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Monday, October 19, 2020

The Jackbox Party Pack 7 Review: Game Night Is Back!

 By Jonathan Bilski

Out Now on Steam

When I invited a new recruit to game night-a friend's wife-to try out Jackbox Party Pack 7, she was against game night. She's not a gamer, claims she doesn't like video games. I was furious. Furious my friend never explained what Jackbox is to her. I mean, that's not a way to start a marriage. They just got married and he didn't explain how fun Jackbox is, WTF? Their marriage dialogue aside or lack there of, let's go over what the Hell Jackbox even is.
Jackbox, for the uninitiated, is a series of games you play using smart phones or tablets. You need a host computer or console, but other than one person running the games, everyone can just take out there phones and play. You don't need to sign up, you just need the WiFi password and then you can play strange and imaginative games with friends. Very akin to a game show and party games. Perfect to play over Zoom or Zoom like programs in the time of Covid.

I've been waiting on the latest iteration in the series, Jackbox Party Pack 7, since it was announced and as a new one comes out every year right before Halloween, was getting real antsy. We've played the other games in the series over the last few months in a game night group, but we needed a shot of new.
And we did with four brand new games and a sequel in this pack. You always get 5 games a pack. And always one drawing game.
Jackbox Party Pack 7 started our game night with us figuring out games, trying to master the new fun ideas behind them.
So, let me take you on a review and trip through each title in the pack. Champ’d Up, sure wasn't my favorite.

Blather 'Round  
2-6 players
It's like a very strange game of Charades, but all the stranger as you have to explain a person, place, thing, story or whatever from pop culture with a limited vocabulary. Every player chooses a prompt. You get three prompts to choose from, some are easier than others and you can even toss them out and get another three prompts. You gotta choose one though. And then you only can use a very limited vocabulary to describe it. Then, the other players have to guess what it is. Each time they guess, by writing out a word and submitting it, you can then use their words in a new sentence. The other players who don't have the secret prompt are suppose to converse and try and figure out whatever the secret word is. 

Sometimes, we fell so close to getting a word, other times we were no where near it. But when people figure it out, it feels so good. It might start off slow, but once you get the hang of it it's a race to figure out whatever the Hell your friend is trying to say.

Talking Points
3-8 players
Time to give the greatest speech in your life. Too bad your friends have given you the title. Talking  Points has you choosing a speech title created by your friends and some gems like Fart Kingdom Economics or My Unicorn Is Just In Its Murders are possible. After you choose a speech title, your randomly teamed up with an assistant who picks picture slides and word slides that will help craft your speech, all in real time. Leading to some baffling and insane speeches. One, where I said you had to "suck that toothpaste," to become the greatest ninja as mentored by two ghost dogs. 

You win from audience engagement, people vote up or down as you give the speech and it's graphed to show you where you lost people or they loved it. In the end, each player gets to give out an award to any other player of their choice for extra points and can easily change who becomes the winner. Will you get the coveted Participant Award I gave the person in last place or get a honorary title of just the "Canada" Award? It's up to you and the other players.
An extreme blast of fun as the speech has to keep going no matter what crazy image is up. It's fun to see people improv or if their bad, squirm. Being the assistant is fun as you earn points alongside the speech giver, but you might want to make it harder for them, so you just pick things that have nothing to do with what their saying. Try this picture of a large rodent reclining. No, I don't know what it has to do with Iran's Millennial Social Dilemma with Hockey, it's your problem. Easily one of the best games to lose friends over as the game calls you out if you didn't like someone's speech. And one of my friends would not let that go that night.
Champ’d Up 
3-8 players
The new drawing game. I wanted to love it, maybe some day I will. My heart still belongs to Tee K.O. and my heart was not in this one. This game lets you draw and design maybe more than any other in the Jackbox of games. I mean, marker, pen and multiple colors. This is a lot for the the series. With these tools you get to create champions/fighters who have the erroneous title of being the champion of things. What things? Being a loser, Dryness, Leaving Kids. It's random and you've got to battle someone who gets the same title. Your friends/new enemies/other players then vote on who deserves to win.

You then draw a second champion, but this time only based on what someone else drew. You don't get what the prompt is. You just know that that penis shaped like Yoshi the dinosaur looks happy or that women is way too happy riding a butt.

Later in the game you can tag team your champions so they best serve whatever title their trying to win.

On paper or on the tablet your drawing on it sounds like a grand idea, but it's just lacking something. If a champion gains all the votes in a round they'll pull off an anime like style attack brutalizing the other drawing, but that's only with winning all the votes. 

We had some very good artists playing with us and people who couldn't draw to save their life, but in any case it just didn't click like Drawful.
I see the effort from Jackbox, but it needs something more to stick it together or another gimmick.

The Devils and the Details
3-8 players
Ahhhhh!!!! The screaming! Just listen to me! Okay guys we need to all got to bed right now! Just some of the screams I said during the game.

The Devils and the Details might be the surprise hit out of this box. Based on a sitcom like premise-it even has an opening theme song like one-you and your family/other players are a devil family from Hell and have relocated to Earth. You've go to complete human tasks, regular family stuff. If you don't, well, it's back to Hell.

How this is done is by a series of random prompts that you and your "family" most complete. I've never seen a Jackbox game give you so much to on your phone. We played two episodes, games do actually have episode titles, and I don't think I tried everything you can do. You can do simple things like clean up which might require you doing something by yourself on your phone. 

However, harder tasks worth more points require a second person and sometimes the more is merrier. Sometimes it's not and it's too many cooks in the kitchen. Many games require relaying commands to another player who can't see what you see. So, lots and lots of yelling! Major tasks that go with the episode might require everyone do a job together. The one we had that earned a lot of points was go to bed at a reasonable time. That meant stopping everyone from what task they were on and joining me and that required yelling. 

But wait, there's more! There's devilish selfish tasks that earn big points for mainly you and then the group. But the more devilish tasks you do the more likely you'll freeze the game for everyone else as the house has to be repaired for your chicanery.

And by the by, you have to reach a set amount of points as a group or everyone's gotta go back to H-E- double hockey sticks.

Trying it for the first time and even a second episode, it was intense. As a friend put it "pure chaos", but I found it to be "manageable chaos." It's something I look forward to next time and a game that is best with a big group. 

Quiplash 3
3-8 players
A circus style claymation face-lift to the game that has you writing the silliest or best thing you can think of that will get the group's vote. You're given a prompt and you and a random player battle it out and the other players vote on who gave the best answer. You're not shown who wrote what 'till a winner is announced. It's fun to guess who wrote such utter nonsense. The game changes things up for the last battle by having you answer three prompts. Instead of just the one.

A clear-cut fun game to play with friends that really just got a new look. You can once again put in special codes to have themed games, ones you can create or others created. So you can come up with the questions yourself or maybe choose the Halloween party one I need to make.
Every game let's you post the results on Twitter. So, you can share that you did something with friends while others on social media curled up in a fetal position crying, because they didn't get to
And what of the wife's friend? Oh, she loved game night and Jackbox Party Pack 7. She didn't know we were playing party games. You see, it's all about communication, for marriage and for playing Jackbox. And also for taking jibes at each other.

Game provided by publisher for review purposes.