The Jackbox Party games have always served us well in our never-ending quest to be wittier and more clever than our peers. With a unique game show-esque sensibility and the innovative method of using mobile devices as controllers, Jackbox Games have introduced party game mainstays such as Quiplash, Drawful and Fibbage. But outside those pillars, the first three party packs have had plenty of skippable and unmemorable games. With The Jackbox Party Pack 4, not only has Jackbox reached a new height in presentation, but put out a series of five games all worth the time.
Some are clearly better than the others. “Fibbage 3” is by far the definitive version of the fan-favorite game. I and my fellow players were instantly enamored by the vibrant 1970s aesthetic and feel and the muzak lobby music (which we later found out has lyrics!). This sequel leaves a massive impression in terms of presentation right out of the gate. “Fibbage 3” plays familiarly—given an incomplete fun fact or anecdote, players must type in lies to throw others off when trying to fill in the blank out of a litany of choices. In this threequel, the audience members (likely those who didn’t join the game in time, or are watching players through a stream) take a larger participatory role, with the ability to add in their own lies, and likewise players will get points from fooling audience members as well.
A neat addition is a sort-of subgame titled “Fibbage: Enough About You,” which instead of pulling from history or news, uses facts about the players themselves as prompts. For example, a favorite movie of a player, or something that a player is looking forward to in the future. It is certainly a fun alternative for intimate groups of friends, but mileage may vary depending on how well players actually know each other. In a game I streamed online, friends from my different social groups, mostly strangers to each other, had little idea of what to lie about without knowledge of their competitors. The last round simply has each player write a truth and a lie about themselves, with the other players having to guess which is which—without a fun, proper prompt from the game, it seemed like a lazy way to end the game, leaving players to struggle to think of basic facts that would work in the context of the game.
“Survive The Internet” had me worried at first, beginning with an animation of a keyboard cat—I embraced myself for some unwelcome “how do you do, fellow kids” hijinx. Luckily, the game subverted my expectations and became a favorite. Going back to the “quest” to outwit your friends, “Survive The Internet” has the goal of making your friends look “ridiculous.” Using internet websites as a frame, players type in a phrase based on a prompt; the next step involves another player recontextualizing that phrase in a comedic manner. For example, in the frame of a news website, a prompt leads to a player to type in “Enjoy your meal!” Another player is then asked, “What news headline would make that comment look ridiculous?” to which they responded with “Cannibal Still At Large.” A player receives a prompt from the game, and then another player receives that person’s work as their own prompt—it feels satisfying for most of the comedic content being of our own creation, with the videogame simply as a middleman. The presentation is also stellar, with a ‘90s web browser aesthetic and endless throwaway computer-based visual gags throughout.
“Monster Seeking Monster” is a strange beast. It seems a bit too complicated to be a minigame, but definitely too simple to be its own game. Each player takes the role of a person disguised as a different monster, with each monster having their own set of abilities or quirks. The meat of the game is chatting with the other players through some sort of dating app, with a limited number of messages, after which the players choose which of the other ones they’d like to “date.” We then see the chat messages that led to either a match or rejection, with matches leading to players gaining a heart. But things get complicated when taking the monster abilities into account; with abilities like swapping hearts with whomever you date, or gaining bonus hearts from dating certain people, each player has an ulterior motive when trying to court other players during the texting segment. This game works the least as a spectator game, with no audience participation and the standings and rankings being confusing until the very end, when everyone’s abilities and the final heart count are actually revealed. It’s also worth mentioning that I encountered some technical issues, with the game disconnecting after some chatting sessions.
“Bracketeering” is an easy favorite, with a high-concept premise that generates the right amount of absurdity. Up to 16 players can join in, being prompted to give one or two (depending on the number of players) answers to, like “Best Animal to Put a Velvet Painting of Above Your Bed.” These answers are put into a tournament bracket, where players are taken through each match-up to pick the best answer. Before that, each player is given a match-up to predict the winner for some bonus points. The second round changes it up with a “blind bracket,” giving a prompt for say, a random celebrity name or song title, but not revealing what the prompt is; the third round amps it up by changing the prompt every round, leading to some funny unpredictability. The blind brackets were a necessity for the game’s premise to be sustainable; the answers get less funny as we see them repeatedly, but changing the prompts adds a new element to it. Like the other games, presentation is stellar, with a techno-’80s vibe to the visuals.
Last and certainly least is “Civic Doodle.” This drawing game attempts to be an evolution of something like “Drawful,” but some major technical issues (at least, on the Nintendo Switch version) and pacing problems hold the game back. Players are matched one-on-one to “improve” a town mural by drawing it out on their device, while the other players choose which iteration looks better. We see the drawings in real time, something unseen in previous Jackbox games, and I suppose this is where the technical issues stem from. Each round builds off of the winner from the previous round, but I encountered multiple situations where drawings were missing pieces to it—not to mention, this game straight up froze on me more than once. My fellow players felt that the game was a bit too long, and I’d have to agree with them. During our last crashed play session, we were all ready to move on to a different game.
Ultimately, The Jackbox Party Pack 4 contains the best qualities that we expect from a Jackbox game—fun, high-concept minigames and ample opportunities for as many people to be involved in the fray as possible. And as a bonus, the presentation is more charming than anything we’ve seen from the previous games. Unfortunately, some technical issues prevent this pack from being a perfect party game package; as a result, long play sessions eventually lost momentum. It ain’t perfect, but it’s the best Jackbox has to offer.
The Jackbox Party Pack 4 was developed and published by Jackbox Games. Our review is based on the Switch version. It is also available for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Mac, Android and Apple TV.
Chris Compendio is a Paste intern who is taking too long to think of something witty to say. He writes about Marvel on MCUExchange and you can find him on Twitter @Compenderizer.