Whether they loved it or hated it, nobody can deny that Jackbox's first compilation – The Jackbox Party Pack – was exceedingly well crafted. Providing support for up to 100 players on one console using smart devices such as phones and tablets, the package breathed life into more than a few parties with its compilation of easy-to-play multiplayer quiz-show-styled games. The original took an awfully long time to launch outside of the US on Xbox One, debuting in the States in November 2014 but only reaching other parts of the world in June 2015. That may cause some to feel that this sequel has been rushed to market, even though that isn't the case.
Not that it would matter if it was, given that The Jackbox Party Pack 2 continues in the same high-quality vein as the original. The methods are the same as they were before. You select which game that you want to play using your Xbox One controller and then put that to one side, as it isn't needed after that point. The software will give you a four character "room code" on screen and all players then go to jackbox.tv on their phones or tablets and enter their name and that code. All controls are carried out on whichever device each player has decided to use, with the Xbox One acting as the compere for the whole event.
The process is absolutely effortless, which – of course - is a requirement when you're trying to get eight players connected. Five games are included in the set and the best way of covering them is to run through them one by one. So, here goes…
Fibbage 2 is a sequel to the original, with more than double the amount of questions as the first go-round, plus a "50/50" option called "DeFIBrillator" which can be used once in a game to narrow the amount of possible answers down. Players are given a sentence that features a missing word. Each player types in what they think is a believable (but incorrect) replacement for the word, with the goal being to get other players to vote for your lie. When all the lies are in, everybody chooses an answer, hoping to avoid the lies and find the truth. Fool people with your answer and/or select the truth from the list of available responses and you pick up points. Despite the simple nature of the game, there's a remarkable amount of strategy to be had here.
Earwax is a brand new addition to the mix. Here, one player acts as the judge in each round and chooses a prompt. The other players are all given a different panel of sound effects to choose from. They each have to select two sounds from the panel that most closely – or most absurdly – match the prompt. Without knowing who has selected what, the judge listens to each person's submissions and picks a winner. Again, it's a simple game, but there's a lot of fun to be had....
...especially when the prompt is "This is what it sounds like in Ken's head" and the responses that come back are all combinations of fart noises and circus music.
Quiplash XL is identical to the stand-alone release of Quiplash, although the prompts from the Quip Pack 1 DLC are included, along with 100 other prompts on top of that. Similar in nature to Earwax, the game fires up a prompt and invites players to enter freeform answers. Other players – or up to 10,000 players in your audience – all vote on the anonymous responses to find a winner.
Much as in Fibbage and Earwax, the laughter will break the sound barrier whilst playing this one. But then again, we knew that from the stand-alone version.
Bidiots is undoubtedly the weakest of the five games on offer.
Each player is given two words and has to draw a picture representing each one. When everyone's artistic creations are submitted, each player is given a set amount of money with which to bid on the pictures as they come up for auction. Each player will be given a couple of "clue" messages on their device's screen to tell them how much the drawings for specific words are worth. So player three might know that the drawing for "breakfast" is worth $3,500 while nobody else does, for example. If they can work out which picture is supposed to represent that word and pick it up at auction for less than the real value, they're onto a winner. Artists receive a cut of the sale price if their art sells, and the goal is to combine your sale profits and auction profits to be the person with the most money at the end of the game. Players can take loans from the bank and use a one-time "screw" option to force another player into bidding, even if they don't want to, but these only serve to make a somewhat muddy and confusing game feel even more muddy and confusing.
The structure and various rules are tricky to explain to newcomers, especially as more are presented as the game goes on, and that flies in the face of the simplicity and ease-of-use of the other games in the set. Plus, we're sad to say, the game isn't really all that much fun. The values are assigned to the art seemingly at random. A player could draw nothing but a straight line and find that their drawing is worth $3,500, while a second player draws something much more detailed and finds that it's only worth $800. When a player wins an auction for $2,500 and loses $1,000 on the deal because the art is only worth $1,500 for no reason other than because the game says so, it isn't really all that enjoyable.
Bomb Corp. is an intriguing – if a little long-winded – addition and provides a stiff challenge for up to four players. Playing as interns at Bomb Corp., players are tasked with defusing bombs before they explode and kill everyone. The instructions for defusing the bombs are spread across the screens of multiple players, so player one may get a message telling them that no blue wires should be cut, while player two is looking at a screen telling him that only odd-numbered blue wires should be cut, but player three has a message stating that all blue wires should be cut, even if other rules suggest that they shouldn't. Working together quickly is the key to success and as you progress through the week at Bomb Corp., the challenges presented become very, very tricky logic puzzles that will require you to all communicate effectively. The introductory and interstitial sections featuring office-based comedy hi-jinx sometimes fall quite flat, sadly, and these really serve to break up an otherwise intriguing and entertaining game.
All-in-all, the success of the four strong suits here (three, if you already own Quiplash) more than make up for the inclusion of Bidiots, which is something that you'll likely try once and then not bother with again. Fibbage, Quiplash, and Earwax had our review team in absolute stitches for a good few hours and Bomb Corp. is a clever inclusion that will test even the most logically-minded of teams. We'd have liked to seen some expansion to the structure of the product when compared to the first compilation, though. There's still no way to customise game lengths for example, so you can't set up a marathon game of Fibbage or a quick one-round play-off of Quiplash. Not having to register to play is a nice time-saver, but it would be nice to have the option there, so that records of games and running scores could be kept. On top of that, the ability to have an audience of up to 10,000 joining in the fun with Quiplash is a good one, but unless you're hosting a pretty massive party or are a big-name Twitch streamer who's hosting a mammoth game, the ability will go unused 99.99% of the time. It would have been a bonus to (at the host's discretion, of course) have some sort of feature on the Jackbox site where people can become audience members on games in progress without needing the room code. A room of four people playing together could suddenly find their game being affected by a few thousand people, which would be a pretty cool thing.
But, even without much in the way of structural improvements, the games themselves mean that The Jackbox Party Pack 2 is as much of a resounding success as the first collection.
The Jackbox Party Pack 2 is a compilation of four great games and one that misses the target. There's easily more than enough laughs to be had here for the asking price. Some may feel a little bit short-changed by the inclusion of Quiplash XL if they've already paid money for it as a stand-alone product, but even they should find that there's more than enough entertainment here for their money. This is a well-made and entertaining collection that's sure to put a smile on the face of the most curmudgeonly party guest and become a staple amongst regular gaming buddies.