Jackbox Games’s Jackbox Party Pack 2 is a disappointingly sophomoric sequel, and in every sense of the word. This five-game collection feels derivative at best, stale most of the time, and simply baffling for the rest. Earwax, for instance, settles for the lowest-common denominator of fart jokes and asks players to choose from sound effects provided to them—such as “Male urinating into toilet (a lot)” and “Trombone slide”—to answer a question, like “How a terrible ninja is noticed.” But humorous bodily functions alone do not a game make.
Jackbox Games similarly misses the mark in all of their offerings, as if they didn’t understand the appealing, anarchic charm of their originals. The only direct sequel, Fibbage 2, messes with perfection—a single, hard-to-believe truth is obfuscated by each player’s submitted lies—by providing everyone with a single “deFIBrillator” that narrows things down to a binary choice. Meanwhile, Bidiots overcomplicates everything that worked about Drawful (from the original Jackbox Party Pack) by combining a player’s incredulous attempts to draw absurdly specific objects (“The Shawshank Redemption,” “San Jose sharks”) with a trite hidden-information game, in which players attempt to identify and purchase the “art” that they believe to be valuable.
Even Quiplash XL, the best of the bunch, never rises far above its concept: a sort of head-to-head Mad Libs in which players vote on who best fills in a blank like “Worst Toy Store: Build-a-_____ Workshop.” (Scatological humor all too often carries the day, at least with my friends.) Worse, with only four chances to earn the votes of your peers before a free-for-all finale, you’ll spend almost as much time queuing up and loading the game as you will actually playing it.
And then there’s Bomb Corp., a cooperative logic-based puzzler that seems entirely at odds with the fast-paced, frat-party mentality of the other games. Each player gets information on their phone, and must intelligibly share it before the various objects (not just bombs, but also filing cabinets and coffee) detonate. The complexity and difficulty amps up quickly, with some rules overriding or correcting typos in earlier rules, or specifying that a certain player must handle the defusing. It’s not a bad game, but the very fact that it has a lengthy “Story Mode” filled with recurring jokes indicates that it’s at the wrong party. (It’s also far inferior to the free mobile game Spaceteam.)
Most damning, however, is the fact that Jackbox Party Pack 2 doesn’t include some version of Jackbox Games’s signature title: You Don’t Know Jack. It’s a much-missing jolt of enthusiasm that makes the in-game hosts seem subdued, with a lackadaisical Schmitty presumably sitting in for Cookie on Quiplash and a synthetic voice providing services for Earwax. Everything else, especially the non-stop non sequiturs in Bomb Corp., comes across as the efforts of a studio that’s simply trying too hard. Comedy is best when it’s not played so overtly for laughs.
Jackbox Games’s Jackbox Party Pack 2 is available now for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, and more.