Monday, August 28, 2017

Review: Jackbox Party Pack 2


Released in parallel with the original Jackbox Party Pack and after Jackbox Party Pack 3 it may seem like Jackbox Games is competing with themselves a bit on the Switch. With so many of their games available now how is someone to pick which one suits them the best? Surely, you may also think, with so many of their games offered there must be some serious overlap in what’s offered? Well, if you’d thought that I’m happy to say you’d be wrong. Though the overall format of the Jackbox party games remains roughly the same, and there are two titles in Party Pack 2 that are versions of those found in other packs (Fibbage 2 is the sequel to Fibbage XL in Party Pack 1, Quiplash XL is the prequel to Quiplash 2 in Party Pack 3), there’s plenty of originality to be found in Jackbox Party Pack 2 that makes it unique among its peers.


I’ll start out with what I’d consider to be the weakest of the bunch and that would be Bidiots. Essentially filling the space of this Pack’s game that involves drawing I’d say after a few playthroughs it is the one I’ve enjoyed the least overall, though there are some great elements of humor in it. The idea is that each player will receive hints for creating 2 different pictures. In my case one time I was given a man wearing over-sized sunglasses and a flash mob. Once everyone is done drawing the main game will begin where everyone will start with a set amount of money and will look to bid on different pieces of art. Some art carries higher values and some is pretty well worthless. To help clue people in each person will receive the actual value of multiple art pieces. One complication is that it isn’t unusual, because of the low quality of the art people can quickly put together, for pictures to potentially represent more than one description… making the advice you receive only as helpful as how well you’re able to confirm what the art represents. Another is that you only have a set amount of money to bid with and if you want some more you’ll need to get a loan… but it will cost you $500 interest on a $1000 loan that you’ll need to pay at the end of the game. So the bidding ends up being a mix of people who are informed, people who may think something is valuable incorrectly, and people who are simply trying to fake out everyone else to get them bidding on something they know is worthless. It can be a relatively good time, and in particular some of the comments and ads for the loan company are a lot of fun, but the limited quality of what you’re able to draw and the somewhat convoluted way things can play out made it the least popular of the pack for my group.

Moving on to what will probably be the most contentious game in the bunch in terms of people likely loving it or hating it we have a rare cooperative Jackbox game in the form of Bomb Corp. Playing out completely differently than every other Party Pack game that I’ve played you and your friends will take on the role of interns in a pretty incompetent company that apparently, with regularity, produces unstable bombs which will need to be deactivated in order to prevent everyone from suffering an explosive death. The solution that will save everyone? A combination of patience, deductive reasoning, and communication. Undoubtedly, we’re all doomed then. Early on one person will typically be in charge of cutting wires while each of the other players will receive a vital clue painting a piece of the picture for which wires should be cut. Each instruction will need to be considered carefully, especially as things progress, because the rules will continue to get more complex. It will eventually even get to the point where the order the clues are read in will be vital and there will be rules that will begin to contradict others. As a change of pace there are sometimes other exercises requiring people to work together such as everyone working together to file a list of people’s names in alphabetical order. All in all it can be pretty fun but the degree to which people want to continue playing it after a few attempts will likely vary.


The last unique game to the pack is also one of the more clever and enjoyable ones in the Jackbox line-up that hasn’t yet gotten a sequel, and it is called Earwax. In this game, every round, one player will be the judge who’ll get to choose the topic. These are varied and often quite silly themselves, but the fun begins when the people competing for the judge’s vote look over the list of random sounds they have to work with. I will warn you, there is a significant emphasis placed on potty humor, but then again since the game is all about sounds it can be hard not to find creative ways to make use of bodily noises. Once each player has chosen 2 of the sounds they were given (each player has their own that are randomly assigned) all of the entries are reviewed one by one. From there the judge will pick their favorite and scores are tallied. The first person to get 3 points wins. In many ways this plays out almost like an audio Cards Against Humanity and the fact that you choose 2 sounds that are then played in that order can sometimes make a major difference in the way your answer is interpreted. My family had a great time with this one through multiple playthroughs and I anticipate we’ll be eager to break it out at a party to generate a lot of laughs. Would love to see a refined sequel to this one specifically!

Getting to the first title that is shared with another pack there’s Fibbage 2, the sequel to the Fibbage XL that was included in Party Pack 1. While the changes to the game are, overall, pretty minor with visual presentation, people getting to pick their own sounds when they sign in, and the addition, per player, of a one-time option to eliminate all but 2 answers on the board the game is mostly unchanged. Ultimately it is a trivia game that tends to skew towards the strange and obscure. Each person will then get to give their own answer to the prompt, though aiming for what may make sense is rarely as strong a strategy as trying to throw everyone else off so they’ll choose your answer instead of the correct one. Points are then tallied, per round, for how many people you may have fooled and for how many people got the right answer. Overall it is generally a lot of fun and it takes quite some time before you’ll begin to see repeats. Unfortunately those eventually are problematic though since you get more points for finding the truth than deceiving people so if anyone knows the answers it can skew the intent of the game quickly. There’s a lot of fun to be had with it though before that should happen.


Last, but very much not least, there’s the original (well, the XL version) iteration of my favorite Jackbox game, Quiplash. At a party my friends and I played both this and the revered Cards Against Humanity and Quiplash is a superior game in almost every way, hands down. How it works is that everyone playing is given 2 different prompts. These are generally all over the place and many open avenues for strange or twisted responses. The great thing about playing the game with the right people is that ALL prompts, no matter how benign, provide opportunities for laughs. Once everyone has put in their responses (or have blanked and chosen to use one of the random auto answers) players will then vote on which of the 2 collected answers is the best. If someone manages to get all votes they’ll be awarded a Quiplash and a substantial bonus! Aside from the great prompts in the game that, in themselves, are often funny what I most love about the game is that even if you would eventually see a repeat (note: as much as I’ve played this and the sequel over time I don’t recall ever seeing one) since all answers are player-provided nobody gets much of an advantage. Even your answer that was killer last time may not play as well to a different crowd, or at a different time, as often current events or even inside jokes among the people present can come into play. By far I’d consider this the cornerstone of this or any Party Pack Jackbox makes and it is why I inherently consider both Party Pack 2 and 3 to be stronger than the original for its inclusion.

While all of the Party Packs have been a load of fun I’d say it is truly a close horse race between Party Packs 2 and 3 for the title of best overall. While I’d thought I’d have given Party Pack 3 the edge before I’d played the entire collection in 2 I’m now thinking that Party Pack 2 may be the best by a nose. While tastes will vary depending on who you are or who you play with I don’t really think there are any outright clunkers in this Pack, though perhaps Bidiots isn’t as fun as I would have liked and Bomb Corp. won’t be a winner for all groups. In the end I’m actually very impressed with them all, would recommend each one of them, and think you’ll need to carefully review the specifics about the games included in each Pack to make the best determination for yourself and your group.

Score: 9

Pros:
  • The inclusion of Quiplash alone, for me, makes the pack worth buying if you don’t already have a copy
  • Earwax is a little different, often funny (if you don’t mind potty humor), and unique among Jackbox’s other games
  • Fibbage 2 is an even better version of the original and a great overall format for a trivia game that doesn’t necessarily favor people who can regurgitate obscure facts


Cons:
  • Bomb Corp. is a nice change of pace but, depending on your crowd, it may not be what you’re looking for since it isn’t so much about the laughs and is cooperative instead of competitive
  • If you’re really into drawing games Bidiots is probably the weakest among the ones Jackbox has made, both Drawful and Tee-KO are generally more fun
  • Doesn’t have enough things to pick on to fill out a third con…


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