Five new games make up Jackbox 8, the party pack game so many of us have become familiar with in lockdown. Is there more to play here, or should you stick with the original?
Games nights aren’t what they used to be, and understandably, they’ve changed. If you used to have people over for pizza, beverages, and fun games, there’s a good chance that has been scrapped and replaced with a digital-only affair, and I think we all know what to blame: thanks, coronavirus.
And Jackbox is one of the main reasons why.
Nearly two years on from the introduction of stay-at-home lockdowns, more people have been introduced to Jackbox games for a lockdown game party experience, able to be shared over Zoom and other video conferencing services, something that has been seen player numbers jump significantly.
Before Jackbox 8, there were no less than 35 party-focused multiplayer games available from Jackbox Games, and that’s not even including the single-player You Don’t Know Jack games with irreverent humour that first propelled Jellyvision Games to popularity in the 90s.
Back then and to the early 2000s, Jack games were single player trivia games that could be played on one computer with one to three people, but Jellyvision and its publisher Berkeley Systems at the time were experimenting with multiplayer games, too. Good luck finding them now, but both Acrophobia and Get the Picture were examples of each before Berkeley was acquired by Sierra, which itself was acquired by Activision in 2008 before being disbanded.
Somehow, Jackbox Games emerged unscathed, and has been releasing trivia games ever since, expanding into party games since 2014, its small team delivering numerous party games that people love playing, this journalist included. And for a fun fact, before this journalist was reviewing games, way back in the day, he was a beta tester for Berkeley Systems, with its games still sitting fondly in his memories.
He’s not the only one, though, because the games are often fun, quirky, and come laden with humour, feeling like a game show with someone sharp and snappy, all while you might learn a thing or two in the process.
But each pack and game is slightly different, and with no less than 35 games down, we’re keen to see just what is next in Jackbox 8.
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The games of Jackbox 8
Just like the other Jackbox party packs, there are five games in the 2021 Jackbox game, covering drawing and mysteries and quizzes and more.
While the popular titles of Fibbage and Quiplash are missing in action in Jackbox 8, there’s a new Drawful, and a few others, too.
The follow-up to one of the more popular drawing games in the Jackbox arsenal, Drawful Animate is a pretty simple concept with an extra frame of drawings thrown in for good measure.
In the standard Drawful and Drawful 2 game (the latter of which never joined a Jackbox party pack, the idea was simple: have prompts given to players and have them draw them using their often terrible drawing skills and their phone. Since most people don’t use a stylus with their phone, save for the odd people with a Galaxy Note or maybe an S21 with S-Pen support, it meant most people were going to end up with terribly terrible comical drawings that in no way will look like what the hint is, but yet still offer a lot of fun,.
The idea is simple. It worked. It’s Pictionary with more laughter and less space to work in. Your friends have to work out what your pitch was, while offering their own takes. Easy.
In Drawful: Animate, the idea is the same, only you’re given a second frame, allowing you to animate the results. Up to 10 players are supported, and they draw the first frame, and then be shown the first frame behind the second so it can be redrawn in an animated frame.
It’s like being an animator, but in the worst possible way, scribbling using your finger on your phone, or if you’re smart, grabbing an iPad with an Apple Pencil (which doesn’t help much at all).
But that’s it. That is all the difference, and the structure of the game doesn’t really add anything. It may even lose something.
With two frames, your avatars can be swanky animations that play out nicely. In game, you can control the speed it plays and people can guess your pitches or make their own for more points. And that’s all.
Drawful Animate offers you two rounds of this for how many players you have, and nothing else. Two founds of back and forth Pictionary with a little more time for animations. That’s it, nothing more. It’s something and a follow-up, but without much new structure, there’s not much more to look forward to than a couple of extra animations and more terrible drawings, plus some meh humour.
The Wheel of Enormous Proportions
Speaking of meh humour, let’s talk about the second game in Jackbox 8 which is loaded with it.
Called The Wheel of Enormous Proportions, you’ll be spending a few minutes with a giant talking wheel that has drawn its humour and style from Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room, asking it a question you hope it will answer if you win, but then answering a bunch of trivia questions to determine who is the best.
This one is essentially a trivia game like Trivial Pursuit with wheel spinning mini games thrown in alongside, seeing you get slices of the wheel as you answer correctly and in the fastest times.
You’ll sit in groups and answer questions, often multiple choice questions that genuinely have multiple answers, and when three rounds have passed, you’ll select a part of the wheel, spin the wheel on your phone, and score points, with this last part feeling a little arbitrary.
Eventually at the end, one winner will have their question answered in a way that would make The Book of Answers blush. In short, this game is Trivial Pursuit meets Wheel of Fortune with a Magic 8 Ball ending.
But it does go on, and much like how a game of Trivial Pursuit can wear on if the right question isn’t answered, the same is true here if the spin doesn’t land on a winning part of the wheel. That means it can take some time to play, and sadly, the time didn’t justify the experience.
Easily the best game in the pack (not just the best so far, but the one we liked most), Job Job is a job interview simulator where you get to use your words to answer questions and then use other people’s words to answer them again. The idea is a little like Mad Libs, but likely with more profanity and random amounts of collaboration (SYNERGY) you’ll be able to tap for extra points.
Supporting up to 10 players (or applicants for a Job Job), you’ll all be grouped together, and will be grading each other’s answers and helping each other out with words. The premise is simple: every answers questions, and then everyone will use those answered questions to answer more questions, and the most hilarious answer wins the points. The more points, the more you win, with that final score your salary package at Job Job shortly before the boss telling someone else they’re fired (sorry Ryan, or whoever else gets fired).
It’s simple, fun, and it works, with Job Job easily being the best of the bunch so far in Jackbox 8.
A little like what happens when Family Feud takes place in a mine and answering questions determines whether you can escape, Poll Mine has up to 10 players working in teams to open doors to answer which are the most popular answers amongst the players. The questions aren’t so much fact as they are your friend’s opinions on random subjects, and then trying to work out the orders of how you all answered those questions.
Simple idea married to the premise of escaping a haunted mine, complete with cute little drawings that feel like they’re out of Sounds cool, right?
A shame it’s just so boring. Rounds take forever, the jokes aren’t funny, and much like The Wheel of Enormous Proportions, you’re left with a game that struggles under its own lack of pacing and direction.
You only have to see how awkward explaining the game is through one of its final rounds, with an instruction screen that leaves you thinking “why is this game so unnecessarily complex?”
We’re not sure the answer, but we can tell you Poll Mine isn’t worth playing more than once, and that may be to see just how frustratingly meh it is.
What could be fun for a few minutes quickly becomes a chore, and the task of trying to escape the mine is equaled only by your desire to get the hell out of the game. Which you can thankfully do by hitting escape. Your friends will thank you for it.
Bizarrely, Poll Mine isn’t the worst game in the pack. That goes to Weapons Drawn, a mixture of the classic mystery sleuthing game Clue and the Jackbox obsession with drawing. I mean, you’ve already had one drawing prompt game in here with Drawful Animate, so why not have another for the sake of why the hell not.
Weapons Drawn takes the drawing concept and mixes it with Australia’s Mr. Squiggle, giving you a weapon to hide by drawing it into something else, and then taking part in an on-screen murder investigation whodunnit with up to 8 people where players are trying to work out who drew which weapon and who killed whom.
It seems easy — and it is — but much like Poll Mine, it can feel unnecessarily complex and frustratingly boring. We actually gave up playing this Weapons Drawn, it was that tiring.
What’s good about Jackbox 8?
While we loved Job Job the most, the best part about Jackbox 8 is what’s been included in options, with things that can help the game, and that honestly should be rolled back and patched into every other Jackbox entry, all seven of the things.
You can switch profanity filtering on and off, make it family friendly, give mods control, and even filter US-centric content, which doesn’t always work, but does cut back on some of the Americanisms folks living outside the US won’t be able to identify.
We loved that Jackbox added support for subtitles, handy in a streaming world where audio isn’t always loud, and also gave a setting to switch off complex animations, some of which can be lost in translation when streamed. You can even turn off timers, or just extended them, if need be.
And there are other things, too. You can password protect games, require Twitch, turn off the audience, and skip tutorials, but the latter of these — skipping tutorials — only works on the whole from the menu, not on a game-by-game basis, at least not during the time we played with the Jackbox 8 review before it came out.
What’s not-so-good about Jackbox 8?
The addition of more settings is great, and honestly, it’s something Jackbox Games needs to throw back into the other titles, as it could improve all of those.
But the games just aren’t as compelling or fun as previous Jackbox editions, and the only one that works well is Job Job, delivering when you have teams of players happy to play along and write a fair bit.
Fans of the series will even see other characters from previous games pop up from time to time, such as the Captain from Joke Boat, which stops by for a quick appearance, diverting your attention from reading the poster series clearly inspired by Inspirobot.
Is it worth buying Jackbox 8?
At launch, however, it’s hard to recommend Jackbox 8 to all but the most ardent of Jackbox Games fans, and even for them, there’s not a whole lot of fun to look forward to in Jackbox 8. It’s an OK pack, but we’ve seen better.
This reviewer plays Jackbox every week with a bunch of other journalists and reviewers in Australia, and throughout each game, the feeling was pretty consistent: this pack is by no means as solid as the rest, maybe two games out of five good, but only one of them actually fun. The remaining three read as overextended poorly paced and planned productions, and make us really hope good things for Jackbox 9, since so much of this pack seem like it has been wasted.
If you want to buy Jackbox 8, we’d suggest waiting for the sales, a Humble Bundle, or if Jackbox Games ever plans to release Job Job by itself, because the rest of the pack may not be worth the extra dollar bucks it’s being sold with.