In 2015, Los Angeles police were on the lookout for a graffiti artist who, of all things, had sprayed graffiti all over a…
A. Statue’s Penis?
B. Police Horse?
C. Nun’s Face?
D. Small Kitten?
The above question is fairly typical of the outrageousness you can expect to find in Jackbox Games’ latest party title, The Jackbox Party Pack 2. Taken from a round of the call-my-bluff-style game Fibbage 2 (the correct answer is B, in case you were wondering), it serves to illustrate the fact that the game’s enjoyment comes as much from player creativity – and immaturity – as it does from the design of the questions themselves.
By combining simple, old-school gameplay mechanics with modern technology – players participate using their smart devices rather than typical game controllers – Jackbox Games has successfully crafted a riotously fun local multiplayer experience where player imagination is the limit of what it has to offer.
The Jackbox Party Pack 2 comprises five games in total: the aforementioned Fibbage 2, Earwax, Bidiots, Quiplash XL and Bomb Corps. Conspicuous by its absence is You Don’t Know Jack, Jackbox Games’ trademark irreverent trivia title that debuted back in 1995. Instead, the developer has sought to capitalise on the popularity of Fibbage, which proved to be a sleeper hit with Twitch streamers and YouTubers last year, by making its successor the headline entrant in the Party Pack 2.
Users participate in all of the Party Pack 2’s games by navigating to Jackbox’s website on their smartphone or tablet, and entering the room code that appears on the TV screen. Not only does this unique control method allow for much greater player freedom and flexibility (you are able to hide your answers from other players), it is especially useful when you have seven friends over and not enough controllers to go around.
Furthermore, Jackbox Games has made the most of the popularity of the first collection with streamers, by allowing audience members – or remote players – to participate in each match by entering the room code on their own phone. While audience members are not able to take part directly in any of the games on offer, they are able to play along by themselves and vote for their favourite answers, which in the case of Quiplash XL, can have a bearing on the overall result.
Fibbage 2 largely plays out the same as its predecessor, with up to eight players answering a typically frivolous or unorthodox trivia question, all the while trying to fool their opponents into selecting a wrong answer that they’ve crafted as a red herring. In the absence of YDKJ, however, Fibbage 2 is a beefier and possibly even crazier sequel, containing over 500 unique questions, as well as a newly-added ‘DeFIBrillator’ option that removes all but two answers.
After a short, and doubtless funny, introduction from Jackbox host Cookie Masterson (voiced by actor Tom Gottlieb), round one begins. To start off, players must answer three questions round-by-round, wherein they’re awarded points for both getting the correct answer and successfully bluffing their opponents into picking their own wrong answer. Stage two follows the same format, except all points are doubled. The final round, or the Final Fibbage, consists of a single question where all points are tripled. Not only is the winner awarded based on the total number of points they accrue during the game, but players can also vote on their favourite answer in between questions, which are tallied up for the consolation ‘Thumbs Cup’.
The aforementioned DeFIBrillator can only be used once per game by each player, which brings a (slight) tactical element into play. Mostly though, you won’t care so much who wins and loses as you’ll be laughing too hard at your friend’s hilarious attempts at bluffing to notice.
One thing we’d like to see the inevitable Jackbox Party Pack and Fibbage 3 include is native online multiplayer support, rather than a tacked-on audience mode. While it is essentially possible to host a match with remote friends by relying on live streaming solutions, the lag and hassle associated with setting this up can prove to be more trouble than it’s worth at times.
Earwax is an all-new addition to the Jackbox line-up, and it is possibly the most shallow title in the collection. In each Earwax round, players are provided with a text prompt, such as “Vladimir Putin’s Secret Hobby”, and must string together two sound effects from a random selection of several that they feel best represents that particular phrase. Unlike the other titles including in the Party Pack 2, Earwax requires a minimum of three participants, as one player is selected as the judge for each round. The judge votes on their favourite, or best, combination of sounds presented, and ultimately decides where the points go.
Although some prompts have the potential to generate some hilarious moments, such as “A romantic evening with [Player 1]”, there are only so many times that you can find the same farting, gurgling or scratching sound effect funny. Unlike Fibbage 2, Earwax is a game you’ll probably only play for a round or two before moving on to some of the pack’s stronger entries.
While Earwax may be a little disappointing, the next game in the Jackbox Party Pack 2, Bidiots, is one of the developer’s most inventive titles to date. Essentially the spiritual successor to last year’s Drawful – which played a little bit like Pictionary on crack – Bidiots takes the format of its predecessor and adds a new layer of depth in the form of an auction set-up.
Drawful got its name from the typically poor and unintelligible squiggles users passed off for drawings on their smartphones, and fans of the first Party Pack will be pleased to hear that this mechanic remains at the core of Bidiots. To start off with, users are tasked with drawing two prompts that appear on their phone, which are likely to be suspiciously similar to those received by other players.
After all of the wannabe artists complete their masterpieces, each of the drawings are then entered into an art auction, which is where things get really interesting, but also a little convoluted. All of the ‘lots’ are assigned particular monetary values, with each player receiving intelligence as to the possible value of particular pieces from a fictitious art-buying acquaintance. You start out with a budget of $3,000 with which to bid, and the ultimate goal is to come away with the most amount of money at the end of the game after selling your own work and flipping the artwork you’ve purchased throughout the auction.
In order to ensure they return a healthy profit, players must use a combination of the hints they receive from their buyer, along with cunning attempts at driving the prices of their own pieces up. Be careful, though – winning an auction for a drawing you created will lead to a hefty loss!
The fact that the initial prompts are so similar to one another – for example, “David Letterman”, “Jay Leno” and “Conan O’Brien” all appeared during one of our games – leads to hilarity and confusion, with players unsure as to exactly which piece they are bidding on.
Further depth is added to Bidiots through the introduction of the ‘screw’ option previously seen in You Don’t Know Jack, which allows each player the ability to ‘screw’ one of their opponents during the course of an auction, and forces them put in a bid for a piece that they might otherwise not have wanted. Not only that, but the hilariously titled ‘Predatory Loans’ also makes an appearance throughout the course of each game, allowing desperate players to borrow seed money at an extremely high interest rate.
While Bidiots, much like Fibbage 2, is frenetic, fun and hilarious, its format may be a little overwhelming at first, and it may take players a game or two to get to grips with its rather complex mechanics. Ultimately, although this isn’t a huge issue, it may put off players from taking part and introducing their friends to the game if they only have a limited amount of time available.
Quiplash XL has a fairly basic set-up: it provides two players at a time a text prompt that they must respond to with the best, or funniest, answer they can think of. Unlike Fibbage 2, no general knowledge or a knack for bullshit is required; the remaining players vote for their favourite answer, based on how funny or clever it is (the choice is theirs), and the winner takes the points.
These prompts may take the form of a hypothetical question, for example, “What happens when Wile E. Coyote finally catches The Road Runner?”, or an imagined scenario, such as, “The best prank to play on a pizza delivery guy” (the winning answer for that one in my match, in case you’re curious, was “That one where you kill him and don’t pay”). Like Fibbage, Quiplash consists of three rounds of increasing point values, with all players receiving the same prompt in The Last Lash.
With the introduction of the Party Pack 2’s audience mode, Quiplash allows for up to 10,000 spectators to vote on their favourite answer, and in turn, decide the victor of each round.
Quiplash, as the title suggests, is a relatively shallow, quick-fire experience that allows players to be as creative, funny, or intelligent as they want. As with Fibbage 2 and Bidiots, the enjoyment you take from the game ultimately depends on how smart, hilarious, or downright perverse, your friends are.
Bomb Corp is the outlier in The Jackbox Party Pack 2, in that it isn’t based around the typical fictitious and over-the-top game show format. Instead, players assume the role of interns at the titular company’s office, who must work together to defuse bombs before the timer expires and they explode.
For anyone who has seen anything of or played Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, you’ll likely already have an idea of what to expect here. Rather than one player playing the role of the disarmer and one reading the instructions, however, each player is given a different set of instructions, which are deliberately contradictory and vague in equal measure.
The game’s levels, which equate to the number of days you have been on the job, become increasingly difficult as you progress. While early bomb disposal instructions might be straightforward and read, for example: “Cut all wires adjacent to wire two,” “Wires must be cut in order from right to left”, and “Cut wire one if it is green”, things get a lot trickier later on, with instructions telling you to disregard certain aspects of other instructions, such as: “Instruction one should have said red wires instead of green”.
As a result, effective and efficient communication is the key to victory, as players must work together to decipher the puzzles that are their instructions. While Bomb Corp represents an entertaining challenge, its progressive difficulty and the potentially large number of levels on offer don’t really lend themselves to the format of a pick-up-and-play party game all that well. Instead, it may have been better suited as a more fleshed-out standard multiplayer game.
All in all, despite a couple of misfires, The Jackbox Party Pack 2 represents one of the most fun local multiplayer experiences we’ve had in a long time. As hilarious as it is addictive, the collection – and particularly Fibbage 2 and Bidiots – will transform your gaming nights into some of the most entertaining evenings of the year.
This party game sequel is wackier, zanier – and ultimately better – than its predecessor.