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Jackbox Party Starter review for Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, PC


Platform: Xbox Series X
Also on: Xbox One, PS4, PS5, PC, Switch
Publisher: Jackbox Games
Developer: Jackbox Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-8
Online: Yes
ESRB: T

Jackbox Party Packs are always hit-or-miss affairs. Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re all essential, but that doesn’t mean each game in every collection is worth playing. Without fail, you’ll get one or two classic party games, a couple of okay ones, and a dud.

The Jackbox Party Starter breaks that rule. It’s what happens when you have a trio of great games, with not a dud in sight.

Admittedly, it helps that all three of the games are from past collections, so it’s not as if there’s any mystery about whether they’ll be any good. We know that Quiplash 3 is great because it was great in Jackbox Party Pack 7. Likewise, we know that Trivia Murder Party 2 is fun because it was fun Jackbox Party Pack 6, and Tee K.O. was probably the star of Jackbox Party Pack 3.

Still, if you’ve never played the Jackbox Games before – or even if you’re just looking for a Greatest Hits version of the series – the Jackbox Party Starter is the perfect introduction. The three games are completely different from each other, but taken together they show why the series has so many ardent fans.

Take Trivia Murder Party 2, for example. As you’d guess from the name, it’s built around answering trivia questions. What makes it more than just trivia, however, is that the theme actually has an impact on the game. You’re answering trivia questions being asked by a Saw-like narrator who delights in adding in mini-games after each round – sometimes to kill off the weakest players (who still get to play, just as ghosts), but other times to make life harder for the better players. The questions are varied enough that it’s difficult for one person to dominate, and the final round of questioning gets so intense that it’s impossible not to get sucked in.

At the opposite end of the intensity spectrum, you have a game like Quiplash 3, where a pair of players are given prompts (i.e. “A pick-up line to use at the library”, or “Words that can describe both a person and a pair of jeans”), and then everyone else votes on what they like more. Of the three games here, it’s probably the one that’s most dependent on playing with the right group of people, mainly because you want to make others laugh – but also because otherwise it can be really easy to offend someone. That said, it’s also the shortest game of the bunch, so even if your friends/fellow players aren’t hilarious, you’re not stuck with them for a neverending game.

My personal favourite of the three, though, has got to be Tee K.O. It’s a drawing game, but even for someone like me with no artistic ability whatsoever, it’s a blast. You can draw your stick figures (or much, much better drawings, if you’ve got the talent), write up some insane slogans, and then watch as people match up the two. Tee K.O. may have come out nearly six years ago now, but as this re-release shows, it’s still guaranteed to be funny.

If there’s a criticism to be made of the Jackbox Party Starter, it’s a mild one: if you already own all the games in the previous Party Packs, there’s no real reason to pick this up again. It may allow for better moderation and other settings upgrades, but if you already have Party Packs 3, 6, and 7, you already have all three of these games.

That said, picking up the Jackbox Party Starter means avoiding the one drawback of the other games in the series: there’s not a clunker to be found. The three games here are tried, tested, and proven, and if you want the best the Jackbox series has to offer, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with anything better.

Jackbox Games provided us with a Jackbox Party Starter Xbox Series X code for review purposes.

Grade: A