The Jackbox Party Pack 5
Redefining Party Games
Up until about 5 years ago, party games invoked images of holiday get-togethers that eventually devolved into charades or grabbing a box of Trivial Pursuit cards and reading them out loud while guests drunkenly shouted out answers. Then came Jackbox Games (formerly Jellyvision Games), who took advantage of the video game controllers already in people’s pockets in the form of smart phones and introduced the world to The Jackbox Party Pack. The Jackbox Party Pack 5 for 2018 hits just about every high mark expected of the series and I can’t wait to get 20 people in a room to play.
Like its predecessors, JBPP5 includes 5 game-show like titles that players (and often the audience) interact with using pretty much any mobile device they have handy: phones, tablets, even laptops, to prompts on a main screen via PC, game console or other device (Amazon FireTV, Apple TV). Many are trivia based that test the twitch response of their players. Some involve wordplay or drawing and others are just making seemingly simple decisions.
You Don’t Know Jack: Full Stream
At the top of the list is the latest in the signature line of trivia titles from the developer: You Don’t Know Jack: Full Stream. Players use their devices to answer a series of humorous trivia questions, not only correctly, but quicker than their opponents for higher point totals. The game’s long running host, Cookie Masterson, will often mix things up, like with Dis or Dat, making a statement that forces players to choose which of two choices the statement matches. All of it ending with the Jack Attack, a fast paced flurry of word associations that gets the heart pumping. The whole thing is themed as if it were a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu and sneaks in a few zingers to those services between questions.
YDKJ:FS is a tremendous improvement over previous incarnations. 8 players, up from 4, can now butt heads and the final Jack Attack moves away from a “fastest finger wins” format to something more of quick-draw check-all-that-apply style of trivia. Our group of 4 found this to be the strongest of the 5 games, and the one we ultimately chose to go back to for multiple plays.
Mad Verse City
Combining giant, city destroying robots and a rap-battle sounds about as appetizing as peanut butter covered candy canes. You gotta admit though, it’s pretty creative. Mad Verse City, supporting 8 players and is a ladder-style tournament where players’ devices prompt them first for a word (noun, verb, adjective, etc..) then to complete a lyrical rhyme to follow it. Once the submissions are gathered, a text-to-speech generator “raps” them against one another prompting other players for cheers or boos and ultimately to choose whose rap was better.
This game is great for creative people, particularly the literature teacher and the copywriter I played with for this review. I imagine others might struggle coming up with rhymes that fit the context of a given line in under 90 seconds. At any rate, the 80s retro robot designs and illustrative city backgrounds are fun and little easter eggs can be triggered with enough boos or cheers from the audience during the battles.
Split The Room
The title sums it up. Hypothetical situations appear each players device with a key word or phrase missing from from the statement. Each player’s goal is to find that key they believe will cause a split opinion among all those playing. The closer the split, the higher the points. If everyone casts votes on the same side, you get nothing. Bonus points are awarded if players can accurately predict what one of the others in the group will answer.
For example, a prompt could be “Your grandfather’s will states that you must either stuff his ashes into your couch or be __________”. Player’s need to fill in the blank with something they believe only half of the room will choose over the couch stuffing. Further points are awarded the longer it takes the rest of the players to make a decision. The whole thing is hosted by a cartoon cat that resembles Rod Serling who’s fun to watch even if you’re not playing.
Split The Room felt similar to the previous Pack’s Brackateering game, but moved much faster and was less confusing. It’s easy and fun, but I suspect really meant for larger groups, especially when the audience gets involved and casts their collective votes on the topic.
The most popular of the Party Pack games for my group over the years has been the two Drawful games in which players are given some pretty out-there prompts to draw, Pictionary-style, while other players not only try to guess what the original prompt was but also try to fool everyone else with their own description. Patently Stupid improves on the drawing mechanic and throws in some word play for good measure. It’s a bit slower of a game that requires a little more thought, but lets the more creative players really shine.
In the first of three rounds, everyone gets two fill-in-the-blank prompts that propose an everyday problem that needs fixing. In round two, half of those submissions are distributed to all the players who are the tasked with sketching a rudimentary solution on a cocktail napkin (their device). Players will also need to come up with a name and a quick tagline for their new invention. After all the ideas have been presented by the virtual seminar hosts (or, optionally, by the players themselves), round 3 gives players and audience members funding money to back their favorite products. Point goals need to be met in order for a product to be successful and bonus points are awarded for backing products that make it to market.
Patently Stupid is the most involved of the 5 games and suffers from a bit of a learning curve. Additionally, the voices of the seminar hosts got repetitive quickly. This is a non-issue if players decide to present the products themselves, which I think is far more entertaining in a party atmosphere. That said, this was the breakout title of the Pack for me. Partly due to the drawing portion, but mostly because it had the highest potential for humor, Patently Stupid is my pick of the litter because it makes competition take a back seat to humor.
The last in the list comes off as the odd-duck of the group. That’s not to say that it wasn’t fun, but it doesn’t seem to fit with anything else, making me ask “am I missing something here?”.
Zeeple Dome is an arcade title for up to 6 players that just screams Angry Birds clone, albeit a multiplayer one. Players use their devices to slingshot a tiny avatar on the main screen to destroy evil aliens, collect power ups and prevent other players from doing the same. Sometimes you’ll be forced to work with another player randomly, other times you’re on your own. There’s a ton happening on the screen at once, with lots of flashy visual and sound effects.
The game has the feeling of more traditional console games like Towerfall Ascension or even Smash Bros with a lot happening on the screen at once, and Jackbox Games has done an amazing job at creating an action game that doesn’t suffer from the typical many-to-one screen problems others like it do. Unlike the other 4 titles though, Zeeple Dome introduces a player segregation of sorts. Part of the draw to the Jackbox Party Packs is that nearly everyone can play, but this struggles to pass the grandma test, wherein if my mother can’t figure out what’s going on, it gets pulled from rotation of family get-together games. It can be a winner for a handful of more serious gamers, but not necessarily one you want to pull out after Thanksgiving dinner with the aunts and uncles.
Pick Up This Pack
It’s hard to find a reason not to buy this pack. The Party Packs have all been incredible values, costing less than half what typical triple-A games cost. Totally worth it even if you only host a few parties a year to pull it up on the screen. There’s something here for everyone to enjoy that doesn’t take a boatload of tokens, dice, cards or expansion packs. Jackbox Party Pack 5 is a huge improvement over Party Pack 4’s somewhat lackluster selection and though it won’t completely replace Drawful or Quiplash in my party’s line up, it’s a strong and welcome addition.
The Jackbox Party Pack 5 is available now for $29.99 ($24.99 on select devices for a limited time) via Steam, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Apple TV/IPAD, Amazon FireTV, Humble, Fanatical, Mac App Store and coming soon to Nvidia TV and Comcast Xfinity. A copy of this title for the Xbox One was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Visit https://pp5.jackboxgames.com/ for more information.