It’s hard to believe there’s been 10 years of Jackbox, but here we are and look how far we’ve come. It’s been even longer since the team’s days as Jellvision in the 90’s, producing the You Don’t Know Jack series, but where they really struck gold was with their collections of party games, the Jackbox Party Pack series which launched their brand of comedy-flavoured multi-player games back into the public consciousness. The Jackbox Party Pack 10 doesn’t feel like a tenth anniversary edition, however, beyond a title screen that contains references to their history. Of the five games on offer, there’s only one returning game, Tee K.O. 2, while the rest are an assortment of new ideas with FixyText, Time Jinx, Hypnotorious and DodoReMi rounding out the pack. While Tee K.O. was a tried-and-true winner in its time, the true standouts of this year’s pack are unexpected additions, so let’s go through them one by one.
This is by far the sleeper hit of the collection this year, inspired by multiple users over-writing each other on Google Docs sheets, FixyText makes players correct text messages being sent in reply to some situation. For 3-8 players (and getting more chaotic at the latter end of that spectrum), FixyText sees you all start typing additions to the text message in question at the same time, choosing your own starting point, and with the backspace and delete keys disabled. What results is usually a paragraph of absolutely insane language, made funnier by the text-to-voice readout that comes after. Points and winners are awarded by players voting on the funniest parts of the text, which seems a fair way to decide winners, even if it might have made more sense to vote for entire passages. It’s still by far the funniest game in the collection this year.
This is a game of deduction, as each player is assigned a secret role to perform, and asked to answer questions as if they were that character. For instance, one player might be assigned the role of Hook from Peter Pan, while another is Smee. As everyone views everyone else’s answers, they have to deduce what the through-line of all these characters is – in the previous example, it could be that most players are ‘leaders’ like Hook and one is a follower, like Smee. Players have to then group themselves into where they think their character belongs, and then accuse who they believe is the outlier of the group. Of all the games in the Party Pack this year, this took the longest to catch-on with players to figure out exactly the nature of the game (it didn’t help that the initial category we got was to pretend we were all cook books), but after a few rounds you do start to enjoy the deductive process, and the answers to questions do provide opportunities to crack wise if you think you’re funny enough. It’s probably the weakest game in the collection this year, though.
This is Jackbox’s first attempt at a music game, and it’s an interesting experiment. Essentially, it’s a fairly basic rhythm game like Guitar Hero, with each player picking an instrument on their device and performing it with timed prompts like most music games. This works well enough, with a short sync check prefacing each song. At the end of the song, everyone’s instruments are combined into one track which is played on-screen, with each player depicted as a screeching bird, and your collective performance judges whether you get a five-star rating, or fail and are eaten by a carnivorous plant. The multiplayer music gameplay is essentially the same as any other in its genre, although there are some very amusing instruments like ‘Constant Screaming’, but beyond picking tracks one-by-one, there’s no larger gimmick or game here, which you might have otherwise expected from Jackbox. At the end of each song, you can pick another song, or just finish up and get told who was the best and who was the worst. It’s fun, and certainly can be entertaining once you hear everyone’s performances merged into one hideous song, but it also feels a little lacking of an overarching purpose or twist to keep players hooked.
Tee K.O. 2
Returning after an absence of 7 years, Tee K.O. 2 doesn’t fiddle with the formula too much, content to simply expand creative options and keep the basic formula the same. The game still revolves around players creating various artistic works on their phones, then a bunch of silly slogans and then re-mixing these into t-shirt designs, which are voted on to see which is the funniest/most popular. This time around you’ve got a few more options in types of shirts, colours, and fonts for your designs, and even get the opportunity to take past drawings from previous rounds and revise them to zhuzh them up a bit. A final round of t-shirt warfare also sees players hammering on their devices as fast as possible to defeat the other. It can all still be really funny in the same way Tee K.O. has always been, relying on players’ ability to bring comedy from each others’ drawings and catchphrases, and for fans of the original it is sure to see a fair bit of use, but it would have been nice to see the concept evolved or progressed a bit further for even more opportunities for laughs.
This is a trivia game oriented around dates, using the gimmick of ‘time travel’ to give some interesting flavour to its questions. Most of the questions essentially revolve around ‘what specific year did this event occur’ with topics ranging from world events to stand-up comedy specials or esoteric memorable moments. Players enter in dates to guess when they think it was, and are assigned points depending on how far away they were to the right answer – the lower the scores are, the better. There are a few twists Jackbox throws into the formula as you progress through rounds, such as giving poorer-performing players hints in the form of clues from their ‘future selves’, or asking players to predict future events based on dates we know from the present. While it’s an exceedingly simple concept, it’s also very easy for players to get into, with a large library of questions and a clean, fun presentation as players line-up their answers along a time-line to see who was the closest.
Overall, it’s quite a decent collection of games this year in The Jackbox Party Pack 10, although as with every year, your mileage will certainly vary depending on your group of friends and what you find to be funny. In my experience, the funniest and most-replayed games were in order FixyText, Time Jinx, DodoReMi, Tee K.O. 2 and Hypnotorious. However, we still had fun playing each one, and there was no significant confusion apart from the early stages of Hypnotorious, figuring out what all the grouping mechanics were about. It’s still a great value deal, offering five digital board games in one pack, and hopefully we’re set for another decade ahead of even more original games to look forward to.
-Some great original games here like FixyText and Time Jinx that surprise you with how addictive they are in party settings -Tee K.O. 2, while very familiar, still has plenty of potential for comedy -DodoReMi is a fun start for Jackbox's foray into music games
-Hypnotorious, while an interesting concept, takes a while to get through and isn't as immediately engaging as the other games -DodoReMi feels like it needed an additional twist