As the online multiplayer spawn has grown exponentially over the last two decades few developers have left room for the couch co-op experience. And where local multiplayer has fallen by the wayside, the party game has been pushed even further to the periphery – to the point there are barely any options available.
Even so there still exist a few party game options, many of which are developed by Jackbox Games (formerly Jellyvision). Most will recognize Jackbox for their You Don’t Know Jack series, but as of late the developer has begun to expand to more diverse communal experiences, like the lie-guessing game Fibbage.
At the same time, Jackbox has not forgotten where they came from and have decided to release a party game extravaganza they’re calling the Jackbox Party Pack. The Party Pack includes five games in total, many of which can support up to 8 players and don’t require more than a single controller. That’s because each of the five games in the Jackbox Party Pack use mobile devices in place of controllers.
The package itself is an easily recommended value, offering five games for about $5-a-piece. There’s the familiar You Don’t Know Jack expansion for 2015, an XL version of Fibbage, another lie-focused game called Lie Swatter, a goofy word association game called Word Spud, and a clever drawing game called Drawful.
On the whole, the Party Pack has its fair shares of winners and losers, but is a must for anyone who regularly throws parties. Where most local multiplayer games have the hassle of controller or player limitations, each of the Party Pack games are more inclusive and easy to understand. Most importantly, the games are just plain fun to play, offering a series of unique experiences that will have players thinking hard and laughing even harder.
You Don’t Know Jack is easily the best part of the package, if only because it features a formula Jackbox knows works so well. Players try to answer a series of questions as quickly and correctly as they can, with a few wild cards thrown in for good measure. But, of course, You Don’t Know Jack is hardly Trivial Pursuit. Trivia games like this that feature inane trivia help keep the braniacs from distancing themselves from the pack, and the game’s unique betting mechanic ensures everyone has a chance to win. And let us not forget, YDKJ host Cookie Masterson, who is like a whacked out version of Alex Trebek.
Fibbage is fast becoming a personal favorite for parties both because of the laughs it delivers and the competition it inspires. Basically, players try to create convincing lies to a given question while also trying to figure out the truth. So while picking the correct answer might give players points, they can earn even more points by convincing other players that their lie is the truth. It’s such a smart idea whose only drawback is the question pool. Once players start seeing duplicates, the game loses its luster.
Word Spud and Lie Swatter are the weakest of the bunch, offering a few chuckles but little overall entertainment. Word Spud is a word association game and therefore not necessarily a competitive experience. Really, it’s designed for players to create funny phrases for each other, but doesn’t extend much beyond that. Lie Swatter is impressive in that it can support up to 100 players, but it’s a simple true or false guessing game. Those who can get a couple dozen people into a room are sure to enjoy it because of the large party support, but it’s hardly a memorable offering. Most will appreciate it simply because it offers up some pretty shocking factoids.
The real wild card in the bunch is Drawful, a silly game where players try to represent words or phrases with pictures. Now, because players are using the touch screens of a phone, these images rarely come out a perfect and that’s part of the magic of the game. The other great thing about it is that after each drawing is shown, players then try to create fake answers almost like Fibbage. So while you’re trying to figure out what the image represents, you’re also creating a convincing answer for your opponents.
Alongside a set of enjoyable party games, the Jackbox Party Pack also features really smart game design by using phones as controllers. There’s no downloading required and no need for useless peripherals; all players need do is visit a specific website, enter a unique code for their game, and the site does the rest. There’s no lag to the site and the UIs for each game are clean and easy to understand. It’s such a smart concept that you wonder why games don’t use it more often, and could be a real boon to the Scene It! franchise. The only real drawback we experienced is that players can get kicked from a game due to connection errors. It’s a small gripe, but one that certainly halts momentum.
Outside of that and a few less successful party games, the Jackbox Party Pack is still an easy recommendation for fans of Jackbox’s past efforts or casual party games in general. Jackbox knows how to make charming party games with clever writing and smart concepts and they have hit a real home run here. Even if the pack had just included Fibbage and You Don’t Know Jack it would have been plenty worth the $25 price tag, but the three additional games only make the deal sweeter. Get together the ones you love (or even the ones you hate) and play some Jackbox Party Pack this holiday season.
The Jackbox Party Pack is available now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Game Rant was provided a PS4 code for this review.
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