Just when you thought that it was safe, the maverick party game creators at Jackbox Games are back to liven up your life with a cool multipack of titles, available to download onto your PlayStation 4 and bring the gift of competitive laughter to your next social gathering. To enjoy this madcap assortment of multiplayer antics you will need: a PS4, some friends – or at least other people willing to play the game – and for each of them to have an Internet connected phone, tablet, or, for some games, a laptop should work fine.
If you played the first Jackbox Party Pack then you'll immediately feel at home, but even if that somehow passed you by, The Jackbox Party Pack 2 is brilliantly easy to set up, taking only minutes from booting up the console to getting everyone playing. The joy is that all players simply log on to www.jackbox.tv and enter the code generated by the PS4 in order to join the game. The games themselves see you using your phone or tablet to enter answers, draw pictures (with your finger), or interact with elements on the screen. Billy no mates? Hey, don't cry – the good folk at Jackbox Games have even included Bomb Corp which is a team game that can be played on your lonesome. More on that in a minute.
The games included in this pack are a nice mix: Earwax, a unique audio adrenalin rush which includes explosions and fart noises; Quiplash XL, the evolution of the brilliantly original funniest-answer-'em-up quiz; Bidiots, an insane art based contest with added competitive auction action; Fibbage 2, a classic call my bluff-style battle of misdirection, and; Bomb Corp – step up for some bomb deactivating work experience where lives will be in your hands. There's literally something for everyone.
Okay then, let's start with Earwax. You play this hear-larious game by anonymously picking a noise or sound effect which most amusingly sums up the written prompt. One player then acts as judge and the player deemed to have produced the biggest/best/funniest reaction wins the round and nabs the points. It's simple, silly, and might just answer once and for all the question that has resonated through the ages: which is funnier – a urinating ninja or a farting parent? Yeah, it's high-brow stuff, but probably wont last for too long as this is the one game here that works best in short bursts.
Quiplash XL brings creative answer mayhem to the party as each player (up to eight) gets to answer a question. For example: "What is the worst thing a wicked witch could turn you into?" Two answers are then displayed and everyone gets to vote on which is funnier – more people can also log in and vote as an audience, which makes this a superb game to play while streaming online or on stage in front of a phone-equipped youth group. You score a super satisfying 'Quiplash' if everyone goes for your answer, which gives you bonus points, too.
In the final round, everyone's answers are displayed and you all get three votes, which can be shared across the players or all slapped on one particularly good answer. Results are then listed in ascending order from least to most votes. The 'XL' part here means that you get all of the added downloadable content included, which gives you extra questions. There's also a handy 'family friendly' setting for those parties or occasions where you don't want it to get too racy.
Fibbage 2 delivers another inventive word-based game where players add the missing word to a sentence. But not just any word: the challenge is to make it be as plausible as possible in a kind of Would I Lie to You style, as you're trying to trick your opponents into thinking that your answer is the truth. It's a genuinely fun, thought-provoking competition which scales up the mirth factor if the calibre of people answering are witty enough. Much satisfaction comes from successfully bluffing your pals, and even if you're useless you'll at least learn a few facts as you do get to see the true answer at the end. It works well and tends to get very competitive, and a smooth addition to this sequel is the deFIBrillator – a one-shot lifeline that reduces the possible answers to just one lie and the truth, in effect giving you a fifty-fifty chance. Fibbage is a tried and tested winner, and it can eat up a good amount of time at any party. It can even be played effectively in teams, too, if there are more than eight players or varying ability levels.
Bidiots, however, mixes up the vibe by skipping words and adding art and auctioning to the proceedings. For this one you really need a device with a good touch screen in order to be able to create a visual work of art. The idea here is to create and then bag art treasures so that you're the person with the most cash at the end of the auction phase. To make it more interesting, each player may get similar prompts about what to draw, and each piece is worth wildly different amounts. The game will give you some clues about which pieces to bid on and there's even a payday loan shark who will front you cash if you've exhausted your initial supply – but beware as they will ask for it back with interest at the end of the game, which can be awkward if you've invested in worthless tat. Add to the mix tip-off hints that will come through to your phone during the game and suddenly you'll be sweating about whether the player next to you has been told exactly how much your floppy sunflower effort is worth. Do you try to artificially inflate the price of your pieces by bidding on them, or attempt to bluff others into letting you bag a bargain? Who'd have thought that complex strategy and dodgy drawing could make such excellent bedfellows?
Finally, there's Bomb Corp, which sits slightly apart from the other games as this one plays most like a standard video game, and even has a story mode for single player amusement. In single player mode it's a fun logic puzzle workout, but when experienced in multiplayer it's a riot. Up to four people must work together to diffuse a bomb, and each only has some of the required instructions. The team members must guide each other – one player will know that only certain coloured wires can be cut, while another knows which direction they should be chopped, for example. Throw in contradictions like "only player three can cut certain wires" or amendments like "when we said green wires, we meant blue", and you have a lit fuse of against-the-ticking-clock fun. Lots of virtual deaths generally ensue, but there's wild jubilation to be had when you pull off a last second Jack Bauer-esque diffuse. The life and death situations are made more fun through comedy cutscenes and quips from the employees of Bomb Corp, whose lives you are trying to save. There are even some non-bomb activities which help you buy into being part of the company – once you've done some nice neat filing you'll be even more gutted to see it all blown to hell.
Overall, the Jackbox Party Pack 2 is a great addition to any gaming collection – especially as the festive season beckons. Packing enough variety to keep different age groups entertained, this is an affordable set of fun games that are easy to organise since they don't even require additional DualShock 4 controllers. What's more, the games themselves are really good fun to play and memorable enough to make you want to come back. Party on dudes.