The latest collection of party games in Jackbox Party Pack 5 is worth a pickup for your next get together. As usual, not every game is a hit, but I found three out of five to be great. Every player will need a mobile device to participate, and if you have more than eight wanting to play, they can participate as audience members. Twitch integration returns, with features like giving hosts the ability to extend game timers to accommodate streaming delays. Jackbox has nailed the overall presentation once again, with slick menus, animations, and witty banter from the hosts. That said, let’s dive into what each of the games has to offer.
You Don’t Know Jack: Full Stream
You Don’t Know Jack: Full Stream gives the well-known trivia game a faux streaming service wrapper, with questions coming through like they’re different shows you’re choosing to watch on Netflix. That aside, it’s the YDKJ formula through and through. If you’re unfamiliar, the big differences between this and something like Trivial Pursuit are the questions here are often worded in ways to trip you up, and the host likes to crack jokes and sometimes mock the players.
As an example, rather than asking simply what the head of state of Belgium is called, the question asks “What would be the appropriate headline would be if the head of state of Belgium repeatedly switched political positions.” The multiple choice possibilities include President, King, Czar, and the correct answer, “Prime Minister of Belgium Waffles,” working in a nice breakfast pun.
I’m a big fan of trivia games, so it follows that I find YDKJ Full Stream a lot of fun. Unless it’s your first version, it’s nothing you’ve never seen before, but I say don’t fix what isn’t broken.
Split the Room
A popular conceit of many Jackbox games is asking you to answer a question in such a way that as many people in the room as possible like your answer instead of somebody else’s. I find the twist to Split the Room to be brilliant. Your goal is to answer prompts so divisively that you literally get half the room supporting your answer and half opposing.
One question you may run into asks essentially if you’d rather have your brain inserted into the body of a pug or into anything else you can think of. If you pick something clearly better or worse than the dog, you’re probably not going to score very well. What do you do, perhaps pick a different but similar breed of dog? Therein lies the challenge.
I found Split the Room to be the most fun of the new games in this collection. The prompts leave decent room for creative answers, and the outcomes are always as outlandish as the company you keep. As with almost all of these games, the more people you have the better. I think you really need more than four people for Split the Room.
Mad Verse City
The other contender for best new Jackbox game is Mad Verse City. Here you’re asked for a type of word or phrase, Mad Libs style, followed by a rap verse that rhymes with the word you just chose. You’ll repeat the process once more, then the magic begins.
Giant bargain bin looking Transformers actually rap your lyrics using a hilariously stiff text-to-speech engine.
The open-ended nature of asking for an entire verse gives players a lot of wiggle room to invent unique zingers to sling at their opponents. I found it a lot easier to create funny responses in Mad Verse City compared to any other game in the collection. As the robots perform your creations, players can cheer or boo your wordsmithing, which can net you bonus points at the end of a round.
If you are truly stuck, the game will help you out with prompts or even write entire verses for you, but that’s no fun. There’s not much to this game, but it doesn’t really need it. More rounds of this were hilarious than stinkers, and it was a real crowd pleaser. Try to have an even number of players, otherwise one person will get matched up against Gene, the generic CPU player.
I’ve played quite a bit of the past three Jackbox Party Packs, and by now I guess I’m really just not a fan of the drawing games. I found Patently Stupid to be a chore to get through. The premise is funny enough, the players are all attendees at a bad get rich scheme presentation in a hotel lobby. You first have to fill in the blank for a problem, like “I want people to know more about my _________.” You will be given a problem created by somebody else, then you draw out a solution to the problem on your device, and give it a title and a tagline. Finally, you present your idea to the room, freeform. As in, you actually give a made up PowerPoint presentation on the spot.
I found the “give a presentation” aspect to be, well, the opposite of fun. You can’t just let your drawings and quippy taglines speak for themselves, players are judging based on your overall presentation. If you don’t like being the center of attention, this isn’t the game for you. It’s also relatively easy to torpedo other people’s chances by giving intentionally obtuse responses to the problems because you know you won’t be the one having to draw the solutions to your intentionally bad answer.
The final game to cover is Zeeple Dome, something I wasn’t expecting. This is an action-oriented game that plays like a simultaneous multiplayer Angry Birds. Each player slingshots their character around using the drag-and-let-it-fly method that dominated mobile gaming nearly ten years ago now.
It’s nice that you can play this single-player, though it’s not compelling enough to make me want to do that. On the other hand, the more players you have, the more chaotic the game becomes, but not necessarily in a good way. Your characters can crash into each other, ruining trajectories that would be beneficial to the team. As a result, speedy and clear communication becomes key. Your best bet is to call your shots and make sure you don’t interfere with teammates.
Zeeple Dome gets boring before too long, and I don’t think I’ll ever return to it. That said, it could be a great diversion for any children at a party. The game is inoffensive and they just get to blow stuff up. Every kid has a phone and/or tablet nowadays, right?
Three of the five games in Jackbox Party Pack 5 are great, and the package is a worthy addition to your party game collection. Artsy gamers may find the drawing game a lot of fun too, but that doesn’t describe me. You Don’t Know Jack is the only game without the option to restrict prompts to “family-friendly” options, which I appreciate for mixed company who may find some more risque questions to be offensive.
Jackbox Party Packs have become something of a fall tradition for me, and I look forward to having new party games at my disposal each year. The presentation on these games has been about perfected, and the writing is some of the best comedy you can find in gaming. Personally, I’ll probably keep coming back to You Don’t Know Jack until questions start repeating. That scratches the trivia itch I’ve been missing since JPP3’s Trivia Murder Party (still my all-time favorite), but if I need to get a party laughing Mad Verse City will be a staple. If you like party games and like to laugh, I highly recommend Jackbox Party Pack 5.