Some of the best ‘tycoon’ games put you in tough spots and force you to make decisions. Theme Hospital and Theme Park would ask you to make choices about what items you wanted to buy and where you wanted to place them whilst also asking you to take care of hiring staff and dealing with events, like flu pandemics or broken down rides before they got out of hand.
Party Hard Tycoon is aiming to capture that Theme Hospital vibe here. It asks you plan a party, get the right equipment, food and entertainers into the right venue and then place them accordingly so your bash goes off without a hitch. Sadly, the game is littered with problems, the worst being that there’s no interesting decisions to make and throwing parties isn’t as fun as curing someone of ‘Bloaty Head’.
Some positives firstly though. Party Hard Tycoon sure has a style to it, similar to the developer’s previous game ‘Party Hard’. The characters are tiny, pixelated caricatures that are pretty recognizable even though they’re barely larger than 20 pixels tall. Punk rockers, the members of The Village People and a whole host of pop culture icons are recognisable as they rock up to your rocking party.
The loading screens also contain some lush visuals and the music is pretty good too. Which is handy given that this is a game all about partying, where music is vital, and also given the fact that you’ll be hearing the same tracks quite a few times over.
It’s a setup
So the setup is that you’re a party planner, new to the scene, and you’re looking to make a name for yourself. You set about doing this by… planning parties, obviously. You’ll start with small venues, like houses and rundown squats where only 10 or 20 people will show up.
Along the way, you’ll get some messages from random people who are all about partying and will want you to throw a shindig that meets their certain criteria. For example, some woman wanted me to throw a party that had 2 laser projectors installed at the venue whilst another time a Rastafarian chap wanted me to throw a reggae-themed party that had 4 dining room tables placed for the party goers.
You see, these challenges aren’t really complicated and they don’t force you to do anything ‘exciting’. Placing laser projectors and dining room tables is all about clicking twice and making sure you have enough money to buy the items in question. They don’t really change anything.
Which can be said of pretty much every decision you make in this game. Sure, you’re tasked with hiring a venue, selecting a theme and then hiring three members of staff to help you with the party, but these decisions aren’t interesting. They all make basic sense – if you’re hiring a rundown squat, a punk theme will be good. If you’re hiring a fancy country house, maybe a more ‘classical’ theme would be better suited? The obvious answer is yes.
You’re then also asked to place some decorations if you want, but I couldn’t see any tangible benefit to this. Green lines were drawn between the two palms tree I just plonked down, which I assumed was good, but I honestly had no idea.
More importantly, you need to place music equipment and food stations. This is also a boring decision to make because it’s not much of a decision at all. If you can afford a better speaker and if your venue has enough electricity to power it, then you buy the better speakers. If you can buy the fancier food table, do that. The more expensive lasers are more ‘effective’ so grab them. There’s no trade-off, no tough dilemma and no engagement from doing any of this. The better things are better, so it’s better to use them.
Let’s get this party started
After you’ve placed all this stuff you click ‘start party’ and watch as those nicely drawn pixel partiers strut into the venue. This is where a frantic game of plate-spinning kicks off as you try and keep the party running smoothly, right?
The party takes care of itself as whether it goes well or not has been decided already. Remember those ‘better speakers’ I mentioned? They add to the ‘hype’ of the party, with more hype leading to happier revellers. So if you could afford the better gear, your party will be better and if you couldn’t then it won’t. Simple as.
You can do a bit of fudging to make your party go better by telling your staff what to do, but this is, again, a totally unfulfilling series of clicks.
There’s just no reason not to keep telling your photographer to keep taking photos as soon as his cooldown stops. There’s no strategy to ‘using him at the right time’. None. Keep snapping away, Mr Photographer. Keep dancing for everyone, Mr Dancer. Keep refilling the tables, Mr Waiter. Keep on keeping on.
After the party’s finished you get told how many people ‘liked’ it and as a result, you can ‘level up’ as a party planner. This means you can unlock a new venue, a new theme or a new member of staff to use at your next party. This could be interesting, but whilst the venue, theme and staff members differ from party to party, the game never changes.
On top of the throwing parties, part of the game has another layer where you stare at a calendar and a map. The idea is that on different days there are different ‘types’ of partier ready to have it large in different parts of the town. So this would be an exciting chance to plan just where you’re going to throw a party and just what sort of party to throw, right? You can see that all of the rich kids are going to be up for it on Tuesday, in the Upper East side of the city. Time to plan a big bash!
Waiting to throw the perfect party isn’t actually a part of this game at all. This is because the ‘hot spots’ of where people are actively are pretty random, meaning there’s no planning and no decision making. Also, the venues you have at your disposal don’t move about, meaning that if there’s a large crowd of punk rockers looking to mosh in the South of the city, that’s tough luck. Because the ideal venue is located in the North. So there.
In the end, you’re left with a game that’s really repetitive and doesn’t ask you to do anything of real consequence. There’s no strategy, no decision making and very little impact to your actions. You simply throw bad parties until you can afford better speakers.