The Jackbox Party Pack 8 Review
There may be a small chink of light at the end of the pandemic tunnel as the country (if not the world) starts to reopen. Foolishly? Perhaps. But either way, what does that mean for the Jackbox series? Over the last year and a half I’ve played a ton of Party Pack games with friends remotely, which made enforced isolation a teeny bit more bearable. And now here we are: the eighth entry, delivered as punctually as ever, with five more games to plough through with friends. The caveat here is that while there aren’t really any stinkers, none of them are truly outstanding. Even so, the developer has honed its craft to the point where even rehashes feel relatively fresh. Only one person needs to own the pack — if you can’t gather a crowd in your living room, a web browser and a video call to your mates will let up to ten of you (plus more in the audience) participate using just your smartphone. Let’s dive into the games!
The Wheel of Enormous Proportions
This felt like a comedy trivia game with too much chance involved to make it ultimately satisfying. Contestants need to answer questions to collect slices which fit onto the pizza-esque (and slightly inappropriate) Wheel. When you have answered three rounds, you place your slices where you think the Wheel will land, and hope to get points. If multiple players have chosen the same slice location, the points are shared. When one player hits 20,000 points, they receive the answer to the meaningful question they asked the Wheel at the very start of the game. The answer is, of course, nonsensical and largely determined by the interrogative adverb you use in the question, but that’s by the by.
If the Wheel doesn’t land on any slice, a player gets to appropriate more empty slice spaces until eventually a scoring segment is landed on. It’s played for laughs throughout which is fine, but while the trivia is fun, the spinning section ultimately renders it pointless since the end game is purely about luck. Also, many of the questions skewed heavily towards a US audience which makes it a bit of a downer if no-one knows specific bits of pop culture or history, for instance. It might be one to fire up if you aren’t feeling particularly creative (or competitive) but it’s one of the weakest trivia games in the series to date.
Out of all of the lockdown games I’ve played with friends, Drawful and Drawful 2 provided the most enjoyment by far. Essentially a variation on Pictionary but with more demented prompts, you have to draw whatever nonsense is sent to your screen and then everyone else has to guess the title you were given. The key is to try and provide a title that other players fall for, which will bag you the points; if you work out the correct title, both you and the artist get points. Drawful Animate is an evolution of this concept, where you now have to draw two frames of a picture to essentially turn the prompt you are given into a simple GIF.
It sounds like it might be unnecessarily complicated but it actually works really well. One prompt of “Lions are permitted in the elevator” may see you draw a lion waiting by the doors in the first frame, and happily sat in the elevator in the second. Or, as my friends described my excellent drawing: “Bear gets in lift”. The animation (rather, flicking between the two frames) can be sped up or slowed down by the artist as appropriate, and there is a ghost image of the first frame when you’re drawing the second which acts as a handy guide for wannabe pro animators. You can even double down on your answer if you’re confident, a new addition for the series. There are also different modes including Friend Mode which lets you draw about the participating players, and an option to make your own content. The pacing is slower than the previous games, since you have more to draw. But the bottom line is that this is a decent variation on the already excellent Drawful and while it doesn’t shake up the formula too much, it’s still a highlight of the pack.
I’ll be honest, I’m still unsure what this game is trying to be. As both a detective and murderer, you hide letters from your name in a weapon you draw, which acts as your calling card. So my “O” in “Rob” could potentially become the head of a stick person, the muzzle of a gun, and so on. After that, you have to name a party guest and then attempt to murder another player’s party guest if you can work out who the guest belongs to. Then there’s a Werewolf-style debate once the murders have taken place where fingers of suspicion are jabbed in all directions as you try to agree on which murder case to take on. Finally, the case leader scans all of the murder weapons to help the crowd try and spot the letter embedded in the murder weapon and match it to the killer, before everyone votes on who actually did the deed.
It is, frankly, bewildering. There are elements of various different games jammed in here, but in such a confusing manner that our group found it incredibly difficult to stay on top of proceedings. Moreover, the letter you bury in your drawn weapon can be stretched or shrunk or rotated to make it almost invisible — to the point where you’re wondering where the actual gimmick is. Maybe a few more rounds to bed this one in will help, but as a casual party game it’s the weakest (and most confusing) new addition.
This is the first ever head-to-head team game in a Jackbox pack, which is astounding when you think about it. You’re split into teams and given a prompt (such as “Best place to play hide and seek”) and eight possible answers (curtain warehouse, forest, movie theatre, and so on) and then each person has to select the top three most popular options before debating among your team which are the overall top three across both teams. Chatting too openly in your team could lead the opposition to pick up clues — if Johnny on the other team decided a high school would be a great location but no-one on your team chose it, you may want to cross that off your top three. When it comes to choosing, each team opens a door corresponding with the answer they think is most popular. If they’re wrong, they lose a life. If they’re correct, they gain one.
Convincing your teammates that your answer is right without giving the game away to the other team is pivotal here. Things get even more knotty when you’re asked to provide answers 2-4, or work your way up from the least popular choice, depending what the quiz master decides to throw at you. Essentially, it’s like a game of Family Fortunes, but where conferring is very much allowed. The questions are interesting and the round mix-ups keep things fresh, which makes Poll Mine a super entry in the pack — especially if you have a big group.
Finally, there’s Job Job. Sometimes the games with the simplest, stupidest premises can end up being the most hilarious, and that’s definitely the case here. As a job applicant, you have to answer personal icebreaker questions in the first round, followed by interview questions in the second round. The twist is that you can only use words in your interview responses that other players used in their icebreakers. It’s kind of like an evolution of Survive the Internet from Party Pack 4 mixed with some Cards Against Humanity-style humour.
The setup inevitably led to all manner of profanity, which was joyously received by all players. You get extra points for using the same words your opponents use, and of course the funniest job answers will blag the biggest points haul (even if some of the answers don’t flow grammatically… but that’s part of the fun). For me, this was the pack winner. It ticked all the boxes for a great party game: fast, funny, and easy to pick up.
Compared to last year’s Party Pack, this one feels a bit more mainstream — and that’s not a bad thing. Party Pack 7 had a few niche games that have accrued a cult following, especially now they can be played in person more easily. This year, Jackbox Games has treated us to three great titles, one which is lightweight but still fairly enjoyable, and one potential grower. The best news is that none of them are unplayable; quite the opposite, in fact. While you’d expect to find at least one dud in most of these compendiums, Party Pack 8 offers solid entertainment for a wide range of tastes which is more than enough to recommend it.
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