This year is the 20th anniversary year of the You Don’t Know Jack series, a trivia hit with fans with every release. It’s slick game show style blended with heavy doses of cynicism, wit, sarcasm, and fast quips YDKJ always blended laughs with fact recollection like no other trivia game out there accomplishes. Recently, the series has been rebranded as a complete party depot for your PC. The first edition was fantastic, it came with an all new You Don’t Know Jack trivia game, and a handful of other games to play in a group setting. It’s been a major hit at my house since it’s release. At first perhaps, my wife thought I was nuts for running 15 feet of HDMI cable from my PC to the home theater. That did change when we all sat down to play Jackbox for the first time, with of course wine glasses in our hands. All of our friends that have come over to play this with us eventually end up sucked into the various mini-games Jackbox had to offer. While some of the modes tend to deal with coarse adult subject matter, (little ones it’s bedtime anyway begone with thee!), other modes easily tie players of all ages together for laughs. Today Jackbox Party Pack 2 released, and I was highly skeptical if it could top the enjoyment we all had with the first. Then seeing that YDKJ trivia did not make a re-appearance, I began to doubt it even more. My skepticism melted quickly turning into smiles and laughs, I was wrong, this edition might even be better than the first.
Before you begin if you are a hardcore gamer whose skin is purple from lack of vitamin D breakdown, who hasn’t seen the sun in three weeks, stop reading. You’re not going to like this game because real physical human contact is perhaps a must in anything with the word “party” in its title. Let go of your mouse, take off your bowtie, turn off your tablet (which is just displaying the technical information of the MMO or MOBA you’ve been playing nonstop for 17 weeks). Wipe the drool from your eyebrows, find a brush (use it), apply 2 inches of sunscreen, and head outside. That yellow ball is the sun, the leafy greens around you are real trees, the graphics are really nice outside. Go meet humans and return to me and continue with this review. Instead of figuring out if the Solstice Armor is better for farming trolls because of its +20 resistance to magical earth powers, you need to surround yourself with humans that exude all kinds of fuzzy wuzzy feelings inside when in conversations with these fellow earthlings (without a webcam).
If you have tricked a pack of humans to socialize with you, let’s proceed shall we? First, make sure they are fed and comforted in your home, or theirs. Second, (if you are of appropriate age) you have alcoholic beverages in everyone’s hand. Then when the conversations start to dwindle, and there’s that one person who keeps getting louder and louder throughout the night and starts talking about how they used raise show cats, turn on the TV and suggest karaoke or a party game. Oops! Check it out, your TV was already set to Jackbox Party Game 2! What a coincidence! Now you just got to ask everyone to take out their cellphone or tablet, knowing how these things goes half a dozen people are already texting other people about how cheese your get together is going. No worries, in a few hours they’ll be texting those same people to come over to your house, because you are the coolest PC gamer in your zip code.
The interface for this title is pretty much web based, using a mobile device is highly preferred for simple touch interface on the multiple choice questions. You also don’t want to be the only doof lugging a huge laptop when everyone else is pressing A, B, C, on their small phones, right? Then you just decide which game to play. Some of these new games initially we frowned upon, but after playing a round, we kept asking for more, so I will break down each game mode one at a time:
Fibbage returns to the Party Pack, with all new zany questions, and you provide all the wrong answers. The new version essentially is a duplicate of the first with a lot more questions. There is an inclusion of a Fibbulator button that gets rid of half the wrong answers, giving you a clearer shot at picking the only right answers. This must be used at the right time, since you only get one Fibbulator for the entire match. Fibbage is essentially a game of bluffing taking cues from the board game Malarky. You see a question like the one pictured above, he was hurt with excessively hard “…” at this point you turn to your mobile device and type in an answer. Inevitably there’s one clown that will say something genitalia related for laughs, but other astute players will actually try to come up with plausible yet outlandish answers, that compel you to believe “that might just weird enough to be the truth”.
Scoring for this game is twofold, you get points for people who pick your answers, and you get points for picking the right answer. The right answer for this question was “croutons” which is not something anyone would really expect. All the questions and answers for Fibbage are usually misleading, outlandish, or just plain weird, causing all kinds of crazy antics with your group. We even laugh at times when someone misspells an answer as that is a dead giveaway as the wrong answer, and laugh harder still when someone picks the misspelled answer. Other times it is clear the answers displayed on the screen are all kinds of wrong, but all the right kinds of funny. You may not pick the person, but you can still vote their answer as one you enjoyed. These votes are tallied at the end and that person gets a trophy. The person with the highest score, wins the match. This was one of our favorites from Jackbox 1, and it was good to see it return again, although with little changes, just having more questions to tackle has been refreshing and enjoyable.
If you had to describe Prince using the restroom using only two sounds, which would they be? An Adam Sandler Movie with two sounds? A kitten farting? This is the premise behind Earwax, the second party game included in this volume. On the surface this sounds like a novel concept. Our first topic seemed to fit the zany theme, and we all picked sounds. The sounds were goofy, and at times, raunchy to the point we couldn’t help but chuckle a bit. Unfortunately a few rounds into the match we began to note some flaws. For starters the sounds are limited, and the appearance of these sounds are random from person to person. So describing a kitten farting when you have the sound of air releasing and some squeeks, is far easier to do than the person that has a rimshots and police sirens. You do have more sounds than that, but it’s very difficult to articulate a precise thought with the limited samples. My testing group concluded it was the weaker of this pack of games, despite its promising potential at first.
Where most of the Jackbox games offer levels of free expression and choice, Earwax takes most of it away, forcing you into a limited subset of sounds. Additionally one person is assigned to judge the topic and sounds chosen. This often leaves a befuddling expression on the judges face as he’s forced to decide if a klaxon and mating moan or a bottle breaking and punching sound best describes “shaking Donald Trump’s hand”.
Take Fibbage, and reverse the winning conditions, instead of fooling everyone with your answer you’re trying to get them to laugh and vote for yours. Improv artists, comedy lovers, and master quipists (?) take note, this is your kind of game. This time for the quirky and little known factual fill in the blanks you want to interject maximum creativity, wit, humor, and anything else you can toss in there and hope your friends find you interesting and funny. You go head to head with someone else in your group, your answer versus theirs while everyone else votes on the one they liked the most. Scoring of course goes to the person who’s answers were chosen the most based off percentages.
Even though it has a lot of similarities to Fibbage, we all enjoyed the change of pace from it. However after playing several rounds of Fibbage, and months of Fibbaging in the last Jackbox, it was hard not to see Quiplash just “reverse Fibbage” or “popularity Fibbage“. It felt more entertaining in small doses, luckily another party style game is only a couple of controller presses away.
Drawful was the Pictionary style party game included in the first Party Pack, and was instant beloved favorite. Take a strange phrase, draw it, and watch as everyone tries to come up with a plausible phrase for what you drew. Rules are similar to , actually it’s just a “drawing Fibbage”. It’s clear why the developers decided to take the concept and deepen it further. BIDiots takes the same approach, you start with two phrases, and about a minute to draw on your mobile device. Once completed you are taken to the “auction” floor.
Your prized drawings are up for auction, and you are now a bidder for your imaginary but very rich sponsor. Displayed on your mobile device are some “tips” about 3 of the “artistic pieces” being displayed today. For example, you might see on your screen that “Man in Emergency Room” is worth $4,000 to your sponsor. Your goal is to win that piece at the lowest price. The lower the price the more you win back as profit. So if your sponsor is willing to pay $4,000 for “Man In Emergency Room” and you win the bid at $1,000, you just made $3,000 in profit. This goes towards your ending score which determines the winner. The artist receives a cash reward so they can bid on other items. The higher the profit the higher the artist gets paid. This provides the artist an incentive to try and boost the going rate on his paintings.
While at first I was highly skeptical of this mode, it grew on me, and one that we kept playing over and over despite the fact the evening was getting late. It gets crazy as you are feverishly bidding on an stupid stick figure masterpiece (or is?) believing that the person who keeps jacking up the price knows the true value of the painting. But maybe it’s not? Maybe he/she is the artist and they want to make some profit, things get chaotic. To make matters worse in order to win, you need to bid on the right pieces, and make enough profit if you believe you can make more good purchases, you can take out loans $1,000 for $1,500 payback only once per round. In the times we played the winner took out at least one loan and won, it wasn’t a guaranteed rule to win, but getting art at the right price is the name of the game. BIDiots takes an old concept like Pictionary or Win, Lose, or Draw, and spices it up perfectly for the get-together setting with friends. It took over my living room, and I can see it being a favorite in this house for many months to come.
Unlike all other Jackbox games before this, this isn’t really about competing with those in the room with you. In a twist, you are now forced to work together to survive. You arrive at Bomb Co., a hapless bomb making company with a penchant to get its wires crossed. You our group of brave stalwart interns are the only thing standing between certain death and certain… next level-ness? Each player receives a clue, with one player tasked to be the wire cutter in most cases. Players will start shouting out their clue “cut only the green wire – Page 1” another player may say “don’t listen to the previous page, do not cut any green wires”. These pages are explained as lost bomb manual pages on how to diffuse. Ultimately the wire cutter has to take in all the ideas and collectively decide which wire to cut. If everyone clearly explained their clue and came up with a quick consensus, you will usually cut the right wire and move on. The faster you go the better your rating.
The first few problem bombs were interesting but relatively simple to solve. The game progresses into harder arenas soon enough. You’ll be tossed “place everything in alphabetical order based on last names” everyone has 2-3 names on their mobile device. You do not have to just put your names in alpha order, that’s easy, you have to collectively push in the right order. So I may have Halls, but the person next to me has Gertrude, they have to push their name in first. Failure to do so results in an atom bomb game over screen. Things are mixed up still when you have 2-3 wire cutters, with more cryptic harder to follow clues like “only cut wires on page 1 from right to left excluding blues”. These elaborate rules lead to tension filled scream inducing moments as you are feverishly trying to piece together exactly which cables to cut in the right order. Yes, I did the clichéd 80s movie thing of closing my eyes and cutting a wire (I did win though, it works I’m telling you!). Overall it was easily decided that this was the best new mode, and utter genius in its learning curve and presentation.
Jackbox Games Inc., really know their party games, and Jackbox Party Pack 2 is every bit of proof in that statement. It refines many of the already fun modes from it’s predecessor, and succeeds in providing players of all ages and experience levels with hours and hours of fun. All of this even without the titular trivia game that started it all over 20 years ago. Hopefully we will see a new episode of YDKJ and more Cookie Masterson antics, but in the meantime Party Pack 2, cocktails, a PC, and other humans are all you need to for a great get together at home.STEAM