Pepper has the rare chance to combine two very pleasant opportunities by moving to Bashville. She is able to reconnect with her three childhood friends, and, with their support, finally launch her party-planning business. And this is exactly what Party Planner, the new release by developer GamesCafe who already brought you the Sally series (Sally’s Salon, Sally’s Spa), is about: hosting fantabulous parties.
Party Planner only features one mode, the main campaign which consists of 15 locations with 5 levels each, all in all providing 75 levels, which is certainly a lot considering the average length of other time management titles. Unfortunately, players won’t find either an endless mode or an untimed option for the campaign, which will probably limit the audience and discourage people who normally dislike fast-paced games.
People who are familiar with titles like Party Down or the Wedding Dash series will quickly feel comfortable with Party Planner, which is based on a similar concept with some interesting twists. At the beginning of each party the host will tell you his preferences concerning food, drinks, activities, music and presents. In a memory-like game you then have to choose the right items according to the host’s wishes.
During each level your only task is to fulfill requests by guests, for example orders for specific meals or drinks, which you then have to drag from the bar onto the guest, or dragging the guests themselves on the dance-floor, if they feel like dancing. Food and drinks have to be refilled, which can be done by hovering over the cook or the bartender, and clicking on the meal or drink you want to have prepared. What slightly complicates the game are the different spots on which the guests stand. On green and blue spots guests are able to eat and drink, while the connected green spots also enable two guests to chat with each other. On purple spots they can dance, but neither drink, nor eat. Even more problematic is that you cannot swap guests, like in Megaplex Madness, which uses comparable game mechanics.
In each level you earn both hearts and money by fulfilling the guest’s requests, with the ability to increase your income by chaining the same actions. The amount of money has no influence on whether you reach normal, expert, or epic goal, but it can be used to upgrade your staff or to purchase very helpful items (actually too helpful, but I will come back to that later on). Against this, hearts are in no way connected to buying upgrades, but are solely important for how your performance in any level is rated.
The variety of upgrades is not exactly great, but still interesting, and ranges from quicker cooks and bartenders to designer water that improves the mood of your guests, and Fireworks or Confetti, which help you to easily earn additional hearts. The fact that you will earn a lot of money early on, therefore being able to buy as many upgrades as you prefer, is the game’s major flaw. It is much too easy, even for newcomers to the genre. It is even possible to not lose any guest during the whole campaign, and easily breeze through reaching the epic goal in every level at first try.
As a result, you will have seen every upgrade and every feature of Party Planner rather quickly. After the fifth party or so, no new challenges or surprises uphold the interest of the player. This results – especially considering how easy the game is – in a rather dull and repetitive gaming experience. This is really a shame, because in the beginning Party Planner is as engaging and interesting as a game in this genre can be. On top of that the different types of guests, who are drawn in a screamingly funny way, behave absolutely similar, which is not exactly lowering the repetitive feeling.
But the game still is definitely worth a try for everyone who has a preference for time management titles, simply because the positive aspects of Party Planner slightly outshine the negative ones. Even if is much weaker than comparable games like Wedding Dash or Party Down, it is still a nice distraction and not the hundredth version of any cooking- or fashion-game.