Game Review: The Jackbox Party Pack 4 Keeps the Party Going

Photo courtesy of Jackbox Games Local game developer Jackbox Games (formally Jellyvision Games) has upped the ante on their fun repertoire of trivia games in recent years. Mostly known for the You Don't Know Jack series, the developer reinvented itself with a string of games that utilize web browsers on  phones, computers, or tablets to play the games instead of traditional controllers. This allows for bigger groups of friends to jump in on games without needing extra console specific peripherals or even needing to be in the room. A simple four digit code lets anyone join in on the fun, something that can get pretty wild when you hop on a Twitch stream with hundreds of players. The use of a browser opens up the accessibility of Jackbox's games but also limits their scope (in the best way possible). The games in the Party Park series fall into mix of three categories: trivia, drawing, and word based competitions. Jackbox does everything they can to make these three styles of game play fresh and inventive with every new game and for the most part succeeds. It's not just a pretty new coat of paint on old games, but complete reinventions or interesting twists on typical games that give them high replayablilty. The Jackbox Party Pack 4 keeps the trend of great games going by rounding up five diverse experiences that look like they will have a lasting effect (at least until the next party pack). Photo courtesy of Jackbox Games Fibbage 3: (2- 8 players) There is usually a sequel to a previous game in each one of the Party Packs and this time around it’s "Fibbage", one of the more accessible and entertaining of the series' trivia games. This version adopts an entire new look, going for a 70s inspired aesthetic that gives the game a lively feeling throughout. The mechanics of the trivia challenge are mostly unchanged: the group is presented with a fill in the blank prompt, everyone in the group tries to fill in that blank with an answer to attempt to trick the rest of the players (or make them laugh with their ridiculousness), then everyone tries to guess the correct answer. The core game is still fun, but it's the variant “Fibbage Enough About You” that raises it to a new level. This version of the game directs the questions away from general trivia to ones about the party members, making for some pretty fun and raucous moments. If the variety of questions is in any way similar to previous versions of the game, it'll take a while before it gets repetitious. Photo courtesy of Jackbox Games Civic Doodle (3-8 Players) The puntastically titled "Civic Doodle" acts like a competitive, exquisite corpse drawing game. You are given the task of improving a town’s murals. Two players are given a wall with a very small portion of the mural and compete to make the most creative/funny/naughty drawing. After a round of voting, the winning drawing moves forward and must be elaborated on by another pair of artists until everyone gets a shot at it. Once the drawing is complete, everyone gets a chance to name it and vote on the “best” one. The endgame is very similar, but instead of pairs of players tackling the ever evolving drawing, it's everyone all at once. "Civic Doodle" is easily the most collaborative game in the bunch that still maintains a sense of competition throughout. The drawings can get a little cramped with more artistically inclined groups; however the more imaginative the players, the more replayability the game has. Photo courtesy of Jackbox Games Monster Seeking Monster (3-7 Players) "Monster Seeking Monster" is likely the least accessible game in the bunch but also the most rewarding. It’s a surprisingly involved game of deception posing as a dating simulator with monsters and super powers- leave a trail of broken hearts before eventually escaping loneliness by dating the most people (basically a more gamified Tinder). You send messages to other players in an attempt to date them, which admittedly can get a little awkward/hilarious depending on how well you know your friends, and receive a heart. Each player has a special power that awards players with more or less hearts depending on how they play. The person with the most hearts at the end wins. It seems relatively simple, but at the end of each of the 6 rounds, the superpower the monsters had in the first place gets revealed. These powers greatly affect the flow of the game, and revealing them can stop a player in their tracks. Tactics slowly shift, and keeping track of everyone’s dating history becomes crucial. I tend to find deception games very fun, but I can definitely see how this game’s complexity can make it a little tedious to play with younger players or for more fast paced game sessions. Photo courtesy of Jackbox Games Bracketeering (3- 16 players) "Bracketeering" is the simplest game in the pack and excels because of it. The game gives the group a prompt and everyone answers it. The answers are then split into brackets. People then bet on the results, and voting declares a winner. The first full bracket is straightforward but subsequent brackets are “blind”, meaning the prompt changes while your answer stays the same and this can cause some pretty entertaining results. My favorite of these was: Initial prompt – name a mythical creature, actual prompt – best name for a penis. The game is also one that feels completely different depending on the number of players. With friends, eight seems like the ideal number, giving everyone a fair shot. On a Twitch game that I jumped into over the weekend, 300+ players made the game feel out of my hands but still just as fun. Photo courtesy of Jackbox Games Survive the Internet (3-8) Initially I wasn't too keen on "Survive the Internet", but after the first game it ended up being one of my favorites. "Survive the Internet" places players in a Windows 98-esque realm (not the prettiest game in the bunch, but definately faithful to its theme) where your statements will be twisted well beyond their intentions. The game prompts players with an innocuous question that is then given to another player to bend in any way they want as long as it fits into the rounds theme- Kickstarter comments, tweets, photo captions, etc. "Survive The Internet" awards points based off voting for the best burn, which depending on your friends' humor tastes, can end up urging players to play as dirty and offensively as they can to score. Out of all the games in the pack, "Survive The Internet" is the one that relies most heavily on wordy wit, making it stand out. At this point in the series, picking up a new Jackbox Party Pack should be a no-brainer. Each one of the packs mixes things up and has something for everyone - this one is no different. While it’s not the best pack (it’s pretty hard to surpass #3), its interesting range of games and long term enjoyment make it worthy of your next party. The Jackbox Party Pack is currently available on Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and many other platforms.
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Julian Ramirez