Jackbox Party Pack 2 is a collection of five minigames, with one big twist. Rather than having each player use their own controller to play, you instead have to use your own mobile phone or tablet, where, through some twist of magic and wizardry, simply connecting to a website will let you turn your phone into your very own personal controller. All you have to do is visit jackbox.tv, put in your room code, and your player name, and it'll connect you to the game, and let you start choosing your answers. It sounds amazing enough on paper, but actually seeing how well it works in game is something else - there's very little in the way of lag between you putting your answer in and the game recognising it, and it also opens the door to some strategic decisions. For starters, as you each now have your own personal screen, inputting and choosing answers can be kept private (an idea that Jackbox Party Pack 2 exploits) - and, as it's a touch screen, using your own phone also provides a great (if slightly awkward) personal canvas for any drawing games. As it so happens, the games in Jackbox Party Pack 2 make use of your phone in every possible way. It's probably best to tackle each of the games one by one.
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Fibbage 2 is a game all about lying. As you play through the game, you'll be presented with a number of statements, each with a word cut out. Once the game's read the statement out, all players then have thirty seconds to come up with a convincing lie to fill the gap - with the aim being to make your lie so convincing, the other players will think it's the truth. So when the statement is "The city of Mobile, Alabama has a rather unique way of ringing in the New Year. They drop a giant _____ from the RSA BankTrust building", "disco ball" would probably be more convincing than "pigeon", although people could arguably plump for either answer. Once everyone's put their answers in, you'll be shown a screen that lists everyone's answers - plus the one true statement - and it's up to you to figure out where the truth lies. Guess right, and you'll earn points - and you'll earn even more if your fellow players pick your lie as being the truth, too.
It's a game that's a lot of fun, especially once you've figured out the trick is to not try to be funny, but to keep things as close to being weirdly plausible as possible. Sometimes you'll end up being shown a selection of five or so answers, each of which might actually be true, so sorting the lies from the rest can be pretty tricky. Either way, this is one of the highlights in the line-up.
From one of the best to one of the slightly weaker games, Earwax is possibly best described as being an audio version of Cards Against Humanity, although not quite as much fun. This time around, one of the players takes the role of the judge, and has to choose both a category, and the winners. Once the category's been chosen, it's then up to you to choose a pair of the six or so sound effects listed on your device, that, when listed in order, best describe the category (or at least, do it in the funniest way). So, if the category is "Weird Al Yankovic's closet", "Cartoon Magical Burst" followed by "Lion Roar" may be the best you'll get.
Weirdly enough though, describing things through the art of sound effects alone is easier said than done, and sometimes you'll find you really don't have anything that comes even close to what you're being asked to describe - even with the best abstract glasses on. When the worst case scenario doesn't really make much sense either, you're left with having to put an answer together that doesn't really make anyone laugh, and so is doomed to failure. Still, most of the time, you'll find you can pull something at least vaguely funny out of the bag, and this is an OK enough game, even if it doesn't have quite the same potential for hilarity as some of the other games.
Talking of hilarity... If there's one thing mobile phone smash hits like Draw Something have proven, it's that getting people to draw things on a mobile often ends up going horrendously wrong. How do you make things even more confusing? By then auctioning your creations off to other players in a makeshift art gallery, of course!
The concept behind Bidiots is fairly straightforward. First, you'll be given 60 seconds in which to attempt to draw two items/people/places, etc, as listed on your mobile (so, roughly 30 seconds a picture), using only your fingers, and a single colour. Once you've just about bodged that, your wonderful creations will be auctioned off to your other players (and yourself). On the top of your device, some art critics have listed the name of three pieces, and what they're worth - so it's up to you to try and figure out if what you're looking at is what you're supposed to be bidding on, and then try to nab it for the right price.
And that's easier said than done. Sometimes, it can be pretty tricky to tell whether someone's rapid fire scrawl is meant to represent "German Man" (value: $500), or "Oktoberfest" (value: $4000), which is where the fun lies. Watching bidding patterns, and trying to figure out if anyone "knows" that a certain painting is worth a fortune adds a lot of strategy to proceedings - and as you can bid on your own items, too, you can start a bidding war for your own work of art, driving up the cash you'll receive at the end. It's undoubtedly one of the more complex games here - but also one of the best, once you've got your head around it.
Another genuinely great game, Quiplash is a game that's all about wits - or kind of like Cards Against Humanity, just without the cards (wait, have we already used that comparison before?). Here, your phone's keyboard is your weapon, and it's up to you to come up with the funniest possible answers to various questions/phrases (such as "The worst name for a tanning salon"). Your answer will then be pitted against another player's, with the other player(s) choosing the winner.
With only a limited time to think of (and input) an answer, Quiplash is a battle of quick wits, so you'll need to have a speed mind, and a speedy keyboard finger to do well. That said, you'll be amazed at some of the things people come up with - one answer that had us in fits is "Something you don't want to buy off Craigslist" - the answer? "Craig".
Perhaps the most traditionally game-y of all the games on offer, Bomb Corp is an 8-bit themed game of communication and code breaking. On your first day at work at Bomb Corp, a company that specialises in making bombs, it's up to you to stop any rogue ones going off and killing people, by cutting the right wires. How do you know which are the right wires? Well, luckily, the rules you'll need to follow to defuse each bomb are shown on your screen - the only catch being, they're also split across everyone's phones - so you'll need to talk to each other if you want to figure out which wires to cut. While you may have page 3 of the instruction book on your phone, telling you to "Only cut red wires", page 4, on your buddy's phone may say "Page 3 has a typo, and should say white, not red" - so it's essential to listen to everyone's rules before you start cutting.
With the timer ticking down, and some pretty tricky rules to figure out, this is a game of immense pressure - but also one that leaves you feeling all warm and toasty inside when you manage to work as a team and figure things out together (or, warm and toasty on the outside if you get it wrong). But when the rules start to be written by a three year old "Wires are funky if they're not weird, unless they're next to a white one, then they're silly", things can quickly get very complex, and it's a real challenge to figure out which wire to cut.
Bundling five great games together into one handy collection, Jackbox Party Pack 2 is as impressive technologically as it is fun to play. While we do worry about what's going to happen when the servers get switched off - as without access to the internet and the Jackbox server, the game will be unplayable - fingers crossed there'll be plenty of time before that happens just yet, if it ever does. We should probably note here, though, that the default web browser on our Galaxy S3 wasn't actually supported by the jackbox.tv website - but, luckily, both Firefox and Chrome were. At just £19.99 RRP ($25), this is perhaps a little bit on the pricey side for a download only game - but with so much fun on offer, if you're planning on throwing a party over Christmas, this could be the perfect post-turkey companion to keep everyone smiling.
Format Reviewed: Playstation 4