The late, great Don Martin of Mad Magazine fame remains best known for his inventive use of onomatopoeia. In Don Martin’s world, muddy boots go ga-shpluct, leaky faucets sound out glit glort bleeble durp, and a brick to the head goes fwak or, if you’re less lucky, pwang.
Longtime Mad readers will likely be better prepared for brand-new party game (and viral TikTok sensation) That Sound Game, which combines Charades with a certain Mad sensibility for some very silly shenanigans. While I’m not convinced it can take the place of party stalwarts like Charades, Pictionary, or, god help us, Cards Against Humanity, it’s decent enough for some short-term warmup before the main event of your games night.
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You may have already seen That Sound Game in action this year. Depending on where your TikTok algorithm lies (or if you even have TikTok, boomer), you may have caught some clips of folks making fools of themselves splorting and whooshing and otherwise trying to communicate through sound effects. The fact that That Sound Game has proven popular on TikTok, a platform of fifteen-second video bites, speaks volumes about this game: fun in the short-term, but not something you’d necessarily want to get stuck with for hours on end.
So how does it work? Very simply, is how.
As in Charades, players split into two teams. Drawing from a box of clue cards, players take turns acting out, in sound and movement, various words and phrases – “pinball machine”, “helicopter” – trying to get their team to guess as many as possible before a timer runs out. Points are tallied based on the number of clues guessed each round, plus their complexity, with more difficult clues worth more points. Strictly speaking, you’re supposed to keep your hands behind your back, but we found that to be a needless hindrance.
On that note: That Sound Game is a party game which just begs for house rules. That rule about not using your hands, for example: while we understand its purpose – without it, the game basically becomes Charades with noise – it mostly just serves to frustrate players, especially kids. Similarly, the complicated set of “Lifelines” – cards which allow you to steal an opponent’s turn, or which give you temporary permission to use your hands – can either be ignored or house ruled as permanent features of the game. Frankly, for a game that’s supposed to be about making people laugh at your poor imitation of a banjo, there’s an awful lot of stuff to remember.
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When That Sound Game works, it works fairly well. It is funny seeing a friend or sibling doing their worst Michael “Police Academy” Winslow impression, and the variety of clue cards – from the seemingly obvious (“cow bell”) to the bizarre (“boomerang”) – invite creative performance. It’s also easy enough to skip past the tougher clues and draw new cards, though the boldest/most shameless among you will certainly want to give it the old college try.
That Sound Game also encourages you to structure the competition any way you please: do you play until a certain point threshold is reached? Do you tally up points after a set amount of time? Do you not score points at all, and simply play for laughs? (Or, as I like to call it, the Telestrations rule.)
Speaking of Telestrations: as in that game, That Sound Game comes with an optional “adult-oriented” expansion pack. As in that game, it’s totally unnecessary and, frankly, represents the worst kind of bottom-of-the-barrel humour. Part of the fun of That Sound Game is how embarrassing the game can make you sound with even the most banal/”PG” clues. Layering in outright offensive or vulgar clues is just lazy. (Those who’ve played Telestrations After Dark can probably imagine the kind of humour the expansion is going for.)
As for the core game: look, That Sound Game is not going to be for everybody. If your skin crawls at the thought of acting out “pinball machine” in front of your dad, it’s probably not for you. But if you consider That Sound Game‘s slogan – “the noisy game for weird people” – an invitation, it’s worth checking out. Play it for fifteen, twenty minutes before a round of Codenames or Catan, and maybe shuffle in some of your own handwritten clues, Charades style, to see how much you can embarrass your sister-in-law.
Visit the official website for That Sound Game here.