As we in the Northern hemisphere prepare to hunker down for a long, cold winter, we have to make certain allocations so that the chill doesn’t invade our minds. After all, nothing makes cabin fever worse than having nothing to do: had Jack Nicholson brought his Switch, Scatman Crothers might still be alive. And, since we’re often homebound with family, having group games is going to be the best approach. Well, Jackbox Games felt the seasons change, because Jackbox Party Pack 4 is available just in time for the first frost. Southern hemisphere folks, it’s gorgeous outside, you can play Party Pack 4 after sunset or something.
This fourth iteration of the hugely popular “multiplayer with a twist” set isn’t the strongest entry to the series, but it’s still interesting and fun. I do appreciate some of the steps Jackbox is making to cater towards online streamers, but I think locking it down to just adhere for Twitch streaming and not other services (Mixer, Smashcast, even Youtube) shows weird favoritism and potentially alienates some streamers. But, nevertheless, it’s a step in the right direction and a clear indication that Jackbox is doing more to be accessible outside of couch play (though I argue that it’s still some of the best).
Let’s start with the clear champion of the fourth pack, Fibbage 3. This game is still going strong after three different versions (and sitting out during Jackbox 3), with the concept of filling in the blanks with convincing lies still being a novel and fun idea. Fibbage is essentially the new “You Don’t Know Jack,” complete with Cookie Masterson still hosting and bringing his own flair and personality to the game. The questions are diverse enough, and I do like the 70s gameshow vibe that’s been flared all over. I think this is a smart move on the part of Jackbox Games: if you’re going to rehash popular ideas, make small, aesthetic changes to still keep it interesting. Of course, Fibbage still has the pitfalls of the previous versions (clearly fake but funny lies get votes), but that’s human nature. Speaking of which, the addition of the Fibbage: But Enough About You option is pretty awesome. Creating truths about yourself, having someone else guess a lie about you and seeing which your third friend believes is equal parts hilarious and eye opening. It’s touted as the “unofficial sixth game,” but it’s little more than a quick re-skin of the core game, and I’ll treat it as such. If you enjoyed Fibbage, this serves to be a worthy successor and is still pretty damn fun. Not to mention it’s fast: you can bang out a game in well under ten minutes, perfect party time.
Survive the Internet is basically a satirical take on how fake news is propagated. Players write their opinions on an innocuous question (What’s the best sandwich condiment?) and another player creates an outrageous statement/headline to match with the previous answer (What’s the best sexual lubricant?). The outcomes are pretty funny, often offensive and, unsurprisingly, plays like Cards Against Humanity in reverse. The way the game is presented is telling of the age of the developers at Jackbox: everything looks like it’s on a mock Windows 95 machine, a format that a majority of streamers may not totally get. Still, it’s a fun concept, though easily the one that could lead to the most Hitler references. Also, the CPU insists on adding a fourth player who will vote for their own answers and basically unbalance a game quickly. Wasn’t a huge fan but I understand the need.
Coming in at number three is Civic Doodle, a group effort to make graffiti murals around the city at the behest of the Mayor. The art take is pretty interesting, because you draw a bit, vote, and the winning drawing gets added onto by the next person. One small problem with the way Jackbox has players interface with their games is the jackbox.tv website (which is their web portal for players) only responds as well as the device that’s accessing it. So if you’ve shelled out for a decent smartphone/tablet that has a good amount of RAM and is zippy, no problem, you can draw away with plenty of time. If you’ve got an older device because, well, smartphones are expensive, then your drawings will be choppy, jumpy and you’ll probably run out of time before you get anything of note down. This game is basically “ok,” because it does rely on art skills, a bit of creative thinking and resisting the urge to make everything a penis. Also, the super cheery host feels way too much like a person who’s actually in charge of the housing authority in suburbia and that makes my skin crawl.
Number four is Bracketeering, and a lot of that score does come from the 80s “future” graphics and sound. It looks and feels like this was what someone was sure gambling would look like in the year 2000. Once again, a topic is given to players, who then decide either the best or funniest answers (The most inappropriate place for boxed wine), and then put them up into a bracket. You vote, two at a time, on which is the best answer, until, finally, the last two are slotted up in the center to determine the champion answer. You can also place bets on which you think will be the winners, adding to the excitement and also beefing up your score. This is…this is a fast game, mostly. It has the potential for the most number of players (up to 16), but it’s also voting on a bracket and potentially placing bets. I can imagine and see the type of person this appeals to, but, for only a handful of players, it got a couple chuckles, nothing more. I think Bracketeering could benefit from people betting real money, or Twitch audience members placing in chat bets about who might win (think Salty Bet, but less exciting).
The final game, Monster Seeking Monster, probably seemed like a good idea in theory. You have a bunch of people trying to get dates, but the catch is they’re all secretly monsters (vampires, leprechauns, etc). The monsters’ powers affect the way the point system works, so you have to do your best to be in a winning position, but also not get found out regarding your powers (nearly impossible, since the object is to reveal all powers before the end). You get points for going on dates, being asked out, and generally having a good connection with someone. The problem is, however, that you achieve this by texting back and forth with people. And not with preset phrases. You actually write like you’re chatting, with a limit of four lines that can be sent per night. So it’s a game you play by…texting. Then you decide who you’re going to date. Then you date them. This game feels like it would only work if you were totally blind not only to what monsters your friends are, but also to WHO your friends are. Otherwise you’ll just pick and align with who you want to use to win, nothing more or less. Oh, and you need four players or more, because, if you only have three, the AI introduces a robot that needs to score third or higher, or he destroys humanity. Again, funny in theory, kind of a pain in the ass in practice. I don’t want to dedicate time to making sure someone doesn’t lose just so we don’t all lose. For a game that’s supposed to be about interactions and coming together, Monster Seeking Monster alienates players to focus on their phones for a majority of the game instead of just in short bursts. It’s like a blind date with someone who’s on their phone all night but without the hope of half-hearted 3rd base action at the end. Probably. I don’t know how ya’ll play video games and I sure don’t judge.
Overall, Jackbox Party Pack 4 is going to be for fans of the Party Packs, but I’m not sure if I recommend it to new players. Fibbage 3 is fantastic but not new grounds. Survive the Internet and Civic Doodle are enjoyable and rely on the players to be clever and dirty in equal amounts. Bracketeering has potential but I can’t see it from where I’m sitting, and Monster Seeking Monster is simply boring. Three out of five isn’t terrible, and it’s part for the course compared to the other Jackbox Party Packs. But this should be a point where Jackbox Games has ironed out the flaws, not created new ones. Fibbage is the only game where 2 players are possible, and you need three for Enough About You. Everything else is three or more, which removes the possibility of it being a “date game” scenario. Still, as far as something to liven up any gathering (especially one with alcohol), having a new set of games and new Fibbage questions is always welcome. Alright, Jackbox, you can stay the winter.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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