Mad Verse City might just be the sleeper hit of the Jackbox Party Pack 5. For up to 8 players with a minimum of 3, you get to play as a rapping robot. Each of the robots is a mix of what you’d get if you crossed A/V equipment with transformers. A better image for you may be Bumblebee as a Walkman or Optimus Prime as a Game & Watch. Each player participates in a round-robin rap battle, this gives you the best chance to show off your own lyrical skill and put other players to shame. The game will introduce a CPU robot named Gene if there’s an odd number of players. Don’t underestimate him just because he’s a computer.
At the start of each round, you’ll get a prompt for a variation on a noun, adjective, or verb. It could even be something like “insulting adjective” which you could respond with ‘Foolish’. From there a first lyric like “I won’t say you’re the worst. That’s too foolish” and then it’s up to you to complete the second line. Sometimes the word you’re asked for isn’t clearly explained, in those cases your sentences can come out slightly broken. For anyone who has ever played mad-libs you know what kinds of sentences you can expect.
Your rap battle opponent will also be told to you on this screen, including personal jokes are encouraged. Next, you’ll get to see your robots rap battle one another using unique text-to-speech voices. The text-to-speech isn’t always perfect so some words pronunciation may be butchered. For more difficult words you might need to spell out some things phonetically. During your verses, other players are able to vote whether your rhymes were hot or boo you. At the end of each round, the players decide who they think won points are divided with a bonus going to whoever got the best crowd reaction.
Mad Verse City by far has the best potential to deliver the funniest moments in the Party Pack. Between the robotic voices trying to read your sentences to the strange scenarios and setups introduced with the prompts, all players can have fun with this one.
Hybrid drawing and improv game Patently Stupid has players come up with and solve strange scenarios. After being told a problem you get to play the role of a salesman pitching your solution. This game gives players a mix of drawing and word prompts but also a chance to improvise a sales pitch.
Each round will begin with filling out a prompt, as well as selecting one for yourself. After you have a prompt, even if it’s “I’m too tired to sleep”, you then get to create a product. This process includes a paper napkin sketch, a title, and a tagline. After coming up with your response you can decide to let the game present your idea, or present it yourself. After your prompt appears you can get up and use your phone to trigger the name, image, and tagline. This allows you to show off your brand new invention to the other participants and the audience. Talking about your product is a really important part of the process adding a new element to a Jackbox game. Those who aren’t as confident at speaking might be at a bit of a disadvantage, but the premade scripts do a good job on their own.
Zeeple Dome, the last game in the pack, is a big change from the usual Jackbox formula. Doing away with funny one-liners and silly drawings Zeeple Dome is instead a slingshot action game. The characters you play are participants in Zeeple Dome, the most “dangerous game show in the Crab Nebula”. With your character in the center of your phone screen, you draw the character back like a slingshot and let go. This momentum shows on the main display as you catapult your character off different obstacles. You’re can’t fire yourself again until you bounce off another object or enemy, so good aim is a must.
At the beginning of each wave, all of your characters appear in an arena with strange white colored aliens. Flinging your character, colliding with aliens to inflict damage, their health represented by a white circle around them. Once the alien’s health is down you need to deliver a final blow. Leave them alone for too long and it will just keep coming back. You can’t just go all out either, you’ll need to watch for color changes in the aliens. Steer clear from the aliens when they’re red as they’re about to launch an attack. For most aliens, their attack will do damage around and below them so steer clear of that area and you should be safe.
After surviving multiple waves, each character gets a score and then individual scores total up. There are thirteen different unlockables that continued play will earn you. Unlockables include new weapons like the scatter bomb which on collision will send off three shots to deal extra damage.
Frustratingly, and honestly quite expectedly the biggest drawback to this game is its ambition. If this game utilized thumbstick flicks on a controller, a lot more could be done. Interfacing through a website, to the Jackbox servers, and then the game, there are all kinds of expected lag. You can recognize it as soon as you pull back on your first sling, the noticeable lag.
Knowing that there is this lag if you want you can make sure you’re pulling your shots early. The drawback here is whose to say your target hasn’t moved or someone else has taken it out. The second issue is that while watching your screen you’re not able to properly look at where you’re angling your shot on your phone. As you’re trying to set up a shot while soaring through the air on a touch screen that you’re not even looking at it’s easy to send yourself directly to the left instead of left and up at a 45-degree angle.
Jackbox Games are always getting better at the ability to appeal to a crowd and bringing more control to streamers. Players range from as few as 1 up to 8, audience members can play roles in the games. Some features give streamers control over their game. This includes using Twitch usernames, hiding adult responses, and a way to hide the room code. Of the games above, family-friendly settings are supported in Split the Room, Mad Verse City, Zeeple Dome, and Patently Stupid, and the only game that doesn’t allow an audience is Zeeple Dome.
Jackbox Party Pack 5 brings together another 5 games, only one being a sequel. Of that You Don’t Know Jack can be a bit of a false start, Zeeple Dome is worth a play or two, and Split the Room, Mad Verse City, and Patently Stupid should become party staples. Better than anything is the range of new ideas that the Jackbox Games team bring to the table. Even if one game doesn’t suit a person because they can’t draw a recognizable image, they might be more partial to a quiz or coming up with a rap. This collection of games places Jackbox Party Pack 5 as one of best in the series so far.
The Jackbox Party Pack 5 has a game for almost anyone. While including one false start the rest of the games included in the bundle will be a great addition to any kind of gathering or party. Jackbox Games has done an amazing job with this bundle showing they're still consistently coming up with bigger and better ideas.
- YDKJ returns...
- Split The Room
- Mad Verse City
- Patently Stupid
- ...doesn't have as much potential
- Zeeple Zone (but good try)