Jackbox will always, always produce something that I jump at the opportunity to play. Watching it turn from a simple trivia game that insulted the players to this incredibly innovative take on co-op and party gaming makes me happy, especially since I thought the company was dead in the water around the 2000s. As time marches onward, Jackbox has to keep reinventing themselves, bringing new concepts to the screen as their Jackbox Party Pack series adapts and adjusts to feedback from previous iterations. Now, I won’t say that Jackbox Party Pack 4 was a bad entry to the series (definitely not), but it was one of the weaker entries, getting a lot of its strength from a further iteration of Fibbage. Jackbox, sensing a bit of the change of tides, decided to go back to the drawing board and come up with a great new set of ideas (and one old idea that hasn’t been seen in ages). Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Jackbox Party Pack 5.
Before delving into the individual games, I wanted to say that I’m still bummed Jackbox hasn’t figured out some kind of offline, ad hoc direct connect for people looking to play on the go, but I do understand that it’s mostly impossible with the Switch’s infrastructure. No worries, maybe there’ll be some kind of hardware solution eventually, but, until then, you need a connection before other people can play anything. However, you also need a connection to play by yourself, and that is where I take a bit of umbrage. Two of the games specifically mention that they have single player modes, but those are moot when you need to have your smartphone and an internet connection in order to achieve solo gaming. At least the original Jackbox allowed for offline, one person You Don’t Know Jack, and that’s simply not the case here. It’s not enough to make for a shift in the overall software’s score, but it was a bummer nonetheless.
Anyways, here are the games in order of awesome, starting with, interestingly, You Don’t Know Jack. The original trivia game of oddly phrased questions with a plethora of answers is back, along with a fresh take on the Screw and the Jack Attack. This time, You Don’t Know Jack is set against the backdrop of being sponsored by a fake streaming service called BinjPipe (with a surprisingly real website). The result is having the interface look a bit like a Hulu/Netflix knockoff, with each question being selected from a series of “streaming now” videos, all of which have bizarre and hilarious titles. The questions are all new and fresh, and Cookie Masterson is sufficiently sarcastic and also exasperated at needing to kowtow and agree with the random voice overs from Binjpipe’s corporate entity.
Question wise is all great, with returning categories like Dis or Dat to help break up the simple “choose one of four”| standard style. The Screw is something totally different nowadays, adding some additional pressure on top of the normal effect. Starting in Round two, the player who’s running a bit behind in points can use a Screw to force another player to answer. However, with Party Pack 5, the Screw also delivers a MASSIVE screen of terms and conditions that the other player has to frantically scroll through and agree to before being able to answer, making it almost a surefire chance that the player doing the Screwing will achieve victory. It’s a bit of an unfair move, but You Don’t Know Jack is all about unfair moves.
The Jack Attack, the final round in which a player has to pick the correct answers from a flying swarm of phrases to match a single idea, is, well, disappointing. In previous iterations, it was more of a single chance thing where you have only a second to decide if something is right or not. In this new format, however, players have all the time in the world, usually able to view all six choices for the topic at once if they’re patient, and then weigh in. Moreover, you get 1000 points for a correct answer and -500 for a wrong. If you’re doing math at home, that means a guaranteed 1500 points just for mashing all the answers. Basically the game will need to be really tight for this to be any sort of tie breaker. Otherwise players way out in front can just go button crazy and still win the game. It’s not my favorite way to end the game, but You Don’t Know Jack is still my go-to favorite, and I’m so happy to have new versions of the game.
Secondly is Patently Stupid, a party game where players take turns creating products to solve problems. What’s great is the players get a random phrase “problem” from someone else (I never have enough time to EAT GUMBO!), and then they draw a product to solve the problem, and stick it with a clever name and tagline. It begins with players all solving different problems, and then the final round has everyone trying to solve the same problem. Since you’re not allowed to vote for your own idea, you need to really think about the other ideas and how they resonate with you. Theoretically you’ll vote for the most practical product, but you’re almost certainly going to vote for the most hilarious or terrible idea.
Personally, this version of the drawing game is my favorite in Jackbox history. Other iterations (like Civic Doodle or Bidiots) was oddly balanced with time and ideas, and the result was rather off-putting for people who weren’t used to or didn’t like spending time drawing on their tablets/phones. However, the way that Patently Stupid rewards people with the most insane connections is so much funnier, and an inability to draw for a damn makes it even better. When I’m not answering trivia questions, this will definitely be what I come back to, especially with friends over. Best of all, a full game with eight people still only takes about 20 minutes, so you can always make time for this sort of game.
Mad Verse City is a novel enough concept from the beginning, but the execution takes it to a whole nother level. You and your friends are each rapping robots who decide to have a throwdown and rap battle in the middle of a city, which, naturally, leads to the destruction of the city. The game is equal parts Mad Libs and actually being able to write a good rhyme, as you get prompted for a single word (noun – place), that word spawns a line (You know I saw you yesterday in the library) and then you need to write a rhyming line, hopefully dissing the other player (I didn’t know you could read, silly me!). The other robots vote on who had the sickest lines, and everyone gets a cash reward at the end that scales with votes from the others. Three rounds, cash increases, big winner has the most money at the end.
Even though the concept can be quite difficult, the way the game handles this is what sells it. Firstly, Mad Verse City uses synthesized voices to read everything you write, so you get a great robot saying things like “Your mother was a dumpster/That’s why I just dumped in her” or crazy things like that. It elevates the normally “read this to yourself” mentality of the game. Additionally, if you don’t feel like writing/can’t think of a line, you can always hit the “Write it For Me” button and the game will generate lines for you, thus making it so you do zero work. Be warned: most of the lines they provide don’t rhyme, don’t make sense and may just leave everyone feeling awkward, but hey, the option is there, and it’s really funny. Highly recommended if you have aspiring songwriters/English majors in the house.
Split the Room is an odd one. Set in a Twilight Zone atmosphere, the objective is to take a simple question and inject a word into it that makes it incredibly divisive. “A man comes up to you and says he has pictures of you ___________. He’ll release them on the internet unless you give him your underpants. Will you give them to him?” Then you have to write in a particularly strange answer (pictures of you high fiving Hitler) and then see what happens. If you manage to make the other players vote equally yes or no, you have successfully split the room, and you get a ton of points. Bonus points if the players need to think for a long time before deciding. The final round involves everyone answering the same scenario with their own input and getting points for how people decide which is the better option. Winner has the most points, etc. etc.
This game is pretty short but sweet, and it has a lot of potential. Honestly, it’s things like this that remind me why we don’t specifically need a Cards Against Humanity port for the Switch: we can take the general idea of “god awful random answers” and put it in a much more creative context than just cards that sit statically. The only rub with this one is that it’s too easy to manipulate: putting in answers regarding people who are in the room is a surefire way to have a divide and get the most points. Additionally, this one needs a ton of people in order to work well: the other three so far function perfectly well with the three player minimum (or one for You Don’t Know Jack). Multiplayer games are awesome, but I expect them to stand strongly even if I can’t get my entire improv troupe to show up at the same time.
Lastly is Zeeple Dome, the only other single player game and the odd one out in terms of gameplay. You’re on an intergalactic game show where you need to work with friends or alone to knock target aliens out of the sky before they attack you. Do well, move fast, and coordinate colors with your other players to get the most cash bonus. When you hit an alien, they’ll start glowing the color of another player, meaning only that player can injure them: anyone else will take damage from touching them. Oh, and the aliens will occasionally attack, dropping explosives or slamming into you in a no-win sort of way. And the entire gameplay is done on the phone in a physics puzzle, Angry Birds sort of way.
Let me just say that the game is fun. It’s a game of skill, technique and precision, not to mention knowing about the physics of your character, the collision effects you have with other players, and understanding angles to bounce off of walls to make difficult shots. As a standalone game, Zeeple Dome is pretty spiffy. But it feels oddly placed in a game of hilarious and witty answers. It almost breaks up the flow of the game experience entirely, since there’s this “creative chaos” cohesion that binds the others together. Also, much like Bomb Corp, it’s a fun game that’s flawed by how it’s placed into the pack and demands a player use a phone in order to do it, when JoyCons would honestly be better for single player mode. If there was a way to get Zeeple Dome separately, I think I’d enjoy it more, but it’s just not a great fit with the other titles.
Having said all that, this is one of the strongest Jackbox Party Pack entries in a long time. While it may not have the heavy success hitters like Fibbage present, I think the inclusion of the original You Don’t Know Jack with three other really great titles (and one pretty good title) makes this a massive success. Plus, for people who give a damn, the inclusion of all the stuff for social media sharing and streaming means that online players have a great avenue to explore and exploit this title for viewership. If you haven’t picked up a Jackbox Party Pack yet, number 5 is a great place to start.
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.