Afterparty: One Hell of a Good Time
Getting out of the underworld can be fun
I didn’t know exactly what to expect upon hearing that Night School Studio’s second game would be about beating Satan at drinking games. It didn’t matter, really; I was sold on whatever they were doing after finishing their first game, the atmospheric and creepy Oxenfree.
That confidence was well-founded, as it turns out. Though Afterparty is surely a niche title, it represents that niche quite well and contains some of the best voice acting in all gaming, full stop.
Somewhere between a point-n-click adventure game and a walking simulator, Afterparty is all about plot and dialogue. Players take the roles of Milo and Lola, two friends who suddenly find themselves in the afterlife, or more specifically, Hell. As the pair try to get their bearings and figure out how they landed in the Underworld, they learn of a loophole for getting back to their lives. To wit, they must beat Satan in a drinking contest. Win, and they’re back to their regular corporeal selves on Earth. Lose, and, well… they never really elaborate, but it’s probably nothing good.
Thusly, the plot of the game is set in motion. The rest of the experience revolves around finding out how to get an audience with Satan and then getting him to engage Milo and Lola in the contest with so much at stake. Along the way, the two protagonists will meet several colorful characters and reveal a lot about their own friendship, through and with the help of those inhabitants of Hell.
I’m fairly certain that, despite the numerous depictions of Hell in gaming, there’s never been one quite like this. Whether it's the processing center where Milo and Lola are assigned their personal demon, the various islands they must visit along the way, or Satan’s house itself, Hell is actually filled with bars, clubs, and lots of neon. The various locales in the underworld are actually one of the game’s main attractions, as they are all lovingly designed and worth a few minutes of staring at the screen to absorb it all.
Since this is a game revolving around drinking, nearly every place the pair visits has a bar, wherein they can order a variety of hilarious and often disgusting drinks, all described in too much detail. These drinks fall into various categories such as “Liquid Courage”, “Pirate Captain”, and “Flirty Floozy”. Have one of those in hand and take a drink during one of the many conversations in which you will engage, and a new dialogue option will pop up, in the vein of the drink’s category. Think of them as power-ups, to fit the style you want to play. You can be a jerk, the life of the party, or something in between.
The dialogue choices are where the game implements its branching narrative and adds in a bit of replayability. As the veteran of but one playthrough at the time of writing, it's impossible for me to say exactly how much divergence exists. What is clear is that the plot always involves Milo and Lola having to find a way into Satan’s house party, then get two of His siblings to sign off on the drinking contest, at which point the pair can return and take on the leader of the underworld. There are a few choices along the way, as far as how they get to see Satan, who they choose to hit up for permission to proceed, and a few others I don’t want to spoil.
There is no actual combat in the game, but that’s not to say there are no adversarial matchups. Conversations themselves take the form of verbal jousting, with the drink-induced optional dialogue choices adding to the strategy. And of course, there are dance battles, beer pong, and traditional glass stacking, because of course there are.
All of this is window dressing, however, for the real treat that the developer has for its fans. The cast, and the corresponding performances, are excellent without exception. Ashley Burch is immediately recognizable as Sam, the lake of fire cab driver with whom you actually spend the most time of anyone in the game. Dave Fennoy is his usual mesmerizing self, playing Satan with both jocularity and absolute menace at the same time.
Janina Gavankar and Khoi Dao, Lola and Milo respectively, carry the bulk of the performative load with aplomb, giving their characters the appropriate incredulity at the situation while making them feel familiar and lived-in, the way old friends would be. Sarah Elmaleh as Apollyon is one of my favorite performances, at turns sarcastic and empathetic, and she carries much of the emotional weight in the late scenes of the game. Not a single performance is mailed in, and even the acting of the various side characters that you pass as you walk through the streets of Hell’s various districts is excellent.
Special applause is deserved for the writers at the studio, as the script for the game is absolutely fantastic. The game is laugh-out-loud funny, incredibly witty, wry and sarcastic, and unexpected in all the right ways. Any game that can work in a mention of the 2006 Stanley Cup Championship is a winner in my book. It’s worth a second playthrough just to make sure you don’t miss any verbal gems, trust me.
There’s even a truly wonderful sendup of Twitter built into the game, known appropriately as Bicker. As you walk, Bicker messages (Beets?) will pop up on-screen from people that you pass, commenting on everything from your company to your looks. It is so very on-point and a wonderful bit of satire among all the other social commentary that is writ large in the script.
The only quibble I have with the game is that there are brief periods where Milo and Lola are walking to and fro and it just feels empty. There’s no talking, no one on the streets, and all is quiet. This may be intentional, and I believe it is a testament to the quality of the acting that I didn’t want a bit of peace, but it is noticeable even in its rarity. But if that is the worst thing I can say about a game, then that is a very good day at the office indeed.
This game is a must-play, recommended without hesitation for those who prefer their games on the cerebral side and their dialogue choices saucy. The adventures of Milo and Lola are worth taking at least once, and you might just find yourself missing the characters you meet once it’s over.
Sign in or become a SUPERJUMP member to join the conversation.