It’s an exciting time for video games. With Skyrim out on Switch, you can Fus Ro Dah on the bus without the driver kicking you off before your stop. Pokemon Go is apparently still a thing. Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, Far Cry 5, and Red Dead Redemption 2 are all on the way, and I’ve already chewed off all my nails in excitement!
No, not my toenails. Way to make it weird.
Today, though, it’s time to talk about a different sort of video game. It is 2018, after all, and Skyrim is sooooo 2011. (Just kidding, Skyrim – we love you. Please don’t hate us.) But seriously, as excellent as Skyrim, Diablo III, and Hitman are, they’re all very serious games when you think about it. Have many times have you finished a super difficult mission/map/assassination just to realize you hadn’t been breathing for more or less thirty minutes?
So, let’s take a look at a game that encourages you sit back and relax. The people who make the You Don’t Know Jack series of trivia games (arguably some of the best trivia games ever made), Jackbox Games has started releasing the Jackbox Party Packs, of which there are currently four. These packs are essentially bundles containing five party games each. How many people is a party? Most games require a minimum of three players, but there are a few that go lower.
There are two primary draws for the Jackbox Party Packs. For starters, they contain the trademark quirky humor that put You Don’t Know Jack on the map. Can you tell which of the options are Pope names and which are Britney Spears songs? Can you imagine a world where Jackson Pollock worked at Subway? If so, these are the kinds of games for you.
The other thing the Jackbox Party Packs have going for them is the sheer number of platforms they’re available on. Jackbox Party Pack 3, which we’ll be discussing here, can be played on PC/Mac, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, and whatever NVIDIA SHIELD TV is.
The best part is that there are no controllers involved. Each player uses their phone, tablet, laptop, etc. as their input device, while the game itself is on a shared screen, such as a TV or PC monitor. No one needs to make an account or anything – you just go to jackbox.tv on your chosen device, type in the code, and ta-da! Instant gameage. While there’s technically a maximum number of players for each game, unlimited “audience” participation (yes, you can play online) effectively eliminates the player cap.
So, what kinds of kooky games can you expect from these overly accessible bundles? Let’s take a look at Jackbox Party Pack 3.
As the numeral following the title implies, this is technically a sequel. Don’t worry, you don’t need to play the original for this to make sense. At the beginning, you’ll write responses to prompts the game gives you. Then your answers are pitted against another player’s answer, and the rest of the players (and audience, if you have one) get to vote on their favorite. For example, “The best way to blow a million dollars,” or “The one phrase the NSA is tired of watching us type into Google.”
While it inevitably descends into Cards Against Humanity style awfulness with my friends, Quiplash is all about playing to your audience. There are no right answers, so just go for it.
Trivia Murder Party
Classic trivia with a twist – your host is out to kill you! The premise is that you and your fellow players have been kidnapped, and now you’re playing for your lives. It’s like Saw, except it doesn’t completely suck. Yeah – I went there.
For the most part, it’s standard Jackbox-style trivia. However, when someone gets a question wrong, or if the host gets sick of everyone getting the answers correct, some players will enter The Killing Floor. Activities on The Killing Floor include choosing which finger you’d like cut off, solving more basic arithmetic problems than your competition, and memorizing a blood stain to recreate. Clean family fun.
There’s no question that Trivia Murder Party is one of the most solid games in any of the Jackbox Party Packs.
It’s pretty clear that someone at Jackbox desperately wanted to make a spy/surveillance themed game. The premise is so thin that you can see through the threads, but that doesn’t mean the game is awful. One player is asked to pick the percentage of people who responded a certain way on a survey, such as, “What percentage of people don’t know how to swim?” The rest of the players get points for correctly guessing if the actual answer is higher or lower than the first player’s guess.
Honestly, while Guesspionage isn’t bad, it’s too straightforward for a Jackbox game, and simply lacks replayability.
This game is just bizarre, and that’s what makes it epic. Don’t feel bad if you have no idea what’s going on during your first playthrough – I certainly didn’t.
Surprisingly, there is a “plot” of sorts. You are in a t-shirt fighting championship on T-shirt Island, and no, that doesn’t make any sort of sense. All of the players will make drawings on their devices, then write slogans. All of the shirts and slogans get mixed up, and like Quiplash 2, players vote for their favorites. It depends on your group, of course, but the combinations that arise can be absolutely hilarious, and the fact that they’re unintentional just makes it better.
As odd as it sounds, Tee K.O. may well be my favorite game in this pack. A lack of drawing ability can actually be a boon, and the most inane of phrases can become solid comedy gold when paired with your friends’ stick figures.
Let me walk you through it. At the beginning of the game, the game tells one person that they’re the “Faker.” Rounds consist of instructions being sent to everyone except the Faker – “Raise your hand if you’ve ever climbed a tree,” or “Make a disgusted face,”This will be easy for everyone but the Faker, who has no idea what action, if any, they should take. In addition to paying attention to the instructions, players need to be watching out for the Faker, who will ostensibly seem more suspicious than everyone else. The bulk of each round involves players discussing who they think the Faker is, and a vote is taken of who to arrest.
Every group needs a loser, and Fakin’ It isn’t even the lovable kind. This is easily the worst game of the lot. It’s awkward, and not in a good way. There’s just no entertainment value, and I can’t imagine what the Jackbox team were thinking when they came up with it.
Try it – you might even like it. In my opinion, though, Fakin’ It is a Yugo in a room of Ferraris.
The Jackbox Party Packs are all slightly different, and all very good, but with Murder Party, Tee K.O., and Quiplash 2, Jackbox Party Pack 3 is possibly the best of the bunch. I’m not sure how much most board games cost these days, but it’s definitely more than $25 for 5 games, which is a pretty killer deal.
Long story short, this is a great way to have some belly laughs with some friends. No controllers are necessary, the topics are family friendly (depending on player input, of course), and most of the games are insanely replayable.
Of course, the primary downside is that most of the games require you to have friends in order to play it. Unless, of course, you want to do a super-meta recreation of Trivia Murder Party and kidnap people to play party games with you. (This method isn’t recommended.)
Have you played any of the Jackbox Party Pack games? Give us your thoughts in the comments!