Jackbox Party Pack 7 review for Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC

Platform: Xbox One
Also on: PC, PS4, Switch
Publisher: Jackbox Games
Developer: Jackbox Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-8
Online: No

Like many people, I suspect that the pandemic has given me a new appreciation for the Jackbox series. I?ve always liked them, but until I started playing them online with friends in various Twitch and YouTube and Zoom and WhatApp configurations, I never realized how versatile they could be. When this year started, I don?t think I would?ve predicted how many evenings would be spent having virtual Jackbox parties with friends, but…well, here we are in November, and they?ve become a regular part of life.

It?s in this context that Jackbox Party Pack 7 arrives. It?s not just a fun party game any more — in part because we?re not supposed to having parties — but rather a way to connect with friends across the distance. (I?m sure plenty of people were playing the games that way before COVID, but I suspect the pandemic accelerated that trend greatly.)

Of course, in that context, you have to judge Jackbox Party Pack 7 a little differently than its predecessors. Where I would?ve judged a game to be the weakest in previous Party Packs on the basis of it not requiring the same kind of creativity as the best Jackbox fare, here that unfortunate honour falls to The Devils and the Details, since it?s a collaborative team game that doesn?t really translate to working together over Zoom. Multitasking with people when you?re together in a room is one thing, but trying to do it online with people who have so-so connection speeds is quite another, and the game — which, best as I could tell, involved working with everyone else to check items off lists — isn?t clear enough to make it work.

Luckily, the other four work really well. This is expected for Quiplash 3, since the first two Quiplash games were also highlights of their respective packages. It?s always interesting to see where people?s minds go with weird questions, and it?s every bit as fun here as the last two times.

As for the remaining three, they all work because they require the kind of creativity that works well whether you?re playing over the internet or in person. Talking Points, for example, requires making up a speech on the spot as a friend throws random pictures into your accompanying slideshow. It may not sound like the sort of thing that could reduce you to a giggling mess, but every time I played it, it seemed to happen to at least one person in the group. Out of all the games here, it was the one I was most concerned about whether it could work as well over a Zoom call (or even a regular call!), but it quickly proved to be one of my favourite new additions to the Jackbox catalog.

It?s followed very closely by Blather Round, a guessing game where you have to use random words to describe well-known things. It?s challenging, to be sure, since it requires some fairly abstract thinking, but that?s also the fun of it, and it?s interesting to see how you get around not being able to select obvious clues. For example, I started a round by describing Toy Story as ?A story about a plastic character,” while in another game, it was crazy to see a friend guess 1984 when the only clue was ?A tale about a menacing entity.”

The drawing game here, Champ?d Up, is a little strange even by Jackbox standards, but it was still pretty fun. You?re given completely nonsensical prompts for a drawing, then your drawing is shown to an opponent without the prompt, and they have to counter your drawing by guessing the prompt and creating a drawing that they think matches it better, and the other players then vote on it. For example, a friend of mine drew a cat-person hybrid when given the prompt “Thirst Trap” (they later admitted they?d never heard the term before), and when I saw the picture I thought it was something related to animals, so I drew something that was either a dog or a donkey. It?s no Tee-KO, but it?s still fun.

In fact, that?s a pretty good way to describe Jackbox Party Pack 7: still fun, despite its age, and despite the fact these games aren?t being played the way they were probably originally intended. This year?s version faces an obstacle that could?ve killed it — since the whole point of party games is to play them at a party — but it?s come out as strong as ever.

Jackbox Games provided us with Jackbox Party Pack 7 Xbox One code for review purposes.

Grade: A-