The Jackbox Party Pack 2, from Jackbox games, is unsurprisingly a sequel to their previous hit party pack – I’m sure you can probably work out its full title. Pegging itself as the ultimate game night bundle, it pulls together five multiplayer games; Fibbage 2, Quiplash XL, Bidiots, Bomb Corp. and Earwax, all of which allow players to take part via their mobile phone, tablet or laptop. It’s a marvellously realised set-up, but sadly not every one of the included titles will make your party the talk of the town.
Connecting via your device is as simple as opening your web browser and visiting Jackbox.tv. Or at least it would be if it was 100% compatible with every web-browser. My Windows Phone with Internet Explorer wouldn’t load the page at all – no real surprises there Windows Phone fans – while all of my iOS companions had little or no problems whatsoever. I got around it by using Opera Mini, but it goes to show there may be some problems depending on your chosen device. The game provides you with a four digit room code, which you input into your handset along with your name and you’re logged into the game.
Unfortunately, during our playthrough on a Saturday evening we all experienced some connection problems at various points. None of them were enough to ruin the experience but at times it did take the lustre off, either leaving people out, or forcing everybody to wait while a counter wound it’s way to zero. It is likely that Saturday evening will be the time when it’s under the most strain, but you’d hope that they’ll be able to accommodate for that as time goes by.
Our first stop was Fibbage 2, a sequel within a sequel, which is a bluffing game where you try to outwit your friends by providing the most believable lie to fill in the blank in a provided fact. Most of the factual events that you’re asked to contribute to are so ridiculous though that you can be pretty wild in your answers, or indeed cunningly simple, but there’s a huge amount of joy to be had when your friends mistakenly choose your lie instead of the real answer. It’s very competitive, often hilarious, and caused plenty of shouting in both triumph and disbelief. It certainly works in a party atmosphere, and is amongst the best offerings in the Party Pack.
Next up we opted for Quiplash XL, unequivocally the crowning jewel in the set, and a game that regularly had us crying in laughter, unable to form words at the answers some of our group had provided. You’re given a number of prompts such as “The worst name for a Summer Camp” – which in our case had a winning answer that is literally unpublishable – along with someone else from the group, and after everyone has input their answers everyone votes on the best ones. The winner then gains points for every vote, with extra ones awarded for a unanimous win. It is an utterly brilliant conceit, with the only negatives being that whenever there were connection issues everyone felt robbed simply because the experience was so much fun.
Third at our party was Earwax, which is resolutely the worst ‘game’ of the bunch, though perhaps it suffered worse having to follow Quiplash XL. The game gives the judge a chance to select a theme, such as “Hobo Party” or “The Star Wars Prequels” which you then have to try and make two sound effects which have something to do with that. Occasionally it works – the winning Star Wars sounds had a 20th Fox-esque fanfare followed by a long, wet fart – but mostly the sounds you’re provided with aren’t funny, or even if they are have little to nothing to do with the theme. It’s sad when the most excitement the game generated was from the Tamagotchi styled avatars and the 8-bit music, but it’s safe to say that no-one in our group will ever want to play Earwax again.
As a slight change of pace, Bomb Corp. is a more collaborative, team-building style game, that has you trying to defuse bombs, You play a group of interns in a company building where there are bombs everywhere, and each member of your team is given a different prompt or rule by which you have to decipher which wire(s) to cut.
It’s a very different game to the others in the pack, not only because it has you working together, but also because it lacks the silliness that the others do. It really does feel like a team-building exercise, which isn’t to say it’s bad, it’s just not as fun as Fibbage 2 or Quiplash XL, and has retro-styled graphics with pixels so big that some of group complained that it hurt their eyes.
The final entry in the party pack is Bidiots, which sees players drawing pictures on their device before auctioning them off to everyone else. You’re given some themes to draw a picture of before a friendly art critic provides you with some of the art titles you might see and their worth. What it boils down to is trying to decipher whether the absurd mess on the screen is the “Nerd In Suspenders” or the even more expensive “Bratwurst Maker”, and then trying to outbid your friends.
There’s fun to be had by trying to hike the price of something you know isn’t worth the money, or indeed of one of the paintings that you drew, but the game’s biggest limitation is that those with smaller devices will struggle where someone on a iPad or tablet won’t. It’s probable though that half the fun is drawing something completely awful, and/or lewd, and while the hilarity never hit the heights of Fibbage 2 or Quiplash XL everyone came away with smiles on their face.
It’s telling that having played through the whole set we returned to play Quiplash XL and Fibbage 2 for a number of hours, and they’re both hugely amusing and engaging games that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to play with a group of friends. While the other entries aren’t as strong, with Earwax proving to be a particular disappointment, and despite technical issues that suck some of the fun from the experience, Jackbox Party Pack 2 still offers one of the best multiplayer experiences I’ve ever had on a console.
Version Tested: PS4