistic human characters. The relationship between Milo and Lola is honestly the only thing that will keep players going. That, and the typically excellent dialogue and the fluency at which you experience it. My problem – well, aside from the aforementioned problems, of course – is that Afterparty just isn’t that much fun, narrative aside. I spent a lot – and I mean a lot – of my time in-game traipsing back and forth from objective to objective, playing some lame and inane mini-games, and one of the main mechanics – whereby you drink alcohol to give you new dialogue options – actually starts to feel rather tedious after a few hours.

The one thing that Afterparty did manage to nail that Oxenfree also nailed was how bloody buggy it was. The frame-rate issues aside – which are numerous to say the least – the game is let down by characters talking over one another and dialogue being unintentionally cut short. But worst of all is the bugs, one of which had me restarting the game after half an hour because of a game breaking glitch that locked me in a bar with no options to pursue. Another put an NPC in front of my character during a Simon Says style dance-off, which meant I couldn’t see the button prompts above my head. Just brilliant.

You would be forgiven for thinking that I don’t actually like Afterparty, but weirdly I still do. In fact, I think it’s a pretty serviceable game – well, aside from the bugs and frame-rate issues, something that held Oxenfree back from greatness – and one that I enjoyed for the most part thanks to the witty dialogue and absorbing relationship between Milo and Lola. Compared to Oxenfree, however, Afterparty can’t hold a candle to it.

Still, if you enjoy some fairly well-written dialogue, complicated relationships between multi-dimensional characters and enjoyed the fluency of Oxenfree’s dialogue, you may well enjoy Afterparty. It won’t take long before Night School’s Oxenfree follow-up is merely an Afterthought, though.

Afterparty

Afterparty is a disappointing follow-up to Oxenfree, one held up from being an absolute car crash thanks to two wonderfully written protagonists and some crackling dialogue between the two. With lame mini-games, bugs galore, and a story that promises so much and delivers so little, Afterparty will be an Afterthought in no-time at all.

Form widget
60%
Audio
80%

Audio bugs aside, Afterparty’s voice cast – and its score – do a bang-up job from beginning to end.

Visuals
60%

The colourful and vibrant nature of Hell is offset by the sheer amount of frame-rate issues and bugs.

Playability
60%

Most of the time you’ll just be holding either way on one of the sticks, or waiting for the screen to stop wobbling for having a sip of alcohol. Functional sums the controls up perfectly.

Delivery
60%

Buggy, inane mini-games and a story that never really offers any pay-offs. Don’t get me wrong, Milo and Lola are great, but everything else about Afterparty – its story included – is not.

Achievements
60%

They’re okay, but you’ll be doing far too many playthroughs if you want to grab them all.

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