The Jackbox Party Pack 7

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Casual
Developer: Jackbox Games
Release Date: Oct. 15, 2020

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PC Review - 'Jackbox Party Pack 7'

by Andreas Salmen on Nov. 11, 2020 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

The Jackbox Party Pack 7 is a collection of party games that can be played with friends, locally or online.

If there was ever a perfect time for the party game franchise, it is now. With millions of people regularly confined at home due to the catastrophe that is 2020, online party games often provide the right amount of fun for online gatherings. Luckily, Jackbox Party Pack 7 is perhaps one of its best outings in a while, with a solid selection of games that will satisfy those playing locally, on a video call, or streaming. We checked out the PC version and are pleasantly surprised at the variety of games, even though they're not all created equal.

The seventh installment features five self-contained games that can be played with two to eight players. Some games support as few as two players, but five seems to be the optimal group size. The beauty of these party packs is that only one copy is needed. Players can join any session on their own devices (mobile or desktop) to participate or spectate. Almost all games can be easily enjoyed in multiple scenarios. I'll be scoring each game individually and then tally up everything in a final score at the end.

The first title in JPP7 is a returning fan favorite, Quiplash 3, which is intended for three to eight players. This game is probably enough of reason for some to purchase this year's pack, and it's still as much joy to play as it's always been. There's a bit of comfort in the familiar during uncertain times like these, but Quiplash 3 is so similar to the previous version that it's far from my favorite offering in this year's release.

The core game still revolves around completing prompts with a word or phrase. Your answer and another player's answer are displayed anonymously, and the rest of the group votes on whose completed phrase is funnier. It's a solid choice, especially since it comes with loads of prompts that can be extended with your own or pre-made packs. Your enjoyment is dependent on your group's ability to come up with funny answers. Quiplash can sometimes feel forced, since prompts can sometimes be rigid and not provide much freedom for creativity. Each game lasts for three rounds, with the third being a new bonus round that requires filling a prompt with three answers rather than one. It's still fun and enjoyable, but I'm let down that the third entry feels fundamentally the same.

Quiplash 3: 7.0/10

The Devils and the Details is one of the standouts of the pack in its approach to creating something more experimental. You and up to seven friends take control of a demon family that tries to fit in among humans — including a catchy sitcom intro. The premise is to do as many human chores as possible in exchange for points. Some tasks can be done on your own, others must be completed with another player, and there's always an overall family goal for the week.

Most of the chores are completed on your device with wipes and taps. You may look for spices in the pantry, mow the lawn, or cook a meal for your boss, who you had invited for dinner. What makes the game an enjoyable mess is that some tasks have to be completed cooperatively, which means screaming at each other in an attempt to coordinate with people about which spices go where or where the remote is hidden.

The more interesting twist is that there are selfish tasks that players can perform to only count toward their score, rather than the group's. If caught, these tasks can be interrupted by other players, and selfish players will be marked as such between the three rounds, so the group can keep a close eye on them. Honestly, I could see this being one of the least preferred games in the package for several reasons. It's likely unusable on a stream due to the need for communication. Even over a video call, it's very overwhelming to play, especially if you have multiple players on a single video feed talking over each other.

I enjoyed my time playing The Devils and the Details locally. The way the game incentivizes selfish play while still requiring a high group score to advance can sow some genuine dissent in your group. Of all of the games in the package, this one felt more competitive. It's not suitable for all situations, but when it works, it is a very fun group exercise.

The Devils and the Details: 8.0/10

Drawing games are hit-and-miss when included in the Jackbox packs. Some are truly fun, like Drawful, but there are also a few duds. Champ'd Up is the name of the drawing exercise in JPP7, and it feels like it learned from the misadventures of previous versions. It's a mix between Pokémon and Drawful in all the right ways. In a group of three to eight players, everyone receives a prompt and draws a champion who would win a matchup for the prompt. Prompts can look for cute, sad, or weirder scenarios, such as the "best intern."

Players immediately need to draw a second champion, although they don't receive a prompt. They're shown one of the champions drawn during the first prompt that they'll be competing against. Players must guess the prompt and craft a competent contender, which can net you huge bonus points if you win the matchup.

This works so well because it removes a lot of the clutter and complexity of previous drawing games. The drawing is much clearer to navigate, with a marker and pen as well as several colors. It's still limited in what it can do, but it makes it easier and quicker to create and color your creations. It also isn't bogged down with a lot of rules.

In the second and last round of the game, you repeat the same process and draw two new champions, except there will be an additional surprise prompt in each round. That means your champions duke it out for prompt A, which is immediately followed with a new prompt.

The game lets you swap in one of your previously drawn champions if you think they would be a better fit for the prompt — or if you're really proud of your drawing skills. It's a good marriage between the usual amateurish drawings and ludicrous competitiveness. I could see its simplicity may hurt its longevity, but Champ'd Up was one of the best drawing games I've played in a Jackbox game in a long while.

Champ'd Up: 9.0/10

Welcome to the most potent weak link. It sounds contradictory, but it's the best description I could give to the fourth game, Blather Round. It's the only game playable for two to six players, which is odd since that it seems feasible to be played with more players. Depending on the size of your group, the group limitation may automatically push this game to the sidelines. It's also my least favorite game in JPP7, but that is more due to its rather strong competition in this pack.

Blather Round is a word-guessing game, but instead of demanding your best charades impression, it lets you play with a limited vocabulary so the rest of the group can guess your word. In practice, that means choosing a word (a person or a place, for example), which the other players must guess it. The catch is that the game only lets you communicate with the rest of your group via restrictive prompts. You'll see a sentence structure where you can swap certain passages with a restrictive pool of words at your disposal, making it tricky to convey what you are looking for. With increasing guesses, you can also directly comment on a player's guess by saying whether your word is similar to one of their previous guesses. It works perfectly fine at what it does, and it's a fun time, but I'd recommend having at least a group of four to make it interesting and to have a good variety of guesses among the team. It's one of those games that is enjoyable in bursts, but its nature and execution don't excite me, so it's one of the games that I don't necessarily think I'll revisit too often.

Blather Round: 7.0/10

I've kept the best for last. Talking Points is not perfect by any means, but it's easily the most fun I've had in any Jackbox game, even though its scoring is as arbitrary as the day is long. The goal is for every player to hold a presentation on a specific topic, but they don't know the prompt or the slides ahead of time. The group generates three titles each, which are then shuffled among all participants to choose one for their presentation.

What follows is spontaneous ridiculousness galore. Each player is assigned an assistant to choose the slides and title for your presentation. The presenter must choose from sees a random selection of pictures and titles on their device. You'll rarely find a picture that will fit the current topic, and that is precisely the beauty of this game.

Talking Points forces everyone to think on their feet and turn even the worst slides into a cohesive presentation. There are cute animals, weird stock photos, random mashups, and graphs that will bomb every presentation. The presenter aren't in control of their slides, but they can draw and scribble on the current slide to illustrate their point — if they have one. It's probably not a good game if you're plagued by stage fright or public speaking issues, but it provided me with the most frequent and continuous laugh-out-loud moments.

Where the game falls short is how it scores and compares the group. Everyone who is not involved in the presentation can vote at any time on a scale from 1-10. The ratings are recorded, graphed, and calculated into a score. Listeners can also provide a review quote about the presentation, and while it may not gain them points, it's a good opportunity to squeeze in a punchline. Once everyone has had their turn, the final scoring commences, and everyone can name and create their own awards to give to other players. This also gives bonus points, which are capable of turning the tide in a close contest.

Alas, the scoring feels very ambiguous, and there are so many different types of scores and accumulated multipliers that it's sometimes difficult to tell why someone edged out their neighbor in the final score. I'd argue that will only annoy the notorious winners of your group. What mattered most to me were the fun moments that Talking Points consistently created in every session I played, making this easily my favorite game of the bunch by a decent margin.

Talking Points: 9.0/10

Beyond the five games, there are not many surprises to mention in JPP7. Most of the experience mirrors the previous Jackbox games, with options for family-friendly sessions, streaming, and more granular settings. It's graphically tame and releases for every major platform, so you can likely buy and enjoy JPP7 on at least one device that you own. Given the selection of games this year, I strongly recommend that you do.

I thought Jackbox Party Pack 7 could not surprise me. Every year usually features a comparable selection of games with the usual ups and downs, but this year's selection is of a higher caliber. Even the weakest title is well thought out, making this a great offering that I am sure everyone can enjoy to some extent. Some of the games might be more restrictive if you prefer streaming or playing in larger groups, but that is a small downside when the included games are so much fun.

Score: 8.0/10

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