When The Jackbox Party Pack released in 2014, it changed the way I played games with friends. Sure, there were still card and board games to pass the time, but nothing, at least in my mind, was quite as cool as throwing Jackbox on the living room TV, having your friends grab their phones, which, I mean honestly, they were using anyway, and playing some sort of ridiculous game.
And they were ridiculous. Everything in that first batch was fun, new, and downright silly, and while each subsequent pack has tried to recapture that magic, none, including Jackbox Party Pack IV, has managed such an overall great package. IV gets close, with 4 of the 5 included games eliciting solid guffaws from my assembled group of family and friends, but one drops the ball so completely that I had literally had people pass when a small emergency forced us to start it over.
That game was Monster Seeking Monster. Billed as a Monster Dating Game, where players take on the personas of a monster hidden beneath a human veneer, MSM forces players into texted chat conversations with no real direction other than “make matches and earn hearts.” The chat conversations, with everyone sitting right next to each other, are absolutely meaningless, and serve only for occasional chuckles when the conversation is posted during the “Match” phase. To be matched, two players have to choose the Date option on each other, otherwise it’s counted as a rejection.
The part that seemed incredibly pointless though, was the addition of “The Robot,” since my party totalled less than 5 players. The Robot responded with its own set of remarks when chatted up, and would also randomly choose a date from among those that made an effort. At the end of every session, regardless of whether he scored a date or not, he would lose a heart. The announcer warned that should the Robot end the game in last place, he would lose all faith in humanity and murder everyone. This immediately shifted the game from “find a match” to “get the robot to the front of the pack.” In the end, Monster Seeking Monster offered a few laughs, but easily served as the night’s low point.
Civic Doodle is Jackbox Party Pack IV’s Drawful, and is built around the concept of painting murals all over a make-believe city. Two players start and then their drawings are voted on, with the winning drawing carrying over for the next two players to add too, and so on until a final picture is created. It’s a fun concept that also felt inclusive; even though one picture was voted over another, the final product was a mix of everyone involved, even if some ideas didn’t make it all the way to the end. The first two rounds produced murals for the city, while the final round had everyone create a portrait one facial body part at a time. Each addition was voted on, leaving the final mural a true mishmash of terrible art.
Up next is Bracketeering, a kind of word fight where answers to question are placed in a tournament bracket and forced to face off against each other, with the winner of each round facing off until there is only one “correct” answer left. Where this game of Word Highlander gets interesting is when they begin to introduce blind picks, when players randomly give responses and everyone has to vote on the best answer to a question that is only revealed when the bracket is. This led to some pretty great votes and one or two disagreements, although “puppies” is apparently the proper thing to leave for a tip if you don’t have any money.
Survive the Internet is the most interesting new addition out of the bunch and feels right in the age of “fake news." Each player answer a seemingly innocuous question (I was asked “what qualities would I like to see in a babysitter?”) which they answer as truthfully as possible. Another player is then assigned that answer and needs to come up with a question that puts the answer in the worst light possible. Points are then scored based on votes received. I think this particular game also receives bonus points for presentation, with everything, from the classic modem connection sound at the beginning, to the Windows 3.1-esque background or AOL type browser, aimed at early internet nostalgia.
The final game is an oldie but a goodie. Fibbage has been around since the first Jackbox, and despite the addition of a 3 at the end of the title, it’s still the same great game, and easily won the night with an easy to understand premise and great execution. Telling a lie good enough to pass as the truth is still challenging, and Cookie Masterson’s return as host brought out all the knee slapping groaners we’ve come to expect.
With the exception of Monster Seeking Monster, Jackbox Party Pack IV delivered a great time with good friends. It’s really about all you can ask of a party game, to be entertaining for a group, and Jackbox accomplishes that with a familiar flair.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!