Jackbox games have been a yearly staple for the past five years. They are fun games to play with people who don’t normally play video games and the ability to play the games using your phone makes them incredibly simple to get into. The formula has had mixed results over the years. The second Party Pack was a great mix of games, while last years Jackbox Party Pack 4 was not nearly as memorable. However, Jackbox Party Pack 5 might be the best collection of games they’ve put together, but with some major caveats.
Returning to the Pack is You Don’t Know Jack. This time, it can be played with up to 8 players and makes some pretty important changes. Dis or Dat questions, where players choose which category an item falls into, are now played by all players. Additionally, the final Jack Attack has multiple answers that can fall into the proper categories and multiple players can answer. That means that instead of the Jack Attack being the deciding factor in any You Don’t Know Jack, there’s more of an emphasis on being good at the rest of the trivia questions.
That said, each game of You Don’t Know Jack has a pretty straightforward formula. It’s pretty clear that Dis or Dat questions will always be the third question and that any of the more unique questions will take place in the second half of the game. However, these unique questions are generally limited to the returning Gibberish Questions. There’s no equivalent of “Elephant, Mustard, Teddy Roosevelt, or Dracula” where there’s an outlandish premise presented. It’s mostly straight funny trivia and while that’s good, it also lacks a bit of charm.
Split-The-Room requires players to make strange what if scenarios. You are given a prompt and told to fill in a blank. Your goal is to create the most divisive scenario. It’s incredibly simple but the situational prompts provided give a ton of options to making some really fun and funny situations.
Mad Verse City is going to be one of the most noticed games within this pack. You play as a rapping robot and your goal is to create the sickest rhymes. You do this by providing a word based on a prompt. Let’s say the prompt is verb ending in ‘ing.’ So maybe you provide the word “tossing.” The game then puts that prompt into a sentence, with no context at all. Then, you have to write a sentence that rhymes with that sentence. You do this two times and then you and another player go head to head, with other players voting for what their favorite rhymes are.
The voices of the robots really are the funniest part of the game, as these lines are read mechanically with a simple text to speech program. Sometimes the raps will work and sometimes the robots will have zero context as to what the word is and read it completely wrong.
Patently Stupid is actually the most fun to play with a group of creative people. Players create a problem and then they are given to others who have to create a solution. This includes a drawing of the idea, a name for the idea, and a tagline. Players can then either choose to have the game present all of this to others or they can present it themselves. Presenting is far and away some of the most fun you can have with this game, as you get a real chance to invoke your inner scummy sales person. Once the presentations are complete, players give a tier of funding to their favorite projects.
However, both Mad Verse City and Patently Stupid come with a major disclaimer. While the game does say that you can play with 3 players, playing with less than 4 for both games will add in an AI character. This character is incredibly bland and boring, creating a scenario where anytime you are competing against this AI, you actively will avoid giving them points. This is noticed heavily in Patently Stupid where the creations are just random and not tied into the topic they have.
Then there’s Zeeple Dome and it is the game that most clearly should not be using the Jackbox phone technology. The idea is that you have to fling your character on-screen at aliens and gain cash while doing so. It’s a pretty simple arcade style game but the game uses your phone as a controller. To fling these characters, you have to sort of launch them like a slingshot, using trajectory to aim them properly. However, your phone doesn’t show where these aliens are and you can easily miss align your shot on your phone screen if you aren’t looking.
This game would be absolutely fine on a controller and would probably be a bit easier to explain. However, any time someone new is playing, you need to go through a tutorial just so they have an idea of what to do. It’s frustrating and forgettable.
That said, if you get together 4 or more players, The Jackbox Party Pack 5 is easily the best line-up they’ve had in years. YDKJ returning is a huge boon to longtime fans and most of the rest of the games are a good mix of simple and creative games. However, if you are playing with fewer people, there can be some major hurdles to overcome.
SCORE: 8.5 out of 10
A code for The Jackbox Party Pack 5 was provided to Pixel Related for review.