Review: The Jackbox Party Pack 10
It’s hard to deny the equalizing factor of the Jackbox Party Pack series. Regardless of the personalities of those present or overall friend dynamic, the games typically always feature some neat gimmicks that allow for just enough input to foster player creativity and generate a plethora of inside jokes.
And infusing alcohol in the mix? Well, that’s just guaranteed funnies right there.
Having released its inaugural pack in 2014, the Jackbox Party Pack 10 has developer and publisher Jackbox Games reigning in nearly a decade of party games. It’s a formula that’s worked very well for them and no shortage of friend groups over the years; even if a game or two is lesser than the others in a given Party Pack, the remaining ones are usually able to pick up the slack.
The tenth iteration of the series is out for PC, Playstation 4/5, Xbox One/Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch on October 19th, 2023. I expected the same to be true this time around as well, but the experience left me with a very unexpected feeling after several spins of it with my friends.
Tee K.O. 2
Starting off at the top of the list, Tee K.O. is back once again with its first sequel. Players are tasked with drawing as many funny pictures as they can conjure, writing as many funny lines as they can scribe, and then combining both elements from a random assortment to create a humorous t-shirt. Players vote for their favorite combinations in the final segment, with the longest-standing shirt taking the crown.
If these mechanics sound eerily similar to the original, that’s because they are. It’s essentially the same Tee K.O. as before, replete with funny reveals and drawings, but now with a few minor improvements. The ability to put your drawing/slogan combos on a hoodie or tank top and being able to choose a different font adds a smidge more customization that can also enhance the comedy of the choices. There are also a lot more drawing tools and color options as well, which is always welcome.
On top of that, there’s also a new portion where you rapidly tap the shirt you want to win the most when it’s down to the final two, but it feels ultimately pointless and, to be blunt, kind of a waste of time. You’re able to skip it, but having the ability to skip it at all begs the question of its inclusion.
Still, it’s more Tee K.O. It’s one of the Jackbox Party Packs’ best entries, but with more options than before, and you can’t go wrong with that.
Our first brand new game of the bunch, Timejinx, is a trivia game with a time travel motif. The meat of each round sees players trying to guess the exact year certain things happened from a wide variety of topics, from the year the Nintendo 64 released to the year humans first walked on the moon. If your guess is incorrect, the difference between the correct answer and your own adds to your score, meaning the lowest score at the end of the game wins. In between these rounds you answer more general, rapid-fire questions (i.e. “in which decade was this a thing?”) where correct answers lower your score by a certain percentage.
If you’re a fan of trivia games and challenging your memory, you’ll be right at home playing Timejinx. It’s a ton of fun getting to flex (or embarrass yourself) as you try to pinpoint the year each event occurred, and the questions themselves proceed at a brisk pace to keep you on your toes. Comeback victories are common and answer reveals are suspenseful, which is the mark of any good trivia game. In taking its sweet time in revealing the correct answers, it makes for some hype moments and I-told-you-sos all around.
At least for my money, Timejinx is the standout game from the Jackbox Party Pack 10. It asks you to work similar muscles to Party Pack 9’s Quixort, but to much greater success. It does run a teeny bit longer than it should, but it’s an immensely easy game to get sucked into with just the right variety of topics to guess at.
On the other side of the coin, FixyText positively confounded us on our initial playthrough—and not just because we were several shots in. After voting for a topic, players are split into teams before being given a text message to respond to. The catch is that all players place their cursors at certain spots and write the response at the same time, which leads to absolute chaos on the screen. After time is up, a text-to-speech voice reads back said chaos aloud. Oh, and backspace is disabled for everyone, too.
…Or that’s what the game says, at least. Every time we played, some of us were still able to backspace and delete text at will while others couldn’t. Maybe there was something we were missing with the way the backspace block functioned, but we weren’t able to figure it out.
Hearing a robot voice try to make sense of how to pronounce the jumbled mishmash of letters and words we were able to throw at it was humorous for a while, but it doesn’t take long to realize that FixyText isn’t really much of a game at all. You do select a topic and respond to a text message regarding that topic, but in execution it quickly turns into you and your friends writing nonsense for laughs before it gets read back to you. The objective of trying to respond to the original text message gets lost almost instantly, but even if it didn’t, the point of the game still wouldn’t be all that clear.
After each round, the team that wasn’t writing then votes for their favorite words from the text, and the player that helped write the most popular words ends up the winner at the end. It’s so bereft of any strategy and individual input that it feels essentially random to win, and thus doesn’t feel earned when you do. It’s one of those games that sounds like a great, frenetic time on paper, but ends up rather boring in practice. It also goes on for far too long, and you’re unable to change the topic after that first round.
Dodo Re Mi
Dodo Re Mi is absolutely the oddball of the tenth Party Pack, what with it being Jackbox’s first take on a rhythm game. After selecting a song from the list, players choose an instrument to play along to the track with (which coincides your difficulty) and do their best to tap the screens of their devices to the rhythm of a backing track. In an interesting twist on the typical music game formula, players then get to listen to their performance synchronized in full after the fact.
On the surface, there’s a lot to like about Dodo Re Mi. Not only is there a large variety of genres on offer and a progression system, but also a plethora of different difficulties options to make sure everyone gets a chance to play together even if rhythm games are not their forte.
Unfortunately, it falls short of a home run for the fact that it’s a rhythm game that asks you to play through a full song and then sit there and listen to your performance afterward as one of its primary features. If a song was particularly disastrous, it’s pretty funny to hear back just how calamitous it was, but the fun factor of listening back to your performance fades away pretty quickly; we found ourselves going back to other games in the pack more often than not.
Dodo Re Mi also gave me flashbacks to Jackbox Party Pack 5’s Zeeple Dome, particularly in the sense that the game struggles to fully land in any situation where all players aren’t in the same room or listening to same audio source. Even the slightest degree of delay can spell certain doom for a rhythm game, and though there was an attempt to mitigate this by having the players synchronize before each song, it ends up with thoroughly mixed results.
At the beginning of Hypnotorious, each player is assigned a unique identity belonging to three distinct categories, the latter of which are hidden from everyone. Each round has the players answer a question as their assigned identity (which can range from a U.S. state to a Disney film) with the ultimate goal of pairing themselves off for points. Additionally, one player is an outlier who is alone in their category (though they don’t know it), so it turns into a cooperative game of sussing out the outlier and which categories you share with others.
One of the most notable aspects of Hypnotorious is its difficulty due to how much is obfuscated from the players. The categories can cut a pretty large swath, and when you throw in the variable of how your friends might interpret different things based on their own experiences, it makes for quite the interesting guessing game. The game-within-a-game of trying to find the outlier among you also adds an extra layer to keep things from being too straightforward, too.
Would that I could end it right there, but Hypnotorious goes on for far, far too long—almost prohibitively so. It made revisiting it in the later hours of the night feel like more of a commitment than we were willing to make, and it was an easy choice to just go back for a round or two of Timejinx instead.
It’s A Jackbox Party Pack, Alright
At this point, you know what you’re getting into when you sit down to play a Jackbox game. Even with this concession, however, it’s a bit too easy to find The Jackbox Party Pack 10 lacking. The tunes and aesthetics are great as always and the narrators do an equally decent job but—with the exception of Timejinx—it feels as though every new game has a significant snag that heavily drags it down.
Either the novelty wears off after only a few sessions (Dodo Re Mi, FixyText) or the game simply runs on too long (Hypnotorious), and Tee K.O. 2 is exactly what it says on the tin with only minor improvements. With everything accounted for you’re still in for a fun time with friends, but it nevertheless remains a weaker experience compared to previous Jackbox offerings.
Review code provided by Jackbox Games for PC. Screenshots taken by reviewer. Featured image courtesy of Jackbox Games.