There is a pretty high chance that gatherings of family and friends inevitably result in reaching for a board or card game to maintain socializing, an attempt at team building, or even to ruthlessly compete against each other for some kind of bragging rights. Whether it be skill or trivia based, holding one's nerve or keeping a straight face, good party games have stood the test of time and can be the vital ingredient to a fun social gathering. Games such as Charades and Pictionary still remain popular, but video games have attempted their own twist on the 'party game' formula, with a variety of peripherals and varying results. Bishi Bashi special or Nintendo's own Warioware provide bite sized wackiness, digitized versions of board games such as Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit are less hassle to set up, and Just Dance and Rock Band / Guitar Hero make fools or pop icons out of damn near anyone.
In order to spice things up, institutions of family entertainment have been given something of a run for their money. Social media and and a solid Wi-Fi connection have provided endless hours of laughs and banter, bringing back couch multiplayer hilarity to rival any De Niro impression or drawing of a wonky eyed Mona Lisa.
Enter The Jackbox Party Pack franchise. Three packs of games designed to test skill, knowledge and friendships. While the series has been around for a while, it's now the Nintendo Switch's turn to host the show. Weirdly The Jackbox Party Pack 3 was released on Switch a few months ago, but now we're taking a look at the first one, The Jackbox Party Pack.
One caveat of the series is that an internet connection is mandatory. The games use their own website to register each individual player on their own respective smart device, turning their phone or tablet into a controller. More on that later. Of course, these collections are going to sink or swim on the quality of the games. Here's a breakdown, one by one.
You Don't Know Jack 2015 is where it all started. A classic, brash, straight up pop culture trivia extravaganza quiz show with witty banter and a dollop of crude humour. It's made up of 7 rounds consisting of multiple choice, reaction speed etc to accumulate the most points to triumph over your friends. The questions appear on the console screen and players input a 4 letter code / a username on the website, and you're away, using your device to answer questions.
This is mostly pretty fool proof, especially as the more people you have the more competitive and fun it will be. The odd misstep regarding jokes can be forgiven, as pop culture vultures especially will enjoy the obscure references and risky gags.
Next is Lie Swatter - a fast paced game of true or false, made up of three rounds of seven questions each, ranging from obscure theme parks to American presidents. Amazingly, up to 100 players can take part, and as a result it can be hectic, but it's a good example of the simpler the concept, the greater the potential for over-competitive play.
Fibbage XL is centered on (up to 8) players entering a made up answer to a trivia question, balancing wackiness with plausibility. Gain points for the other players you trick into thinking yours is the correct answer. Provided everyone is kind of on the same page, the game can be a hilarious mix of holding nerve and a great balance of risk reward; Fibbage can rely on the imagination of its players and considering a true sequel is available in the second collection, both packs may be tempting.
Drawful consists of two parts - part 1, you draw the prompt you are sent on your device. Part 2, each player is then shown the drawings in turn and they submit their answer. The four options appear on screen around a drawing to select. After the votes are counted the actual title is revealed. While some players might opt for more cryptic pictures, justice and revenge are equally sweet with enticing answers, a la Fibbage. Relying as little on drawing talent as possible in favour of thinking out of the box and a pinch of deception, Drawful can provide hilarity and bewildering frustration amongst the more orthodox players.
Word Spud is probably the most hit and miss if the bunch - a game of literary 'hot potato', starting off with a noun, players type a word after the preceding one in a relay. The more players, the more potential for a narrative and there is a chance it could get pretty 'imaginative' within a few turns. 2-8 players use their smart device to input words and vote on other players' contributions, the latter of which can be sabotaged by players and thus affect the enjoyment.
Word Spud, more than any other game in this package, is reliant on player input, so if you find yourself playing with likeminded people who won't deliberately downvote everything, or intentionally ramp up the obscurity (or crassness) of the game, chances are you'll have a good few rounds. However, it's easily the weakest of the bunch due to its tacked-on voting system and general unpredictable nature.
If you are able to get a decent group of people together and understand that it's inevitable if not completely ideal that this game requires an internet connection, there is plenty of fun and laughs to be had here. There's a good mixture of trivia, improvisation and interpretation that's sure to cause a stir among friends and family, and the added bonus of being available on the go (with a Wi-Fi hotspot) makes this set a great time.