There’s scant few video games you can bust out to a non-gaming crowd and get a positive response. A few rounds of Halo? Perhaps a game or two of Rocket League? Even those with a low skill ceiling can intimidate people into not wanting to try, leading them to drift off pretty quickly. Jackbox Party Pack 5 steps in here and does a mostly brilliant job of providing a party’s worth of entertainment.
Of the 5 games on offer here, 4 will hit the spot providing you have at least a passing interest in having a laugh. As with previous entries, all you’ll need to get started is the game and access to a browser (most will naturally use their phones, I played using a laptop which worked just as well). Head to Jackbox.tv, enter the room code and your name and off you go. The always brilliant You Don’t Know Jack provides a multitude of questions and scenarios, often absurdly hilarious, letting you set your comedy muscle free.
Jackbox has always had a great interpretation of the gameshow aesthetic and this iteration feels even more on point. Over the top one-liners from the host, smartly produced segment title cards and transitions combine to really get you into the spirit. The aim of the game is to provide witty, funny or outright offensive answers in the aim of eliciting votes from the other players, gaining points and coming out on top. Things pick up when points are doubled, or players lagging behind use perks they’ve been granted to help them close the gap.
With a group of mates and some inhibition looseness, you’d have to try not to find the funny here. Split the Room on the other hand is an attempt to divide answers. Scenarios are presented, with you filling in one of the 2 answers; the aim being to come up with as tough a choice as possible in order to – all together now – split the room. More points are granted for better splits, again aiming to top the leaderboard. Coming up with hilarious answers is still of course feasible, though due to the nature of the game it feels a bit more of a sedate experience than other games.
Next up, Mad Verse City challenges you to bust some phat rhymes via an automated speech robot reciting lines you type in. Firstly, you’re prompted for a vague word (a noun, or adjective roughly related to a theme) to finish off a pre-determined line, then it’s up to you to rhyme an entire line to it. The process is repeated once more before the robot gets to work. Players battle head to head, with not-competing players voting for their favorite rapper. The speech bot does an excellent job of reading whatever you write (and yes, even those word) though naturally tone and inflection are not accounted for.
I can easily see this one becoming a fast favorite; it’s quick and simple nature along with just how easily ridiculous the lines come out had us laughing well after the battles had stopped. If you are particularly proud of one, you can download a screenshot of it via the webpage to share on your way to global stardom. Finally, we have what I feel are the 2 weakest games in the package, though one much more so than the other. Patently Stupid tasks you with coming up with problems, then inventing solutions to sell on.
This is the only game here to ask players to draw as well as write. A slogan and description must also be thought up too, leading to several minutes of silence as everyone is concentrating. Then finally, you can either present your pitch in person – using the game as a sort of PowerPoint presentation – or allow the hosts to try to sell your idea. Of course, the worse your drawing, the funnier it can be – it just feels a little too slow paced for the pay off. Then, there’s Zeeple Dome.
Re-read the first paragraph of this review. Now, imagine ignoring that and suggesting you play something skill based. Except it has laggy controls. And not much actual gameplay. Using your phone still, you sling shot your avatar in a way similar to Angry Birds, except the input has to transit to your game. Several enemies are dotted around stages to hit, but due to the lag you’ll often find yourself madly pawing at your screen just hoping something will register properly. I had a hunch it would be bad when the mode opens with a tutorial… suffice to say, we promptly moved back to the other, actually fun, games.
Overall, The Jackbox Party Pack 5 is a great addition to any future party plans, especially for the upcoming festive season. Like all party games, you really need to have a group of people that are up for almost anything, but it does do a wonderful job of encouraging even the shyest of participants to come up with laugh out loud moments. Just be sure to steer clear of Zeeple Dome.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.