Milo and Lola aren’t sure how they died — one minute they were chatting with their fellow college grads at a party then, zap! — or why they’ve ended up in hell, but they adapt quickly. Looking for an escape plan, they learn that if they can best Satan in a drinking contest they’ll win their liberty. And so begins a pub crawl in which the kids, sorry, I mean the recently-certified adults, get involved in a whole lot of tomfoolery. Before the night is over Milo and Lola will, among other things, commit themselves to a bad impersonation, instigate a fight and cut past lots of people waiting to get into a party. They’ll also suffer the occasional interruption from their personal demon Sister Mary Wormhorn whose job, naturally, is to remind them of difficult memories. Wormhorn is batty and overeager, but like the rest of Hell’s denizens she keeps her routines short.
To everyone’s good fortune, Milo, a people pleaser, and Lola, the one who will tell you that your tastes are too commercial, have Sam (voiced by the talented Ashly Burch) to ferry them across lava on her boat from place to place and deliver clipped exposition. Without the burden of responsibility, Milo and Lola can, and really should, drink all manner of concoctions since they impart extra dialogue options. Hell is a repository of drinks with names such as Famous Last Words (“menthol, colored solvents, with a touch of sugar; slightly more enjoyable than death”) and the Headless Groom (“orange rum; melted chocolate; catholic guilt; twisty straws for mild enjoyment”). There are drinks that will boost the characters’ courage, as well as to make them more flirty, more obnoxious or more inclined to speak like someone out of a 1940s Hollywood noir film.
“Afterparty” is the second game from Nighschool Studio. Like their previous game “Oxenfree,” “Afterparty” feels like a marriage of graphic novels, animated films and video games. Playing it mostly involves walking around and talking to people. Though occasionally Milo and Lola might be called upon to dance, play beer pong or to try to stack shot glasses on top of each other, these are low pressure activities that don’t carry the threat of a game over screen. Indeed, “Afterparty” provides a breezy, frictionless experience that lasts about as long as a good party (four or five hours).
Chatting with the characters you get the feeling that everyone is trying extra hard to deliver their snappiest lines. The reference-heavy humor pulls in everything from Schopenhauer to “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” to 90s-era cartoons. The approach is scattershot but not grating. In contrast with Milo and Lola’s vigor, the demons come across as weary, working stiffs. For example, after hopping in and out of cages operated by elevator demons to ascend the cliffs outside of Satan’s house, Milo asks the third elevator demon, “Why didn’t Satan make more stairs?” to which the demon replies, “Because Satan likes to keep demons employed.” Khoi Dao (Milo) and Janina Gavankar (Lola) are gifted vocal actors and their banter flows. Of course, not every joke hits, but a good number do. I’m surely not the only person that started a new game after the credits rolled because I wanted to see how the night could have turned out differently.
“Afterparty” ably emulates the manic tempo of being young, smart (and stupid) and having a wild night out. #noregrets
Christopher Byrd is a Brooklyn-based writer. His work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the New Yorker and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Byrd.
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