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The Jackbox Party Pack 10 (Switch) Review

Jack hits double digits

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New entries in the Jackbox series arrive with a consistency that would instil pride in a person whose diet is high in fibre and Metamucil. Jack is back for his tenth round of shenanigans in The Jackbox Party Pack 10. For those unfamiliar with the series, each player utilises their phone as a controller, making for a collection of entertaining yet accessible party games. Here is what the latest pack has to offer.

Tee K.O. 2

In the long-awaited follow-up to the original Tee K.O. found in the third Jackbox entry, you’re tasked with once again cobbling together a t-shirt (or now also a singlet or hoodie) design on your phone and creating a catchy slogan. Drawings and slogans get shuffled between players, with everyone then voting on the best final designs. As designs go through a voting bracket, rejected shirts can be edited by other players in subsequent rounds, which can lead to some of the game’s best moments where someone picks up on a hilarious idea you just didn’t see the first time around. 

It remains as fun as it was the first time around, but now with extra colouring and erasing options, even if attempting to craft an aesthetically pleasing design on your touchscreen can feel like Homer Simpson attempting to dial a phone number with some slightly too-large fingers. Still, as long as your friend group doesn’t have a strong aversion to drawing, it’s probably the highlight of the entire pack. 

Fixy Text

Illegible chaos. That’s what this game typically boiled down to in my group’s attempts at Fixy Text. Players vote on the type of conversation they want to jump into– flirty, serious business, friends & fam, or unknown number – and then bust out the keyboards to send it careening off a cliff.

Participants can add text to the end of the message or insert words into the existing prompt. It’s a setup that you would expect to make for some amusing results, but there’s one wrinkle that they have intentionally added that changes the dynamic – you can’t backspace or delete to fix mistakes. Whilst this might initially seem like it would make for some funny typos – and it does – it normally turns the full messages into messy blotches of incorrect words that distract from the result. 

Other players vote on which words they think had the funniest impact on the final message, but it’s normally the same old spelling mistakes or swear words that get the nod. Or maybe my friends aren’t particularly funny or original – your mileage may vary! But the starting prompts never felt amusing enough, meaning this one ran dry pretty quickly and we never felt compelled to come back. 

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DodoReMi

The only previous attempt by Jackbox to introduce a game with real-time input was Zeeple Dome and that game was… not great, but I do love a good rhythm game, so I approached DodoReMi with mixed expectations. Right off the bat, they have smartly addressed the input problems via an initial synchronisation exercise at the start, getting everyone’s device on the same page. From there, it should look familiar to anyone who’s played a rhythm game before. You pick a character, a song and an instrument, and all players have a note highway scroll down their phone screen, to which you have to tap in time with the beat. At the end of the song, a flower monster decides whether you all played the song well enough to warrant you being spared from the role of being its dinner. 

In terms of the core mechanics, it all works surprisingly well. It took me back to the early iPhone days of playing Tap Tap Revenge (I’m showing my age with that reference). There’s a good selection of tunes, and it’s fun to play. At the end of the day though, it is largely a game where everyone stares at their phone for a couple of minutes, with little in the way of teamwork or interaction between players. It is a serviceable rhythm game, but one that slightly misses the point of a Jackbox party game. 

Time Jinx

It wouldn’t be a Jackbox pack without some form of trivia game, and this year we have Time Jinx. Players are challenged to guess as close as possible to the year in which the on-screen event happened. Your only clues are a time range given alongside the prompt, with that possible range getting larger each round. The further away from the target, the higher (i.e. worse) your score.

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Our group enjoyed the fact that this game offered the ability to still score some points, even if the answer we provided was slightly off. Bonus rounds gave the ability to have your score reduced by a certain percentage based on how many questions you got right, which is a clever design mechanic that can keep players in the game even if they got off to a bad start. 

At the end of the day, this is still just a fairly straightforward trivia game presented with a twist, but we enjoyed it enough that we replayed it multiple times before moving on to the next game. It gets a thumbs up. 

Hypnotorious

Some of the all-time great Jackbox games are social deduction ones involving roleplaying, hidden identities, and trying to work out who amongst your friends is being either honest or deceitful. Hypnotorious hopes to emulate that style of play with a complex new take on the formula, but this one is perhaps a little convoluted for its own good.

Each player is hypnotised and takes on the form of a new identity. It could be a famous sports star, a vegetable or a snowman. Players must then answer questions in character and start to piece together how they may have a connection with other players. The game doesn’t tell you the secret categories, or who/what anyone else is, so you need to pay close attention to their answers and think of what they might be and how some players might be linked. 

The twist here is that one player is the Outlier with no connections to any other player, and the Outlier is not told they are an Outlier, leaving them guessing along with everyone else. Bizarrely, the game doesn’t tell you this fact until the second round, even though if you’ve played the game at all before you would obviously know this. It’s an odd design decision. Furthermore, you’ll want at least five players for all three categories to be utilised. With only four players, there’s still only one outlier and the other three are all grouped, making it very easy to pick the odd one out.

After three rounds, everyone congregates to try and arrive at a majority vote on who is the Outlier. If the majority guess correctly, they get points. If the Outlier avoids detection, they get points. It seems straightforward enough, but it falls apart when you realise that, as the Outlier, there’s nothing you could have done to influence the outcome of the game if you were simply answering as the game says you should. There’s no deception, and given that the Outlier doesn’t even know they are the Outlier, there’s nothing to drive any change in behaviour or try to manipulate opinions. Everyone just plays normally, and the winner seems arbitrary. It makes for a game with some decent ideas but falls apart with the execution by missing the fundamentals of what makes social deduction games enjoyable.

There’s a growing sense that it’s difficult to keep devising novel games that work in this format. The Jackbox Party Pack 10 takes some safe retreads through familiar territory with fun, if somewhat uninspired entries like Tee K.O. 2 and Time Jinx. But in an attempt to provide something fresh, games like Hypnotorious and Fixy Text wind up being a bit of a mess. There’s still fun to be had with a group of friends, but this is a mixed bag of an entry in a series that’s looking increasingly in need of a shot in the arm. 

Rating: 3/5

Andrew Searles

I like to write. I do reviews and other bits for @vooksdotnet. Still playing Pokemon Go. Will probably buy Resident Evil 4 again when they release it on my fridge.

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Andrew Searles

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