Once upon a time, people gathered together in the same room to play board games. And one of the most successful board games of that time was You Don’t Know Jack. Yeah, yeah, I know that even in 2017 some people still gather in the same place to play board games, but let’s be honest. Most people that play games these days do so online. The lovely folks from Jackbox Games, Inc have not fought this inevitable advancement in technology. Choosing instead to embrace video games and to create some what of a love child between the social party games of days gone by and the always connected online gaming of here and now.
This has resulted in the Jackbox Party Pack series of games, of which we are currently up to 4. Each new iteration of the Jackbox Party Pack comes with 5 social party games bundled up together in one neat package. The true glory to the Jackbox games, however, is that even though they’re intended to be played with a party, there’s no requirement for everyone that is going to play to also have the game. lf you’re socially awkward, as I am, and the majority of your friends are scattered across the globe, only one of you needs to have the game for all of you to play. The host player can stream the game using a broadcasting service such as Twitch or Mixer. Then the players that want to join need only to tune in to the live stream, and point their personal device – be it a smart phone, tablet, PC or literally any other device with a web browser – to Jackbox.TV. From there the game will create a random four digit room code and players can create a user name and join you for Party shenanigans. If you have more party members than the game allows players (it does top out at 8 players), don’t fret! Extra guests can join the audience and still affect the outcomes of the games for the players.
While live streaming is a viable (and fun) option for playing the Jackbox Party Pack games, I took the route of trying to fill a room with actual people to play together. I may be anti social, but I do have access to a social butterfly in the form of a teenage daughter, whom I affectionately refer to as Number One. Number One took it upon herself to organize a sleepover with a half dozen of her nearest and dearest friends, and since these are teenage girls they came with their own smart phone devices pre equipped and readily available. Number One is an avid gamer, but her buddies have limited experience/interest with console gaming. Most of them only play while visiting our home, and even then they’re limited to playing in small bursts while passing around the couple of controllers that are available. This is another benefit to the Jackbox Party Pack series. You don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy them. The rules are laid out very clearly at the beginning of each game so that anybody unfamiliar with the set up can learn to play.
Now that all the technicalities are out of the way, what five games are available in the fourth edition of the Jackbox Party Pack? Jackbox Games, Inc’s classic title Fibbage makes its return for the third time. Fibbage 3 is more of what Fibbage fans already know and love. For those new to the series, Fibbage is a trivia style party game where players are presented with a prompt , either a statement with blanks to fill in or a question to answer, and then using their devices they enter a lie relating to that prompt. The game then presents everybody with the lies along side the actual answer. Trick your friends with your lie, and you earn points. Earn even more if you choose the correct answer, as well. The player with the most points wins.
Remember when I said there were 5 games in Jackbox Party Pack 4? Well – surprise! There’s a bonus half game alongside of Fibbage 3. Fibbage: Enough About You is a little twist to keep things fresh with the Fibbage series. Instead of players lying to each other about random trivia, each player is given a prompt to write a lie and a truth about themselves. The remainder of the group then tries to guess which of the provided facts is truthful about their friend. Fibbage: Enough About You was an interesting success among the group of teenagers that had commandeered my Xbox. It proved a unique way for some of the girls who might not usually hang out with each other to learn a little more about their new friends, and for old friends to open up and learn about each other with a few laughs sprinkled in.
Moving on from Fibbage, the next new entry to the Jackbox Party Pack series is Surviving the Internet. Surviving the Internet offers up a humorous pre-21st century internet aesthetic while offering up a chance to ‘burn’ your friends in a humorous environment. Each round of Surviving the Internet begins by giving players a prompt along with two choices. Something seemingly random, like “What do you prefer? A cheeseburger or a dolphin tattoo.” Player A makes a choice or inputs an answer if the prompt is phrased as a question. That answer from player A is then sent to another player randomly, but without its context of the original prompt. It is up to player player B to write secondary response using their new prompt. The combined result is then shared with the group, who vote for their favorites. Player B is awarded points if their combo wins, and player A gets some pity points for being the burn victim. Surviving the Internet needs at least three players to start, but the requirements of the game mean that there needs to be an even number of people to get things off the ground. Never fear, though, as Jackbox’s host for Surviving the Internet has a friend, Gene, who can play along. (Hint, Gene’s a bot.)
Once you’re done roasting your buddies with out of context quotes, you can move on to another newcomer for the Jackbox Party Pack series: Monster Seeking Monster. At the beginning of each game, players are assigned a secret monster ability. Some of these are helpful to the player’s cause, such as allotting bonus hearts for certain interactions, but others can be detrimental and result in the loss of hearts. Each player must keep their monster ability a secret while reaching out to others using the in game chat app. Be mindful of who and how you message, though, as the app only allows each player to send four messages a night. After wooing the other players privately, its time to choose who from the group you’d like to go on a date with. Remember when I said be mindful of what you say in the chat messages? They go on display for everybody during the date. If two players both choose each other to date for that night, they’re a match and will receive a heart. Choosing a player who matches up to somebody else will result in losing a heart and not having a date for the evening. But at least your chat logs stay hidden! At the end of each night (there are 6 in all) the top scoring human player’s monster ability is revealed to the remaining players, requiring players to change up the way they approach potential dates if they want to earn more hearts. Much like Surviving the Internet, Monster Seeking Monster requires an even number of players so that everybody has a match. A handy dandy robot can join the game, however, if you and your friends just can’t even. The robot does add a new twist to the game, though. The robot seeks to understand humanity through this pseudo dating game, so if nobody matches with the robot by the end of the night then he loses a heart. If the robot is in last place by the final night, he will destroy all humanity and everybody loses. Despite the humor aspect of trying to keep the robot from destroying everybody, Monster Seeking Monster does come off as the weakest game in Jackbox Party Pack 4, but that could be an effect of attempting to play the game with a group of teenage girls.
From Monster Seeking Monster we move on to Bracketeering, probably one of the easiest games to pick up on in Jackbox Party Pack 4 and perfect for beginners to these kind of games. Bracketeering begins by giving players a simple prompt, and asks players to respond. These can be humorous, clever, or just generally unusual, but they’re then jumbled up and regurgitated out of context and with a new prompt. Everybody votes for their favorite, and the winner moves up through the brackets. The only other gameplay mechanic that slips in is the game will ask players to bet on which answer they think will win. This allows players to take a chance at increasing their coin output if they choose correctly.
Bringing up the rear end of the available games is Civic Doodle. Civic Doodle is in the same vein as games like Pictionary and Drawful, but there’s a new twist here to keep things fresh. After a city beautification project runs dry, you’re drafted to help finish a mural in town. Two players will be presented with a scribble on a wall, and using the colors available they have to draw as much as they can in the time allotted. Everybody votes on the best update to the mural, and the winning changes move on to the next round where two more people add on to the masterpiece. After the mural is complete, the mayor of the city asks for a portrait. He’ll randomly scroll through the phone book to tell you the name of a towns person he wants to commemorate, along with a few rapid fire clues as to who this person is and what they look like. These are usually something nonsensical like “they lived by the pig farm”, but they can help encourage ideas. Everybody draws all at once during the portrait phase, and then votes for their favorite. Each phase will ask that players draw a specific part of the portrait such as the eyes or nose, and finishes with everybody drawing whatever they want before voting on the final portrait that will hang in city hall.
Jackbox Games Inc knows how to keep people entertained, and Jackbox Party Pack 4 is another strong entry to their ever growing lineup of party games. Whether playing in a group online or off, everybody is sure to enjoy themselves with these games even if they’re not “typical gamers”.