October 14 saw the release of The Jackbox Party Pack 8, the latest in the long-running party game franchise. Jackbox is best described as a more adult Mario Party. The compilations contain trivia and word-based games that are designed for several players who write, draw, or make guesses based on other players’ entries and the game’s ridiculous situations. The series is unique in that players don’t need to use controllers to participate:W hile Jackbox‘s main action takes place on the big screen, players send in their decisions and answers through their phones. Observers who aren’t actively participating can join the “audience” and influence the outcome of the games.
Jackbox was one of the game series that got my friends and I through the pandemic. While it doesn’t have true online play or any sort of matchmaking, we got around that by having one person stream the main game through Discord and partying up in voice chat. I spent my birthday last year quarantined in my bedroom, drinking beer, and playing The Jackbox Party Pack 7 virtually with a big group of friends, and it brought a lot of levity to what was otherwise a rough situation. When Party Pack 8 released last week, it was an instant buy for me. After playing through each of its party games with different friends, here’s how each new game stacks up in terms of fun factor.
Note: I’ve found that Jackbox games generally work best with at least five main participants. Your experience may differ if you have less than that.
Weapons Drawn is probably the weakest of Party Pack 8‘s games. The premise is that each player is a masquerade guest who is also a murderer. Players must illustrate their murder weapon, each of which contains a letter from their chosen player name. They must then choose another player’s party guest to murder in secret, after which comes a meeting where players communally choose which murders to pursue, review the murder weapons, and guess who did it. The game also involves persuading other players not to pursue your murder, guessing which guest came with which player, and cracking unsolved cases within a certain period of time.
Confused? I was, too. While Weapons Drawn has an interesting premise and trying to conceal letters in my drawings was a lot of fun, there’s just too many layers to the whole thing. It wants to be like the board game Secret Hitler, where players yell at each other and accuse one another of ill deeds and double-crossings, but in practice, my friends and I were so busy trying to figure out the rules and procedures that we ended up staying mostly silent (which is too bad, because I love games that let me yell at my friends). If we played several more rounds, we probably could’ve gotten the hang of it, but it was so convoluted that we just went back to some of Party Pack 8‘s other games.
Drawful Animate is a new spin on Drawful, an existing Pictionary-style Jackbox party game where players must guess what a drawing is. In addition to simply guessing the phrase that inspired the drawing, though, players must also create fake phrases to mislead other players into choosing the wrong phrase. After everyone has seen the drawing, players vote on which one they think is the real descriptor. Drawful Animate follows those exact lines, but allows players to “animate” their art by drawing two images that the game then alternates between. Drawful is a pretty beloved Jackbox game, and Drawful Animate is the “next generation.”
It’s fun, but it’s something we’ve seen before. Jackbox Games has been known to include new versions of its most popular party games, like Quiplash, alongside new games in Party Packs, and they’re almost always crowd-pleasers. Drawful Animate includes some good quality-of-life options, like being able to choose between a few colors and slowing down or speeding up your animation, but other than that, you’re really just making two drawings instead of one. A couple of times, my friends and I didn’t really know what to make for the second drawing, so we just redrew the first frame but made it slightly different. Drawful Animate is good, but not an instant classic.
If you’ve got a huge group of participants and audience members, Poll Mine is a game you’ll definitely want to check out. At the beginning, players are divided into two teams. The game then presents silly and absurd polls to each player, making them rank things like the most desirable roles in the middle school play about the methane cycle. After each person votes, teams must work together to choose the average rank of each item from the poll. For example, if everyone said that a pile of cow poop was the No. 1 most desirable role in the play, the team that guesses its rank correctly gets a point. Teams must do this for every item on the poll. It’s better witnessed than explained — try watching a YouTube video of a group playing it.
While it was a lot of fun and the polls were appropriately dumb, you really need a big group to enjoy it. We played with five people, which wasn’t enough to truly mix up the rankings. We’re all good friends and we had a good idea of what each person would pick, which made the game easier than it should have been. If I were to play with seven or eight people, particularly people I don’t know as well, it would be a lot more challenging. Even if your team is doing poorly, though, you can still win at the end, which makes it hard for one team to get a no-contest victory. I want to give Poll Mine another shot with more people, because it’s definitely a great idea.
Trivia is a classic party game, and Jackbox Games knows this. Most of the Party Packs contain some sort of trivia-inspired party game and The Wheel of Enormous Proportions is Party Pack 8‘s requisite trivia adventure. Guided by a silly, fast-talking wheel, each player must answer trivia questions to obtain wheel slices. After three questions, players place their slices on the wheel and take turns spinning it. If the spinner lands on a place where someone placed their slice, they get points. There are a variety of slices with other effects, like ones that take points from one player and redistribute them to others. Once any player reaches 20,000 points, they can spin the Winner Wheel, which grants them victory if they land on the correct slice. If they don’t, the game continues until someone lands on the right spot.
I’ll admit it: I love trivia. I watch Jeopardy and do New York Times crossword puzzles for fun. My brain is full of random knowledge that probably won’t ever be useful. As such, my friends usually hate playing trivia games with me, but they still really enjoyed The Wheel of Enormous Proportions (as did I!). That’s because you don’t have to be a trivia buff to win. Answering questions correctly grants additional slices to be placed on the wheel, but who actually gets points — and wins — is based more on the random wheel spin than any one person’s knowledge. It’s a great way to alleviate the powerlessness that some people feel when playing trivia, and it does make the game feel more fair, if a little frustratingly random at times.
Before I wrote this article, I asked my friends which game they liked best. Job Job was everyone’s favorite, hands down. Under the guise of a job interview, players must type in their answers to a series of questions, like in Quiplash. However, once everyone has submitted their answer, the words from each answer are scrambled and presented to a different player, who must then use only words from other people’s answers to answer a new question. Though my English major brain was slightly miffed at the random capital letters and not-so-grammatical sentence structures of everyone’s answers, the sheer fun and absurdity of the game more than made up for it.
The key is to have each person answer the first few questions as absurdly as possible to give future rounds a variety of words to work from. The answers don’t always make perfect sense, but when someone somehow got enough words to string a coherent sentence together, my friends and I literally rolled on the floor laughing. Players don’t get to see the initial questions until the end of the game, which keeps everyone guessing as to how someone could possibly use “toothbrush,” “wallpaper,” and “poop” in the same sentence. It’s a ton of fun with any number of players and is absolutely worth playing — we kept wanting to go back to it instead of trying other games.
The Jackbox Party Pack 8 is available now on all major consoles and several online storefronts and will be coming to Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV soon.
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