Archives by Day

April 2019

The Jackbox Party Pack 5

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Casual
Publisher: Jackbox Games
Developer: Jackbox Games
Release Date: Oct. 18, 2018

About Andreas Salmen

I'm sure this is all just a misunderstanding.


Switch Review - 'Jackbox Party Pack 5'

by Andreas Salmen on Nov. 1, 2018 @ 3:00 a.m. PDT

It's the biggest Party Pack yet with five party-saving new games like Split the Room, Mad Verse City, Stupid, Zeeple Dome, and the return of the classic pop culture trivia mash-up You Don't Know Jack: Full Stream.

Buy Jackbox Party Pack 5

Party games have been a fun and successful segment of the video game industry ever since games like Buzz and Singstar received positive mainstream attention on the PlayStation 2. Back then, additional controllers and other gimmicks were used to enhance the experience, an area that is now enhanced by mobile devices. While Sony still remains in the game with its PlayLink line of games, the undoubted party game champions that incorporate smartphones are the Jackbox Party Packs, the fifth of which just arrived on all major platforms.

As with previous party packs, the success of Jackbox Party Pack 5 depends on the selection of minigames being consistently fun and having at least one standout addition. One of the games is the anticipated revival of You Don't Know Jack, the developer's long-running series that's making its second appearance after being included in the first party pack. There are a few more experimental offerings that may or may not appeal to players, but more on that later. To add some structure to our review, we'll go through all five of the games and then combine our opinions into one review score.

By now, it's safe to call You Don't Know Jack a classic in the trivia genre, simply because long-running competition has been scarce and its formula is still entertaining. It's a trivia game that's hosted by the familiar voice of Cookie Masterson, and players are tasked with answering questions that blend pop culture references and with (arguably more important) cultural knowledge. The fun lies in the silly puns and questions that effectively divert your attention from what's actually asked with clever twists in wording and structure. Trivia games can become stale or boring quickly, but YDKJ ismostly fun and entertaining, thanks to good writing and a charming delivery.

The offering in this party pack is called You Don't Know Jack: Full Stream. Wrapped in the design of a fictional (and questionable) streaming service "Binjpipe," it's one of the strongest entries in the pack and may justify a purchase all on its own. There are some clever and interesting special rounds, like "Dis or Dat," where we had to match events with either the movie "Paddington 2," the life of Lil Wayne, or both. (It's surprisingly tougher than it sounds.) If you're not doing well, you can slow down your opponents with things like a fake Terms and Conditions that require them to scroll to the end before being able to answer a question. It makes for some enjoyable moments. This is also one of the few games that works well with both the minimum and maximum amount of players in the room (2-8), making this a fun and scalable experience.

Split the Room is the second game, and at first glance, it seems quite similar to other Jackbox games, but it mixes things up a bit. In many other entries, having the funniest answer to a prompt would be enough to get points and a win, but Split the Room wants you to do the opposite. Prompts mostly boil down to, "Would you rather A or B?" with A being a given quantity and B a freely chosen option by the players. The goal is to read and split the room, and the closer we get to a 50/50 result, the more points we get. Extra points are awarded when people take longer to decide on an answer. Some truly tough decisions can be quite revealing if you have the right group of people. While Split the Room can be played with 3-8 local participants, the nature of it makes it less fun and ill-suited for small groups, as a split is harder to achieve and people are more likely to agree on a certain answer. This is a decent addition, especially since it changes the tried-and-true formula to provide a slightly different experience, especially if you can get a room of friends going.

Mad Verse City, the third addition, is a colorful and weird robot rap battle. The description sounds weird, and I initially found to be a bit odd, but it grew to be one of my favorite games in the pack. It requires 3-8 players, and everyone is assigned an robot alter ego. They're tasked to complete prompts and predefined verses to win the improv rap battle. Don't worry, you won't have to actually rap. Your robot avatar does it for you — in the worst computer-generated voice I've heard in a while. It's goofy to hear the very literal pronunciation of every word and some obscenities. After each round, players can vote for their favorites. Your general way with words and your friends will ultimately decide how fun this experience will be, but if you're into horrible puns and straightforward cheesy rhymes, this may be right up your alley.

Zeeple Drome is something entirely new for a Jackbox Party Pack: an action game. Aside from YDKJ, it's the only other game that can be played with 2-8 players. The premise is that players are tasked with cooperatively taking out all enemies by slinging their character at them. Your phone is all you need, and it's remarkably fluid to sling your character across the screen, but it's mostly inaccurate and quickly gets stale. If played in a full room of participants, Zeeple Dome provides some fun chaos, but it makes the inaccurate controls even more apparent. It's a straightforward affair that incorporates a few subtle gameplay characteristics, such as color-coded enemies that have to be hit by a certain player to be defeated. The problem with Zeeple Dome is that it isn't exciting enough, it isn't the reason to play Jackbox Party Packs. Even then, it's pretty underwhelming, making this the weakest entry by a long shot. It was obviously included to try something new with the game, but the fun factor isn't there.

By now, Patently Stupid is the (almost) mandatory drawing game, and it's one of the better ones out there. I was very fond of Bidiots in the third pack, where players had to create paintings based on prompts and then bid on the paintings to investe and make a profit by selling them. Patently Stupid takes a similar approach but adds another layer that can result in some truly funny situations. The basic premise is a prompt or a problem that we have to solve with an invention. We have to draw, name, and think of a tagline to promote it. Once that's done, we have to pitch the invention to the group. During the pitch, we can show the elements of our invention — namely the image, name and tagline — in any order we'd like to heighten suspense and comedic effect. Once everyone has presented their ideas to the group, we can invest in the products, with preset amounts from high to low. (There is a bland self-presentation mode in case you're a streamer and unable to have your players actually present an idea, which lessens the fun significantly.) If an idea is successfully funded, we receive a return on our investment, and the person with the most money in the bank wins. It sounds long, and that it is, but it is also the most entertaining drawing game that I've played in quite a while — if you're not afraid of making presentations in front of a group.

Taken as a whole, the selection of games in JPP5 is more than solid, with better-than-average games and a high-profile version of YDKJ ensures that this is one of my favorite packs so far. It doesn't have extreme standouts like Quiplash or Fibbage, but apart from Zeeple Dome, they are all fun and have the potential to become a favorite based on player preferences. It's the consistency that makes JPP5 one of the better ones, and if you're a fan, there isn't anything to worry about here in terms of quality.

Jackbox Party Pack 5 also includes the features we've come to expect, with family-friendly modes for all games except YDKJ, streaming support for an audience of up to 10,000, and plenty of fun. All in all, this is a commendable effort that consistently delivers, even though an experimental action title keeps it from reaching greater heights.

Score: 7.6/10

More articles about The Jackbox Party Pack 5
blog comments powered by Disqus