The Jackbox Party Pack series has been a favourite amongst my family and group of friends. Its clever implementation of smartphones and creative party games has helped to produce some of the most memorable and hilarious moments I’ve ever experienced in gaming today. Whether you’re trying to decipher someone’s terrible drawing, create the best (or in some cases most shocking) t-shirt designs, or survive a murderous quiz, there are simply too many highlights to recall.
So now we find ourselves on The Jackbox Party Pack 4, the fourth instalment in the series and with five (or technically six in this case) fresh and wacky experiences to try. Just as before, everything is played entirely with your smartphone, tablet or web browser and the games rely on your ability to be creative (or even crude). There’s always the concern though that as a franchise grows older, so does the difficulty in maintaining the same high level of quality. Has Jackbox Games managed to deliver us another batch of side-splitting party games or is the novelty of drawing and writing ridiculous things on our devices starting to wear off?
Let’s kick things off with Fibbage 3, the only sequel to be found in The Jackbox Party Pack 4 and undoubtedly the best version of Fibbage yet. If you’ve never played any of the previous entries, Fibbage is a game all about tricking your opponents. Everyone is given a random fact with one vital piece of information missing. It’s then down to you to come up with a convincing lie to fill that void and mislead the others into believing it is the real answer. Find the real answer amidst the lies and you gain points, while having someone mistakenly choose yours will earn you a nice bonus, too. The facts themselves are extremely weird and more often than not the real answer will be the most unlikely and most unexpected. The game itself hasn’t changed much in its third state, however, the art direction is fantastic taking on a very 70s style.
Fibbage 3 isn’t done there, however, this time throwing in an extra mode called “Enough About You.” Instead of random facts, this mode puts the focus on the players themselves. Every game begins with all participants secretly answering a question about themselves honestly. What follows is the same process as the regular mode only this time the convincing lies are about people you know – cue chaos. This is a fantastic expansion of the Fibbage formula but, as you can imagine, only really works when playing with people you know fairly well.
Another highlight is Survive the Internet. Here, each player writes an answer to a simple question like “What are your thoughts on pickles?” which is then sent to someone else at random. It is then their job to create a news headline or forum post that twists your comment in a way that looks as foolish or shocking as possible. As you can imagine depending on your group, things can go to some very ridiculous places but you might argue that’s where these games have always shone best. One highlight for my group involved a picture of a moose with an attached comment reading “Today I saw a unicorn!” It may not sound like much but in the moment we had to actually pause the game just so we could stop giggling and focus. Hands down, this is the best new game of the bunch and offered the most laughs.
Monster Seeking Monster is perhaps the most ambitious of the games in the pack and easily the most confusing. The overall aim is to match up with other players for dates. To do this you’re allowed to send up to four messages privately every round to the other players in an attempt to make a “connection.” At the end of the messaging period players then choose who they want to date. Make a match and you win a heart while being rejected yields nothing. To add some strategy to the proceedings players take on the role of a specific monster each with their own abilities – such as gaining extra hearts for rejecting others or dating three unique players. The game isn’t very clear when it comes to explaining said roles or even the rules, however, resulting in an experience that’s much tougher to get into than your average Jackbox experience. Of the handful of groups I played this with, it felt like hit or miss when it came to audiences remaining invested. Furthermore, some may find it a little awkward to send flirty messages to others especially amongst a collection of couples. If you find the right group who will happily lean into the silliness of it all, however, then there is fun to be had.
It wouldn’t be a Party Pack without a drawing game, and Civic Doodle is this year’s attempt. Two players start off with a blank canvas (and a simple shape to start things off) and must add their own doodle before time runs out. The rest of the group then vote on their favourite which is then used for the following round where two other players add more to it and so on. It’s a neat enough idea made more fun by the fact you can see drawings develop in real time but it does have one major problem – there are just far too many rounds of drawing that it gets to a point where there’s not much that can be added. Too often we’d watch as someone would simply add some eyebrows or just colour things in because their options and space were so limited. This would create a lot of waiting and made the latter rounds particularly boring to play. Compared with Drawful or Tee K.O., Civic Doodle falls short and after one or two rounds we would return to these past favourites.
Bracketeering is the final game of the pack and focuses on pitting each player’s answer to a simple prompt against one another in a knockout-style tournament. Every battle is then voted on by the group where the winner then advances to the next round until only one remains. Even though the game tries to mix things up by increasing the player count to sixteen, betting and a surprise final round the whole experience feels very hollow and dull. After one game the group was done, many growing weary halfway through.
The Jackbox Party Pack 4 delivers an uneven selection of games. Fibbage 3 is predictably still fun with Enough About You being an excellent addition to the formula. Survive the Internet is a major highlight and among one of the best games in the whole series. Monster Seeking Monster is overly complex but can be fun with the right people, while Civic Doodle is passable but never reaches the heights of previous drawing games. Bracketeering, however, is a straight-up dud and one I don’t wish to return to.
So, is it the best bundle the series has seen yet? No, but the good definitely outweighs the bad and thanks to a couple of true standouts The Jackbox Party Pack 4 makes sure this is still a party worth RSVPing to.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Jackbox Games