It has been a couple of years since Jackbox Games has released standalone titles, instead opting for the largely popular five-game compilations that release just in time for the end of the year family gatherings. The Jackbox Party Pack 5 sees the return of the classic You Don’t Know Jack franchise, improving the multiplayer experience and adding streaming-friendly features. Most of the games in the bundle an enjoyable, however, one or two may not be widely enjoyed in your circle of friends or family. The selection this time is widely varied, presented with an overarching space motif, and outside of You Don’t Know Jack, the remaining four titles are entirely new and carry on the Jackbox legacy.
The flagship title, You Don’t Know Jack: Full Stream has a new look, taking the fan-favorite trivia game and wrapping it in a fictional streaming service; Binjpipe. The female voice used to represent the services can be heard throughout your time with the game, popping in to pitch and highlight funny and outrageous upcoming fictional shows. You’ll also hear from specific online celebrities, such as Austin Creed, better known as WWE Superstar Xavier Woods. In Between questions, you’ll see eccentric Binjpipe recommended shows, including "Cold Face," "History is Immoral," and "I’m 35 and I Eat Cigarettes." There is eight-player support for the game, and it now includes the streaming options that have made the series widely popular on Twitch. There are new ways to screw over the competition, but the game can also be enjoyed by yourself.
Zeeple Dome is something completely different than what you would expect from Jackbox Games. Instead of having players pick from a set of answers, or fill in the blanks, the game feels more like an old-school action mobile game. The easiest way to describe the mechanics is to compare it to something akin to Angry Birds. You’ll pull back on your screen to slingshot your character towards enemies. Hit them enough times, and they will change colors, allowing you to hit them one more time to pop them to earn points. You’ll be pitted against waves of enemies, with the goal of getting more points than the other players. It’s simple, but the weakest of the five included games.
In my group of friends, and all of us at SelectButton generally gravitated towards Drawful in the past, and Patently Stupid is the only one this year that lets you showcase your talent. In a nutshell, you’ll be given a few prompts to fill in blanks to create specific problems, such as “my ____ keep exploding!” These are then distributed to other players, and it is up to them to take the problem and come up with a new product that is capable of solving the respectful problem. You’ll need to not only draw the product, but you’ll come up with a name and tagline. Once everyone has completed their challenge, players take turns to present their product and give out tokens for the ones they like the most, along with audience participation.
Mad Verse City is a Mad-Libs style rhyming game, where you complete lines that fit and watch giant robots in an epic rap battle. Initially, you fill in the blank in a single sentence, or first verse, and then asked to write the entire second verse, with the intention to rhythm although that’s not a requirement. This setup is repeated for the third and fourth line, and one thing to note is that you’ve written will be entirely spoken by your robot using a text-to-speech robotic voice. After each battle, which is one-on-one, players vote on who impressed them the most, so you’ll need to know your audience and what style of humor they prefer.
The fifth game in The Jackbox Party Pack 5, Split the Room, tasks players with creating situations that evenly splits the group/audience. This may seem like an odd request, as you aren’t looking for everyone to select one answer over another, but instead, need to come up with solutions that are so tough to choose from in yes/no style scenarios. It is one of the better games to play while streaming, primarily since it supports up to 10,000 viewers to participate and vote themselves. Trying to figure out answers with that many people in mind is quite daunting. I should also mention the game’s host is a cartoon cat doing his best Rod Serling impression, paying homage to The Twilight Zone.
The Jackbox Party Pack 5 is going to be the go-to party game for family get-togethers for the rest of the year and beyond. The distinctive games are mostly charming, and each one should have legs to keep you from getting bored, except for Zeeple Dome. Jackbox Games is indeed not afraid to experiment with new gameplay mechanics and designs, and more often than not they tend to work out.Note: The Jackbox Party Pack 5 was reviewed on Switch. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.