With no exception, Chicago-based developer Jackbox Games sets the gold standard for local multiplayer party games. Obviously, this includes the newly-released Jackbox Party Pack 4 – the latest iteration of the series, packing together a diverse and largely Twitch/livestream-inspired bundle that was an instant hit with both gamers and non-gamers I brought to the table. Jackbox Party Pack 4 is a quintessential must-buy for anyone who can boast having more than three friends.
The Jackbox Party Pack series – and by extension, Jackbox Party Pack 4 – is a collection of an eclectic mix of large-scale multiplayer competitive games, each with a comical bent. The series evolved off the popular 90’s “irreverent trivia” You Don’t Know Jack series, transition more to a console/mobile hybrid scene in the early 2010’s.
While played on consoles as diverse as the PlayStation 4 or Apple TV, individual players don’t play with controllers but instead their smartphones via logging into a server hosted by Jackbox. This simple dynamic opens up Jackbox Party Pack 4 (and its predecessors) to an infinitely wider audience; unlike other multiplayer games, finding 6-8 willing participants is a breeze – especially when every onlooker is doubled over laughing.
But like I mentioned above, Jackbox Party Pack 4 is more of the over-arching brand to the collection of smaller mini-games. How do these underlying titles hold up?
The most notable – and without a doubt the most popular for the series as a whole – is Fibbage 3. In Fibbage, players will be asked a question or given a ridiculous (but true) statement like:
After becoming lost in the wilderness of the Orongorongo Valley, a 29-year old New Zealand woman survived by _____________________.
Every player will then offer up their own anonymous answer, with the goal of fooling everyone around them into thinking it is the truth. When all answers are submitted, all the responses are mixed with the actual answer and players need to select which one they think is right. Both people who are able to fool other players and those who select the right answer are awarded points; the person with the most points by the end of the game wins it all.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, the correct answer above was “drinking her own breast milk.”
Fibbage 3 and the series as a whole is a tried-and-true formula, and this latest iteration is more-so an expansion of categories and an implementation of a groovy 70’s style. The more experimental portion of this segment is a sub-mode, Fibbage: Enough About You.
Instead of category-based trivia questions, Fibbage: Enough About You takes that same lying gameplay mechanic and puts the focus on the players. You will be asked personal questions – for instance, “Who is the most famous celebrity Lou has met?” (Daniel Radcliffe) or “What would Lou title his autobiography?” (Lou Is). While the answers tend to be a little less entertaining that in traditional Fibbage, the mode is a nice change of pace – only bucked by the wild best friend or couple pairing that may mess with the equal-footing dynamic.
But enough about Fibbage: Enough About You, what about the original games in Jackbox Party Pack 4? My personal favorite and standout in the bunch is Survive the Internet, a game inspired by a common thread that is being passed around on Reddit.
The premise is simple. Players are given prompts where they have to answer questions. The player will answer that question innocuously. End product will look something like this:
Question: What would your mailman say about you?
Answer: I don’t know why he is so private, but he sure gets a lot of packages.
After submitting your answer, the responses are shuffled around to the opposing players. From here, it is up to the opposing players to take your innocent response and edit the question to make it more devious. Using that same example:
Edited Question: What would you say about Lou’s sex life?
Answer: I don’t know why he is so private, but he sure gets a lot of packages.
Once all submissions are in, the end products are revealed on the screen and players (and whoever onlookers have joined at this point) will vote on which is the funniest. Both the person who edited and the person who got burned will get points – person with the highest point count at the end wins.
Although the mode isn’t so much of an original idea as it is a riff on some common fun threads on the internet, it’s worth commending Jackbox Games for their seamless integration into bringing this into game form. My only complaint for Survive the Internet would be that portions of it lack diversity – I felt like I was constantly seeing the same pictures to comment on, which is a bit of a drag. Like in any trivia game, the more repeated questions or areas tend to lead to dull moments of gameplay.
Next on the list is Monster Seeking Monster, a romantic-themed board-game like mode that similarly riffs off Tinder chat antics. In the game, players will spend six nights trying to romance other players through a chat app – all while hiding their monster identity and the secret abilities that come with it. Pairing up can only happen when two players want it, and the voting is done in secret – so you never know if you are being led on. The person with the most hearts (normally earned through pairing up) at the end of the game wins.
While I was probably most hesitant about this game, you would be surprised how entertaining swapping “asl” and flirting with your friends on the couch can be. Even better, all chats are broadcasted on the screen, so you can see everyone’s awful pickup lines laid bare.
The only stumbling block about Monster Seeking Monster is the monster power mechanic, which will likely confuse anyone new to trying out this mode. Unlike Fibbage 3 or Civic Doodle, Monster Seeking Monster has the seemingly highest barrier to entry for newcomers.
And that is the perfect segue into Civic Doodle, a mode where you go head-on-head with another player to doodle public art for a town. Each round, two players are randomly selected with a quick timer and the benched players are asked to both react and vote on which one is their favorite. The next round picks up from the most popular doodle in the previous round, prompting players to add to it and repeat the cycle. Once everyone is done, the art is prominently displayed somewhere around Civic Doodle’s town.
In my short time playing this game with something around 20 people, it mostly is a game of graphic drawings, male anatomy, and infamous German dictators. And even though the themes were repetitive, it never stopped us from enjoying it. While this mode would benefit from a longer (default) timer, it adds some diversity to the already-diverse Jackbox Party Pack 4.
Last (and least) of the bunch is Bracketeering, an almost Tron-inspired tournament game where players are given a prompt “What is the best candy bar?” and players will answer the question either seriously or with a joke response. From there, both players and the audience – if there is one – will actively vote on which one is the best, moving it on to the next round of the tournament.
This mode, out of all of them, feels packed in as an extra bonus for livestreamers. Even with a group of six people playing this game, it feels like something that is only enjoyable with crowds of 20 or more making votes on the picks. Thankfully, with the hefty content found elsewhere in Jackbox Party Pack 4, the minigame collection isn’t held down by one dud.
Now that the basic descriptions are out of the way, let’s get to some highlights of the title. For once, it is very Let’s Play and livestream friendly, with a ton of options available for hosts to make this more accessible to a wide group. While these additions tend to fly under the radar in normal games, Jackbox Party Pack 4 is one of those games that feels custom-made for the livestreaming scene. On top of that, an optional Safe For Work mode will let you play this game with kids – or at least wherever they are present.
But if you already own Jackbox Party Pack 3 or even Fibbage as a standalone game, is the $24.99 price tag worth it. Once again, this is a resounding yes. While some party games tend to just feel like the same thing year-after-year (cough cough Just Dance), Jackbox Party Pack legitimately feels fresh and like an entirely new game thanks to the inventive originality in modes and the drastic stylish redesigns.
The only thing that should hold you back (as I mentioned early on) is how many friends you have, and how many friends you can get together. Even just to have for one dinner party or hangout of four or more friends, the entry price is worth it – Jackbox Party Pack 4 is a guaranteed multi-hour adventure into adult fun. But if you tend to classify yourself as more introverted, don’t be afraid to give this game a pass and (instead) join the fun on someone’s livestream.