The Jackbox Party Pack 8, out now for all major systems, marks the eighth consecutive annual release for the franchise, which surged in popularity in the past year. Does it manage to surprise this time, or does it revisit tried and true formulas? We found out with the PlayStation 4 version.
One thing that’s consistent for all Jackbox games is the control method, which still is a “bring your own device” affair that lets players connect to the game you’re hosting with their smartphone or tablet. A computer or laptop also works, since you’re just connecting to a URL with a browser, but scribbling answers is a whole lot less handy when you have a laptop computer on your lap and have to use a mouse or mousepad.
Last year’s surge in popularity for these packs came from, of course – covid. On most systems, sessions of Jackbox games can be streamed with little or no effort, allowing people to play together remotely – reintroducing “game night” during a time where it was no longer possible for a lot of people. That still applies to a large degree now that Party Pack 8 is out, so we have no doubt it’ll become a hit again.
With five games to choose from, the one that immediately jumps out at longtime fans is Drawful: Animate – a follow-up to Jackbox’s own Drawful games that has players drawing silly pictures and providing funny captions. Longtime players will feel right at home as the core gameplay is very similar to earlier Drawful games, but with the added feature that your creations now get animated. The quality of the animation is very crude because it’s all just based on two stills that you draw that get mashed together, but you can imagine that results be hilarious when people are able to now show actions rather than still images. Since these can be stick figures you don’t need to be a brilliant artist, but it does help when the people playing get each other’s sense of humor.
The other four games in the pack aren’t based on existing Jackbox games, though some feature interesting variations on other games. Wheel of Enormous Proportions is a trivia game that will appeal to fans of the You Don’t Know Jack games, with the addition of a giant wheel that you spin in order to gain points – with more points the more slices you have on the spot where the wheel stops. While interesting in that it can suddenly swap the course of a game into your favor (or against it), it also brings a random luck element to it, which is never fun in a trivia game when it becomes too big a factor. Winning a game is all down to pure luck with a spin of the wheel as well, and Wheel of Enormous Proportions wasn’t our favorite of the bunch because of it – especially when thinking back to previous Jackbox trivia titles.
Job Job is a much more creative spin, and takes the concept of a job interview to create a really fun game that gets better the more people join. You’ll initially answer a job interview question (but always a rather generic one so the answers can go in all possible directions), after which the words used in those answers get thrown into a big pile and are your building blocks for subsequent answers. This can lead to a rather timid first game, but once everyone grasps the concept it becomes hilarious when you see people framing their answers just so they can go nuts with subsequent ones, only to be outdone by someone else who uses the same words in an even crazier way.
The Poll Mine feels like the Jackbox take on Family Feud, as you rank answers to poll questions and then win by guessing the correct order afterwards – something you do in teams. There’s an RPG element in how it’s all presented which makes for an engaging play session, but ultimately it wears a little thin because the core of it is so much like poll guessing antics of Family Feud, only here the top answers are given by a player on the other team and need to be guessed by you and your teammates. It’s definitely fun, but lacks that “let’s do another round!” charm follows a game of Drawful, for instance.
Probably the most “out there” title this time around is Weapons Drawn, which is another take on the narrative mystery by Jackbox – something they’ve done before in games like Trivia Murder Party. Here, it’s one of those fun parties where everyone’s a murderer, and the job is to try and get away with it. You’ll get a “calling card” that identifies you as the murderer, and you have to include it in a drawing in a way that hides the elements that point to you as the culprit. This requires some creativity and it’s a lot of fun when things “click”, but it’s certainly not as accessible as Drawful, which gives you a much more open canvas to work here. Complex mechanics and a fixed scope to work with make Weapons Drawn a love it or hate it kind of game depending on the crowd it draws, so be warned.
As with every pack, there are definitely favorite mini-games here, and Drawful: Animate and Job Job are this year’s clear winners. If you didn’t care for Drawful in the past then you might want to think twice before jumping into this one, but for anyone else there is a great combination of visual creativity, wordplay and trivia here to help you host a terrific game night, either at home or online.