Soulslike games are generally about death and dying, but Pain Party, which is in Steam Early Access, understands that horror runs deeper than that. This Soulslike platformer, which you can play either solo or against other players, throws you into a bizarre hell where everything can kill you in one hit. At least you looked cool while dying to Malenia in Elden Ring. You’re going to look a lot less cool dying to a goose with human feet.
Icehelm, its developer, is accustomed to making surrealist games with descriptions like Gone Golfing (golfing survival horror) and Just Arms (a platformer where your character doesn’t have legs). Pain Party has you competing against other departed souls to escape a game show-like purgatory of deadly obstacle courses, which up the ante with actual, serious stakes: The losers are forced to spend the rest of their existence moderating online forums for free. Brimstone and hellfire just isn’t going to cut it anymore, you know? Icehelm told Kotaku that he’s been making Pain Party for a year, and that it will leave Steam’s Early Access mode in two or three months.
Pain Party allows you to share the…well, pain with up to 23 other players. At some point, you find out what happened to the people who didn’t want to play purgatory’s sick games: They’re locked in standing cells and soaked in sewage water for all eternity. Wow. No wonder people are willing to deal with the humiliation: The punishment is genuinely worse.
Pain Party takes every opportunity to make fun of the player in a good-natured way. Instead of the usual “You Died” that appears when you’re defeated in a Souls game, one death screen mocks the ill-fated player with “Skill Issue.” Which honestly, isn’t something that I want to see if a weird goose statue just fell on me. The developer notes that there are other taunts like “Git Gud,” and he’s looking to add more.
Being a solo developer means that Icehelm has to subject himself to humiliations of his own making. He told Kotaku that his favorite death occurred when he was winning, all the way until a stray arrow hit him and knocked him into the void. “That’s what makes this game so enjoyable,” he said. “There are so many random moments that make you laugh.”