STAFF REVIEW of Jackbox Party Pack 4, The (Xbox One)

Saturday, November 4, 2017.
by Adam Dileva

Jackbox Party Pack 4, The Box art It’s pretty rare for me to have a bunch of friends over and play some games, as everything is played online these days for the most part, but there’s always one exception to the rule. When I do manage to have a few guests over I try to get them to play any of the Jackbox Party Pack’s when they release. These are collections of smaller bite sized games that anyone in the room can play as they don't need a controller. They can simply use their phone, tablet, or portable computer.

Since you don’t need controllers to play, this removes nearly all barriers for someone to join in, making it a welcoming title for nearly everyone. You can play with anyone; friends, family, or strangers, but as I found out with the gathering of people I was hanging with recently, the experiences will wildly differ based on the audience and their sense of humor.

Every game of the 5 and a half included (yes, one counts as a half) requires 3 players minimum to start, with classic Fibbage being the only one that requires 2. If you don’t have people to come over and play on the couch with you, The Jackbox Party Pack 4 is online and streaming friendly, with a plethora of options to make this experience a better one, giving you a multitude of options. We had well over a dozen people playing during a gathering of friends, and usually every gathering we do for each new Jackbox Party Pack goes well into the night, but something felt different with this one, as it wasn’t uncommon for people opting to sit out for games instead of clamoring to join in as soon as possible.

So let’s go down the list of the 5 and a half included games.

Fibbage (2-8 players):

This is classic Fibbage, hosted as always by the lovable Cookie Masterson. You’re given 'fill-in-the-blank' type questions and need to choose the correct answers in a bed of lies created by every player. You get points for choosing the correct answer and for having other players choose your lie. You want to be clever with your lies, as you can easily win by having other players constantly choose them, even if you don’t know the correct answers. This is the same formula as the previous Fibbage games, but of course it has updated questions.

The half game included in The Jackbox Party Pack 4 is a slight variant on Fibbage, called Fibbage: Enough About You (3-8 players):

What makes Fibbage: Enough About You different than your standard Fibbage ruleset is that you aren’t tested on weird facts and news knowledge, but instead, how well you know your friends. You’ll be prompted to write one truth and one lie about yourself, seeing who knows you best and not at all. This is a great game if you have a group of friends that know each other, but if you’re in a setting with mostly strangers, or playing online, this just doesn’t really work as well as it could. I was playing with a dozen people I didn’t know as well as I could, so it essentially turned into 50-50 for my guesses of which facts were the truth, provided people were telling the truth when prompted to do so. The closer the friends, the better this mode will be, but if they are just acquaintances or strangers, as you might want avoid this mode.

Survive The Internet (3-8 players):

The basic premise of this mode is taking comments from other players out of context and twisting them into hilarious ways. At first you’ll be given a question to answer, something basic and innocent. Your answer is then anonymously given to another player, without knowing your question, and they are in charge of coming up with a question for that answer.

The funny part is how the answer is usually going to be taken completely out of context, so the mash up of answers and different questions causes some hilarity to ensue. After they are all shown, players vote on the most construed or hilarious pairing, and points given for votes. This quickly devolved into making the comments and questions as dirty as possible, at least with my group of people playing, and it became absolutely hilarious seeing the “fake” comments. The whole presentation will remind you of a Windows 3.1 desktop with some classic internet nostalgia like old AIM conversations and what not.

Monster Seeking Monster (3-7 players):

This is, without a doubt, the most unique and metagame like of the whole bunch. You’re tasked with messaging other monsters, trying to match up with them for a date, yet each monster has a hidden power that adds for some strategic thought. Truth be told, this game is quite fun, but it will take a few plays to really understand its intricacies. Every player is a unique monster hidden within a human body at the beginning. Your overall goal is to earn hearts by dating other monsters, but that only happens if they match with you too, somewhat like a limited Monster Tinder.

There are 6 rounds, and during each round you’re only allowed to send 4 text messages to any of the other players. With these 4 messages you want to try and secure that match with someone else. So, do you use all your written messages with one specific player, trying to win them over for a match, or play the field with only a single message or two with a hope of getting multiple matches.

After the messages are sent, each player then chooses who they want to date that night. If both players choose each other it’s a match, but if the hookup is only one sided, then it’s a rejection. The hilarious part is that the text messages between players are shown on screen for everyone to see before the reveal of match or rejection. This was quite funny, and as the night went on our messages started turning quite lewd and to the point. This will obviously vary based on your group of friends and the comfort between each other, but this unveiled an unforeseen awkwardness.

Dating for some people is very awkward, and since your messages to one another is shown on screen, you sometimes want to be funny or crude, or might waste messages with a simple “hi”. There were some couples playing, so it was a little awkward to send messages to someone’s partner, asking to match (my words may have been a little more forward than that), since their significant other is going to see everything that was written between you too. The game has the best of intentions, but this may cause some tension in the wrong setting, so beware.

To make sure that couples, or predetermined people, can’t simply keep matching, each Monster has a special ability that requires specific objectives to be met for bonus hearts, or to make others lose hearts. For example, the person who gets a vampire will essentially make anyone they match with a vampire, along with anyone that person subsequently dates as well, so this person will want to try and match with as many players as possible as they get a bonus half heart for each person they date. I even had a monster that would take a heart away from someone that rejected me, so I would flirt with one person, trying to get them to match with me while I chose someone else.

This is where a lot of strategy can come into the gameplay, as each round the top scoring player has their special power revealed for everyone to see, so there’s plenty of reasons to pick, or not pick, a certain player to match up with. With the right group of friends, like the one I was playing with, it was quite hilarious to see the dirty messages sent to one another only to be rejected for one reason or another. On the flip side, this may be a little embarrassing for some to play or raise some eyebrows. The rules are quite in depth once you try and factor in monster ability strategies rather than simply trying to match with the cute person in the room, even if it’s a ‘joke’.

Bracketeering (3-16 players):

This consists of voting on dumb arguments, but in a sports tournament bracket form. Every player is given the same question, such as name a movie, and each player replies with their own answer. Each answer is randomly paired with others in a tournament bracket. The first round may ask “What’s the greatest movie of all time?” and you would vote on the selections for each bracket. Once you move onto the next round, the winning answers will stay the same, but the question will change, such as “Which is the best movie to play in your house to scare a burglar out?” This completely changes the context of the answers and may have a completely different answer move ahead in the bracket.

You can change your vote during the countdown phase as much as you want, and the game updates in real time as votes are cast. While it’s funny to see answers going back and forth until the timer reaches zero, we had some major lag with a full 16 people playing, constantly changing their votes. It got to the point that the final 5 seconds left went to a standstill, taking well more than 10 seconds to complete as we thought the game was frozen. This game can be fun, but again, it’ll be based on the type of friends you have and how creative they are with their answers.

Civic Doodle (3-8 players):

Last up is Civic Doodle, essentially a new take on the previous Drawful. The backdrop is that you’re hired to paint a mural within the make believe city. Two players are given a mostly blank canvas to draw whatever they desire, with the winning drawing being the one most voted for at the end. The next two players will add onto that drawing and voting begins once again. The winning drawing continues to move forward, eventually becoming the final mural.

The final round has everyone drawing at the same time on their own canvas with a little more direction. Each time a winner is voted and everyone continues on from that drawing. This means by the end the drawing itself is usually a mess and indiscernible, but it has some moments of hilarity. My group in particular was quite fond of, well, phallic objects, so many of our murals probably wouldn’t be approved by the city if it was real.

For those wanting to stream online with random people, their Twitch/Mixer followers, or just friends, there’s a slew of options for you to take control of your game if you’re not going to have a bunch of people over at your place to play locally. The first player to join the game is the VIP, they are the one who decides when to start the game and can even censor input from others if required.

Anyone can generally participate, as the audience can support up to 10,000 players playing along with the host. Doing so is easy, just like local games, as you log onto and put in the unique room code. If you plan on playing online while streaming, there’s an option for Extended Timers, allowing longer time to input answers and drawings, to compensate for the lag that Twitch broadcasts.

I’ve streamed one of the previous Jackbox Party Packs, and almost every time it would devolve into racist and lewd answers from anonymous players in the audience. There is a 'Require Twitch' option that can be enabled, forcing players to log into via their Twitch account. This takes away their anonymity, allowing you to see who’s being inappropriate, giving you options to boot the player.

My group of friends always enjoy when a new Jackbox Party Pack releases, but this one felt different. I really enjoyed Monster Seeking Monster, but it is a very heavy metagame that not everyone is going to understand, and simply use it to hit on other people at the party. There was some hilarity that ensued throughout the night, but there were also times where people simply didn’t want to join in as well, a first for our group.

We ran into more technical glitches in this pack than any other previous ones, with numerous people randomly getting booted from rooms, unable to rejoin, or simply not being able to join without multiple attempts. While I welcome the new games, someone actually suggested we play the previous Pack, which is a telling sign. The new games are decent additions, but the fun factor is going to completely depend on your group of friends and if they have like-minded humor as you.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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