Jackbox Party Pack 9 Gamescom Preview – A Decent Addition To The Jackbox Mix
This is my third time previewing or reviewing a Jackbox title, and it never gets much easier. It’s a bit like reviewing a party – it’s never really about the party as it is the people there. A chill evening around the fire or a glitzy rooftop shindig can be a nightmare with the wrong people, while just watching reruns of The Simpsons while sipping room temperature wine can be Heaven with the right people. When I reviewed Jackbox Party Pack 8 off the back of playing with the staff at TheGamer, we all had a great time even when a couple of the games didn’t quite land. Meanwhile when I played the Party Starter Pack with some random journos over Discord at a press event, even though I love all three games, it all felt a bit naff. At Gamescom, I tested out two games from Jackbox Party Pack 9 with the people who made it, and I guess my takeaway is I had as much fun as you might expect from playing unfamiliar games with jetlagged strangers. All things considered, that feels like a victory.
While I only played two of the games, the devs talked me through all five, so let’s have a whistle stop tour past them all here. The flagship game is Fibbage 4, the fourth Fibbage. Since that should be well known to Jackbox fans (and because it’s one of the two I give a bit more depth on below), we’ll leave it at that for now. The second game was Roomage, a roleplaying reality show where you take on the role of various stock characters and act out their parts. You get voted out and then back in, possibly as someone else. Maybe it’s The Circle? I’m unsure on how you win and I doubt I’ll ever play this one. Every Jackbox pack has a game they over thought (Zeeple Dome, what are you even doing here?) and Roomage seems to be that. I didn’t play it in fairness, but I have played every other Jackbox game ever and I can smell a swing and a miss from a mile away.
Junktopia is pitched to me as a “more chill Quiplash”, and that sounds more like it. Quiplash is universally agreed to be the best Jackbox game, but Quiplash 3 felt like it wasn’t sure on how to improve on Quiplash 2’s perfection. Junktopia ‘doing a Quiplash’ with the freedom to tear down the framework seems sensible, but I didn’t get my peepers on it first hand so who knows? Meanwhile, the trivia game of the pack is Quixort, which is like “trivia Tetris” that asks you to sort things quickly into order. Wonder how they came up with the name. The final game is Nonsensory, which is the other game I previewed first-hand.
As for overall changes, Jackbox Party Pack 9 now has QR login as well as the letters, which maybe someone somewhere was asking for, and a kick/moderation function, which streamers everywhere have been asking for. Good improvements, not much more to say.
Firstly on to Fibbage 4. Fibbage has always been part comedy game and part trivia game, and has always been bested by better comedy and trivia games. I’ve never quite gotten its appeal, but in a previous interview with Jackbox CEO Mike Bilder, he told me the devs monitor the most played games to decide on sequels, so I guess I’m in the minority. The big change here is the addition of video questions sent in by real fans, which is cute if not all that interesting. There’s also double fib questions with two blanks (in my preview it was “a man once broke into a bank to BLANK his BLANK”), which opens up a few more possibilities for a a wider range of answers. My gut says I still won’t really play Fibbage 4 any more than I played the first three.
Nonsensory fared a little better, and I can see it getting semi-regular rotation amongst the B-tier games that I play when I want a break from Quiplash, Tee KO, Trivia Murder Party, and Patently Stupid. It stars a monkey called Professor Nanners, who’s similar to Split the Room’s cat, except a little more annoying. It doesn’t take anything away from the game, but it doesn’t elevate it as some other hosts do. As for the game itself, it’s a combination of making funny words and funny drawings, as well as understanding how your friends think. For example, I was asked to think up a name for a town that is 70 percent likely to have a bear for a mayor. The idea is the higher the percentage, the more ‘bearish’ the name I gave it. The other players then had to guess what my percentage was. For the drawing portion, I had to invent a thing that was a phone and a book, with a 60:40 ratio in favour of the phone.
Like a lot of Jackbox games, it’s as funny as your friends are, but even in slightly weird circumstances, I got a chuckle out of it. That said, it’s a little restrictive in the prompts. A town with a bear for a mayor? Sure, I can make that funny. But one that’s only 70 percent bearish? You end up overthinking the numbers and the answers are blunted. Then again, without the numbers you have no game, so what are you gonna do?
Jackbox Party Pack 9 ticks all the (jack)boxes when it comes to game types, even if neither of the two I saw feel like they demand your attention in a sea of other Jackbox games. I’ve seen and heard enough to get the pack myself when it launches later this year, but even without the Party Starter Pack, I doubt it’s going to depose 3 and 5 as the two I recommend to newcomers.
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