The Jackbox Party Pack 4 Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Android, Apple Mac, Nintendo Switch, PC and Microsoft Xbox One
If there were ever any doubts that a few drinks and a filthy mind could make for an evening of hilarity, The Jackbox Party Pack 4 puts them firmly to rest. A collection of five party games from a veteran of the industry, it’s a step up from the previous pack but doesn’t provide a stand-out champion like the first two volumes (and the less said about the third, the better). Even so, there is much to enjoy here, especially if you can rustle up a bunch of like-minded buddies to hang around your TV screen with fully charged phones.
The mobile device of your choosing becomes your controller through an incredibly straightforward interface: browse to the dedicated website, enter the room code, and you’re ready to go. And this time around, even if a game reaches maximum capacity, friends can still join the audience to throw in options and offer “likes” to their favourite answers — which now carry a point value, so are worth more than just social glory.
First up, a stalwart of the series. In Fibbage 3 you’re required to fill in the blank to an often bizarre question with an answer that seems plausible enough to fool your friends into picking it. Cookie Masterson returns as the host, and this time around there’s a second mode: Enough About You. Here, you’re prompted to answer a question such as “Which reality show would Dave think he has the best chance of winning?”, which your friends then answer later on. Another round sees you entering a truth and a lie about yourself and seeing if your friends can work out the fact from the fiction. The new mode is a nice spin on a game which probably doesn’t justify having three versions of it, and while it may be a welcome addition for newbies, if you have either of the previous games you may feel a little cheated.
Civic Doodle tries to emulate the success of the magnificent Drawful from previous packs. Two players start off with a nearly blank canvas and be asked to make a picture from it. The rest of the players then decide which of the two offerings is the best, and that image becomes the basis for the next round and two more players add to it. Things get very cluttered, very quickly — especially if you don’t realise the mechanics to begin with — but a selection of colours brightens up proceedings. Of course, depending on the amount of alcohol imbibed there’s absolutely no guarantee that every drawing won’t end up as a mural of penises, but then that’s where most of the laughs come from. Civic Doodle tries hard to make a co-operative drawing game and deserves points for effort, but players familiar with Drawful will be yearning for the absurdity of sketching out things like “Saturn is missing” on a smartphone instead.
The low point of the pack — for there is always one — is Monster Seeking Monster, a dating game where you take on the role of a monster looking for love. Each monster has its own power which is hidden from other players, such as getting bonus points if specific players don’t get dates, or infecting players and gaining points for players they then go on to date. To get dates, you are allowed four text messages to send to other players. You can use them all on one player, or spread them out like the wild oats you’re trying to sew. If you end up matching with a date, you’ll get your conversation splashed on the screen to be giggled at, as well as a bonus. However, the appeal is limited; even with various twists such as a random Robot making up the numbers for smaller groups, or player powers being revealed after the second round, all you’re doing is messaging players and begging them to date you. It’s a bizarre game to play at a party with friends, and can probably be ditched unless you’re planning on hosting a singles night at your house.
Back on track, Bracketeering is the hyperactive answer to the eternal question: “What’s best out of A and B?”. Players enter their answers and are then paired off for scrutiny and voting by their friends which can often see them switch sides if they want to vote tactically. Any draw leads to a tiebreaker which involves you mashing the option that you want to win on your phone. As each bracket’s winner moves on, the final showdown is sure to divide a room, and with sixteen player slots available there is likely to be a lot of shouting. Later rounds give you prompts first, and then show you or switch the bracket topics afterwards which can either lead to hilarity or confusion depending on how appropriate the answers are. The fast-paced nature of the game covers the fact that at its core, Bracketeering is simple, and very, very silly. It’s a better addition for larger group play, as answers are automatically offered when there aren’t enough players...and no-one likes to lose to the computer.
The pack favourite in our review group was Survive The Internet, an apt addition in the nascence of the fake news era. Each player is given a question to answer, and those answers are then provided to other players to twist into headlines. It’s a combination of Quiplash and Cards Against Humanity, but the variety of rounds including job descriptions and photo subtitles provide a heap of laughs. Of course, it’s only ever going to be as funny as the people you’re playing with, so make sure you get a good group of people together or stock up on alcohol — or better yet, invite your local university improv group around, and watch the mayhem ensue.
Overall, Jackbox Party Pack 4 isn’t a spectacular entry in the series but it is a marked step up. There’s a drawing game that might be fun for one round, and a bizarre dating game that can be left on the shelf alongside other series anomalies like Tee K.O. and Wordspud, but there are three genuinely good titles, and a lot of laughs on offer. A few other developers are eyeing up the success of Jackbox with their own take on phone-controlled party games, so it will be interesting to see whether the current leader of the genre plans to push the envelope further with its fifth volume, as sequels to existing hits are unlikely to cut it for much longer. However, there’s more than enough Jacktion here to warrant handing over your hard-earned dollar for a fun night in.