As I boot up You Don’t Know Jack, the trivia board game in The Jackbox Party Pack, I’m gleefully warned, “there will be farts and stuff.” This experience nicely sums up the emotional essence of The Jackbox Party Pack. It’s juvenile, but enthusiastically so. Mostly, it’s just smart, engaging, and raucously fun.
The collection—downloadable on consoles, Steam, and various app stores— is made up of five games in total and is a decidedly modern take on board-game night. Instead of using a handheld controller, players use their smartphones or tablets, with different button configurations appearing for each game. This allows for many players per game—up to 100 in Lie Swatter. It also allows for people who don’t usually play video games to participate. And it could be a great way to spark an interest in gaming for someone new to the medium.
At the start of each session, players open their browser, go to jackbox.tv, enter the room code shown on the TV, and enter a display name. This room code is what synchronizes everyone’s devices and it works surprisingly well. I never experienced technical hiccups of any kind, except for when I accidentally closed my browser because I was sketching the prompt “mermaid hospital” a little too enthusiastically during a session of Drawful. That was on me, though.
In You Don’t Know Jack, most questions revolve around pop culture or use pop-culture references as a way to ask about a scientific or historical concept. For example, one question was, “At which of the following temperatures would Olaf from Frozen die?” and we had to figure out which of four temperatures (displayed in Celsius, Kelvin, and Rankine) were above freezing. My favorite question asked us to arrange three Sesame Street characters in order from fewest to most eyebrows. (Spoiler alert: the answer is Ernie, Bert, The Count.)
Lie Swatter and Word Spud, while decent, don’t quite measure up to the other three in the collection. They are not unpleasant experiences, but they lack depth when compared to Fibbage and Drawful. In Fibbage, players complete partially blanked-out facts and try to convince their friends that their submission is the truth. In Drawful, the goofier cousin of Pictionary, players see each other’s hilariously bad sketches and have to correctly guess the prompt that generated them.
Lie Swatter will display some factoid, like, “Oprah has an island shaped like an ‘O'” and each player guesses whether it’s true or false—in this case, sadly, it is false. Since points are awarded based on both the accuracy and speed of your guesses, the game incentivizes tapping “Truth” or “Lie” as quickly as possible without much thought. This novelty wears off pretty quickly, and my friends and I quickly returned to Fibbage after a single underwhelming round.
The pack, available for $24.99, is a blast to play as an alternative to your family’s usual game night. But be warned: there will be farts and stuff.