• Nate Hermanson

REVIEW: Jackbox Party Pack 8 is the best the series has seen in a while

Updated: Feb 8

The leaves on the trees dress up in fiery shades. The wind carries a chill and goosebumps prickle up your arms. Jackbox Games emerges.


For seven years straight, Jackbox has resurfaced during the fall to release a new pack of games and to show the party game market how it's done. Their "use your phone as a controller" tech not only brought their games to the masses, but demanded they innovate within a fairly restrictive playspace.


The Jackbox Party Packs are personal favorites of my friend group, especially as we've all moved to different areas (and lived through two years and counting of a pandemic), relying on online game nights more than ever. But in recent years, sessions with each pack ended up shorter and shorter. There might have been a dud game or two. The synergy of game types might have just been a bit off. Or the vibes just weren't right.


Well after 12 hours and near-weekly sessions, we're glad to report... Jackbox Party Pack 8 deserves its flowers.

The key art for Jackbox Party Pack 8 features five cakes representing each of the pack's five new games. On the left, the game's title is displayed as icing and candles. The five games are: Job Job, Weapons Drawn, Drawful: Animate, The Wheel of Enormous Proportions, and The Poll Mine.

Just the Facts

Developer: Jackbox Games

Publisher: Jackbox Games

Platform(s): PC*, PS4 (PS5 via backward compatibility), Xbox Series Consoles, Nintendo Switch, Smart TVs soon *platform reviewed on

Price: $29.99​

Release Date: Oct. 13, 2021

Key provided by Sandbox Strategies.

My personal history with Jackbox is surprisingly long. I have a vivid memory of my childhood, around 5 or 6 years old, hanging out with the cool kids at one of my brother's birthday parties. They were gathered around a PS1 playing You Don't Know Jack!, the classic trivia series from which the Jackbox was born. It definitely was not made for a child my age, but I was entranced by its comical writing and interesting twists on trivia, something that always pulled my attention as a game show enthusiast.


As such, when Jackbox first hit back in 2014, I was all over it. Party games were never the same. I could use my phone to control the action, it was easy to rope all my friends in to play with me, and it was trivia and Pictionary and its own whole thing all at once. It was brilliant. Every year since then, Jackbox Games have released a new pack of party games, five at a time, full of brand-new ideas and concepts. And I was there to play all of them. In the before-VGG times, I consumed them with no real thought beyond "FUN." But now we're critical thought-leaders, and I'm realizing that reviewing any Jackbox Party Pack is a surprisingly difficult task.


The Jackbox experience is heavily influenced by the vibes of those you're playing with. As such, this review's a little different. Below, you'll find a mini-review of each game in Jackbox Party Pack 8, featuring my takes along with the consensus opinion of those I played with.

In short, this pack is one of the best, most balanced and interesting collections the series has put forth in years.


There's a spinoff to the purposefully bad drawing game Drawful this time, it introduces basic two-frame animations to the mix. There's the half fortune-telling and half wheel-spinning obscure trivia game that is Wheel of Enormous Proportions. We've got a Mad Libs-Esque interview-themed chaos game called Job Job. A Family Feud-like survey game featuring adventurers going through spooky caves in Poll Mine. And to wrap it all up, there's a murder mystery-inspired "hide the drawing" game called Weapons Drawn.


Let's get animated as we start with...


 

Drawful Animate

The Drawful series is meant to inspire bad art. With no eraser and no way to undo your actions, your ability to make good art is hindered. That normally manifests in just one silly piece of art. But with Party Pack 8, bad art turns into bad animation. After getting a purposefully ridiculous prompt, you'll do your little animation, and then try to get folks to pick your correct prompt from a collection of deceptive friend-submitted lines.

Drawful has always been a favorite of mine since its debut in the original Jackbox. The dynamic evolution into simple animation is a simple but effective one, although when compared to Jackbox's other drawing game offerings, Drawful is starting to get a little stale. It's still fun, but I usually wish I was playing Champ'd Up or Tee KO instead.

My group wished there were even more animation tools here — which may have lessened the feeling of stagnancy I felt — but otherwise had a good time goofing around with Drawful's simple art tools. My score: 3.5/5 Group score: 4/5

 

Wheel of Enormous Proportions


As Party Pack 8's sole trivia representative, Wheel of Enormous Proportions has big shoes to fill. Jackbox's trivia legacy notwithstanding, games from previous packs like Trivia Murder Party and Guesspionage loom large against any new trivia contender.


Wheel takes place in two parts: trivia and chance-based wheel spinning. Do well in trivia and gain wedges to place anywhere on the wheel. After trivia, players take turns spinning, sending precious points to whoever the wheel lands on. You go back and forth between these phases until someone eclipses 20,000 points, followed by another wheel spin for a chance at ultimate victory. Trivia, spin, repeat.


Wheel is one of the best trivia games in all of Jackbox and one of my favorite trivia games period. The trivia is all about quantity. You might choose all the people who've walked on the moon from a list of 12 options. Or make matches between two columns of inventions and their inventors. Or guess how many Oregon Trails could fit between the Earth and sun. Even if you don't fully know the answers, you might just be able to guess your way to victory — which is where Wheel shines compared to other Jackbox trivia games. With the chance-based wheel, even the least trivia-savvy friends have an opportunity to pull out a clutch win.


My only issue came in some initial confusion about hitting the 20,000 point limit and when you're able to spin the winner's wheel — it's not immediate, as the rules seemed to imply.


My group shared in the love, for the most part. Some worried that the reaction time-based trivia questions (there are a few that reward those who answer fastest) may cause accessibility issues for some folks, but overall there was a lot of love for Wheel. My score: 5/5 Group score: 4.5/5


"The Jackbox experience is all about having fun with pals, making each other laugh, and experiencing something that no other game can offer. Jackbox Party Pack 8 delivers that again and again and again."
 

Job Job

Job Job is this Pack's joke machine. Themed around a job interview, this Mad Libs-esque game has you turbulently piecing together your interview responses and a hire-me elevator pitch from random Q & A sentences submitted by your pals.


To start, players answer a few icebreaker questions, like "tell me about an amazing meal you cooked recently." Those answers are tossed into a blender and the remaining fragments and punctuation gets sent out to different people. Players are then asked a pertinent interview question (e.g. "What would you do about a passive-aggressive co-worker?") and forced to piece together as clear a reply as possible from the collection of words they've got on their phone. Two answers go head-to-head and players vote for their favorite one.


It's chaos. It's hilarious. Jackbox is at its best when it's absurd... and Job Job is definitely absurd. Oftentimes, playing some of the "who's funnier" type Jackbox games can feel exclusionary. If someone doesn't have the mind for quick jokes and bits, being asked to come up with a witty one-liner under timed pressure in a game like Quiplash can feel like a nightmare. Job Job eliminates that fear by providing you with all the ammo needed to craft silly sentences. Even when you're just stringing together nonsense, it's still just so damn fun.

My group likened the collaborative creation process to Jackbox banger Tee KO and all around loved playing Job Job. Capitalism and the workforce may suck the life out of us, but Job Job is there to put it back. My score: 4.5/5 Group score: 5/5

 

The Poll Mine

Continuing the game show-inspired mechanics, The Poll Mine is like a reverse Family Feud. Separated into two teams trying to escape a dark and creature-filled mine, players begin with a survey question, ranking the list of eight answers by order of personal preference. Afterward, teams take turns trying to uncover the group's collective ranking based on a specific prompt (find the top 3 answers; uncover the rankings backward from eighth to first). Discussion is necessary to get a sense of how your teammates ranked... but you've got to keep things obscure, because the other team is waiting in the wings to get their guesses in too.


I loved this game. It's deeply psychological and becomes even more interesting when played among people you know personally. For example, my group had a hell of a time facing their phobias when we were presented with the prompt of: "You're all alone at night with no cell service. Absolute scariest place to be?" Some found it more frightening to be stranded somewhere rural, some urban. Some were anxious to be where you might encounter others, like a subway; others were afraid to be wholly alone, like on a trail in the woods.


Probing your friends' minds and trying to figure out how different perspectives might shake things up leads to some deeply engaging conversations. Add in the team-based competition (which I think is a Jackbox first) and you've got all the ingredients for some tense last-second decisions.


A correct answer will earn you a torch to light your way as you seek an exit from the mines. An incorrect one will put you face to face with a monster who snatches your torch and leaves you one step closer to utter, inescapable darkness.


The group felt that some variation in the rankings you're asked to uncover could have made it even better (the game follows the same pattern every time), but still appreciated the beautiful art and the late-night diner debate-style gameplay. My score: 5/5 Group score: 4/5

 

Weapons Drawn


Fans of murder mysteries and clever drawing games, pay attention. Weapons Drawn is here.


Set during a dinner party featuring the world's best detectives (and their fated-for-death guests), Weapons Drawn has friends murdering friends and trying to find the killers in the aftermath. At the start of each round, players are assigned any letter from their display name. They are then asked to draw a murder weapon and a gift for the party but must hide the assigned letter somewhere in it. The letters are provided by the game, but you are free to scale, rotate, and place it anywhere in your canvas. Finally, you're let loose to attempt murder — and hope that no one identifies your hidden letter and picks you out from the lineup of suspects.


Sound complicated? It is. It really is.


Conceptually, Weapons Drawn was 100% up my alley. I'm the kind of nerd who has always wanted to attend a murder mystery dinner party but has never been brave enough. And like I mentioned before, I love me an involved drawing game. But there are just too many moving pieces and too little explaining about how it all works. It took my group a solid three or four sessions before we kind of understood what was going on. And that stands in direct opposition to the pick-up-and-play party vibe that Jackbox usually shoots for.

And I wasn't alone in thinking it. My group loved how unique and interesting this game was but hated how confusing it was. Trying to bring in new players to Weapons Drawn proved to be a chore, having to re-explain it all when we still weren't quite sure was happening ourselves. Even with the extended timers option, it felt like we never quite had the time to fit all the pieces into place and nab the killer. There were a few moments of pure bliss when our group finally pulled off identifying a suspect or two correctly, but we still were kind of scratching our heads in the end. It's not quite a dud... but not quite a favorite either. My score: 3.5/5 Group score: 3.5/5

 

All in all, Jackbox Party Pack 8 is the dev team operating at peak ability. We didn't mention it in any of the individual game reviews, but all of the visual theming decisions across this Pack are incredible. The Poll Mine with its fantasy adventurers and Wheel of Enormous Proportions with its Meeple-inspired tokens were personal favorites. Each game's host is as goofy as ever, replayability has never been higher, and the pacing of a session with Party Pack 8 is near-perfect. Playing a round or two in each game left my group more than satisfied and eager to return.


The Jackbox experience is all about having fun with pals, making each other laugh, and experiencing something that no other game can offer. Jackbox Party Pack 8 delivers that again and again and again. In my case, this Pack has already seen as much playtime as the last two combined and it's only been a month since launch. If you've skipped out on Jackbox in recent years, do yourself a favor and add this one to your game night rotation.


video games are good and Jackbox Party Pack 8 is . . . GREAT. (9/10)


+ incredibly varied experiences across each game, the flow of a session is almost perfect, and the aesthetics are on point


- Weapons Drawn is not at all a pick-up-and-play experience, which hurts the overall package


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