There’s all kinds of things to look forward to in a city like Chicago. Beginning with drunken news anchors at Buddy Guy Legends on New Year’s Eve and trucking on through the year with street fests, opening days and disastrous season-ending sports upsets down through the Mag Mile Lights Festival and Christkindlmarket.
We’ve got a lot of good things going here, especially when it comes to being a nerd. And Chicago is home to some truly great nerdy things. Like Jackbox Games. It’s a legacy that begins with Jellyvision and ends with basically the most popular party game franchise in video game history if you don’t count the one they did before that, which, you know, was also one of the most popular party games in video game history. All that to say that Jackbox Games has a formula, and it works pretty well for them. And, with the changing of seasons comes new Jackbox Party Packs, at least for the last good long while. And we, the Chicago proud and trivia/game show game loving, are here for it every time.
Most of the time, Jackbox Party Packs are full of five-ish games for (ideally) at least 3 or 4 players and can easily host an audience of epic proportions. These games generally consist of a few new titles and a few that have been improved upon since the last iteration in some way or another. Games are generally simple and fun, and can be played using a cell phone with very little need for technical knowledge of any kind. They’re also full of the sarcastic Chicago brand of humor we’ve been loving them for since well back in the You Don’t Know Jack days.
Last year, we got our hands on The Jackbox Party Pack 7 and had an absolute blast with it. It was pitch perfect, bringing fantastic new games that were easy to learn and chaotic and fun in large groups and perfecting some old standbys. If I remember correctly, we thought it was the best party pack yet, in fact. So, did we reach new heights with 8? I’m not sure. But I am sure that even if it competes with its former self and loses, The Jackbox Party Pack 8 is still a winner.
The Jackbox Party Pack 8 consists of five games. There’s returning classic reimagined, Drawful Animate!, Job Job, The Poll Mine, Weapons Drawn, and The Wheel of Enormous Proportions.
To begin with, let’s look at Drawful Animate! Drawful represents a flagship series for the Jackbox Party Packs. Its first iteration featured in the OG Jackbox Party Pack and it even spawned a rare stand-alone sequel, Drawful 2, back in 2016. It’s a lot like a game of Pictionary gone slightly raunchy and particularly wacky. It’s popular for a reason, and, to me at least, seems like it’s borne out of a marriage of Drawful and last year’s fantastic Champ’d Up which was an unholy mix of Smash Bros, Pictionary and, well…it had its own twists. Drawful Animate! takes the basic gameplay you’re used to from Drawful and adds animation. Players guess what the actual prompt was from a selection of answers that includes other players’ guesses at what the drawing is. It’s a lot like its previous incarnations, really, but the animation does add a fun twist.
In Job Job, one of The Jackbox Party Pack 8’s brand new games, you’re a jobseeker who’s looking for gainful employment and going on a job interview. It perfectly skewers “corporate” life down to the Microsoft Publisher clipart and stupid icebreakers. Only in this case, the answers to those stupid icebreaker questions will become the resources for you to use when answering interview questions. Which means that when you’re asked “How do you deal with rude people?” you might have to answer using someone else’s answer to the prompt “Tell me about an amazing meal you cooked recently” leaving you with “I like to roast a whole chicken with lots of butter, baby” as your entire word pool, unless you can cleverly pick and choose from that complete nonsequitur of an answer and spin it into a good answer (or a really funny one.) Since you have to use at least 5 words, this can get pretty tricky, even if you are trying to be absurd. The only downside to this game is it’s easy for one person to sort of hijack, by using intentionally offensive language or repeating one word over and over, and thereby forcing everyone else to include it in their answers, quickly souring what could be actual fun, so we’d caution you to be careful who you play it with.
From there there’s The Poll Mine, which is a survey game akin to Family Feud with a few of those ridiculous twists we’ve come to know and love, and a great art style, too. In The Poll Mine, you play as two groups of thieves who were captured trying to steal treasure from The Ominous Eye. It takes on a sort of RPG or tabletop vibe, with you needing to explore different rooms in the cave you’re trapped in to find your way out. You do this by winning torches through the main meat of the game, the surveys. Whoever has the most torches wins.
Survey questions are strange but interesting, and I found that they were a good balance of humorous and thought-provoking. Each player picks their top answer on their device as a first step. Questions range from things like what you’d take with you if you found a time capsule from the past to the worst thing to say when being mugged.
Once the answers are locked in, the guessing begins. In order to win torches, you must correctly guess the order requested. It starts out simple, with you having to guess the top 3 answers, but can quickly become much more complicated, with you sometimes having to find the least popular answers or find certain answers in a certain order. The audience can skew results, and people can even defect from their teams, which provides a lot of background chaos. The Poll Mines is a great game to garner debate and discussion, and is my favorite in the pack. After four rounds, torches are counted and a winning team escapes, while the rest of you…don’t.
Rounding out The Jackbox Party Pack 8 is Weapons Drawn, a pretty interesting mashup of drawing game and murder party. In Weapons Drawn, you’re both a potential killer and great detective, and you and a guest are attending a party where things are guaranteed to get rough. It begins with naming yourself and your guests, which can turn out to be important, as the game centers around a killer’s calling card, represented by a letter from that name that you must conceal in all of your drawings.
Each round, you’ll be tasked with drawing a weapon and concealing a letter from your name in the drawing. Each round, NPC guests you’ve invited will also mingle with the players/killers, and attempts are made on their lives. You can murder a guest if you can guess who brought them, but you’ll leave behind your weapon and signature calling card when you do. When the lights come up, the murders are discovered, and the hunt for the killer begins. There are more cases than there are rounds, but even cold cases get wrapped up before it’s all over.
If your guest is the one who was killed, you become the lead detective and get a magnifying glass which allows you to zoom in on each weapon that’s been drawn to try to narrow down who the killer is. If you get caught, you’re out, and new cases arise. The person with the most points at the end from guessing and killing wins. Initially I found this game a little bit overcomplicated, but actually playing it instead of participating in the audience alleviates that, and while it’s still not my favorite, I did enjoy all the murdering and detecting.
Enter the final game in the pack, The Wheel of Enormous Proportions. This looks like Trivial Pursuit at first glance, but it’s a little more complex than all that. It is a trivia game, and you do earn slices of the wheel, but that’s where the similarities end. In this game, you’ll be taking on a series of questions like “What are all the places the Beach Boys want to take ya in the song Kokomo?” and get points and slices for correct answers. Those slices are then added to the sentient wheel’s face, disturbingly, and spinning can begin. Land on someone’s spot, and they get points. The more pieces everyone gets, the more crowded the slices get, and the less points for everyone, but that’s part of the fun.
Rather than just a series of straight up trivia questions like the one we mentioned, sometimes TWoEP switches it up with a mini-game called What Am I Thinking? which at least seems to come straight out of the original You Don’t Know Jack oeuvre, with a clock ticking down and clues revealing what item or concept the wheel is trying to convey. This is a good mixup to gameplay, and the trivia is both entertaining and difficult a la the original You Don’t Know Jack series, but at the end of the day we’d rather have seen that classic franchise return, with Cookie Masterson to boot.
As you may have guessed, while The Jackbox Party Pack 8 is a lot of fun, I don’t necessarily think it’s measured up to its predecessor, both because some concepts are a little overcomplicated or rewrapped versions of games I liked just a little bit better, and because they’re just not full of the same level of chaotic fun I had in The Jackbox Party Pack 7. That said, it’s still a great group of games tailored to groups of friends, streamers and big events, and at least personally, I think any time you get a group of people together for any Jackbox Party Pack you’re going to have a great time, so I highly recommend adding this to your collection, even if it’s not the first edition you pull out to show someone.
The Jackbox Party Pack 8 is available now on just about every platform, including the Epic Games Store and Steam for PC, for PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series S|X, Nintendo Switch, and eventually even Apple TV, Android TV, and Fire TV.
A Steam key was provided to us for the purposes of this review.