Tuesday, October 23

Review: Jackbox Party Pack 5 [Nintendo Switch eShop]


The folks at Jackbox Games are back, bringing the latest incarnation of their signature party game series to the Switch. Much like in previous years it includes a staple known quantity, this time in the form of an updated edition of their trivia game You Don’t Know Jack. Beyond that it has a group of 4 pretty diverse new games, including an action title that pushes into territory I’ve not seen them attempt before. These all work better the more people you have, most really needing a minimum of 4 people to be entertaining but more ideal with a crowd, especially since with more than 8 people everyone else can still participate in the fun by voting to help determine the winner. Since everyone can play on their phones, tablets, or just about anything with a browser (or, if you’re adventurous, even over Twitch) you won’t even need extra controllers.


Starting with the known quantity You Don’t Know Jack is really where these games originally got started so it’s always great when a new version comes out. Hosted by the consistently funny and sarcastic Cookie, this is a game for pretty hardcore trivia fans with questions that are absolutely from all over the spectrum. Featuring long-standing staples like Dis or Dat, Gibberish Questions, and the quick-fire last round Jack Attack it can be frustrating but also is consistently entertaining.


Next up there’s Split the Room, a game with a sort of Twilight Zone vibe that plays a bit differently than the norm. While in most games your goal is to come up with an answer that the most people would like or agree with here the trick is to come up with an answer to the prompt that won’t get consensus. Knowing your audience can be very helpful here but in general it ends up being a far more thoughtful game than the usual Jackbox fare. This is a title that does far better the more people you have, making it both more challenging and providing for more opportunity for success if nothing else.


Mad Verse City may be the toughest sell of the bunch if you’ve got a group who isn’t feeling what it’s selling but if your group is down to construct rap lyrics to be spit out in speech-generated monotone it can also be a ton of fun. Each person will get an initial prompt to provide something like an adjective or noun and that will drive the first line of your rap, which you’ll then have to complete, ideally with a rhyme to your original word. You’ll then do this with a second verse, though this time it will be geared up as a diss track for whoever your current opponent is. When people embrace the spirit of things and get in some epic digs on each other it can be an absolute riot but if nobody is down for rhyming it up this one can also fall flat in a hurry.


Zeeple Dome is an interesting sign of Jackbox Games being willing to try out new things, in this case creating a pretty simple but fun action game for up to 6 people. Each person controls a little astronaut on the screen who has a specific color. You collective goal will be to take out waves of aliens, grabbing power-ups along the way, and reviving your comrades when they get knocked out. What makes it more frantic and fun is that once you get rolling most things are color-coded meaning to get a given power or knock out a specific alien the right person will need to get in range and sling themselves to hit them with some degree of accuracy. With the wrong crowd this can be aggravating, as a key person being pretty inept with the controls can hold everyone back a bit, but I like the spirit of things. Even while the controls are pretty simple there is some nuance to them, so you can sling yourself around while you’re still in the air, but at the same time you can sometimes lose track of where things are on the device you’re using, making you look down to get situated properly for the controls again. This is certainly not going to compete with most multiplayer action games with dedicated controls already on the Switch but it’s good to see the Jackbox folks willing to try new things.


Somewhat saving the best for last there’s Patently Stupid, which has roots that are similar to past games they’ve had involving drawing like Tee-KO, but has a more inventive spirit… literally. Here everyone will begin with prompts that will establish the problems that need to be solved. Each person will then be randomly assigned two of the problems created by others to choose from as the basis for their inspiration. Starting with a drawing you’ll need to attempt to convey your plan, you’ll then need to come up with a catchy name for your invention as well as the tagline to try to sell it to the masses. The pitch phase can either be a relatively funny (though repetitive) summary from the in-game hosts or you can opt to do your best to sell, sell, sell your product with your own enthusiasm and guile. Each person will then essentially rank everyone else’s inventions to see who can get funded and eventually win.


This year’s Party Pack is, as always, filled with a little something that will hopefully appeal to just about anyone. Whether you’ve got friends who are trivia buffs, have a hidden marketing and sales skillset, or an inner poet who can throw down some tough slams it’s reasonable to assume everyone can be good at something here. If your groups tend towards a more intimate two couple size earlier Packs may be a better bet but if you’re rocking a decently-sized party the wide net these games pack should provide for some fun.

Score: 8

Pros:
  • Trivia and classic YDKJ fans should love the return of Cookie and his funny but often brutal commentary
  • Patently Stupid is a great and creative way to get people making horrible drawings and then try to make them work
  • Mad Verse City is a riot with the right audience and provides opportunities to knock your friends and family in rhyming robotic monotone

Cons:
  • Though I appreciate the experiment and move into new territory with Zeeple Dome it’s not going to compete with the multitude of multiplayer action games on Switch
  • Moreso than other entries in the series the games in this Pack are far better with groups larger than 4
  • The lack of one of their other excellent staples like Quiplash and Fibbage may also make a pack including one of those more appealing if you were only to get one pack