I’ve rarely been sold quicker on the premise of a game than when I first sat in a room with the Sean Krankel and Adam Hines of Night School Studio back in March 2015 and they pitched me on Oxenfree. “It’s a point-and-click adventure with a tone of Freaks and Geeks meets Poltergeist, but we want to incorporate the idea of an Aaron Sorkin ‘walk and talk’ as a mechanic.” Sold.
Cut to two years later, and I was sitting in the exact same room at IGN with Sean and Adam once again, ready to hear what their next game was. Well, I’m happy to say that their pitch for Afterparty left me with that exact same assured excitement that I had for Oxenfree.
Lola and Milo, a pair of platonic best friends who’ve spent pretty much every waking moment of their lives together, finally have to come to terms with the fact that college is ending, and their futures are taking them in different directions. Fortunately (unfortunately?), before that can happen, they both unexpectedly die together, only to find themselves in Hell’s equivalent of a DMV line, waiting to be processed for their sins. Problem is, they have no idea what they did wrong to deserve a place among the liars, thieves, and murderers around them. While trying to figure this out, they learn that one of the only ways out of Hell is to best Satan himself (described to me as “Rocky Horror Kanye West”) in a drinking contest.
Thus begins Afterparty, an adventure game set around one debaucherous night of a pub crawl in Hell where your ultimate goal is to make it to Satan’s exclusive afterparty, convince him to challenge you to a drink-off, and then subsequently defeat the Prince of Darkness in said drink-off. If you were looking at a mood board, think an amalgam of Superbad, Rick and Morty, Beetlejuice, and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.
As you wander the streets of Hell, you pass through neighborhoods that pull inspiration from religions and denominations across the world. They all together, with the water-taxi-filled River Styx cutting through the whole thing. When you decide to enter one of Afterparty’s bars, the camera will swing around and show you a cross-section of the establishment, turning the view inside into something much more akin to a traditional adventure game.
The team wants to make drinking a primary verb in the game.
Once inside, Lola and Milo (you’ll hop between the two as you progress in your night) have the agency to do exactly the kinds of stuff you’d imagine you could do in a bar. Saddle up to a stool near the bartender and start chatting the demon up. Wander to the back and mingle with the creatures waiting in line for the bathroom. Step up to the makeshift stage, grab the microphone, and start belting out your best/worst karaoke. Challenge a group of demonic bikers to a game of beer pong.
Afterparty aims to fill each and every bar with its own beer-soaked ecosystem of sights, sounds, characters, and activities, all of which funnel together to flesh out the world and push Milo and Lolo’s story forward.
Given the game’s themes, the team wants to make drinking a primary verb at your disposal. If the top three face buttons represent different dialogue choices, then the bottom button will always be designated to drinking. Like how Telltale allowed Lee’s silence in The Walking Dead to speak volumes, sometimes the only response that makes sense in a conversation is to take a sip of whatever might be in your hand at that moment. And that “whatever” is also important — in Afterparty, much like real life, what you drink will have very different outcomes.
Different drinks will give you different forms of liquid courage. One might lower your inhibitions and make you think that climbing on top of the bar is a good idea. One might give you the confidence to talk to that one demon you’ve had your eye on all night. Another might sharpen your wit, allowing you to gain an in with a group of otherwise-intimidating patrons. The team wants to encourage experimentation and have the story and situations adapt to your decisions, allowing each player to have an authorship over the way their night goes.
There’s something about bars that just speak to me. Maybe it’s because they’ve been a focal point of society since the very invention of the city. Maybe it’s because video games don’t often explore their nuances, historical significance, and dangerous therapeutic power (save for rare examples like Grim Fandango and Catherine). Maybe it’s because I host pub trivia twice a week. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer. Maybe it’s because, full disclosure, I wrote most of this preview at a bar.
It’s probably safe to say that come 2019, this will be our medium’s first classic coming of age “this is going to be the best night ever” story set in a neon version of Hell, with the heart of a classic LucasArts adventure game and the liver of that one lonely guy at the far end of the bar who looks like he’s seen some stuff. And I’m fully on board with that.
Marty Sliva is a Executive Editor at IGN. A girl he was dating once stepped on his PlayStation 4, and now he no longer owns PT. But don’t worry, they broke up. Follow him on Twitter @McBiggitty.