The Jackbox Party Pack 6 Review — Sustaining the Life of the Party
Despite being built from previously-used parts, The Jackbox Party Pack 6 is still one of the more solid and consistent collections.
After five party packs from Jackbox Games, it is fair to say that we all “get” Jackbox at this point. Players are familiar with the tropes, the formulas, and the overall sense of humor of these packages, and these games have been around long enough that we can use previous games as references in discussing newer ones. This isn’t a hindrance to The Jackbox Party Pack 6, however, with a lot of ideas from Jackbox’s past cleverly reused, remixed, and repurposed for some fun new games.
Every pack is bound to have one or two standouts, with the rest being also-rans. This sixth go-around may actually be the closest the series has gotten to having a pack where all of the games are worth revisiting. We still haven’t found the perfect party pack just yet, but it certainly helps that a number of quality-of-life changes came this time around: subtitles, password-protected rooms, and a U.S.-centric filter are all welcome.
And watching this series evolve its aesthetic and sound designs has been quite amusing—I thought they were getting ambitious with their space-themed Jackbox Party Pack 5, but this sixth entry grounds the series back in silliness by having a, uh, bathroom theme. Let’s see what it has in store, shall we?
Do you like Trivia Murder Party from the third party pack? It’s back and more unpredictable than ever, providing trivia questions while transitioning with creepy, creative mini-games in between. Like Luigi’s Mansion, we’ve shifted from a haunted house to a haunted hotel, with players going up an elevator and facing terrifying trivia questions on the way. As in the first game, players will use their phones to answer trivia questions, but consequences are dire if questions are answered incorrectly.
Players who fail certain questions will undergo challenges, and this being a new game and all, Trivia Murder Party 2 has some new ones. For example, one such mini-game has the player in question choosing a space on a grid on their phone to “hide” in; this grid is actually a box, one that the other players will put swords through, a la one of those magic tricks. Get impaled by another player, and you “die.” Others include a form of Plinko, with a player choosing which landing spaces result in death. One clever mini-game was actually a riddle, one that I had to solve by literally pausing and resuming the session like I was playing a damn Kojima game.
Even “dead” players still have a chance to revive themselves at the end, with the final round again being a wild marathon to the door as the darkness closes in. Answering questions will have you progress through the hallway, and catching up with the player still alive will steal their body for you. The new addition is a barrier at the end, a barrier that can only be penetrated by answering a multiple-choice question 100% correctly. Long story short: remember that other game from a few packs ago? It’s back, and it’s better.
Role Models has a lot of potential for close friend groups, but it was puzzling at times. For you young folks on the social media out there, this game is essentially a playable version of “tag yourself.” You as a group will be matching your fellow players with a number of tropes. Players will vote on a category, which we’ll say is “Game of Thrones characters” as an example. The players’ phones will then display everyone’s name and a number of Game of Thrones character names, with the players having to match them together.
It’s a simple enough start to the game, but things got slightly complicated to the point where I had difficulty wrapping my head around what the game was actually about. As the game reveals what everyone thinks of each other, players are awarded points through “science pellets,” which I understood as being based on how often you’d agree with the majority of players about who matched with what. There is no “right” answer to any of these, and the majority always rules. In between, players are pitted against each other one-on-one to answer a prompt that represents their personality more; these matchups are determined by their roles being deemed opposite or parallel, but it all seems arbitrary.
My friend group and I had a fun time arguing over who was right about who, making us wish that there was some sort of deliberation period where we can challenge each other’s choices and try to convince each other to change answers. I just couldn’t understand how one “won” the game; what is the amount of science pellets supposed to determine? How well we know our friends? It was fun to see what wacko titles the game gives you at the end, but ultimately, the game feels like if your friends were a living BuzzFeed quiz. I’d like to give it a few more tries to see how much we can wring from it.
The most Frankenstein-ed game in this collection is Joke Boat—it’s closest to Mad Verse City from the previous pack in concept, with a little of Survive the Internet and Patently Stupid peppered in. The players are entertainers, represented by creepy ventriloquist dummies, for a dilapidated cruise ship. The game begins like Tee K.O., with players given prompts to provide as many words and phrases as possible.
As with Survive the Internet, these words are used as material for the other players to utilize. Players will use their phones to pick a word, create a setup of a joke from a template that uses that word, and then will have to write a punchline to that joke. Like with Mad Verse City, players will be pitted against each other as the jokes are presented, with the observers voting on the funniest. But like Patently Stupid, this game provides players to perform in their space a little, with the option to let the game relay their joke for them, or allowing the player to deliver the joke verbally however they want to.
But for whatever reason, the results lack the oomph that Mad Verse City captured last year. Perhaps we prefer stupid raps over bad jokes, or maybe it’s the lack of proper text-to-speech. Joke Boat isn’t greater than the sum of its parts, but it’s pretty equal. Out of all of the original games in this pack, this one is probably the most “traditional” Jackbox game, and your mileage may vary depending on how you like all of the aforementioned similar ones.
I’ve criticized games in previous collections for being far too long to play through, but Dictionarium might be the first time where I think game sessions are far too short. It’s a lovely premise: rounds begin with players being presented a completely made-up word, and everyone will have to come up with their own definition for this word. They’ll then vote on the “best” definition, and then based on that definition, they’ll have to come up with their own synonym for the word.
After that, players will vote on what they think is the best synonym, and to create a new dictionary entry, every player will have to come up with a use case sentence for that synonym. The best, probably the funniest, is decided by the group by vote. And… that’s the entire game. No additional rounds and no escalation of any sort. It’s short and sweet, but also surprising by just how short it is, especially after some of the more complex and perhaps overcooked games in the package.
There’s also the slight problem that these synonyms will probably end up as complete jokes, words jammed together for a cheap laugh. It wears off because there are cases where it turns out that using the original prompt made-up word is funnier to use than any of the synonyms you and your chucklehead friends came up with. Again, a wonderful concept for a Jackbox game, but one that needed more time to gestate during development.
Here it is, the crown jewel of The Jackbox Party Pack 6: Push the Button. The obvious Jackbox comparison to make here is Fakin’ It, a fun little game from the third pack that I found a bit too stressful to ever break out. But Push the Button actually resembles some tabletop and IRL games, particularly Resistance, Avalon, Mafia, and Werewolf. Those are all games with hidden roles and Push the Button brilliantly digitizes that type of game while adding its own spin.
Paranoia is the theme of this game, with a certain number of aliens amongst humans on a distressed spaceship; the number of aliens depends on the number of players. Like in Avalon, there’s a rotating “captain” who chooses between the other players to be observed. Different rooms in the spaceship will provide different tests where players can prove whether or not they’re a normal human or alien bent on sabotaging the ship. These are word prompts, multiple-choice dilemmas, and drawing exercises.
The gimmick here is that the alien will receive modified prompts; for example, the human might be asked to draw “the most disgusting” vegetable, while the alien is asked to draw a turnip. Only the human prompt is revealed, so the alien, while maintaining cover, will have to defend their “decision” to make a turnip the most disgusting vegetable. But the entire game is done under pressure with a time limit; players will have to have productive discussions and deduce who the alien(s) is with the proper tests, and confident players can push the button to enact a vote on who to eject out of the spaceship.
It’s fun, addicting, and forces players to act a bit. Those without a good poker face will likely fail easily, but some of my friends have played successful games of deception, causing discord amongst the humans as they squabble. There’s also the hidden element of “hacks,” where the alien can use a limited number of hacks to send alien prompts to humans, potentially messing up everyone else’s theories on who the intruder is amongst their ranks. Out of all of the games here, this is the one my friends and I went back to the most.
Most of these titles in the sixth pack were good but a bit short of great. Somehow, Push the Button made up for the rest of the package’s shortcomings. If you’ve already invested in these party packs in the past, there is no reason to skip out on this one. In fact, it’s all the more reason to buy it. With The Jackbox Party Pack 6, it has never been easier to say “Did you like that one game _______ from the other party pack? Then you’ll like this one too.”