Party games are all the rage right now. They’re the new black, they’re the bees knees (and no, I don’t believe that bees actually have knees) and they are, in fact, the s**t. People can’t get enough of them, be it Cards Against Humanity or… Eh, who am I kidding, they all want to be Cards Against Humanity. Cyanide & Happiness, one of the wittier webcomics that you’ve seen on Facebook, has decided to get in on the action with their own party game, Joking Hazard. So, is it cyanide and happiness or asbestos and depression?
So, first off: This is a divisive week. It’s uncomfortable and scary to talk about, and I’m here to talk about games, not the looming threat of what is going to happen this week. So, if you’re wondering why this review is strangely apolitical considering how things are right now: It’s for my health. Cool? Cool.
Starting as a comic in 2004, Cyanide & Happiness (or Cyanide and Happiness, really, pick your poison) was created by Kris Wilson, Rob DenBleyker, Matt Melvin, and Dave McElfatrick. The daily strip has been running since 2005 and has become memetic with its darkly comedic, cynical, and occasionally surreal comics. Back in 2015, before everything was terrible forever, they threw their hats into the increasingly crowded adult party game market with a wildly successful Kickstarter. Now in 2017, the year after 2016 decided that everything is terrible forever, their game has joined Exploding Kittens on the shelves at Target and now on my (well, really, my roommates) game shelf.
Presentation wise, the game takes cues from the minimalist approach of Funemployed or, once again, Cards Against Humanity. It comes in a pretty unremarkable white box, featuring the default characters of Cyanide & Happiness, which I’ll referring to as Blue Guy and Green Guy. I’m sure someone will feel the need to inform me of the illustrious canon of this series, but let’s save that for later. Green Guy seems to be yelling and Blue Guy seems to be doing finger guns, and for some reason it’s kind of amusing. Inside you get a metric butt-ton of cards (please don’t Google butt-ton you will not be happy with your choices) and the rules page, featuring a one of the more meme-worthy faces.
Much like the comic it’s based on – and the randomizer that I didn’t just waste several hours on no shut up you don’t know me – everything about the presentation is simple and to the point: The instructions are only one page and can be understood in under two minutes, the art is simple and amusing (though far from lazy – and yes, there is a difference) and the designers clearly took teaching the drunk among us a new game into consideration.
The game is a bit of a twist from the usual “please the king” sort of games – namely the fact that this game seems to possess some creativity to it, which I’m always happy to see. Whoever is “king” takes a card from the deck in the center, and then plays a card from his hand, creating a set-up for a three comic joke. The other players attempt to complete the joke in the funniest way, and hopefully score a point. It’s simple, it’s funny, and unlike Cards Against Humanity there’s a nice visual element here.
While undoubtedly simple, the game has a level of charm and depth that doesn’t appear in other party games, like Cards Against Humanity or Exploding Kittens. A good sense of humor is actually required in this game; You can’t just make a dead baby joke and call it a win. While Cards Against Humanity features a really simple “here’s the joke, give me a punchline” approach (that they, admittedly, get some amazing mileage out of) this game does require a certain level of wit to make the last joke land. Second, the art is simple but it’s not dull or lifeless or uninspired – They’re reminiscent of some of the best “bored in class” doodles from your youth, if that makes any sense. Though, admittedly, some are just morbid, but that’s probably the point.
Joking Hazard is a fun, creative, and delightful entry into the crowded world of party games, but hopefully with its delightful energy and sometimes strange visuals, it’ll stand out among the crowd. And even if it doesn’t, I get to reply to every event in my life with this card and that’s a win.