The Jackbox Party Pack 2 is absolutely off its funny little digital face. Really, it is. A compilation of five different local multiplayer party games, this latest effort from Jackbox Games has players taking part in all manner of silly shenanigans, from selling homemade doodles at an auction and identifying fart sounds, to defusing bombs and bluffing your opponents—the scope for crazy in Jackbox Party Pack 2 is substantial indeed.
What elevates this bastion of mental above other local multiplayer games is the fact that it uses tablets, laptops, smartphones and basically anything else with an internet browser to act as a controller, allowing support of up to six players locally and potentially an audience of hundreds of other folks too.
Starting off with Fibbage 2, one of the stronger entries in the pack, players are provided a sentence with a missing word and then they must provide what they think is a false, yet plausible substitute for that word. The rub though, is that players have to get others to vote for their lie and when all the fibs have been counted, everyone then chooses a response in the hope of either finding the truth, or, getting enough people to vote for your lie that you win on points. It’s a wonderfully simple concept that actually allows for significant tactical scope as players bluff and double bluff each other in the struggle to either obtain the ultimate truth, or, getting everyone else to believe the ultimate lie.
Next up is Bomb Corp. which, for my money at least, stands as the true highlight of the entire package. Supporting up to four players, Bomb Corp. casts folks as interns for the titular corporation and tasks them with increasingly difficult bombs to defuse before they blow up and, well, kill everybody dead. Now, defusing these ticking boom devices is a little trickier than one might expect, since the instructions for doing so are spread across the screens of each player taking part.
Making things even trickier, is the fact that these instructions often partially contradict each other too, so you could have one set of instructions that says only red wires should be cut at a particular juncture, while another player has instructions telling them that the first yellow wire can only be cut if no red wires have been sliced yet. As you might well imagine, ad-hoc arguments break out with frequent hilarity as players squabble about the best way to go about defusing the bomb in order to proceed onto the next. Laugh out loud entertaining and frequently tense, Bomb Corp. is quite simply a boatload of fun.
Next is Quiplash XL, which while may not be up to the heady, intense delights of Bomb Corp. manages to entertain in a totally different way all the same. In a similar fashion to Fibbage 2, Quiplash XL fires up a prompt showing off a sentence with a missing word before asking all participating players to proffer what word they think should be there. Whether the response given is straight-laced serious or pure LSD-powered insanity, it doesn’t really matter; instead what actually counts is how many people vote for your word, with the player with the highest amount of votes being declared the winner. What really separates Quiplash XL from the other offerings in the pack though is the fact that spectators (up to 10,000 of them!) can actually vote on the answers too, bringing not only a unique dynamic to the game but also making Quiplash XL a brilliant game to stream via YouTube or Twitch as those audiences can get involved in the action as well.
Where things start to go downhill a little bit, is with the fourth game in the collection, the grossly titled Earwax. In this game, one player takes the role of the judge and in every round this person must then choose a prompt. When a prompt has been chosen, all the other players in the group are then given a different panel consisting of a number of different sound effects that must also be selected.
From here, these players must then pick out a couple of sounds from the selection on offer that they feel most closely, or strangely, match the original prompt chosen by the judge at the start of the round. When the round draws to a close, the chosen sounds are then anonymously passed to the judge who must decide which of them bares the closest resemblance to the original prompt. It’s not bad fun all told but aside from the occasional bursts of laughter that it elicits, it pales in comparison to all but one of the games in the package, simply because the decision of who wins and who loses all comes down to the whim of a single player and the whole thing feels largely unsatisfying as a result.
Finally we come to Bidiots, which is arguably the weakest link in the chain of offbeat offerings within Jackbox Party Pack 2 – by far. Again, once more relying on the theme of interpretation, Bidiots has players sketching a picture to represent two words which have been given to them. Once these artistic masterworks have been completed and submitted, each player is then provided a sum of money to bid for these pictures when they come up for auction.
From here, every player will be given some clues on their screens which inform them how much the various drawings for particular words are worth, however these clues can only be viewed by that player and nobody else. Essentially, players have to ascertain which of the pictures represents the words most closely, bid for it and if it’s less than the real value and you have the most money left, you’ve basically won. Where things get troublesome, is the added unneeded ruleset which detracts from its accessibility, with things like artists receiving a cut of the costs from the drawings, a one-time rule to force other players into bidding and so much besides that it actually makes the whole affair far more complex than it needs to be and quite honestly, a real ball-ache to explain to anyone who might be playing it for the first time.
Another problem with Bidiots is that the price tags assigned to the drawings appear to be bewilderingly random. So, you could draw a really bad stickman and get it valued for $5,000, while another player could sketch something infinitely more sophisticated and have that priced at $600 or some such low value. It just doesn’t make sense and further detracts from what is already a poor addition to the package.
Ultimately, the idea of using your smartphones and tablets to actively take part in local multiplayer games on your PS4 console is a fresh one and Jackbox Party Pack 2 weaves some ingenious games around this central concept. Certainly with the holiday season looming and the correlating rush of generally technophobic relatives on the horizon, it’s a concept that looks set to endure as the game ticks that elusive box of proving accessible to everyone and not just the gamers who hog the PS4 all year round. For that alone, regardless of the uneven package on offer, Jackbox Games’ newest party effort is still deserving of recommendation.