The Jackbox Party Pack 5 review: Scenes from a hat

Jackbox Games
Jackbox Games /

Another year, another back of party games, as The Jackbox Party Pack 5 brings forth a classic title and a mixture of creative and straightforward games.

Title: The Jackbox Party Pack 5
Developer: Jackbox Games
Publisher: Jackbox Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (version reviewed), PC, PS4, Xbox One, Amazon Fire TV, Nvidia TV
Release Date: October 16 (PS4), October 17 (everywhere else)

It’s so odd to think about the seemingly limitless creativity available in video games, yet very few have been able to create a title that toes the line between entertainment vessel and the destination so perfectly. The Jackbox Party Pack 5 is the latest in a series of minigame collections where players’ inputs is the game itself, and there are plenty of great choices in this year’s collection.

For those who are unaware, Jackbox Games releases five microgames every year in a collection, allowing players to interact in a social gathering or through the internet using their smartphones or browsers to interact with what’s on screen. This year, Jackbox Party Pack 5 brought back the classic “You Don’t Know Jack” in an updated format and introduced four new titles, three of which were instant classics and another that needs more time in the oven.

Patently Stupid, Jackbox Party Pack 5, Jackbox Party Pack 5 Patently Stupid
Jackbox Games /

“Patently Stupid” combines the artistic creativity of Drawful and the comedic call-and-response problem-solving of Quiplash. Players come up with a problem to be sent to other players’ devices. Once each player has a problem, they need to solve it by coming up with an invention, its napkin drawing, a title and a catchphrase, then present their invention to the other players with as much showmanship as possible.

It’s a simple concept that works wonderfully, as it gives players the freedom to express their creativity how they see fit. You can be as kid-friendly or as raunchy as possible, but it’s up to your peers to decide whether or not to fund your ideas and award you points. It’s great to see just how cynical suggestions can be to solving problems, as my friends and I would create our own inside jokes based on our answers. Who knew that everything could be solved with a bomb?

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“Split the Room” is as simple as it sounds. You’re given a scenario, and you need to insert a suggestion that you want to have players split as close to 50/50 as possible. For example, you are given an immediate cure for the full-body flu, but you suffer a _____ side effect for 24 hours. Your job is to include the side effect that you think only half the people would answer yes.

It’s a great banter game to get people chatting about others’ answers, but in a year where Jackbox Party Pack 5 really pushes the limits of interactivity and creativity, Split the Room is rather straightforward. The next step simply has players splitting between their option with the game’s option, doubling down on its main function without making too much of a game out of it.

Jackbox Party Pack 5, Mad Verse City, Jackbox Party Pack 5 Mad Verse City
Jackbox Games /

“Mad Verse City” was the most nerve-wracking, hilarious game of Jackbox Party Pack 5. Players face off against one another with the goal of spitting straight fire in the form of a four-bar stanza. Each of the first and third lines you answer a Mad Libs prompt to fill out your first line, then you must come up with an entire line to follow it. Stumbling something out is better than if you run out of time, as seen above.

Perhaps it’s the contrast of the suburban caucasity of my friends and I trying to represent on these mean streets, but Mad Verse City had us all bursting at the seams. It’s easily one of the most potent games for hilarity, as everyone mires in the muck of having to come up with bars despite little skill doing so whatsoever. It’s a simple concept, but the intensity of the head-to-head matchup makes for a crazy adventure.

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“You Don’t Know Jack: Full Stream” harkens back to the You Don’t Know Jack days, offering players an oddly-worded quiz where the test is as much knowing the answer as it is deciphering the IQ test-like roundabout ways of asking questions. The highlight is the gibberish questions where you decipher cockney slang into known proverbs and Jack Attack; a rapid-fire list where you have to pick the right prompts that fit in that category.

It’s the purest gameplay microgame in terms of gameplay, as it’s a funny, quirky quiz that tests players’ knowledge, thinking skills and adaptability. That said, it serves more like a classic staple, pure game than anything that gets casual players engaged. There’s little to do beyond making guesses and typing in one gibberish answer in text, although Dis and Dat is a fun wrinkle.

Jackbox Party Pack 5 Zeeple Dome
Jackbox Games /

“Zeeple Dome” is completely unlike anything Jackbox Games has done (to my recollection), but its audacious ambition fell flat. 1-6 players are thrown into a wall-bouncing arena and use their devices to fling their characters at enemies floating around the stage. They file in through waves, and after being weakened can only be taken out by the player with the same color as what it’s flashing.

The recursive loop is for friends to go wave after wave in taking out monsters with basic counteractive moves, but there’s nothing compelling about it. The reward system of more powerups and other Zeeple content isn’t that rewarding of a feedback system, and there’s not much variety in the kinds of encounters.

More importantly, because you’re inputting your character flings on one screen and trying to see where the enemies are on the other, players are often drawn between two fields of vision. It’s just a wild mess of laggy inputs, which become downright frustrating at best and non-responsive at worst. Nobody I played with had great things to say about it, either.

You Don't Know Jack: Full Stream, Jackbox Party Pack 5, Jackbox Party Pack 5 You Don't Know Jack
Jackbox Games /

There are loose strings connected throughout the Jackbox Party Pack 5, with party-friendly humor to the Binjpipe presentation. Whereas the most recent iterations saw an obvious tilt to livestream-friendly mechanics, there’s a fair and interesting balance between offline and online audience interactions.

Mad Verse City and Patently Stupid immediately vault their way to the top of the franchise’s all-time offerings…

For example, the audience gets the opportunity to participate in every aspect of Split the Room, and can even win if they select the most divisive options. They also help fund players in Patently Stupid, play along with You Don’t Know Jack and decide who wins rap battles, but unlike last year’s Bracketeering or the previous year’s Guesspionage, having an audience doesn’t fundamentally change the balance of any of these new games.

Jackbox Games struck the right balance to serve as great, funny, engaging party games for those in real life and interacting with a larger online audience. Mad Verse City and Patently Stupid immediately vault their way to the top of the franchise’s all-time offerings, while both Split the Room and You Don’t Know Jack serve as good, even if the former has a slow back-and-forth flow and the latter lacks the spice of a Murder Trivia Party (yes, I know it was influenced by the OG).

Jackbox Party Pack 5 You Don't Know Jack, You Don't Know Jack Full Stream, You Don't Know Jack
Jackbox Games /

At the core, how much fun you can enjoy with these casual party games depends on what you can accomplish within, the variety, the pace of action and the player’s input. Jackbox Party Pack 5 is a great step up after last year’s okay entry, brings a lot of interesting new ideas forward and isn’t afraid of failing through experimentation. That doesn’t mean every game is a banger, but it’s great to see things still stay fresh.

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8. The Jackbox Party Pack 5 is one of the most adventurous party game collections yet, concocting interesting gameplay ideas and challenging its players to put their best self forward in front of friends and online audiences. With the exception of one glaring misstep, Jackbox Games continues to innovate and build upon their winning formula.. Jackbox Games. . The Jackbox Party Pack 5

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.