Platforms: PC (Early Access)
Reviewed On: PC
Developers: Pinokl Games
Publisher: Tiny Build Games
Preview code supplied free of charge by the publisher
In Party Hard Tycoon your job is to run a business planning and hosting kickass parties across a variety of locations from abandoned buildings to tiny clubs to tropical beaches and even lavish casinos. Launching on October 19th as an Early Access title this is the game that finally lets you live out your dreams of picking out which absurdly large speaker to use. Hint: the biggest one.
The basics go a bit like this; you choose one of your available unlocked locations, pick a theme for the party that matches the locale, select some personnel to take with you and then proceed to spend your cash on speakers, food, drink, decor and lighting in order to keep the guests lining up to pay the entry fee and then spend the rest of their cash on booze, food or even arcade machines. If you succeed in pleasing the droves of strange people who venture into your little shindig then you’ll not only get more cash to host better parties but will also gain fans.
It sounds so easy, but despite actually being a fairly shallow game once you get the hang of things, initially figuring everything out can be a bit frustrating. There’s a tutorial included but it glosses over a number of things, such as what fans are actually for or what some of the iconography means. Sure, the game explains how different colors of fan indicate their relative wealth, but it doesn’t tell you if more fans automatically means higher attendance rates or more hype or what. There’s also some issues in the user interface itself like when some items get a helpful description about what sort of parties they suit while others simply don’t. Figuring out how decor can work is worse, since once again only some get a description while others simply have a chair icon with a plus or minus number attached to them which would presumably indicate how much they improve your party except that some things that would seem to match perfectly get a minus, and some that seem like a stupid choice have a plus. Oh, and when you move decor items close together a green or red line that looks like electricity will connect them, and the game never bothers to explain what it is. It’s just a way of stopping you spamming decor items, as it turns out.
So yeah, there are problems and yet somehow the game still manages to win you over with its simple visuals and appealing gameplay. Key to getting started in the party planning business is understanding that hype is both your friend and your enemy. It’s tempting to pick a theme with the highest hype simply to draw in people and get them excited, but if you have too much hype and can’t deliver the equipment, location and decor to match then people will walk away disappointed which loses you fans and doesn’t get you as many likes on social media. You have to keep hype and cost balanced, slowly working up to the bigger venues and themes.
To get those new venues, themes and even personnel you need to get more and more likes from those who visit your parties which in turn lets you level up. Every time you go up a rank you get to choose one of three rewards, like maybe an upmarket club or a bouncer to help keep people in check or a special performer who hypes the crowd up, or even someone who lures party-goers to a specific spot where you’ve put lots of food and drink for them to buy. You can only take three people with you to any party which could have been a more important part of the game, but too often I felt like the staff I took didn’t make a huge difference in the long run.
Getting more into the numbers behind things, venues determine the amount of people you can fit into your party at any given time and how much electricity you’ve got play with, so while some places will let you go nuts with lights and speakers, others will force you to make the most of what you have. As for the themes they set the hype level and must be matched to the location, because after all a fancy cocktail theme generally won’t go over well when hosted in an abandoned train station. Whatever theme you opt for also determines how much your guests will spend while in the venue, so you need to ensure that any drinks, food, vending machines, hot dog vans and other assorted nonsense aren’t too pricey for their tastes.
Another thing to consider is the calendar as certain days will only allow certain locations to be booked, so you might get a lot of green days that represent the cheapest venues or a bunch of higher grade yellows. Some days will also provide bonuses or penalties, but while it may be tempting to fast forward to idea days every day you don’t throw a party loses you fans.
As you play you’ll also get messages from a variety of strange characters who all have things they want you to do in order to gain rewards, and I like that you’ve really got to think about whether to accept them or not as some will likely lose you a lot of money and the end reward may not be worth it. However, one frustrating thing is that you’ll often get missions that need themes or locations you simply don’t have and since getting them through the reward system is based on luck it feels like you’re being punished for something outside of your control.
The equipment you purchase along the way changes based on the grade of location you’re setting up the party at, but it’s all basically the same stuff with cosmetic changes and higher price tags. Interestingly purchased gear stays at a locale until you opt to sell it, and this is key because it lets you build up a place over time, although eventually some equipment does degrade over time and will need to be replaced. The better the stuff you use the more impressed your party-goers will be. However, there are going to be times when you want to just sell everything at a venue, perhaps to invest a chunk of cash somewhere else that you believe may provide better prospects, so it’s a bit annoying that to sell things you first have to go through the process of picking a theme and personnel and then jumping into the party editor. A way to sell your equipment quickly from the main city overview would have been greatly appreciated.
I mentioned personnel there, so that brings us to another potential problem; micromanaging staff. Some of it makes perfect sense like directing your security toward a fight or choosing when a member of staff will put on a show to draw the crowd towards the bar, but when it comes to constantly having to tell your waiter to fill the tables it’s a bit annoying. I found I spent most of my time clicking on the “supply all” button. You can aid this by bringing along a server to augment the single waiter you always get by default, except the server seems to be a bit useless at his job. Still, from a design perspective, I think the developers were simply trying to give the player something to do while the party is going on other than merely watching, so you have to click a few staff around and turn the light shows back on when their cooldown periods are over. Simple stuff, but at least it keeps you engaged.
Once you get into the swing of things, though, the game becomes surprisingly good fun, and while the repetitive music might begin to grate after an hour or two simply watching your guests can be rather enjoyable. Why is Darth Vader strutting his stuff? No idea! But there’s Hulk Hogan in your staff, and the waiter looks like Count Dracula. Then there’s naked men causing problems, cyberpunk looking folk and guests who seem to have stumbled off the set of Mad Max. It’s a hodgepodge of references. It’s just a shame that the graphics don’t change to match the selected theme, so even if you throw a foam party there’s no foam and a fancy cocktail night still has weird dance music and people dressing in Darth Vader outfits. Some visuals changes based on your chosen party type would have been greatly appreciated.
Your strange guests can even fall in love with each other, and indeed can even be encouraged to do so by taking a special member of staff with you who plays matchmaker. Exactly what difference people falling in love makes I’m not entirely sure, although I think it just means they spend a bit more cash.
At the end of the day Party Hard Tycoon is a rough-around-the-edges tycoon game that may be too shallow for lovers of the tycoon genre. Yet despite its many problems I actually had a lot of fun playing it. It’s too easy to get into a pattern once you figure out what works as there’s not enough thrown in to really make you change up your style, but it has a surprising amount of charm and feels like it was made by passionate people.
Wait. Hold on. That’s not the end of the review. It’s only in Early Access….
Well, that complicates things. With more development time and the feedback Steam users should be able to bring this is a game with a lot of promise and room for growth. Hell, by all accounts it’s in much better shape than many titles that have been in Early Access for freaking ages, so it has that going for it. If you enjoy lighter tycoon games I think this one is going to be worth playing provided the Early Access price isn’t too bad. And if Early Access isn’t your thing then keep an eye on this one leading up to its full release.