Since 2014, one name has become synonymous with party games – Jack. Working on the quite accurate notion that anyone in the room has access to a smartphone, The Jackbox Party Packs are bundles of pure distilled fun – albeit with some missteps here and there (designing T-shirts in the third party pack wasn’t quite as fun). Now in its fifth iteration, does this Party Pack do enough to warrant everyone logging on? Reviewing such a hodgepodge of games is tricky, so I’ll be speaking about each individual part of the package.
You Don’t Know Jack: Full Stream
An update to the game that started it all, “You Don’t Know Jack” is as fun as ever. A trivia game unlike any other, it can be played solo or with eight people, with a focus on streaming to an audience that can also take part. Framed through the lens of “Binjpipe”, a nefarious Netflix-style corporation that is now running the show.
There is plenty of variety to be found from one round to the next – in a single match, you’ll be matching items on your screen, categorising items, voting on the next question or dealing with polls from the audience. While things can get competitive, your opponents are likely still going to be nicer to you than the host of the show, who’s backhanded compliments and verbal savagery will remind you that this game is not for kids. In fact, this is the only title in the compilation that doesn’t feature a “Family Friendly” mode.
Mad Verse City
Each Jackbox Party pack features an outlier – a game so bonkers it stands alone, in visual aesthetic or in content. This time around, that award goes to “Mad Verse City” – a game where mechs that look like Transformers battle each other… using rap.
Using your phone, you’ll plug gaps in a verse and your robot’s vocoder-infused voice will repeat it back. Those not battling can offer up encouragement (or disparagement) via cheers and boos. Needless to say, playing a game based around insulting your friends may not be for everyone, and with less variety in it’s gameplay and the fact that the core concept becomes a tad dull after half a dozen rounds, “Mad Verse City” is perhaps the compilation’s low point, although there is still fun to be had.
As the obligatory drawing-based title in this year’s compilation, “Patently Stupid” provides players with the opportunity to create a problem for other players to solve with an invention. This invention is then designed (name and tagline included) and, as you would expect, other players vote on which design is best.
As someone that loves technology, this concept was great fun for my group of players. After a few drinks, it descended into utter chaos, which has long been the best part of a night with the Jackbox Pack. For younger players, there is a chance to show creativity and problem-solving nous which should definitely be applauded.
Split the Room
While “Mad Verse City” may be a bit “out there”, “Split the Room” isn’t far behind, starring an anthropomorphic cat. Jackbox games are often at their best when a group can let off steam with minimal direction, and this is a fine example of that.
Provided with a hypothetical, players add in a variable of their choosing in an attempt to split the group’s decision 50/50. Get a perfect split and you’ll get bonus points, cause some hesitation and deliberation and you’ll get even more. If your group has some quite risqué ideas, things can quickly devolve into a laugh-a-minute game. Even the more conservative of players will find something to giggle about – and for that reason, this is my personal favourite of the bunch.
One of these things is not like the other – and that one is “Zeeple Dome”. The franchise’s first action game, think of it as Angry Birds if your phone or tablet supported up to six players.
Each player is tasked with flinging a hapless astronaut into aliens that match their colour. When playing with all six people, it’s chaotic fun, but we found it best with three or four for a balance between freneticism and action. Since there can be instances where you’ll knock another player out of the air by accident, it helps to coordinate attacks, making this the most teamwork focused entry in this year’s compilation.
Jack is back. Through trying some new things (the series’ first action game) and redefining an old classic, along with a spectacular supporting cast of games that range from good to great, Party Pack 5 is easily a worthy investment for your next party or stream.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*