by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
What’s in the box?
Jackbox Games, formerly Jellyvision Games, has been around for a long time now. Irreverent trivia game You Don’t Know Jack has always been a favorite among select fans, but in recent years the studio has come to prominence with its collection of party games. There’s been one a year since 2014, and each one brings a host of new games to play locally with a group of friends. They’re all based on familiar concepts to people who may not even play video games that often. Draw a picture. Write a funny phrase. Answer a general knowledge question. The games themselves aren’t particularly in depth, and on their own they’d be good for a brief bit of fun. But as a collection with five games, each with their own merits, playing a Jackbox Party Pack 3 can have you laughing along all night.
It’s the ease of control which is a huge bonus here. If you’ve got eight people around your house and you want to play a video game, you’re pretty stuck. Local games don’t usually support that many people, and even if they did you’re never going to find enough controllers. Everyone has a smartphone though. So Jackbox Games has turned your smartphone into a controller. Simply go to a website, put in the code it tells you on the screen, and you’re all put into the same game together. This would occasionally be a little finicky in the first Jackbox collection, with people dropping out randomly or being unable to connect, but no longer. In Jackbox Party Pack 3, everything works, the menu systems have been improved to give you control over each individual game, and there’s also a lot of considerations for live streamers, if that’s your sort of thing. As for the new games, there’s the usual mixed bag of excellence and mediocrity. I’ll split them out into five mini reviews for you.
First on the list is Quiplash 2, the sequel to a game introduced in the previous collection. Everyone is given two prompts on their device, and your goal is to write the funniest answer, or “quip.” Your two prompts will match up with a prompt elsewhere in the room, and once everyone’s done, the voting begins. The question appears on screen, and the two people who answered that question have their quips displayed. Everyone else votes on whose was the funniest answer, the writers are revealed, and points are given out accordingly. This continues for a couple of rounds until “The Last Lash,” when everyone gets the same prompt, and everyone gets to choose their favorite at the end for major points. Quiplash 2 doesn’t do much to iterate on the first version, so it’s more Quiplash 1.5 than a full sequel. The only changes are that you get a “Quip for me” button. If you can’t think of anything funny, hit the button and you’ll be given an answer, but you won’t get as many points if it’s picked. Plus, the final round prompts now have themes, but this only seems to add a little flavor rather than anything meaningful. Still though, more content for Quiplash is always welcome.
Trivia Murder Party
Next up is Trivia Murder Party, probably the strongest new addition. The group of you have been kidnapped by a mysterious villain, and only one of you will escape. To do this, you answer trivia questions. If one or more of you gets a question wrong, you go to the Killing Floor where you’ll take part in a deadly minigame. You might have to do really quick math problems, or memorize a pattern, or simply get lucky. Whoever fails in this task is murdered, however they still have a chance to win later on as a ghost, and can still answer the subsequent trivia questions. When only one person is left remaining, they have to escape by answering yet more trivia questions. However, the ghosts are chasing them down to steal their body, and have more opportunities to move towards the exit than their former friend. The whole theme and aesthetic is very silly, however it does become extremely tense in the final round as the undead close in on the living.
Guesspionage is the weakest of the new games on offer. It’s mainly a guessing game. You’re given a prompt, such as “how many people have worn a Halloween pun costume?” and you then have to take a punt at the percentage. The closer you are, the more points you get. Everyone else in the game guesses whether the actual answer is higher or lower, and get points if they’re correct. That’s about it. Unlike the other games, it’s rarely funny, and only really prompts any discussion when someone guesses wildly off the mark.
Tee K.O. is an odd concept, and is not for everyone. You’re given the task of drawing three pictures on your device, which will of course be awful as you’re drawing with your finger on a small phone screen. Then you must write down as many phrases or slogans as you wish. Everyone is then given a combination of these pictures and slogans, and must make a t-shirt design out of them. The chosen tees are placed into a gauntlet one at a time, where people vote on their favorite. The game is fairly poorly paced, as everyone will spend a good few minutes in silence staring at their phone. However, once everything is in place and you can see the designs other people have come up with, it all becomes worth it. My group have had such gems as a blonde man behind bars with the caption “No one has more respect for women than me.” Another had a crazed man with the scrawled words “Bloodbath” with the slogan “Brexit Means Brexit” below. An amusing bonus is that you get to view a gallery of all the t-shirts at the end, and can actually buy real life shirts with the designs on them. I’d like to see if anyone actually does this, but it’s an amusing addition nonetheless.
Finally we have Fakin’ It, a game which is only for six players despite all the other games in the pack being for eight players, which is a shame. It’s still a good time though, especially if you’re good at lying. Everyone on their device is given a prompt which may have them raise a hand, raise a number of fingers, point at someone in the room, or make a funny face. Everyone that is, except one person, who is the Faker. The Faker has to sneakily see what the other people in the room are doing and try and blend in. If they’re caught, they have to lie and try and get out of it. Everyone votes on who they think the Faker is, and if they’re not caught, the round continues with another prompt. Some of the prompts are more cleverly designed than others, giving the Faker a chance to evade detection, however it’s always a good time when the group is asked to “make a face as if you’d just won the lottery,” and someone looks really unhappy.
On the whole, Jackbox Party Pack 3 has a stronger collection of games than each of its predecessors, making it the best one to buy if you’ve never tried them before. It’s just a shame that you can’t buy the majority of games from previous packs separately as add-ons. Being able to add the likes of Fibbage and Drawful to your collection would be a great bonus, but there’s enough in the third Pack to keep your party going for a long time.
Strong collection of new games, improved menu system
One new game is average at best, while another expands slightly on older concepts