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The Jackbox Party Pack 3 (Switch) artwork

The Jackbox Party Pack 3 (Switch) review


"The Jackbox Party Pack 3 is a virtual party in a box. Just add friends. And smartphones. And a wi-fi signal."


When a new system arrives on the market, I rush to purchase games that offer a broad variety of experiences. It's nice to hit the various genres early on, and from there spend a few years tending to the finer points. With that goal in mind, I was quite pleased when a party game called The Jackbox Party Pack 3 arrived on the Nintendo Switch. It sounded like the perfect way to scratch my party game itch.

"Send me a review code," I begged any PR person who would listen, until finally someone relented and I found out that I should have read up a bit more on the game before making my request. Playing the game is a bit of an undertaking, you see.

To play The Jackbox Party Pack 3, you need to have dependable Internet access and a smartphone or tablet for each person who will be playing. You boot up the game on your console, and everyone gathers around the television in an approximate circle so it's easy to see every participant without craning necks. The "VIP" selects the game everyone will play, and the television screen presents a four-letter code. Everyone then opens a browser window on their device and heads to jackbox.tv, at which point entering the code shown on the television screen provides access to the lobby. Once those involved have registered and appear as active, the VIP begins the game.

Five fairly distinct games are included as part of this particular "pack," and each one requires a minimum of two players. As many as eight folks can play most of them, though, and a higher number makes for a better experience in each case. I don't have a lot of local friends, which posed a problem because even though the game seems like it could work just fine when played from several remote locations, a lot of the fun comes from being in the same room as your rivals. The games also benefit from a shared history, because that's how human nature works: we have more fun laughing at the mild misfortune or embarrassment of people we hold near and dear. Who cares if narutofan69 and sephiroth77336 reveal intimate details about themselves? We'll never see them again!

The Jackbox Party Pack 3 (Switch) image


The Jackbox Party Pack 3 simply isn't going to live up to its potential unless you're able to gather up five to eight close acquaintances who are all in the mood to sit around your living room and do the same thing for around 10 or 15 minutes at a time. Such a feat seems to have been considerably easier to manage when I was a kid in the 80s than it is nowadays. Besides that, everyone needs to have phones with a good charge and a decent processor. Plus, to avoid running up a bill for data and to make sure everyone is on even footing, you have to share your wi-fi password. This leads to the question: is it really worth going to all of that trouble? Fortunately, the answer is a resounding "Probably, if you can work it into your schedule and if you have a lot more friends than I do who are all able to get together at the same time for a bit of competitive party gaming." Even longer phrases can resound, I figure.

Pretend this sentence is an excellent transition, and now you know to look forward to me describing each of the five included games.

"Fakin It" is the only included game that allows a maximum of six active players to participate (though any others can always serve as spectators). Let's say you gather five people to play. Each round, the game presents an assignment to four of those five players. For example, it might ask them to make a face, such as the one they might make to attract the attention of the bartender. One of those players won't receive that specific prompt, but their phone screen will advise them to play along. Then, when everyone is done scowling or winking or whatever else, it's time to cast votes to decide who is the "faker." At this point, everyone can make accusations and the accused can plead their case. Then, the vote is finalized. If enough people vote the right way, the faker is unmasked. Otherwise, that scoundrel goes unpunished! Subsequent rounds introduce different criteria, and different ways to fake, so the activity can get quite lively--and decidedly irreverent, which is a running theme with this title--if the right people are involved.

The Jackbox Party Pack 3 (Switch) image


"Quiplash" lets players finish phrase prompts, and then vote on the response they like best. One prompt I remember from my own sessions was "Before you get married, you should..." and I supplied the obvious "Eat carrots." Unfortunately for me, one of the other players came up with the arguably superior "Take a bath," and that proved to be the winning option. I can't make it sound hilarious in this review, but trust me when I say the potential for hilarity is definitely there.

"Trivia Murder Party" is a horror movie spoof. Players are trapped in a derelict building by a mysterious madman, and to escape they must advance along the corridor, answering trivia questions and playing mini-games. The trivia questions tend to be rather difficult, and if you answer incorrectly, you have to play a mini-game (typically, against your rivals). If you do poorly there, you die and become a "ghost." The ultimate goal is to come through alive, but even the dead can win in the final round. The presentation is the right mixture of menacing and cute, with some insulting prompts from the unseen host, so players should have a ball if they're not too busy stating for the record that they were just offended.

"Guesspionage" is a nice option if you want something that requires little in the way of actual knowledge or skill. The developers polled people on a bunch of stupid topics, and your job is to guess at the results. The first player to go in a round has to guess what percentage of respondents replied a particular way. Then, the other players decide whether they think the actual number was higher or lower (or in later rounds, much higher or much lower). Points are awarded based on who comes closest to the reality, and the nature of the questions means that you can sometimes learn scary things about your fellow human beings.

The Jackbox Party Pack 3 (Switch) image


Tee K.O. presents a challenge that feels like it was ripped from an old martial arts film. Players start by drawing random objects (or following a prompt, if they prefer). Then they have to come up with a bunch of clever phrases. The game then scrambles everything and presents possible t-shirt designs out of the results. Players vote for their favorites, and the t-shirts duke it out (sort of) until a single winning design remains. In a clever and potentially lucrative twist, it's apparently possible to order printed t-shirts based on the designs you generate in the game. Since I don't have a lot of disposable income, I wasn't able to give that a shot, but it's a neat idea if it works as advertised.

Like I wrote just a moment ago, it's probably worth the trouble of putting together a group of people to play The Jackbox Party Pack 3. I had a lot of fun with my wife and friends, and I bet you can already think of people with whom you might enjoy sharing such an experience. My main concern is that the game relies on a server over which I have no control. What happens if Jackbox Games, Inc. someday decides to take down the server, or to stop updating it? I suspect the answer is "Then poor Jason can't play the game," which is a sad future to have to contemplate. I guess it's no sadder than some of my t-shirt designs, though...

4/5

honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (April 21, 2017)

Jason Venter has been playing games for nearly 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he also writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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