The Jackbox Party Pack 2 Review

Coming into Jackbox Party Pack 2 from Jackbox Party Pack 1 is a big transition with a lot of things you immediately notice have changed. If you’re coming straight into Party Pack 2, you should get briefed on a few things. Firstly, this is 99% party games, as the title would suggest, and, if you’ve picked it up hoping for a single player situation, well, good news, you get to see what the refund system is like on the system of your choice. Additionally, if you don’t have a smartphone or tablet, it’s possible to play this on a computer, but that is a weird situation and will really make things difficult for a majority of the games. Unlike Party Pack 1, there are zero activities that use the Switch’s controllers, so it’s smart device or nothing. There are five different party games to play, each with varying levels of interest, so let’s dive in and see what makes this party rock.

First up is the sequel to Fibbage, aptly titles Fibbage 2. Fibbage 2 takes everything that was great about the original and bakes in a few more surprises. Fibbage is the trivia game where players concoct fake additions to trivia questions and then everyone votes on what they feel the real answer is. Guess right, get points, get people to guess your fake answer, get even more points. As you may have figured, Fibbage 2 is all brand new trivia questions, a slightly shinier interface, picking your own buzz in sounds and the addition of the DeFIBulator, a one time use item that can strip out two fake answers, leaving just the truth and one lie. If you can make it through all the rounds and come out successful in both lying and figuring the truth, you will be crowded champion.

I really enjoy the Fibbage series because I crave trivia, and the addition of the new mechanic does make it feel a bit more like the classic You Don’t Know Jack titles (though still very different). I also enjoy the addition of the audience feature, which crops up in a handful of other games as well. Players who don’t want to play but still want to feel superior can log in, give their answers on their own and, if they score well, are rewarded with a piece of unique trivia at the very end to impress and delight people at parties who are pretending to be nice. Fibbage is also the only carry over from the previous game, so it acts as a nice bridge to help bring over new users and new fans of the series. Still, the trivia is limited, and, after a time, you only really can get a thrill by pulling one over on new players, or at least seeing how creative you can make your lies.

Quiplash XL, our second activity, actually was released as a standalone, non XL version prior to the Party Pack 2 coming out. Each player (minimum of three) gets a prompt and then has to make a witty and funny remark to appeal to the other players, who are also writing their own prompts. When all prompts have been written, the players who didn’t write are given a chance to vote on which of the player written answers are better. Think of it like a blind Match Game, with everyone trying to be the comedian who has the slightly scandalous answer. Get the most number of chosen answers and become king of the Quip.

Quiplash XL has a lot more replay value than most due to a great, simple idea that’s well executed. Much like the raunchy Cards Against Humanity, Quiplash XL sees a good deal of replay coming from players having a fresh take on everything and introducing new blood to the game. Also, simply putting down Quiplash XL for a period of time allows your brain to kind of erase some memory of the better answers you saw and allows for new input on old prompts. This is definitely the multiplayer MVP of Party Pack 2, and this is also one of the games with optional Family Mode, which prohibits certain words and ideas from being typed out. Rather than being super uptight and not wanting my kids to see ass, I just like that it prevents really lazy quips to be pitched over and over again by my friends who think Andrew Dice Clay is the pinnacle of comedy. Nothing like a game that makes you work and think for your answers to come around.

Earwax another three player minimum game, has a really unique concept that I don’t always think executes well. One player is selected to be the judge, who then picks an idea that the other players address (for example, “Comic Sans”). The other players have a small selection of sounds to pick from that they feel best exemplify the subject, and they have to pick two sounds total. After selection is done, you get to hear the sounds, anonymously, and the judge will select who had the best sound combination to describe the situation/idea. Winner gets points, get the most number of points, you become the Earwax grand poobah. Of course you do. What kind of game would reward you for being the worst at everything?

I think, in the right combinations of ideas and sounds, Earwax can be seriously funny. Describing almost anything as “Slide Whistle Downward plus Airy Fart” is a winning formula, but not everything is that easy. You don’t get the full set of sounds available during selection, it’s a small number, and it’s randomized. If you’re a player who’s left with some bizarre set of nonsensical ideas, it doesn’t matter if everyone understands your handicap, it still sounds like you had no idea what you were doing. Especially when you see a sound in a previous round that would be PERFECT for the next prompt, but you have to, instead, work with “Sonar.” Earwax is, overall, pretty forgettable after a couple of plays and you’d be forgiven for passing it over.

Bidiots, the last of the heavy multiplayer games, is incredibly convoluted, but hear me out. You and the other players are given title cards that you then need to draw pictures based on. There is a time limit and a lot of the ideas are actually pretty complex and should require a lot of detail. Then there are these art collectors who give each player two or three hints about what they think some art is worth, and what they’d be willing to pay for it. Players then bid on the art, which is put up without saying what the concept is or who drew it, and the winners get to sell the art to the art collectors, while the artist gets a piece of the winning bid.

Everything about Bidiots reminds me of the Dave Matthews’ Band song “Satellite,” which is allegedly three partially completed songs mashed into one. I felt like each part of this game was almost a thing by itself, but Jackbox just couldn’t find the final component to tie it all together, so they cut a little something off and managed to fuse it with other frankenparts that were lying around. The drawing is fun enough, but the 90 second time limit for upwards of three paintings at a time is almost stressful, something no party game should have to be. The bidding is…actually pretty flat and boring unless you’re acting out characters in real time. You just push a number and that’s all. Eventually the auction is called and someone wins. The winner can instantly sell the painting, but you don’t get that money until the current round of paintings are finished, which results in two ends. Either you waste all your cash initially and can’t afford a painting later, or the reverse. The inclusion of the secret art collectors giving special hints to players also makes you paranoid and unsure if your other friends are bidding you up on purpose or they actually know the painting is worth something. And God help you if the painting looks like hell and no one can figure out what it’s supposed to be. I would argue that this is the weakest game in the series if not for the final entry onto the list.

Bomb Corp. is a ridiculous situation of a game where you work at a company that makes bombs. However, they don’t make bombs well and the bombs often arm themselves by accident. You then need to work against the clock to read the manual, cut the wires and not blow up. This, of course, is made more difficult by having a universal timer for multiple bombs and some instructions being purposely misleading or contradictory (“don’t cut the blue wire no matter what the other instructions say”). If you complete story mode, you can unlock The Grind, which is basically a neverending time attack.

I loved Bomb Corp., as the only single player entry in the whole Party Pack 2. To say nothing of the novel concept, the explanation from your boss and the exclamations from your coworkers are hilarious. They apparently are so accustomed to explosions in the building that there’s a mundane, exasperated tone to the explanation, along with various side commentary (“I only use Times New Roman!” BOO) to make the entire atmosphere pretty light and entertaining between the strenuous cutting sequences. The instructions are easy enough to follow, but it scales up considerably as you move along, and I definitely blew myself up a few times over, much to the annoyance of my manager who had to hire someone new.

So why the low marks? Two big issues. Firstly, there’s zero point to the multiplayer mode. A single player gets all the instructions on their screen. More players just means one person gets to cut while the others get the instructions and you have to shout at each other to get the job done. It’s like a less fun, less complex Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. After I did it with a couple friends, we all agreed it was better to have it on one phone and we could just drink and shout encouragement rather than try to figure out who had the key information to keep us unexploded.

Secondly, despite being a single player title, you have to use a smart device, which mostly makes sense. The way the game is designed, you need to have a smart screen to make choices, but I really would have liked to have some reason to justify playing this on the Switch and not, say, on the PC. Basically, Bomb Corp only works as a Jackbox title due to the interface, but there’s nothing about it that really makes me want to play it as a multiplayer title. It’s dead in the water for where it’s swimming.

Sadly, this brings me to my final negative point, not just about Party Pack 2, but for the Jackbox series on the Switch in general. The Nintendo Switch is being heavily marketed as a “play anywhere, anytime” sort of console, with the guerrilla marketing team setting up in the desert to play 1-2 Switch against John Cena and people showing themselves having Mario Kart races on airplanes. Jackbox Party Packs, however, need to have internet in order to function for a vast majority of the games. Granted, the idea that you would go to a friend’s house or a hotel and not have wifi is silly, but I’m talking about playing on the go. This would be awesome in the back seat of a car on a long roadtrip, yet I certainly don’t have a hotspot in my Chevy Malibu and can’t justify buying one just to have snark competitions on the way to the mall. There’s nothing that can be done; Jackbox would need to recode the game from the ground up to allow smart devices to connect, ad hoc, to the system, and I don’t know if Nintendo can even allow that in the Switch’s current state. Still, any research prior to the purchase of the Party Packs (including the Party Pack 3, which came out earlier) would indicate what the games can and cannot do, so I suppose it’s up to the buyer to know what they’re getting into.

Jackbox Party Pack 2 is a different beast than the first with more middle ground ratings, but not really having an all-star breakout like the first. I think players will have more of a dabbling, buffet approach, sampling everything and having a game or two they like a bit better, but not necessarily getting hooked on a singular title. In that idea, it perfectly epitomizes what the Party Pack is supposed to be: a great centerpiece to add on to an already existing party, not be the sole foundation for game night. I had a great time overall, and, had I put more buffer between the first and second, I imagine it might have even popped a bit. Still, I love what Jackbox is doing, and I’m very excited for the fourth Party Pack to launch this Fall. Grab some friends, grab your friends and let the games begin!

Bonus Stage Rating - Very Good 8/10

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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