With the long, scorching summer now behind us we find ourselves slowly shambling toward the cold and miserable months of autumn. Daylight shorter and rarely without rain by its side why is it then that I find myself with such a big smile on my face and tears streaming down my cheeks? That’s right, it’s because I’ve been playing The Jackbox Party Pack 5. Time to break out the phones one more time.
For the last four years (has it really been that long?!) developer Jackbox Games has continued to release their wacky brand of party-focused experiences. Experiences that often appeal to a wide audience and at the very least have its players laughing time and time again. The Jackbox Party Pack 5 is the latest compilation, this particular entry perhaps offering the biggest variation between its five games. Let’s put each of them through their paces starting with the best and working our way down.
Patently Stupid is a brilliant idea that on several occasions actually had me in tears from laughing so hard. The aim here is to come up with a new product that will solve a problem sent by one of the other players. This could be a problem as simple and understandable as having to wait five minutes for a bus or of course something far more ridiculous like having to look at your husband’s ugly face. Your solution will then include a sketch of its design (crudely displayed on a napkin), a name and even a slogan. Each player then presents his or her creations one by one to the rest of the group in the hopes of obtaining their funds (essentially votes) at the end.
While the game includes an option to present on your behalf, the end result feels soulless in comparison to watching your friends desperately try to oversell their idea themselves. In fact, it’s this added layer of involvement that elevates Patently Stupid above the rest of the pack and made it a game we found ourselves returning to more so than the others.
It felt good returning to You Don’t Know Jack again, the series my first foray into the wonderful world of Jackbox Games. The formula in You Don’t Know Jack: Full Stream remains largely unchanged; players doing their best to answer ten questions all of which are read out by the always-fantastic host Cookie Masterson. Where other quizzes can come off as a little dry and serious, You Don’t Know Jack has always embraced the silly. It’s the little things like the snide remarks of the host or the fact each question number is sung aloud that have you raising eyebrows and falling in love with the game’s slapstick tone. Of course, the questions are the real star of the show though taking standard multiple-choice trivia and rewording them in some truly twisted and often-funny ways.
Even returning fans of the series will find some smart changes implemented in this latest version whether it’s the scoring system, the fact the excellent ‘Dis or Dat’ round now includes all players or the reworked ‘Jack Attack’ finale. Even the Screws make a return with a few neat twists that I won’t spoil here. This definitely feels like a more streamlined, tidier You Don’t Know Jack and it’s great to have it back.
Mad Verse City asks perhaps the most of its participants but the payoff is often worth it. Each round will see pairs of players face off against each other in a short four-line rap battle. The first and third line of your rap will be provided by the game with you adding the finishing word to each. As for lines two and four, well that’s entirely down to you. With all submissions collected, your robot rappers will each take centre stage to read aloud – in a humorous robot voice – your questionable attempts.
Coming up with raps that are amusing, rhyme and possibly take a shot at the opponent can be a tough task but it’s still one that proves funny even if you don’t manage to succeed in all areas. We found ourselves laughing just as hard at the bad raps, the robots’ voices only serving to make them funnier. All in all Mad Verse City is great fun with plenty of style and something that feels unique and unlike anything the series has come up with so far.
Split the Room can prove entertaining but rarely in an uncontrollable laughter kind of way. It’s a neat concept for sure the game focused on players filling in the blanks of a yes or no scenario and then having the rest of the room answer. Unlike other Jackbox games where you’re often aiming to secure the majority or all votes for your inventive or funny replies, here you want to – as the title suggests – split the room.
It’s certainly a fresh take that has you thinking more about what you enter. For example, would the players want boring dreams forever or to share the same dreams as Adam Sandler? If you have a room full of fans of the actor then it’s probably best not to go with that suggestion. As I said before while we enjoyed our time with Split the Room it never felt as side-splitting nor creative as some of the other games in the pack.
Zeeple Dome is the most ‘video game-like’ experience of the bunch but unfortunately the least inspired too. In it, players each take control of their own small character and flick them around an arena using their phone’s touch screen to attack and take down evil space creatures. It feels similar to Angry Birds in that you can adjust the angle and power of your flings but here there’s also a cooperative twist. Even with a full group, we found ourselves quickly losing interest though thanks to the game being predictable, chaotic and not the most accurate to control. Throw this one with the duds.
With each new entry in the series, the presentation and art style has seen big improvements and The Jackbox Party Pack 5 continues this trend. Mad Verse City is simply oozing with style thanks to its fantastic robot design and referees Shadow Master MC and DJ Raych. Split the Room meanwhile takes its inspiration from TV classic The Twilight Zone (except with a cat host), Patently Stupid presents itself in a way that makes you feel like you’re in a very low budget version of Dragon’s Den while You Don’t Know Jack now has an entertainment service called Binjpipe at the helm running the game. Each feels and looks unique, an impressive feat considering we’re now at our fifth pack.
It goes without saying but the implementation of smartphones, tablets and computers in these games continues to be one of the best innovations the party-based genre has seen. Gathering eight traditional controllers would be an expensive nightmare no matter what console you’re talking about and taking advantage of the fact that pretty much everyone has a phone on them is a welcome option.
So, at the end of the day is this year’s The Jackbox Party Pack 5 a winner? Without a doubt. Patently Stupid easily ranks up there with the elite entries like Tee K.O. and Quiplash 2 while Mad Verse City is a surprisingly fresh addition. It’s also never a bad thing to have more Cookie Masterson in You Don’t Know Jack: Full Stream and even Split the Room will have its audience. Zeeple Dome feels like the only rotten fruit in an otherwise strong bunch.
It’s impressive that even after five packs and twenty-five individual party experiences Jackbox Games are still able to deliver the good times. And to be honest, if they continue to keep up the quality I’m more than happy to keep playing for years to come.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Jackbox Games