A Return to Form

Beginning with its first release all the way back in 2014, Jackbox Games ditched the quirky gameshow aesthetic of You Don’t Know Jack and leaned into a more varied batch of party games for groups to enjoy with The Jackbox Party Pack.  The yearly drop of odd drawing challenges, snappy social endeavors, and occasional spatterings of Cookie Masterson have been solid for the most part, but as we detailed in our write-up of our favorite JPP games, Party Pack 6 was a series low that concerned us that Jackbox Games may have finally been running out of gas after being so consistent for 6 years.  But I’ll go ahead and break the ice here: I’m sorry Jackbox Games.  I love 7.  Give me more of this every year.  Now let me explain:

Quiplash 3:

A familiar face starts us off.  The blueprint remains the same as players will answer two questions with either the most relevant or funniest remark they can think of and will face off against another player with the other contestants and audience voting on the best answer between two players.  A “threes”-based final round remains the only real change, but Quiplash has been consistent since its debut in 2015.  I will say that Quiplash is the lowest in the pack, but know this is a pretty high bar once we get to the others.

The Devils and the Details:

Players take on the roles of a devilish family looking to meld into the daily routines of human life, while also trying to be the “bestest devil” by completing the most mundane tasks in a white picket fence suburbia game show.  Players will have to work together to complete challenge tasks (main tasks to help coordinate big events like getting ready for Prom or making a Folk-Rock family band) to finish the week’s checklist, but smaller tasks (like doing taxes, feeding the murderous cat played by the audience, or making breakfast) will help increase individual score as well as fill the Family Meter for the day.  Selfish tasks can net players more points at the expense of not helping the family, but too much selfishness can run a family emergency that hurts everyone.

This game is a logistical nightmare as most tasks require a helping hand that players will need to communicate with each other to complete, but a majority of the time other players will be trying to do the same thing while the odd man out may be out being selfish which people can intervene if they aren’t already preoccupied.  With so much talking over one another and shenanigans happening off-center while also making sure you’re the best family you can be if only for a split second to check the list is chaos at its finest.  You’ll be mentally exhausted keeping up with everything, but the outcome of winning feels fantastic.  Devils and the Details usually feels good for one round before moving on for a breather, but it’s a damn hoot.

Champ’d Up:

Your obligatory drawing game is actually a banger this year.  I’m notoriously bad at Jackbox’s drawing games, so they don’t usually peak my interest because I don’t have the capabilities to even remotely play them well, even if the joke is to have terrible pictures.  But Champ’d Up gives each player a “champion” of something: has-beens, maxin’ and relaxin’, Florida.  Once your champion is made you’ll be given another player’s champion, but not told what the drawing is the champion of.  Here you’ll create your “underdog” to hopefully sway the audience when the two drawings go against each other in penciled combat.

Winning rounds in my groups has all revolved on the punchline instead of the consistency, and the extracurricular arguments and comments absolutely sell the feel of an underground fist fight between 2D amalgamations.  Add even more shenanigans with the later round Tag Teams and Champ’d Up stands tall as Jackbox’s best drawing game, and that was an opinion of multiple people I’ve played with, not just my janky-drawing ass.

Talking Points:

A mental nightmare for introverts, but an absolute goldmine for the bullshitters.  Talking Points is structured as a PowerPoint presentation for your friends and your only knowledge going in is the opening slide.  Players create three random, weird-as-can-be-thought ad-libs for others to choose for their talking point.  You have control of how fast your slides go, but a randomly assigned partner has the task of picking your transition slides as well as your picture slides.  You as the speaker need to keep your audience engaged as they see each slide for the first time, just like yourself.  The more engagement, the longer the talk, the better your score, and your assistant receives an extra half of your total as a thank you bonus for not throwing you to the wolves.

Talking out of your ass can lead to some absolute gut busters, especially watching someone explain how a clown with a balloon in front of an abandoned gas station coincides with how you escaped from a prison of flesh (a real task I had!).  The replayability of this game is near limitless and even people straight bombing has produced some of the best scores.  Talking Points is definitely my Game of the Pack here and one I’m always down for.

Blather ‘Round:

Stir together a combo of Charades and Taboo with an unnecessarily funny text-to-speech module and you’ve got a recipe for success.  Players pick a word or phrase and instead of explaining it with your voice, you must use a bevy of descriptions to explain the word or phrase without actually saying it.

Blather is the easiest to pick up and play and I feel this game will have the most longevity of the Pack as the game feels better with a smaller audience.  Having played this with a full 6 and a smaller 4, I like the smaller intimate parties as your choices play more to the audience and answers don’t get slapped correct immediately nearly as much.  There’s something enjoyable about racking your brain and really chewing on clues to eventually get the correct answer that’s worth the other times you feel like an idiot.  This game is easy to pop on for 30 minutes and enjoy it, much like Earwax does in Party Pack 2 or Guesspionage from Party Pack 3.

I could not be happier seeing Jackbox Games back in prime fighting form with a masterfully composed set of games to enjoy with your friends, and I have renewed confidence in what future tidbits the team can make going forward.  Here’s to next year!

Reviewed on Steam.