Chicago-based Jackbox games has been the premier party game go-to since they were making games as Jellyvision. The Jackbox Party Pack has been a staple for many house parties, and even a sought after activity at various pop-up arcades and conventions we’ve attended over the years. We were even present at C2E2 this year when Jackbox announced the return of You Don’t know Jack as part of Jackbox Party Pack 5– and it has certainly returned, in all its glory, just as we remembered it.
JackBox Party Pack 5 is a set of five unique party games that can use smartphones as controllers. I say smartphones because that’s what the icon represents, but you can use any modern web browser that can navigate to jackbox.tv. All you have to do to connect to your desired game is to enter the room code that is prominently displayed on screen, enter a moniker, and you’re set to go.
Up to eight players can play JackBox Party Pack 5 locally. Being a party game, you might not understand why someone might want to play solo, but if you do want to play by yourself, solo players are almost totally SOL. You can play You Don’t Know Jack and and Zeeple Dome solo, but the rest of the games require a minimum of three players to start. If you don’t have a house full of friends to play with you though, you can join streamers playing JackBox Party Pack 5 on streaming services like Twitch and join in on the action. The best part is, you don’t even need the game to do that–just a web browser.
Once you’re ready to start the party game fun, here’s what you’ll find:
You Don’t Know Jack
I have a bit of a personal history with You Don’t Know Jack. It exists in my mind amongst floating toasters from the After Dark screensavers and the full motion video journal entries from Myst. I had a friend that would carry the CD Rom around with her and pop that bad boy into any computer capable of playing it, and our afternoon would melt away answering irreverent trivia. Honestly, not much has changed with You Don’t Know Jack, except for its Binjpipe® YouTube-like presentation. The announcer, Cookie Masterson, still has his same acerbic style and the questions are still delivered in that sometimes perplexing, always amusing style. You Don’t Know Jack isn’t as simple as answering trivia questions, either, as some scenarios require fast wit plus fast reflexes. There are also items you can get to potentially hurt other players while helping yourself, with the return of the Screw. As always, the player with the most money at the end of ten rounds wins, and as with past iterations of You Don’t Know Jack, even if you fall way behind in the beginning, you can make a pretty impressive comeback at the last minute . If you’d had a trivia game hole in your heart since the last You Don’t Know Jack came out you’ll certainly find that filled with this return.
Split the Room
Split the Room is all about choices—choices you make, and the choices the audience makes. Each player is given a sort of “would you rather” decision making scenario with a blank to fill-in. Each player’s fill-in answer is sent to the rest of the players, who then choose a simple yes or no answer to the scenario you’ve created. The clever part of this sort of Cards Against Humanity/Mad Libs mashup is that they add an extra layer of strategy. To win with your answer, you want to choose something that would be the most controversial, since the goal is to literally split the room. You get the most points when the audience is divided. Played with three to eight players locally, Split the Room seems to be at its best with more players, but must be played with a minimum of three.
Mad Verse City
Mad Verse City is a three to eight player rap battle game, where urban styled robots spit fire as your surrogates. You are given a phrase, but must fill in the last word. Then you must come up with a line that both rhymes, and sufficiently ‘insults’ your opponent. Our group ended up with some cringe-worthy awkwardness, but also some surprisingly inspired rhymes at times. While you are watching two opponents battle, you can either cheer them on or boo as the audience, which will give them bonuses—and the audience is the ultimate judge, determining which of the two won that particular battle, so it’s always best to play to them. Potentially a great game, Mad Verse City ultimately didn’t click with my group—but we still had a lot of fun.
This was my personal favorite of this set of Jackbox Party Pack games, and definitely my group’s favorite as well. Patently Stupid was the only game of the bunch that people in my group wanted to immediately get right back into. It’s like mad libs meets competitive drawing, but in the most hilarious way. First, three to eight players are asked to fill in the blank for a few potential problems. Next, players are tasked to invent solutions to these problems. You have to draw a picture of your invention, add a name, a tagline, and finally present your invention in front of your friends. The combinations that my group was coming up with were just hilarious, and despite there being a competitive aspect, it was so hilarious winning didn’t seem to be a goal. This is probably one of the best party games I’ve ever played.
Zeeple Dome is perhaps the weakest entry in Jackbox Party Pack 5, but it’s still fun. Again, using your phone as a controller you must fling your zeeple into aliens to destroy them. It’s often not as simple as that, though, as the aliens become color coded after being hit, and are only able to be defeated by a zeeple of the same color. It sounds simple, but it can be hard getting the zeeple to fling right where you want it. It also pushes the smartphone control to its limit, with the controls being a little slow to respond, making the experience a tad bit more frustrating than it should be. The simple premise doesn’t help with its longevity either, as no one seemed to want to come back to “Zeeple Dome” after just a single match.
If I had a complaint, it would perhaps my desire for more games. We had an immensely fun time playing through the fare that was available, but while each experience was fun for our group, the amount of enjoyment your group might get out of these particular games may vary. Mad Verse City requires an amount of creativity that those who are not outgoing may avoid, and Split the Room relies on a Cards Against Humanity style humor that some people may not enjoy. Still, the variety available in Party Pack 5 means there should be something for everyone to enjoy.
Jackbox makes games that people instantly recognize, and are easily able to play—and most importantly those games are fun. Here at Third Coast we’ve played through more than a few party game compilations, but most seem to come up lacking, with poorly explained or overexplained games, too much repetition, obnoxious hosts, wonky controls or clunky apps that need to be downloaded. Jackbox Games seems to have the right recipe for games that are easy to understand, fun to play and easy to join, and their emphasis on audience and participation as well as their attention to detail are what make them stand out. JackBox Party Pack 5 is a great collection of games, with my only real complaint being that I want more—but what is there is a great addition to any set of party games.
Jackbox Party Pack 5 is available now on Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, MAC Store, Apple TV, IPAD, Amazon Fire TV, and coming soon to Nvidia TV and Comcast Xfinitiy.
Note: This review was done on the Steam version for Windows.
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