I bring my Nintendo Switch with me nearly everywhere I go: to work, to friends’ houses, and to social gatherings. Many of the social circles I frequent comprise of who I probably wouldn’t consider the “traditional” gamer; most people might have their particular game of choice, but by and large, many don’t “game” in the modern sense. Thus, it’s often difficult to try to shoehorn video games into an otherwise analog social gathering.
Fortunately, The Jackbox Party Pack 4 is one of the more accessible party games out there. Rather than having to learn a new controller or the mechanics of a game, like with Super Smash Bros., you simply load the game up and participate using your smartphone, tablet, or computer by pointing your browser to Jackbox.tv and entering your game room’s unique code. The games themselves are fairly easy to pick up and comprehend, so it makes for a great game to play when having company over or going out for some drinks.
The games on offer in The Jackbox Party Pack 4 are varied, and each has its own artistic style and feel. While, on the whole, games were responsive to player input, a few snags were hit here and there in my time playing with a group of 3-4 people. That said, how does each game in the collection fare?
Fibbage 3 is the first game listed in the main menu of The Jackbox Party Pack 4, and it’s probably the most accessible of all the games present in the collection. The idea is simple: a statement is given with a blank word or two, and each player must guess from a list of choices the correct answer. The twist here is that each player provides one of the answer choices, and to everyone else, there’s no way to distinguish another player’s response from the ones generated by the game, including the correct answer. The goal then becomes to try to fib your way into making people guess your made-up answer as the correct answer. If anyone chooses your fake answer, you’re awarded points. If you guess the correct answer, you’re awarded points for that, too. Some of the best moments of the game are seeing four or five utterly outlandish answer choices and having to decide which among them is actually true. Many laughs were had, and Fibbage 3 was a great note on which to start the Party Pack.
Survive The Internet
Perhaps a jab at how Internet comments can, at times, reveal the worst of humanity, Survive The Internet tasks players with trying to out-do each other by twisting player-created “Internet” comments out of context via headlines, video titles, etc. For example, in one round, a fellow player was asked a question I was not privy to, to which her answer was “Be amazing!” Her comment then populated on my phone screen, and the game tasked me with coming up with the worst news headline I could fathom by taking her comment out of context. So, I came up with “Area man will become depressed if told to be amazing one more time”—not the most creative response on my part, but you get the idea. So, then, an image of a newspaper article is generated, with my headline at the top, and below it in a social media-esque comment bubble is my fellow player’s “Be amazing!” comment. Everyone else’s responses are shown on screen, and points are earned based on the top-voted responses.
As the game went on and we began understanding the purpose of the Survive The Internet, the language used to twist each other’s comments grew progressively more uncouth, which thereby ramped up the hilarity of the game. It is worth mentioning that, since there were only three of us for this game, the game generated an AI player, which somewhat threw off the mood of the game—the three of us would be making sarcastic headlines while the AI wouldn’t quite match what we were going for. While it did seem like we would have benefitted by having more human players, Survive The Internet was definitely a fan favorite in our group.
Monster Seeking Monster
Arguably the weakest game in the collection, Monster Seeking Monster is a sort of a dating sim. Each player chooses a human persona, but once the game begins, each is assigned a secret monster identity with a secret monster power. The idea is to get as many dates as possible, which rewards the player with a heart, and the person with the most hearts at the end wins. The twist, though, is that each monster power affects each player differently, in that each player gets a certain bonus. One fellow players’ power, for example, was that he would collect a strand of hair from each person he successfully went on a date with, and however many strands of hair he had by the time his power was revealed determined how many extra hearts he would gain. In contrast, my power was that I would gain an extra heart for every person who tried to get a date with me after I’d already successfully gotten a date for that particular day. Suffice it to say there are a lot of moving parts in Monster Seeking Monster.
The actual method of getting a date, though, is pretty simple. On each player’s device screen, all other players’ names would appear, and by selecting each one, a chat window pops up, and you’re free to send that person a text message. You only get four messages per round, though, so you have to use them wisely. This aspect of the game confused us, because we were all sitting next to each other—sending each other text messages served no purpose, because once time runs out, you simply choose which person from the list you want to have a date with. If two players choose each other, they have a date for the night and each gain a heart. If you’re the odd person out, like me (since we again had three players), you get nothing. In this, the way you go about choosing who to romance felt arbitrary and obtuse.
Monster Seeking Monster is another game that would benefit from having more than three players participating at a time. In fact, the game essentially admits that three players isn’t enough, and it created a fourth robot character for us to try to romance. If the game itself admits three players are not enough to successfully play the game, then why does it let three players into the game in the first place?
Billed as a “debate match” game, Bracketeering is more of a voting sim. The game gives you a random prompt, like “If you met a kid who had never had candy, what candy would you give him?”, and you type in your first and second best answers. The game then takes your answer choices and pits them against other players’ answers in a tournament-bracket-style showdown, and players aim to predict which answers will win out, and then vote on each bracket. This idea seems to work on paper, but in practice, it felt like an exercise in confusion. Not only did the final showdown come between two of the same exact answer choices on two different occasions (Snickers vs. Snickers and Olive oil vs. Olive oil—which makes no sense), but one player was riddled with connectivity issues and kept getting kicked off. The latter could be attributed to the Internet connection we were using or that particular player’s phone, but the former was certainly due to some issue or glitch on the game’s end. If Monster Seeking Monster was the collection’s weakest game in terms of arbitrary mechanics, Bracketeering comes up short on the technical side. Perhaps there would be fewer issues if more players were involved, but I cannot speak to that definitively.
In a world where I am not artistically proficient, we have Civic Doodle. The idea here is that the mayor of Doodle Valley wants to spruce up the city with some artistic murals, so each player is tasked with helping out by drawing these murals. The game starts you off with a line or two drawn, but then it’s up to players to go head-to-head to out-draw each other in an effort to have their final product on display for the entire city. In our group of three, the game consisted of two of us drawing a mural in three iterations while the third person voted on which mural was better at each of these iterations. So, while Player 1’s drawing might have been voted over Player 2’s in the first round, Player 2 might end up taking the win by adding onto Player 1’s drawing in future rounds and being selected by the third player. Aside from an instance where the third player was not able to vote between the two murals (the player’s screen never gave him the prompt), the game went off without a hitch, and it was fun to see both certain players’ artistic abilities and certain others’ lack thereof.
The Jackbox Party Pack 4 is a fun assortment of games, though only two of them are sure-fire home runs—Fibbage 3 and Survive The Internet. The other three can be fun, if only to break up the monotony of playing the former two repetitively, but it’s difficult to recommend Monster Seeking Monster and Bracketeering, as they tend to fall flat. That’s not to say there will never be an audience for the latter three games, but the overall charm and fun to be had by the first two greatly eclipse the others.
Disclaimer: A review code for The Jackbox Party Pack 4 was provided by the game’s publisher.