If you ask me, there are three types of party games available for Nintendo Switch. The first (and, sadly, most common) are games you play a couple times and never touch again. The second are games that are fun to break out when your party is otherwise lagging. And then are games like The Jackbox Party Pack 5, which will see you throwing parties just so you have a reason to play them.
Although this was my first time opening the Jackbox, I’m not at all surprised it’s this good. I first played its flagship title, You Don’t Know Jack, when it debuted on my Macintosh way back in the 20th century. What did surprise me a bit is that there’s really not a single weak title in this five-game pack, although individual players will certainly have their favorite(s).
I’ll start with the quiz game You Don’t Know Jack, which continues its legacy of snarky humor and oddly phrased questions on subjects ranging from pop-culture to geography to biology. Hosted by the always-entertaining Cookie Masterson, the game works hard to catch you off guard by getting you to think about one topic, then asking a question about something else entirely. They’ll bring up the TV show This is Us, for example, to ask you a question about your tear ducts. There are 10 questions per game, mostly presented in multiple choice and this/that format, followed up by the Jack Attack segment which sees you matching names with a specific category.
It’s a lot of fun and sometimes intense, but perhaps best of all it’s genuinely funny.
You Don’t Know Jack is included in the previous four Jackbox Party Packs, all of which are available for Nintendo Switch. It’s the new games which mix things up. If trivia and random knowledge aren’t your things, for example, you may prefer Split the Room. This game presents a dilemma with one piece missing, and you must provide that piece in a way that causes the other players to disagree with each other. In the screen capture below, for example, you’d provide that answer (in red) if you knew some people in the room love hot sauce and some hate it. The more you get the room to split, the higher your score.
There are also two games for the more creative-types at the party. Mad Verse City tasks players with picking a word Mad Libs-style, which is then added to the end of a rap line. You have to then come up with the next line on your own. Two opponents then deliver their raps (the game does this for you) and the players vote on which is their favorite.
Patently Stupid goes even further than that, creating a market problem which players must solve by inventing, naming, and creating a tagline for a product. They then present their product (or let the game present it) to the group, who will “fund” their favorites. Whether you try to be funny or create an actually decent product is up to you, it’s just a matter of getting votes.
The pack is rounded out with Zeeple Dome, a basic arcade game in which players launch their avatars at enemies in order to clear the screen. Not a lot of fun by yourself, but it can get pretty crazy when you’ve got up to seven other players joining in.
You may be wondering how you play these games with your Joy-Con, especially since some of them involve drawing and/or writing. Well, you don’t. A party room code is provided each time you launch a game, and all participants (anywhere from 1 to 8, depending upon the game) then log into that room at jackbox.tv via the web browsers on their phone, tablet or computer. Not a single gamepad or Joy-Con is needed. Anyone in the room can join in, and you don’t need to worry about not having enough input options, assuming all your friends brought their phone to the party.
The drawback is that the connection isn’t fully reliable. First, you may find your phone has shut off while waiting for others to make their selection or take their turn. That’s easily solved, but second, the connection to jackbox.tv often dropped while we were playing. When you’re running neck and neck with someone in a trivia show, it’s close to infuriating when you can’t make your selection because the website is not accepting your phone’s input. On more than one occasion, participants would quit playing because of this, and it’s hard to explain to them that the party foul is on Binjpipe, not the party host.
My only other gripe about The Jackbox Party Pack 5 is that some of the content starts to repeat itself too quickly. I had literally played three games of You Don’t Know Jack, for example, when I got my first repeat question.
Review: The Jackbox Party Pack 5 (Nintendo Switch)
Still, this is an excellent collection of games that should appeal to just about everyone at the party. Whether you’ve got quiz-whizzes, skill-based arcade gamers, those who love to be creative or those who love to get into ethical debates, there’s a game here. A good game here. It’s a great place to start if you’ve never purchased another Jackbox Party Pack, and the new games are enough to make this an attractive purchase for longtime fans.