The Jackbox Party Packs have become a yearly event for our household; an excuse to gather together friends and family eager to check out the latest quintet of potential side-splitting party games. How exactly does this year’s The Jackbox Party Pack 6 stack up against past efforts?
It seems every new The Jackbox Party Pack includes a sequel of some kind and this year it’s the turn of Trivia Murder Party, a game that stood out as one of the stronger efforts back when the third game was released. As you’d expect Jackbox Games doesn’t go about reinventing the wheel here but rather making some smart quality of life changes and packing in more devilish mini-games.
The format of Trivia Murder Party 2 remains largely unchanged. The host / murderer from the previous game is back and this time running a hotel where he plans to kill your entire group. Each round consists of a multiple-choice question where those who answer incorrectly must then participate in a random mini-game. Anyone who loses is then unceremoniously killed and turned into a ghost (don’t worry you’ll still be able to participate in the game). This continues until one player remains who in the final round will try to escape from the nightmarish hotel by answering more questions with the other deceased members hot on the chase.
The game was fun back in the third Jackbox Party Pack and that definitely remains the case again now. Little additions such as subtitles and the option to turn off US-centric questions are appreciated (especially for us Europeans) and the new mini-games are amusing and often tense. One example had us trying to enter phone numbers using a rotary dial on our touch screen while another involved players hiding in a magicians box whilst others would try to skewer them by stabbing swords through.
Trivia Murder Party 2 is a smart evolution over its predecessor. Subtle in its improvements sure but easily one of the best this collection has to offer.
On paper, Joke Boat sounds like an easy slam-dunk since it revolves around creating – rather unsurprisingly – jokes. In the first of two rounds, players will do this in three steps; first by selecting their joke’s structure, then choosing one of three randomly assigned words to complete the set-up (these are gathered at the start of the game by the entire group’s suggestions) and finally ending on the punch line. The final round meanwhile will see players trying to improve on a previously told joke.
Unfortunately, the end results in Joke Boat range wildly between laugh out loud and awkward silence. For every clever or witty remark, there were plenty more that left us scratching our heads or booing at the screen. To be fair coming up with something genuinely funny in a limited time is no easy task especially since you’re at the mercy of the random words sent your way. You may land a word that works out great or you might get unlucky and be stuck with one that simply doesn’t make much sense.
The reason the likes of Quiplash worked so well was that you were free to write literally anything you wanted, be it clever, dumb, funny or absolutely insane. Here you feel more pressure since your creations are being labelled as actual jokes, a task made even harder thanks to the limiting setups and words offered. While our group had a few laughs, the tougher difficulty and all too frequent lame jokes meant this was a game some were hesitant to jump right back into. Like any amateur stand-up, you have to sit through the bad to get to the good.
Role Models caters to only six players and focuses on assigning examples (or roles if you prefer) within a chosen category to each member of your group. This could be choosing which of your friends best belongs in house Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, and Hufflepuff or pairing up the group with characters from the American Office. Is someone in your group a Michael Scott? Once everyone has attempted to allocate roles to each player the results are revealed. If a player scores the majority vote they will claim that role for themselves. If a tie should happen then those involved will face off in a Quiplash-style event related to that role. After a few rounds, the points are tallied and each person will be given a master role based on the roles they were given throughout the game.
Role Models feels like another weak addition largely thanks to a lack of clarity in your objective (not to mention
how the game is scored) as well as an end payoff that rarely feels worth your time. To be honest the master roles make no sense and barely relate to the person they’re attached. The topics too can be pretty hit or miss. I mean how do you choose which person is the twist movie ending ‘He was dead the whole time’? Sure some categories you might find it easy picking a role or two that suits a few in your group perfectly but chances are the remaining positions will be too random or simply not work with the individuals you have left. While I get what Jackbox Games were going for here, sadly the end result feels messy.
Push the Button is an absolute winner especially if you can get as close to the ten-player ceiling as possible. Not totally dissimilar to deductive parlour games like The Resistance: Avalon and Werewolves, here the group are trying to figure out who amongst them are aliens while those assigned the extraterrestrial role do all they can to remain hidden. Perhaps sharing more in common with the former parlour game than the latter, Push the Button doesn’t leave you to randomly and hopelessly start accusing but instead use a series of tests to catch the aliens out.
Every round will see one player don the captain’s hat granting them the power to choose who will participate in a test. These tests involve everything from sketching to giving opinions. The catch here is that the aliens will be sent slightly altered tasks to their device. For example, they might receive a different picture to draw or blindly have to choose if they agree or disagree with a statement only the humans can see. As an alien, it can be tough keeping distrusting eyes from heading your way. Hacks – of which the aliens can use a limited number of – add an extra element of chaos to the mix though, either allowing them to interfere with human’s prompt or help themselves with their own.
With time constantly ticking away, the group will continue to perform tests hoping to single out the dubious types and eventually coming to a decision on whom to send out into the dark void of space. Unfortunately, the team only gets one crack at this and unless they manage to identify every alien correctly, then it’s game over for the humans.
Whether you’ve been assigned the role of a human or an alien the experience is both engaging and exciting throughout. Successfully misleading the humans with a sneaky hack is hugely satisfying while the same can also be said for sniffing out the aliens with some carefully thought out logic. Of all the games in this year’ pack, Push the Button has me most excited to return to.
Dictionarium ended up reminding me of the board game Balderdash but with a few neat twists. Initially, players will come up with their own definitions to a random made-up word that will then go up against the group and put to a vote. Next, you’ll need to come up with a synonym for said word and again everyone votes on his or her favourite. The final round then sees you use this newly formed word in a sentence.
I enjoyed the flow of this game, each round leading nicely into the next. The time given to come up with your efforts felt surprisingly short and some may find that off-putting. Personally I felt it lead to some amusing panicky submissions and kept the pace moving. While it might not be as laugh-out-loud funny as the likes of Quiplash or Survive the Internet, it’s gratifying to see your words, definitions and example sentences all come together.
A quick mention has to go to the game’s overall presentation that with every new Jackbox Party Pack seems to get better and better. All five games have a very unique and flavourful look to them that’s hard to fault.
The Jackbox Party Pack 6 delivers some fantastically hilarious highs that are unfortunately paired with some awkward and cringing lows. To lay it all out, Trivia Murder Party 2 and Push the Button are both fantastic, Role Models feels like a throwaway and Dictionarium and Joke Boat fall somewhere in the middle. Overall this year’s quintet offers enough laughs and proves even six packs in that Jackbox Games can still deliver.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Jackbox Games