AfterParty is an attempt by Night School Studio to woo audiences like they did with Oxenfree. Before we get into AfterParty, I want to discuss what made Oxenfree so good for me and why I was left a bit disappointed with this one.
Why is Oxenfree so good?
Oxenfree relies on its mysterious aura, a group of characters with a backstory that doesn’t make much sense until the very end when things finally start to connect, characters that have scars that make them different from the rest and its rather unique and simple game mechanics.
With Oxenfree, there wasn’t a single moment where I thought when will this scene end so I can finally continue playing myself. The whole idea of a group of young people going to party on an island to escape from what’s happening back in life is something I’ve been wanting to experience for a long time and Oxenfree let me live that unexpectedly.
There was this scene on a beach where the characters are sitting near the tide, smoking and drinking away without things getting too wild. In fact, the way they let themselves go is pretty safe and tolerable. These aren’t your average high school kids who cause trouble.
That scene took me a long while to get over and I just felt I connected to the characters. The way they let off their steam is something I still can’t wait to experience once in my life.
Now let’s get back to AfterParty. When I found out that this game is from the creators of Oxenfree, I got way too excited and possibly expected too much right from the beginning.
I got to play the game because of Xbox Gamepass and because of that, I did not feel guilty when I put the game down without properly finishing it. Before we get into where AfterParty couldn’t find its direction, let’s see where it got things pretty right.
The good parts about AfterParty
It’s pretty clear that the artists spared no effort into creating an environment that was immersive and aesthetic at the same time. The take on Hell was something I can’t recall seeing anywhere else and for that, I’d give the creators of this game an award of its own for coming up with such a unique idea.
Normally you’d expect Hell to be on fire and there to be misery all around. In AfterParty’s Hell, it’s more like your average Joe’s gathering around after work and just letting out why their lives are so bad. The core elements of Hell are ingrained so much into the people’s lives that they just don’t care anymore.
People are walking around casually discussing how someone gets mutilated every day and whatnot. They are just used to everything now.
The objective of the game is to outdrink Satan and get back to Earth to resume life as it were before and that sounds very interesting. The only problem is that the events leading up to it aren’t very interesting.
The drinking minigames are pretty fun. The Beer Pong segment was one that I barely won and it kept the game interesting for another hour or so.
While I enjoy dialogue-driven games, it felt as if AfterParty had nothing much to offer than just dialogue. Walking Dead is one of my favorite games, but it does bring some action along with talking. Things move at a pace where there is a balance between listening and bonding with characters to you doing something with a controller.
The dialogue can be unnecessarily long. It references pop-culture elements and stuff you’d expect a certain kind of crowd to be more interested in. The ‘tweets’ that keep popping up around the game are not funny (mostly) and take effort to be understood. This could be because I don’t necessarily spend a lot of time watching Netflix/TV.
The controls are bland. In Oxenfree, there was a small, but important element of finding radio frequencies to interact with. In AfterParty, you just hold down the right trigger to drink.
You can’t play it for long sittings. The above things I mentioned make for some very idle and uninteresting sessions that just don’t last long. Nothing much happens and if there is someone sitting with you to watch you play, they won’t be seeing much happen except you drowsing off to sleep.
My verdict on the game
I’m glad I got to try it for free through Gamepass. AfterParty is undoubtedly a good idea, it’s just that its execution could have been better. The game just feels slow and I guess that’s a design choice. It won’t appeal to everyone and that’s fine.
While I didn’t particularly enjoy this piece from Night School Studio, I’d still give them a pat on the back for being different and trying to swim in unfamiliar territory. I’m actively looking forward to an Oxenfree 2 and I hope that the problems that came with AfterParty are adjusted before that game comes out, if ever.