Jackbox Party Pack review for Xbox One, PS4, PS3

Platform: Xbox One
Also On: PS4, PS3, PC
Publisher: Jackbox Games
Developer: Jackbox Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-100
Online: Yes

Here’s the thing about the Jackbox Party Pack: I’m going to recommend it no matter what. Four of its five games could be the worst things ever, but because that fifth game is a new instalment of You Don’t Know Jack — and a good new instalment, to boot — the compilation gets a pass from me.

Of course, while those other four games may not be the worst things ever, a couple of them aren’t that great, either. Specifically, Lie Swatter and Word Spud are pretty dull. They may have certain aesthetic similarities to YDKJ, but that’s basically all they have in common. Admittedly, I was only playing them with my wife, rather than in a room full of drunken partygoers, but at the same time, there wasn’t much to them that would indicate they’d be better if you had more people. Lie Swatter is a big game of “True or False?” that doesn’t go any deeper than that, while Word Spud is…I don’t know, a word association game? I played it several times, hoping it might start getting more fun, but it didn’t take long before my wife was begging for us to play something — anything — else.

Jackbox Party 1

On the plus side, however, Fibbage XL and Drawful are significantly more enjoyable. The latter is essentially a high-tech version of Win, Lose or Draw, and while it may not add much to the formula, it’s definitely a case of not needing to fix something that’s not broken. (It’s also a case of me not being able to draw with my finger on my phone to save my life, but that’s another story.) As for Fibbage XL, it’s just a whole lot of fun — think Balderdash with a hint of Apples to Apples, and that’s what you’ve got here. It’s a little annoying that it doesn’t give any bonuses for people who give the correct answer, but it’s funny enough that it’s not too difficult to overlook that little fact.

And then there’s the Jackbox Party Pack’s main attraction, You Don’t Know Jack — YDKJ 2015, to be exact. It’s not hugely different from previous versions of the game, but really, it doesn’t need to be. Like those previous iterations, YDKJ still does an amazing job of mixing pop culture with seriously tough trivia, and it does it all with a perfect level of snarky humour. The old favourites — Dis or Dat, Cookie’s Fortune Cookie Fortunes, The Wrong Answer of the Game, etc. — are all here, while Elephant, Mustard, Teddy Roosevelt or Dracula? has been updated to Kangaroo, Peanut, Albert Einstein, or Uranus? to good effect.

Jackbox Party 2

Having said that, I will say that one of game’s the biggest innovations — allowing players to use their smartphones instead of controllers — does fall a little flat. The idea behind it is fantastic; it means that, theoretically, you can have up to 100 players (at least in Lie Swatter — the rest are up to 8 players) in on a game without being constrained by the number of controllers you have. To do this, you simply connect by going to jackbox.tv and entering your name and a room code. While it worked most of the time, it also meant that if your phone drops its internet connection even for a moment, you’re completely out of the game, and you have to start over. This didn’t happen to me a lot, but it happened enough that it was noticeable.

But you know what? You Don’t Know Jack is awesome enough that I’m willing to overlook little issues like that. Heck, I’m also willing to overlook bigger issues, like 40% of the games in the Jackbox Party Pack not being that great. As far as I’m concerned, buying the game means you get one of the most consistently fun games ever made — anything more than that (in this case, Fibbage XL and Drawful both being enjoyable) is just a bonus.

Grade: A-