Jackbox Games has been doing sarcastic, witty nerdy things right since…well, before they were Jackbox Games. Their name at the time was Jellyvision. The year, 1995. Their hit? An acerbic trivia gameshow called You Don’t Know Jack, which I personally played for hours with my friends back in high school. But if you already have a great idea and great sense of humor and then you’re handed brand new technology, the great idea can grow, and You Don’t Know Jack (and all its sequels) were just the beginning.
Jackbox Games has embraced and designed for a world where not everyone had consoles or gaming computers but those same people were rarely separated from their phones, and took that same humor and smart design and in 2014, began a legendary line of bundled party games that would bring everyone from friends to strangers at events and conventions together, literally or remotely, for a bunch of ridiculous, sometimes off-color, always hilarious games anyone can pick up and play at a moment’s notice. By now, Jackbox is a household name, and each new party pack is a must-own.
The Jackbox Party Pack 7 is a triumphant edition where, at least in my estimation, there isn’t a tired rehash or baggage piece in the bunch, even with the new edition of Quiplash, Quiplash 3. A ton of care was put in to everything from graphics to attention to the things remote players and streamers need most, and with Party Pack 7 Jackbox has created four more great games everyone will want to be in on the action for. Even better, they’ve made it even easier for people to play remotely, with very specific and helpful instructions on how to do so and a host of great settings to help streamers and whoever’s hosting in a group of friends make things work smoothly.
As we mentioned, Quiplash 3 is the first of the games you’ll find packed into this party…pack, and it’s even more polished than before, with insanely unnecessary yet welcomed lickable graphics, a ton of customizable settings, including the ability to extend timers, turn on motion sensitivity features, assign a moderator, filter out US-centric content if you’re abroad, hide the room code or even make the game family friendly, all in an effort to make the game more accessible and create more opportunities to stream it.
Quiplash 3 got a bit of a facelift for Jackbox Party Pack 7, with some truly stylish textured clay animations, but otherwise it’s much the same.You can choose your own avatar out of a selected list, and you can again enjoy the dulcet tones of everyone’s favorite announcer Cookie Masterson. Even though the gameplay hasn’t been significantly altered, it still feels like a slightly better version of the original.
The next game in the pack is one of our favorites from any party pack, and reminiscent of a lot of personal favorite games, like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, or Spaceteam VR. It’s called The Devils and the Details and sees a family of up to 8 little devils of various ages, living Brady Bunch style in a beautifully drawn little sitcom house, tasked with keeping the house running and the family score up.
But it’s not that simple, because tasks come at you lightning speed, and are complicated. Everyone in the house has different responsibilities based on if they’re children, teenagers or adults and you’ll have to communicate quickly and efficiently with a bunch of other players if you want to pull it off over the three day course of a round. There’s also an overarching task, like Cousin Rompo visiting for the weekend to keep track of that’s got a list of subtasks, all of which are worth more points than regular tasks and weigh more heavily on your score.
And, hearkening back to the days of the screw in You Don’t Know Jack, there’s a baked in way to screw everyone over. Selfish Tasks are presented to players occasionally during all the fast-paced gameplay. And even though you win and lose as a family, you also have to win individually. Selfish Tasks are great for your personal score, but threaten the family’s chances of winning, and can sometimes be prevented by other players.
The ridiculously fast pace of the game invites chaos and luckily, fun. You’re bound to get at least one angry person yelling “Find the remote control!” or screaming about instructions for doing a dance, while everyone’s actively trying to put out a kitchen fire, but if you do somehow know what you’re doing, and you prevail, it’s a hell of a rush. With a long list of different levels to defeat, The Devil and the Details is great for a weekly game night and something I immediately wanted to make my friends and I were all dedicated to defeating.
Champ’d Up is next in the lineup, and it’s the one I thought I’d have the most problems with. While I’ve not been a fan of some of the past party packs’ drawing games, this one shines. Champ’d Up has a sort of edgy, Smash Bros vibe going for it as contenders enter the Scrawliseum to face off characters they’ll draw, color and name. They face off against other people’s creations to be named champion of some insane category, like Champion of Jaywalking.
The players’ creations come to life with simple but effective and funny animations, and so it goes. Once you get past the first round, you can actively tag in heroes from past rounds if they for some reason suit the prompts better, and that leads to a lot of laughs as crowd favorites from before make second appearances to great effect. There’s even surprise double contests where players have to hope their selected champions can fit the bill better in two different categories. Since the drawings are done on phone and tablets (or badly via computer) they’re funny on their own, and the requirement to color in each character at least most of the way to submit it actually adds something other than another constraint. There’s also live voting updates, which again, lends to some great streaming moments.
Talking Points is my absolute favorite game in the bunch, and for us at least, was the one most liable to have people actually rolling on the floor laughing. It’s a concept that comes straight from most people’s nightmares, but since it’s a level playing field, it becomes some of the most fun you can have with friends.
In Talking Points, you’re about to give a presentation. To start out the game, every player creates 3 different speech titles, and one player is selected that round’s speaker. The speaker gets a randomly generated list of choices of speech titles, and steps up to the game’s virtual whiteboard, with a randomly chosen other player serving as their assistant. Then it’s off to the races and time to ramble about whatever topic you’ve picked.
But it won’t be long before the assistant pipes in with text comments like “Here’s what this means for us” or a helpful (read: super not helpful, usually) slide that you’ll then have to think on your feet to explain given your likely unrelated topic. Feeling the heat yet? Add to this that the whole time, every one of the other players and an audience is actively giving you the thumbs up or thumbs down for how you’re doing. A good assistant can really enhance the hilarity of the host’s improv TED talk or completely sabotage them, and the result is usually the same: laughing ’til you cry. After your speech, people can leave comments and quotes, which will factor in to the final score later.
It’s all about engagement here and even the thumbs downs count as interaction. When you wrap up, you’ll even get treated to a graph that shows where you had the audience and where you lost them, and after everyone’s speeches, you’ll all create and bestow awards on speakers, as will the audience. All of this adds up until the champion is revealed.
I love Talking Points because of its double blind approach. Everyone’s essentially asked to “yes, and” anything that comes their way, and because it’s user created and everything happens so quickly, the reactions are genuine, and genuinely funny. I didn’t want to stop playing this one.
Last but not least is Blather Round. Jackbox describes it as a “pop culture guessing game where nothing sounds quite right” but it’s another nightmare come to life and spun into a lot of fun gameplay. It’s based on the frustrating phenomenon we’ve more or less all been through where you’re trying to tell someone about a book, movie, or TV show but suddenly can’t really remember all the details, and have to resort to saying things like “it has that one guy, and they’re in a church” and hope the person you’re talking to can connect the dots.
Blather Round is straight out of the ‘90s style-wise and features a sassy new announcer who eggs everyone on and occasionally mocks you if you’re not doing so hot. It’s a lot like the board game Taboo, in that the presenter chooses a prompt and then has to describe it with a limited vocabulary. In this case, the presenter gets a cryptic wheel of vague words which can be used to try to get at something specific, like the book Moby Dick.
You might be able to say something like “big moist monster” to prompt the other players to guess your clue, and if that doesn’t work you’ll get a few more sentences to vaguely describe it “in more detail.” You’ll get more options as you take more turns, and if a player guesses something that’s close to what you’re looking for, you can then highlight that answer and modify it, to say something like “It’s not at all like Einstein” or “She is not a doctor” and help the guessers along.
Each player gets a turn to be the presenter and craft these vague descriptions, and there are two rounds in the game. People whose answers get highlights get extra points, and though you do work together, you are still ultimately competing for the top honors. Harder prompts net you more points, and in the game’s second round, the points are doubled. At the end of two rounds, the person with the most points wins. This game seemed like the longest, but even so, was a lot of fun.
If I had any complaints about The Jackbox Party Pack 7, it’d be that most of these titles seem a little longer form than some of the previous party packs’ entries, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’re eager to spend some time with friends or streaming to a big audience. Also, there’s only one title, Blather Round, that can be played with less than 3 people, a bummer if you just want to jump in with your SO, but also expected, since these are party games. Other than that, the addition of possible moderators can slow down gameplay, but it’s an essential move to combat hate speech and general shitty behavior for those people who are playing this live on streams–something Jackbox Party Pack 7 is tailor-made for.
Like Cookie Masterson always says, that’s a wrap for this look at Jackbox Party Pack 7. When compared to the last few party packs, I’d honestly say this one takes the cake with the best graphics and art style, the most customization and user-friendliness, and overall, the most well-rounded and addictive set of games. While that’s not to say the other party packs haven’t been some of my favorite party games in the last few years, it’s certainly a cut above even that, in my opinion, especially with things like The Devils and The Details’ crazy chaotic cooperative gameplay and Talking Points hilarious improv possibilities. It’s a recipe for a great time for just about any group of friends, strangers or partygoers, and the new streaming and remote play friendliness means you don’t have to miss out on great party games just because you can’t all be in the same room. For us, that’s a huge win.
The Jackbox Party Pack 7 is available now for Windows via Steam, Humble, Fanatical and the Epic Games Store as well as on Apple TV and Ipad Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Mac App Store, and of course Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
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