Review by Bobby Blackwolf

Game Review: The Jackbox Party Pack (Xbox One)

Game Review: The Jackbox Party Pack (Xbox One)

I attend a monthly meetup group where we play party games. Catchphrase, Time's Up, and yes, even some Cards Against Humanity. It's a lot of fun to get together with other people and play together - in the same room, making jokes, having fun. Party games come in all different forms - board games, card games, and imagination games, and The Jackbox Party Pack finally brings that into the equation as a video game.




Jackbox Games is the studio that is behind the hilarious and seminal video game trivia game You Don't Know Jack (formerly called Jellyvision Games.) Fans of party games, they lamented that only four people could play their games, and that was only if there were four expensive controllers available. If only there was a way to mitigate that limitation?

The Party Breakthrough


What they realized was that the vast majority of their target audience owns some type of mobile device: a phone, a tablet, or a laptop. All connected to the Internet. Suddenly, you didn't need to buy multiple controllers - people could bring their own controller. Gone were the limitations of the console.

This allowed the team's imaginations to go wild, and create four other party games and release them in a bundle with a new You Don't Know Jack with current questions. All five of the games use Internet-enabled browsers as the controllers, which allow for 8 or, in one case, 100, players to be playing the same game that is being shown and narrated on the TV. This does mean that you need a persistent online connection for the console, and you need to be able to have either adequate 4G or wifi coverage for each individual controller.

That doesn't mean that you necessarily NEED to be in the same room - the various controllers don't connect directly to the console, but rather to a webpage where they put in the four letter code on the screen. Theoretically, a controller can be anywhere in the world - and with the prevalence of game streaming, you can stream the TV and have players play with you. There is no "traditional" online mode - and not all of the games work too well in this fashion.

We're going to look at each of the games, and also tell you how well they can be streamed.

You Don't Know Jack 2015





Popular in the 90's and early 2000's, You Don't Know Jack was THE definitive trivia video game. It took a hiatus until a revival in 2011 under the now defunct THQ. This introduced a whole new generation to the party game, since most of the humor is topical pop culture references, which makes it more difficult for younger people to appreciate the original entries in the series. The 2015 edition updates the questions to current pop culture and, once again, nails the tone. The game plays like it's 2011 counterpart - questions are arranged into an "episode" (so they aren't random) complete with the "Wrong Answer Of The Day" where, if you find the sponsored wrong answer, you get extra cash and a prize. The questions are actual trivia questions disguised as something weird, which may throw off more "serious" trivia players. For instance, in the first episode, a question is introduced and phrased to be about Kim Kardashian's body parts, but is actually about how much water is around the brain.

It's great. I've always loved the series - which is why this is the most disappointing part of the pack. In the 2011 version, you could play local multiplayer with four controllers, or play online. I had the Xbox 360 version, and had many fun nights on Xbox Live playing, and screwing (it's a game mechanic) my friends. That didn't transfer to this iteration - you can only use a controller if you are playing a one-player game, by yourself. You HAVE to use a mobile device to play multiplayer, which means that your button presses have to go from your device, to the Internet, and then to your console. Several portions of the game (Dis or Dat, Jack Attack) actually require you to be able to buzz in before someone else, and when I played it, even though I tapped the screen before the person I was playing against, they got credit for it.

There is no reason, in my opinion, that they cannot give an option of either using FOUR CONTROLLERS or FOUR DEVICES for this game. They already have the code in place (evident in the singleplayer mode) so they should give the option to those who do want to buy $60 controllers (or have friends that can bring their own.) Don't mix and match, as that introduces unfairness, but give the option. The code is already there.

STREAMABILITY: None. The browser only shows the face buttons - they don't show the questions or answers, you can only see that from the stream. Twitch, being the most popular, has roughly a 30 second delay, and there's a 30 second time limit to answer the question. By the time a remote player buzzes in their answer, time has already expired. This is probably less of an issue using something more instant like Share Play or Hitbox, but the Jack Attack final round goes through answers every one second, so even a 2 or 3 second lag will give the host a supreme advantage.

Fibbage XL





Fibbage was released a few months ago, and came as a surprise. Most like Balderdash, the idea is to fool your friends so much, they believe you. A question will be asked with a blank. The first thing you do, on your device, is type a wrong answer that you hope to fool your friends with. (If you type the right answer, you'll get an achievement, and then it will tell you to type the wrong answer.) Then, all of the provided answers, plus the right answer, will be shown, and you choose what you believe the right answer is. If you pick the right answer, you get points, if you pick someone else's wrong answer, they get points, and if you pick a wrong answer that was generated by the game, you lose points.

The questions are random, and playing enough will present some recycled questions. I actually started seeing a repeat question on my fifth playthrough. That being said, I had a lot of fun with this one, and it's the one I kept coming back to.

STREAMABILITY: Best. All of the questions and answers are shown in the browser, and the time limits are longer than the Twitch stream delay. It's still awkward for the players who are watching a stream to hear everything late, but it's not a deal breaker.

Drawful





This, most likely, could be the most fun of the pack. I didn't get to play this one much, because it requires at least three players, so I was only able to play it on a stream. This combines Fibbage with Pictionary - each player is given a weird phrase to draw, and then they draw it on their device. Then, everybody is given a chance to submit a wrong answer based on the image, and then you try to pick the right answer from the sea of wrong ones.

STREAMABILITY: Frustrating, but doable. The browser does not show the drawings, so remote players need to wait for the stream to show the image before putting in their answers. Luckily, the time limits are 45-60 seconds, much longer than the Twitch delay, so remote players will just have to be quick to get in before the buzzer after seeing the drawing on the stream.

Lie Swatter





This is the game that can support up to 100 players, and has drop-in drop-out capability. The premise is simple - a "fact" will be shown on the screen, and you need to determine if it's a truth or a lie in rapid succession. There are two rounds of seven facts from seven different categories, and then a final round of seen facts from a single category.

STREAMABILITY: Good. The questions are displayed in the browser, but remote players need to be paying more attention to their browser than to the stream because of the rapid succession of "facts". Since the four letter room code is always on the stream, people can join at any time during the stream instead of waiting for the game to be over and fighting for a spot.

Word Spud





This is different from all of the other games in the pack, and not necessarily in a good way. The idea is that a word is drifting towards you, and then you have to put a word after it. Everyone else playing then votes on if they like it or not, and you gain (or lose) points based on the altruism of your fellow players. If more players approved the word, then another player will get that word and have to continue the chain. If most disapproved, another player will get to pick a word on their own. This isn't something I'd play much more than a few times - it really depends on the crowd.

STREAMABILITY: Good. Both the initial word (with blank) and the word you're judging show up in the browser. Remote players still need to pay attention to their device more than the stream, but there is a pretty generous delay. While waiting, other players can type their "suggestions" which show up on the screen above their name.

The Verdict


While there are some issues with the implementation, all of the games included in the pack can be fun with the right group. A glaring issue is that any device can initiate a game, which can be frustrating in a stream when you're trying to get eight players in a game, but one of the remote players decides to start the game and you can't stop the three second countdown in time. It would be nice if the controller (which you have to use to select the game) would start the game, rather than the device browsers. Also, it would be really nice if Drawful sent the drawings to the browsers instead of just using the TV.

Did I mention I think You Don't Know Jack should allow for controllers in multiplayer? I think I did, but wanted to reiterate it here. Maybe add online play, too.

One thing I wanted to note is that not all of the stock Android browsers will work as a controller. The default browser on my Samsung Galaxy S3 doesn't have WebSockets enabled, so I had to use the mobile version of Chrome. The default Safari on the iPad works fine, however.

If you have no friends that can come over to your house, then this game is most likely not for you. This is definitely a PARTY game, and while you can play You Don't Know Jack in singleplayer (with a controller, even, did I mention it would be nice if you could use controllers in YDKJ multiplayer?) that alone may not be worth your entire $25 unless you REALLY love Cookie Masterson. (Which, let's be honest, we all do.) If you intend to stream the game, you'll have the most fun with Fibbage XL, Lie Swatter, and if you have a patient audience, Drawful.

All in all, it's perfect in the right situation, and I can't wait to play it with a large group in person. Now, if only Jackbox Games could get the rights to Acrophobia...

Version Reviewed: Xbox One
Devices Used As Controllers: iPad 2, Samsung Galaxy S3, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Windows Chrome
Acquisition Method: Promo code provided by publisher

Our Grade:
B
Your Grade: B+
(Based on 2 grades)
The Good:
  • Innovative use of devices everyone already has - phone or tablet - to pull off more players than consoles usually handle.
  • Irreverent pop culture humor and snarky jokes from the hosts will keep you laughing.
  • Perfect for in-person parties, somewhat okay for streaming parties.
The Bad:
  • You Don't Know Jack Multiplayer requires Phones/Tablets instead of using controller.
  • Drawful and YDKJ don't send the image or question to the phones, making streaming hard or impossible.
  • You Don't Know Jack Multiplayer requires Phones/Tablets instead of using controller.
  • Persistent online connection for console and devices required, which might be hard in high-traffic situations, like a party.
  • Did we mention YDKJ Multiplayer requires Phones/Tablets instead of using controllers?

Bobby Blackwolf is the host of The Bobby Blackwolf Show on the VOG Network, lead developer of the website, and lead GM for VOG: The Game. Follow him on Twitter at @BobbyBlackwolf

Review by - 12/5/2014 11:48 PM1377 views

Your Responses

Flaco_Jones
Flaco_Jones
CONCURRING OPINION

Grade: B+
The only game I don't care for is Word Spud, the others are all great for parties, especially Drawful which has been a big hit at my house quite a few times now. Because of the Twitch delay, Share Play on PS4 and Steam Broadcasting on PC are probably the way to go when it comes to extending your game outside the house, but at least Twitch works okay for some of the party games. I still can't believe it won't let me use my other controllers for people in the same room for YDKJ 2015 though...
See 1 More Concurring Opinion
skie
skie
CONCURRING OPINION

Grade: B+
Mostly agree with Bobby, but having played on PS4, SharePlay is a way better "play across the Internet" bridge than Twitch, played several games across miles and it felt like connected living rooms that were constantly laughing and laughing. Drawful and Fibbage are standouts, but the complaints about YDKJ losing controller support in multiplayer are totally valid (patch plz?). Word Spud is weakest offering. Jackbox Party Pack is still a highly worthy value as a modern board game closet.

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