Unless you’ve dug through the archives and skimmed through some of my older reviews, you probably don’t know that I’m a big fan of local multiplayer games. Sure, online is great and all, but there’s a sense of intimacy and camaraderie that can only be cultivated by sitting in the same room with your friends and family, and sitting down to play something together. Granted, this isn’t always an easy feat. Whether it be the intimidation that some feel when it comes to video games in general, or the lack of necessary devices and peripherals required, there are plenty of excellent games that have (for me) fallen by the wayside, simply because I found myself with no one to play with.
This is where the Jackbox Party Pack shines. Released last year, this collection of short, hilarious titles did party games right. Laughs and humor aside, its biggest draw was its ease of use, eschewing the need for plenty of controllers and a tangle of wires. Rather, the game wisely allowed players to join in via their smartphone or tablet, with a easy to use interface to boot.
Needless to say, the original pack saw a lot of playtime during gatherings and parties, and Jackbox Games has returned with the aptly named Jackbox Party Pack 2. Sporting a similar interface and the same level of support for phones and tablets, this new pack bundles in five games, two of them being refreshes of previous Jackbox titles. For the sake of organization, I’ll jump into each one individually, rather than jumping back and forth.
The original Fibbage was easily the standout title from the first party pack, and it’s returned in full force with Fibbage 2. At its core, it’s a fairly simple trivia game, that tasks players to come up with their own answers to obscure and esoteric questions, rather than simply vying to figure out the correct answer. After everyone has inputted their own answer/lie, each player will vote on an answer they think is true, with the game throwing in the actual truth into the mix, along with a few extra lies. Obviously, picking the ‘true’ answer will net you a good chunk of points, but the real goal is to get your friends to pick your lie, as each player you fool will also earn you some points.
To be honest, there really isn’t that has changed in the transition to Fibbage 2. Aside from a new bank of questions, the only meaningful addition is the one-time use deFIBrillator, which can eliminate all of the choices to a question, save for one lie and one truth. You can only use it once per game, but it came in handy when a few of my friends attempted to write down similar answers. For example, in response to a question about Ann Hodges (who got hit by a meteor), one of my friends penned the response “got hit by a meteor”, and another put down “got struck by a meteor.” During these few and far between scenarios, the deFIBrillator proved useful.
I originally had high hopes for Bidiots, as it is in many ways a retooling of Drawful, one of the other standout titles from the original Jackbox Party Pack. Essentially, Drawful is very similar to Fibbage, but instead each player is provided with a different prompt, after which they must attempt to draw a quick sketch of it. One by one, each picture is shown to the players, and they must craft their own prompt to describe the picture. Guessing the one true prompt will net you points, as will getting other to pick your made-up guesses.
Bidiots is similar in nature, but unfortunately manages to bog down the entire experience with a rather drawn-out and confusing second portion that focuses on auction bidding. After receiving two different prompts and drawing two different pictures, each player is given a lump sum of cash, with which to bid on ‘paintings’ in an art auction. Everyone is given specific and different clues about the value of each painting, which they can use to snag valuable paintings on the cheap, while also trying to trick your opponents into bidding for paintings you know aren’t all that valuable.
The real challenge rears its head when you realize that the prompts that were provided to each player are different, yet very similar. For example, one player might receive prompts that say “Members Only Jacket” and “Dead Fish,” while another might get something that says “Leather Jacket” and “Fish With X’s for Eyes.” While this sounds good on paper, whether you’ll have fun playing Bidiots will come down to whom you play with. There’s fun to be had if you find an easygoing crowd, but those who are focused solely on winning might walk away a tad miffed about the somewhat random nature of the auctions.
You might have guessed, but Quiplash XL is a follow-up to the original Quiplash. For those who are familiar with games such as Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity, you’ll feel right at home with this one.
At the start of every round, each player will receive the two prompts, which they have to provide their own answer to. Once everyone’s done with their answers, the game will pick two players who had the same prompt, and pit their answers against each other, asking all the other players to vote on their favorite. More votes nets you more points.
It’s one of the simplest games in the pack, yet it’s one of the most enjoyable, as it provides a lot of freedom and leeway for each player to express themselves. The only caveat I have with this one is it’s best enjoyed in larger groups, ideally 6-8 people. I did enjoy myself when playing with a group of four, but with only two people voting on each prompt, it did get a little one-sided at times.
This one is an interesting title for me, as just before my friends and I tried it out for the first time, we had (coincidentally) just finished a good hour of defusing bombs in the standout title Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.
Bomb Corp. is a very simplified version of said game, tasking players to work together to defuse bombs and solve other tasks. The challenge arises as each player is given only a fraction of the rules and manuals needed to complete the task, with other relevant info being split up to other players. This might mean that one player knows about “Step 1: Only cut green wires,” while Step 2 might read “Only cut even wires,” and a third step might say something like “Only Player 2 can cut wires.”
Solid communication is a must, which sometimes makes Bomb Corp. stand out like a sore thumb, as it doesn’t sit well with the party games in the rest of the pack. On the other hand, it can be fun when played with a friend or two who are looking for something that’s a little more challenging, and it can even be played solo.
I’ll be honest, my friends and I took one look at Ear Wax from the in-game selection screen and almost wrote it off completely. A game based on picking sound effects sounded pretty lame, and we were a bit skeptical at how a game like it would even work.
Thank god we were completely wrong.
Each round randomly assigns one of the players as a judge, whose goal is to pick out the best response submitted by every other player. The other players are provided with a prompt, and have to pick out two sound effects that best match that prompt. Like other games in the pack, it’s similar to Cards Against Humanity and Apples to Apples.
Now, I’ll warn you, half of my enjoyment of this game comes not only from its reliance on toilet humor, but the fact that the game will often provide prompts that incorporate other players. One hilarious round saw my good friend as the judge (we’ll call him Bob), and the prompt given was “What Bob’s morning routine is like.”
With plenty of downright hilarious sound effects, with plenty of fart noises and the like, coupled with the fact that my friend ‘Bob’ is pretty well known for his tendency to flatulate, we found ourselves right at home with Ear Wax. Your mileage may vary of course, but if you and your friends have an ounce of your inner child left intact, you’ll probably find some fun here. I also have to take the time to praise the look and feel of Ear Wax specifically, which has a retro look and feel, reminiscent of the years where Sony Walkman and Tamagotchi reigned supreme.
If you happen to have a few friends or party-goers who shy away from the spotlight, or if you enjoy streaming games via Twitch and whatnot, it is worth noting that Fibbage 2, Ear Wax, and Quiplash XL all feature audience modes, which allow anyone watching to play along by themselves, voting on responses without necessarily being a ‘main player’ in the game. If you’re hosting a large party, or if you are streaming to an audience, it’s a novel way of getting others involved, as each game supports eight people or less.
While those who have already picked up the original Jackbox Party Pack or the standalone version of Quiplash may not see much of a reason to upgrade, the Jackbox Party Pack 2 is just as good. The addition of Ear Wax is an excellent one, and while Bidiots may fall short of some standards, there’s plenty of laughs and good times to be had.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with for review.
While some of the games may have got lost or muddled in transition, the Jackbox Party Pack 2 is still as fun as ever. Just make sure you have some friends to play with.