As a chronically anxious person, there’s a saying I’ve heard at various points throughout my life, “Never take life too seriously, no one makes it out alive.” In Night School’s Afterparty, it turns out death is fairly similar. Afterparty is a neon fever dream atop an unapologetically dark nightmare; a reimagining of Hell in which every religion is partially true, yet completely off-base. It’s a house party filled entirely with the people you love to hate and hate to love. And it’s funny as hell, pun very much intended.
The second I discovered it would be at PAX East, Afterparty became the game I was most excited to play. In addition to my anxiety making me a natural target to receive aforementioned platitudes, its unrelinquishing power over me has drawn me to both people and media that can see the humor in the darkest of situations. It’s for this particular reason, as well as the stellar art, that Afterparty appealed to me, and I’m pleased to say my anticipation was validated.
The demo begins with Milo and Lola, two twenty-somethings fresh out of college and even fresher to the grave, being introduced to the underbelly of the underworld. While the reason for their untimely demise remains unclear, their objective is as straightforward as it is impossible- return to the land of the living and resume their abruptly halted lives. The duo is led around by Sam, a seasoned veteran of Hell who helps the pair navigate the neon-flooded streets until they reach their destination: a loud bar filled with even louder personalities.
Once at the bar, Sam quickly leaves the two to fend for themselves as she makes her way upstairs to attend a “deathday” party for a man named Tommy. We then follow the protagonists as they interact with various characters in the bar in an attempt to get their names added to the list for the rager taking place upstairs. For the next fifteen minutes, you drink absurdly named liquors (each one invoking a different mood that unlocks various dialogue choices), play a few rounds of blood pong, and meet various demons and dead folk. While these interactions could feel dull or pointless in some games, the combination of varied voice acting and fantastic Gorillaz-esque character design make the bar’s patrons feel multidimensional; like they shape the world rather than just inhabit it.
Eventually, none other than Tommy himself descends from the party upstairs to visit the lower bar. Milo and Lola are quick to use this as an opportunity to woo Tommy, who by all accounts, seems incredibly kind and genuine compared to everyone else you’ve encountered. However, the game is quick to teach us that looks can be deceiving. In a macabre twist, it is revealed that the ever-so-charming Tommy is actually an infamous serial killer known for murdering nearly twenty young men. It’s this instance that showcases what Afterparty is already doing so well- it goes there. Now, saying that, I feel I must also say I feel there are plenty of places a game or piece of media shouldn’t necessarily always go, as navigating those conversations can be tricky. However, at this point, Afterparty comes across as both genuine and humorous, and I am incredibly excited to explore the underworld and the stories it holds when the game is released later this year.