REVIEW: Jackbox Party Pack 9 is all about expanding your mind
It's hard to make a sequel. With preparation for this year's VGG 24-hour campout stream kicking off, we know how hard it is to develop a follow-up to something near and dear to your heart.
And the crew at Jackbox has been cranking out sequels for eight years now, producing not only quality, but also originality, in their annual releases of five new party games every year.
But when you work that hard for that long, it's all gotta come crashing down eventually... right?
Well... Jackbox Party Pack 9 reveals that nothing can shake the Jackbox empire.
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
Release Date: Oct. 20, 2022
Key provided by fortyseven communications.
Developing a sequel is even harder when you're following up on a classic. And that's just what we thought of the last Jackbox Party Pack, calling it the best the series has seen in years.
For their ninth entry in nine years, the crew at Jackbox Games pulled out all the stops to guarantee that Jackbox 9 kept the quality high.
They've reintroduced a Jackbox classic in Fibbage 4, the game that's all about lying to your friends. They crowd-developed a game in this pack, producing regular livestreams with the Jackbox community while together they crafted Roomerang, a reality show-inspired social manipulation game. There's a game all about making the best possible sales pitch to regain your human form in Junktopia. There's a nonsensical game that's all about syncing your mind up with your friends in Nonsensory. And waiting at the end, there's a trivia game all about sorting things into order in Quixort.
Just like our process for reviewing Jackbox 8, what you'll find below are a collection of mini-reviews for each of the pack's games, complete with feedback from our personal group's impressions of each game: because Jackbox enjoyment is all about your group's enjoyment. After that, we'll wrap up with our overall thoughts on the pack and send you on your way to gather your pals for an immediate session with Jackbox 9. Because while it may not reach the heights of Jackbox 8, it has some of our favorite games of all time in this highly original Jackbox library.
Starting with Fibbage 4, the best of the "unbelievable" trivia series yet. No lies.
Fibbage 4 (2 - 8 players)
Fibbage, as a series, celebrates lying. And I don't know what it says about me that I often win when I play Fibbage with my friends.
In Fibbage 4, players are provided with a strange bit of real-life trivia, but with one crucial part of the fact removed and replaced with a fill-in-the-blank. Players must provide a believable lie to complete the fact, one that will hopefully fool your friends when, next, a collection of everyone's lies, plus the actual answer, are presented to the players — and it's your task to sort out the truth amidst the lies. This formula is used all throughout, with a few new and fun twists like community-submitted video facts that share personal and absurd things that happened in their lives, and even "one lie to fill two prompts" in the game's finale.
If you've played Fibbage before, it might sound very familiar. That's because it is. The Jackbox crew didn't try to reinvent the wheel here and for the most part, it pays off. Fibbage remains one of the more slept-on series in all of Jackbox and it feels like, for whatever reason, it really shines here. The facts are fun and written well, the trippy aesthetic with some surprisingly morbid visuals works well, and any game that has you regularly deceiving your friends is a plus in our book.
Fibbage 4 also brings back Fibbage Enough About You, the more personal variant that started in Fibbage 3. Enough About You has you filling in blanks on facts that your friends answered at the start of the game. There's something about the added interpersonal twist that makes Enough About You that much more satisfying, and it remains one of the best variants for any game in any Jackbox. My score: 4/5 Group score: 4.5/5
Roomerang (4 - 9 players)
Are you like me and you love trashy reality shows like Big Brother and The Circle? Shows that are all about social manipulation, putting your best foot forward, and making and breaking alliances? Roomerang aims to be the Jackbox equivalent.
In Roomerang, players are assigned a random role or personality from the outset. "A Real-Life Cartoon Dog." "Hates Long Walks." "Hates Being Right." "Rude Waiter." This persona is meant to influence all of your actions for the rest of the game. Roomerang is all about winning votes by answering questions during challenges. Questions are little reality-show icebreakers and the game quickly turns into "be the funniest," because in the true fashion of reality shows, Roomerang is a popularity contest. You vote on your favorite answer, and the top voted gains some sort of advantage heading into the next phase: ELIMINATION. At the end of each round, your group of competitors vote to eliminate someone, kicking them out of the house and distributing their points among those who voted them out. After elimination, a "new player" is introduced to the house... the eliminated player wearing a disguise. And so the cycle repeats.
Roomerang ultimately boils down to the fairly same-y "vote on the funniest answer" Jackbox formula, with its only real twist being a layer of theming and roleplay with all the reality show set dressing. But we felt there was barely any reason to engage with it. Scoring, how much roleplay is expected of you, and the general rules are not really explained all that well here, making for a fairly awkward experience for any newcomers.
Despite some funny answers and a unique set-up, it made for my personal least favorite of the pack. It's certainly a game that feels like it could benefit from being in the same room together or from the right group/vibes elevating it. But I concede that a different group could be in love with this. We just wanted so much more from it.
We do love the exaggerated artsy player models here, and the fabulous host, Rue Meringue, is a welcome addition to the Jackbox cast.
My score: 3/5 Group score: 3/5
"If you're looking for a Jackbox Party Pack that really sows some chaos within your friend group, all while truly expanding your mind with some abstract thinking and creative problem-solving — you can't do much better than Jackbox 9."
Junktopia (3 - 8 players)
Waking up in a mystical land with a gray-bearded wizard towering over you and your hands replaced with webbed froggy hands? Being forced to thrift your way back into a human body? Sounds like a typical Thursday for the VGG crew.
Junktopia is a capitalist's dream, as your main goal is maximizing profits in service of winning back your human body from a wizard who will only transform the highest earner. To do that, you and your group of frog-converted friends are asked to come up with funny backstories to a batch of weird human items that Junktopia's wizard host, Nikolas Knackalus, has collected over the years. First, you buy the merch, then you get to writing. Aided by some provided prompts (which you can ignore for the ability to write completely freeform), you will explain what these items are, what they do, and/or where they came from.
After writing out backstories, you present your (more often than not cursed) items to the group, who then appraise the value by handing out votes. Your profit is calculated after that and you continue on.
Junktopia offers up one of the most enjoyable set-ups of the pack, with the adorable frogs and its Antiques Roadshow-inspired gimmick, and it certainly celebrates creativity in its contestants. But when it comes to joke-telling Jackbox games, there are others we prefer. The game's pace is iffy, with our group feeling the need to increase timers to be able to really let the comedy soar. And it ends on one of Jackbox's most disappointing final rounds: where you're simply asked to name the bundle of items you gathered in the previous two rounds... and that's it.
But Junktopia's goofy presentation, pure comedy potential — both in the oddball thrift shop items and in its freeform writing prompts — and generally more accessible prompt-based creativity stirrers make it worthwhile.
My score: 3.5/5 Group score: 3.5/5
Nonsensory (3 - 8 players)
Jackbox games are at their best when you vibe with your group. Inside jokes are born, answers come easily because you feel like you know exactly what to say to get through to this particular group of people, and a great session leads to greater closeness with your pals.
Nonsensory is the purest culmination of all of that.
Nonsensory is a game where you're given a numerical value on a range, and asked to write or draw something that represents that specific spot on said range. For example: "Write the name of a bar that sells drinks that cost this much: $50" and the range is $10-100. The answer there is clearly Polyester, because it's snooty enough to have some weird one-word name, but not fancy enough to be named after a better material. Obviously.
Your written or drawn representations are shown to the group, who are then asked to guess what number the player is trying to represent with their work. The closer they are to the actual number, the more points both of you get. In the final round, you are asked to draw something that stands between two points on some abstract and absurd scale. For example, "Draw something that stands right in the middle of an uncle and grandpa." Chaos ensues.
Nonsensory is one of the best all-time games in Jackbox and I'd fight anyone who says otherwise. With a set-up similar to the board game Wavelength, it promotes some goofy mind-expanding work out of its players. What the hell does something that's a 60/40 cross between a windmill and a Pikachu look like? You'll find out in Nonsensory, for better or for worse.
Everyone's perception is different, but Nonsensory is all about syncing up with your particular group's mindhive and finding common ground. It's genius and our group gave it a consensus 5 out of 5. My score: 5/5 Group score: 5/5
Quixort (1 - 10 players)
In Quixort, you're sorting out trivia answers. Starting with a prompt like "SpongeBob Theme Song Lyrics from First Sung to Last Sung" or "Animals from Least Teeth to Most Teeth," players in this team-based competition place down answer blocks, Tetris style, along the provided range. The only problem? You don't know what's coming next or the full range you'll be working with. You'll debate with teammates about just how far on the scale to place something, whether or not poor placement early on in the match has doomed you, and if Dancer really was before Prancer in "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer."
From the second round on, wrinkles are introduced in the form of decoy answer blocks, making you question if an answer block is even real or if it should be trashed.
Quixort is simultaneously chaotic and deeply thought-provoking, making for an experience that has you pooling together your brainpower with your team to piece together abstract sets of trivia and anticipate what might be ahead. It promotes conversation and collaboration. It's great.
There were concerns about difficulty, as a few of our matches ended up fairly one-sided thanks to much easier prompts landing on one team's lap over the other, which is fair — but is also just the nature of trivia. Some knowledge bases will be favored over others, especially when covering such a wide range of topics. Regardless, Quixort jumps right up there on my list of all-time favorite Jackbox games alongside Nonsensory. The fun bits of Tetris-y blockwork combined with the team-focused competition angle make this an easy highlight. Jackbox keeps finding new ways to deliver trivia and we keep eating them up.
It even has an endless mode that you can play on your own, making it the rare solo Jackbox game as well. My score: 5/5 Group score: 4/5
In the end, Jackbox Party Pack 9 delivers an uneven Party Pack experience. But Jackbox 9's missteps are so slight that uneven still equals a great experience. It's because the highs are so HIGH that the lows stand out the way they do, but with the right group, even the lows can be enjoyable. When you've got two games that may just be entries into the Jackbox Hall of Fame, anything can look a little paler in comparison.
They've even continued to add some great quality-of-life improvements, with this game's major addition being the ability to fully remove any game's timers. This way, players can simply take as long as they need to finish tasks, with the game only moving forward when everyone is ready. Oftentimes, folks can be stressed out and forced into less creative jokes or game-supplied answers because of time constraints, making their experience a lot less enjoyable. This is a great solution for a long-term Jackbox issue and a sign of them continually evolving with the times.
If you're looking for a Jackbox Party Pack that really sows some chaos within your friend group, all while truly expanding your mind with some abstract thinking and creative problem-solving — you can't do much better than Jackbox 9.
video games are good and Jackbox Party Pack 9 is . . . GREAT. (8/10)
+ Quixort and Nonsensory are all-timers, Fibbage is better than ever, and Junktopia has tons of potential; an all-around enjoyable pack and that is all you can ask for
- Roomerang is the closest thing to a swing-and-miss, at least for a remote audience; pack isn't as balanced with the best of the best hidden in the back
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