Gaming

‘Jackbox Party Pack 7’ Delivers The Laughs, Even In The Age Of Social Distancing

In theory, at least, Jackbox Party Packs are not made for life in quarantine. The party games are designed with packed living rooms in mind, but packing anything during a pandemic is not a very good idea. Despite the company’s main intent with its games, Jackbox thrived with people trapped in their homes, and their latest batch of games in Jackbox Party Pack 7 will only add to the company’s hilarious and inventive quarantine options.

Each of the five games in Jackbox Party Pack 7 not only works well remotely, but offers a welcome break from reality with some new innovations and engaging concepts. There’s a method to the construction of a Party Pack, though it varies each time Jackbox puts one together. For those familiar with the series, Quiplash 3 is likely the biggest initial draw of its latest Party Pack. A sequel to one of Jackbox’s most successful games, it offers expanded customization options to write your own prompts and a new final round where you enter three answers to a prompt and go head-to-head with another player to determine a winner.

It’s a fun twist on the familiar prompt-and-response format of the game, and the comedic impact of the Rule of Three makes this an easy win in a pack that really doesn’t seem to have a weakness. So often party games sink or swim on the comedic abilities or cleverness of those you’re playing with, but Party Pack 7 does seem to have something for everyone. Though none of the titles have solo play, very few people are looking for that in Jackbox games. They want connection, laughs and, hopefully, some very bad drawings of funny things. This is why Champ’d Up might be the true highlight of Party Pack 7.

Drawing games can be polarizing for Jackbox players, but this one is by far the most interesting and creative of the bunch. It’s actually a combination of a few similar Jackbox concepts blended to make what’s the most colorful and inventive title in the series. You’re prompted to make a “champion” of a particular concept, then give several colors and a blank palate to draw something and name it. Your “challenger” then only sees your drawing, not the prompt, and must do the same. Voters pick a winner, you can make the drawings dance, then you do it again in another round. But this round is blind and also brings in a new wrinkle if you play more than once.

Other Jackbox games have had small incentives to keep the same players and play another round, but Champ’d Up blows them all away by letting you bring back your past drawings in the game’s second round, creating plenty of opportunities for callbacks and for creative players to steal votes by prompting new laughs. It’s by far the most fun feature of Party Pack 7, and one that might extend your game nights a bit longer, but will be well worth all that time tweaking your drawings to perfection.

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Blather ‘Round, the latest word-y Jackbox game, is a fun challenge above all else but is oddly competitive and addictive. You pick from a pop culture or history-based list of words, then try to get the other players to guess it by using vague sentences to describe it. Players can guess, and gain points when a sentence-maker uses their word to make a new sentence. The adjectives and sentence formats change and get more specific as you go on, and particularly creative players can do some impressive things with the prompts no matter how tough or obscure they may seem. Even bad or funny guesses from players can help, as you can snag those and point out how wrong they are to quickly move guessers in a new direction.

If that sounds like too much work, well, that’s why they put five of them in a pack for a single price. But they’re all worth trying a few times to see what friends react to best. I found that, unlike past Party Packs, there was no one game that stood out as the favorite, but also not one anyone wanted to avoid in particular. To me, that speaks to the strength of each title and their replay value more than anything, and it’s impressive that each of these seems to play as well through a video call or on Twitch as they do in a full living room.

Another winner is The Devils And The Details, which is kind of a devious version of Spaceteam where players have to work together to do boring tasks to blend in as devils pretending to be regular humans. You look through phone books to call pizza places to order dinner, tap things to clean and repair items around the house, and can even do “evil” tasks on your own for more points, as long as you don’t get caught. How well this goes depends on who you play with, of course, but it’s chaotic fun and has a lot of simple dumb jokes in it about the mundane nature of existence. Each player gets a “role” in the family that adds some complexity to the game — a parent will have to help a child do more “adult” tasks like drive places, for example. Depending on how evil your friends are, it’s either an effort in team-building or rage-building, no real in-between. It’s perhaps the least versatile of the games in the pack, but like past games such as Push The Button, it’s a highlight of a game night in the right hands.

The game that has the most potential for laughs, though, is Talking Points. It’s a presentation game where players create and pick topics based on prompts, then basically try to make a compelling (and funny) Powerpoint-type presentation with slides they can’t control. Teamwork is key, as another player sets up the word prompts and slide images you’re supposed to riff on. In good hands, the result is hilariously bizarre and gets plenty of reaction from other players, who have both an “up” and “down” button they vote with throughout the talk. The key is that any reaction is worth points, which can take a talk in any number of directions based on the audience and, say, how willing you are to make people mad at what you say. For those who may not like public speaking, this game can be a nightmare, but in a comfortable group of friends, it’s one of the funniest and most improv-rooted games of the series.

All of these games will work better in person, just like basically everything you’ve been forced to do online this year. But this crop of Jackbox games is primed to save some long nights in a world where social distancing will likely be necessary through the long winter months. It’s tough to make anything during a pandemic, but Jackbox delivered on not one, but five new hits this time around.

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