Ain’t no party like a Jackbox Party Pack 5 party ‘cos a Jackbox Party don’t stop!
I remember You Don’t Know Jack being released on PC when I was a teenager. At that age, a silly trivia game was of absolutely no interest to me because I couldn’t blow things up in it. I’m (a bit) more grown-up now, and I’ve become a big fan of the Jackbox Party Pack series ever since I first saw the trailer for Fibbage five years ago. A video game that pretty much anyone can play thanks to your phone being a controller was nice, but one in which you can make up answers to questions and add them to the game as it plays was fantastic. It was like Cards Against Humanity ー love it or hate it ー with a constant stream of your own answers. Getting together a group of three to eight people, even those who normally wouldn’t even consider playing video games, and having some silly fun doesn’t get old.
The series has gone from strength to strength, with packs of five mostly new games being released nearly every year. A personal favourite of mine was Jackbox Party Pack 2, with the brilliant Bidiots alongside more fabulous Fibbage and the quality Quiplash. Recently I’ve been taking a look at Jackbox Party Pack 5 which brings four new games to the table, as well as a sequel to one that has come before. It also ups the quality of live streaming tools for those who want to play online, such as increasing time limits to account for stream delay and allowing people to play in ‘the audience’ if the player count is filled. Whilst it doesn’t reach the heights of my personal favourite pack, there’s still a lot to love here. Let’s take a look at what this pack has on offer.
You Don’t Know Jack: Full Stream
If you know You Don’t Know Jack then this is more You Don’t Know Jack, you know? If you don’t know You Don’t Know Jack then I’ll help you know You Don’t Know Jack. Good luck to whichever lucky individual gets to edit that. You Don’t Know Jack: Full Stream is a quiz at its heart. It’s a funny quiz, yes, with lots of silly rounds, but it’s really just a quiz. If trivia is what you’re after, then this will do you nicely. Honestly, in the Jackbox Party Pack series, I’ve always found this to be the weakest entry, especially now that Trivia Murder Party is a much more inventive trivia quiz.
Questions come up on the TV, you pick the correct answer with your phone. Questions come in a huge variety of different ways to keep things interesting. You’re still able to ‘screw’ your opponents, but there are a few more ways to do so which is nice. There’s also the option to play solo as in previous versions if that’s something you fancy. It’s as silly as ever, but if you weren’t into You Don’t Know Jack before, this probably won’t sway you.
Split the Room
A bit of an odd one, Split the Room seemed to lack the humour of other Jackbox games, but was certainly a more thoughtful challenge with a brilliant presentation. Hosted by a cat, we find ourselves in a Twilight Zone style world in which players have to come up with situations that will split the votes of the other players. The current player is given a partially completed scenario and needs to add some text to make it as divisive as possible. Everyone else then decides whether they agree or disagree with the statement. The person who posed the problem earns points based on how split the vote was. It’s tough to explain, and often tougher to win.
This could be a really fun game with the right group, but we often try to play these games to come up with the funniest answers we can and Split the Room doesn’t really play into that. That’s not to say it’s bad at all, as it’s a really neat idea with a great host and theme. Coming up with a good scenario for “You have a device that can teleport your possessions, but when they reappear they smell faintly of… Would you use it?” can be tricky in the time limit. With that said, if you’re after a game that’s a bit more cerebral than most Jackbox fare, then this might be a fun one.
Mad Verse City
Easily my favourite of the bunch, Mad Verse City combines Mad Libs with giant rap battling robots that might as well be Transformers. If that combination doesn’t immediately appeal to you then I don’t think we can be friends. In a round, everyone will be asked for a certain kind of word, such as a noun or an adjective (or something more specific like a city). Once you’ve typed your word into your phone, you’ll be asked to type in an entire line that rhymes with the word you just used. Repeat this process, and you’ll have your four-line rap ready to go.
When it comes to the battles themselves, the game uses text-to-speech to have your robots actually read out the hot bars that you’ve just written, which adds to the hilarity if you’re as bad at writing said bars as I am. Players score points based on the proportion of other players that voted for their rap, with the highest scoring player at the end winning. It’s a simple premise, but a lot of fun thanks to the robots reading out the raps for you. Like many Jackbox games, the more creative you are, the funnier this tends to be, but even the most rudimentary rhymes can have ridiculous results.
This, like Bomb Corp before it, stands out as a bit of an oddity. Rather than being a competitive game of silliness, Zeeple Dome is a co-operative combat game. Players use their phone to launch their alien around the playing area on the TV to try and destroy enemy aliens. Players get points for landing the killing blow. It’s simple enough, but being real-time with six players can make things incredibly hectic. Everyone will be going for the weakest enemies and most easily available power-ups, bouncing off each other in their efforts to score points. This can result in you being inadvertently flung into an enemy attack, damaging and possibly killing you.
It’s a reasonable game, but it’s not nearly as responsive as it needs to be considering this is often a game of quick reactions. With that said, once the chaos ensues, any concept of reacting effectively to what’s going on on-screen goes out the window and you really just need to rely on luck. It’s fun enough, but one of the weaker entries in the Jackbox series. On a positive note, you can play this in single player if you really want to. I also quite liked the visuals in this. They reminded me of Alien Hominid somewhat and certainly promoted the silliness. The sound on this one was weaker than many Jackbox games as the announcer seemed to lack personality compared to hosts in many of the other games.
Here we have another one I really enjoyed. The drawing games in past Jackbox Party Packs have often been great fun, with Bidiots and Civic Doodle being highlights. Patently Stupid is a drawing game that calls on your real-world conversational skills to do well. Presented as a seminar, players will create a problem before using their phone to draw and name an invention that would solve that problem. These will then appear in-game and each player will need to present their invention to everyone else. Players then decide which invention they will invest their limited money into. The winner, of course, is who has the most at the end.
Patently Stupid is well presented, but isn’t up to the standard of some of the other games in this pack. I really enjoyed having to present my ideas to other players as it gave a greater creative scope. There’s an option for the game to give a generic presentation if you aren’t a fan of public speaking, which is a nice addition. It’s a lot of fun and is probably the most creative drawing game they’ve done so far. The fact you can explain your answer means you can create something utterly absurd and win through speech. A great addition to the pack!
Jackbox Party Pack 5 is a solid entry in the series, with a couple of really fun games and a trio of reasonable ones. For the under £25 asking price on Xbox One, there are worse party games to buy for the festive period. You’re pretty much guaranteed more than a few funny moments with enough like-minded people. So charge those phones and dive in for some alien flinging fun or robot rapping raucousness!