The JackBox Party Pack series is back for another round of smartphone-enhanced laughfests. While it may seem a little weird for a fifth installment to already make its way to our favorite platforms, it’s worth noting that these compilations aren’t as run-of-the-mill as the annual franchises we’ve come to expect. You never know what could be inside one of these party packs aside from the possibility of maybe one or two returning games made better. So what do we get this time around? Well, You Don’t Know Jack is back with an updated edition, but the others – Split the Room, Mad Verse City, Zeeple Dome, and Patently Stupid – are all new.
As each game continues to sport their own unique style, corners aren’t cut when delivering the presentation. I always dig the little animations that show up even as people don’t necessarily have to look at the screen; You Don’t Know Jack has particularly luxurious transition screens when going to the next question. The usual group I’ve played these JackBox Party Packs with also loved trying to make things happen in the background in Mad Verse City while others were finishing up their lyrics. The animated touches complement the creative visuals in a very charming manner.
With its usual brand of announcers and cartoon sounds, the JackBox Party Pack games have always enjoyed a lively sound design. Of course, the new games mix it up with elements that match their own concepts. For example, Mad Verse City has a (slightly imperfect) robot speech generator for when the characters rap with the lyrics you guys write. Each game also has a unique announcer to go with them, from the somewhat deadpan cat in Split the Room to Patently Stupid‘s Toby and Lena. None of them drag for too long, aside from perhaps the latter; it is justified when it comes to one of Patently Stupid‘s phases, though, so it’s not Trivia Murder Party / Civic Doodle levels of pointless in that regard.
You Don’t Know Jack is back in this “Full Stream” edition featured in the pack. This classic trivia game is always more fun as a party experience than it is as a video game. Not that it’s a bad game, of course. It’s trivia, but with some twists in the way questions are dished up. No one’s expected to know everything but you can expect the scoring system to be shaken up aplenty with increasing rounds and losing players getting to occasionally screw with other players’ answers. The game can also be played by yourself if you feel like testing your pop culture knowledge. Funnily, I had a better score playing by myself than with the eight-player session I hosted.
But of course, the JackBox Party Pack games shine best when played with a bunch of people and Split the Room has this covered to a tee. You try to answer a prompt in a way that leaves others in the room mixed on their overall opinion of the scenario. The more divided the split is, the more points you get. While there are people that visibly answer with jokes, we would nevertheless have to ponder “Would we actually side with this…or not?” It’s a simple premise handled greatly.
Speaking of handled greatly, Mad Verse City was a hit with the folks here in the game room! I haven’t had laughs that big from a JackBox game since Party Pack 3‘s Tee K.O.! The game generates the majority of a lyric for the first and third verses, but you must end them with a word and follow it up with second and fourth verses entirely of your own. The results can range from being creative failures you can’t help but laugh at to actually creative rhymes you can’t help but laugh with. It can be a little bit annoying when a generated verse has a sentence that doesn’t flow well with what you’d intend, but it seems like that’s what makes writing around them extra rewarding when done right.
Zeeple Dome took me by surprise because it’s the last thing I’d expect from a JackBox Party Pack: an arcade-style video game. Apparently your phones get used as controllers and you fling your character around the level like Angry Birds. The idea is to destroy these ghost creatures by flying into them and if they change color, only the person of that color can hit them. This can be played by only one player but the chaos of multiplayer play definitely brings it out a lot more. Part of me feels like it would be nice if we could use actual controllers to play, especially in single-player. Still, the arcade qualities of Zeeple Dome are not to be underestimated!
Lastly, we have Patently Stupid. Players are given a fill-in-the-blank dilemma and they must create an idea on how to solve it. You could stand up in from of the other players to pitch your idea after it’s conceptualized, or if you think it’s self-explanatory enough, you can have the game’s narrators give a stock presentation on it. Points are tallied up by the amount of money you get for funding the idea, which is essentially this game’s voting system. This one’s perhaps my second-favorite game in the pack, if only because of what sorts of responses would come out of us. Seeing the visual punchline unfold in front of everybody is the kind of novelty at least some of us, myself included, can only love.
Athough we’ve enjoyed all of the packs in this series, JackBox Party Pack 5 is just about up there with the third installment as the creme of the crop. None of the games in the pack are what I can consider duds; You Don’t Know Jack is probably the one we’d play the least, but only because we’re just enjoying the other games by that much! Mad Verse City might even be up there with Quiplash 2 as the go-to game for us to play. If you have people to play with, The JackBox Party Pack 5 is simply a must-have.
Review copy provided by JackBox Games