Why You’re a Fool to Pass Up You Don’t Know Jack: A Review

You may have heard, over the past week or so, about a new version of You Don’t Know Jack hitting all the major systems. I’m here to tell you that that news is accurate. After a little over a 7 year gap between retail releases, Jellyvision is back with all new convoluted questions and hilarious answers. Hit the jump to see why this budget-priced trivia gem is worth your money. For those who don’t know, You Don’t Know Jack was a series of trivia games, most of which came out on PC. I have fond memories of being gathered around a monitor playing the You Don’t Know Jack games with my dad and my friends, even if I didn’t get half of the innuendos going on at the time. Now it’s 2011, and trivia games seem to have been fazed out of gaming culture, but YDKJ is back, and I’d say that it’s better than ever.

The game takes after the previous titles in the franchise, setting the rounds up like a game show, going so far as to call each set of questions an “episode”, and give the episode a sponsor. Each episode consists of 10 questions and a final lightning round (more on that later), so with 73 episodes out of the box, that’s a damn lot of trivia. Each episode tends to take somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 minutes, so it’s not like you’re being shortchanged on gameplay here.

The games themselves work mostly as a trivia game would be expected to. A question is presented, and a timer appears. The faster you answer, the more points you get if you right. Conversely, if you’re unsure of an answer, it’s often wise to wait, so you don’t lose as many points if you’re wrong. There are no lifelines of any sort in single player, but if you’re playing multiplayer, you are given one screw to use in the ten questions. This gives one player 5 seconds to answer. If he’s wrong, not only does he lose money, but you get a nice cash bonus, and the opportunity to answer the question correctly. Of course, if the player getting screwed answers correctly, you’ll be the one losing cash. It’s a nice little addition that rewards players for knowing what subjects their opponents are weak in. There’s also one question per episode designated as a “Dis or Dat”, where players have 30 seconds to identify seven words or phrases as belonging to one of two categories. These are often some of the most hilarious parts of the game, providing such phenomenal juxtaposition as “Newspaper or Sex Act” and “Surgeon General or Dr. Pepper Knockoff”. Players are rewarded for choosing correctly, as well as for finishing quickly.

The rest of the questions are fairly straightforward trivia questions, You Don’t Know Jack-style, meaning that there’s a lot of humor in the questions. While many of the questions are fairly academic, many of them start off with pop culture references of all sorts. While this immediately dates the game, a lot of the references are pretty funny. Even if a couple of the jokes don’t hit, there’s so many that it really doesn’t matter. A lot of this is helped by the host of the game, Cookie Masterson. Although the franchise has had many hosts over the years, Cookie (voiced expertly by Tom Gottlieb) was always my favorite, and that hasn’t changed after my experience here. Occasionally there are certain questions that fall into a couple of categories, including a category where Cookie describes his dreams, or roots through a celebrity’s trash. While it’s normally the best idea to choose your best guess as quickly as possible, there’s a bit of strategy here that you wouldn’t expect. Each episode has a sponsored Wrong Answer of the Game, where players are rewarded for choosing a wrong answer that has something to do with the sponsor (example: Burn Notice for the Baby Tanning Beds sponsor). The money you get for choosing this appropriate wrong answer far outnumbers the money you’d get for answering correctly, and it can be a lot of fun searching the answers for this one specific incorrect response. You also receive an item from the sponsor for getting this answer. At the end of every episode is the Jack Attack, a reflex-based lightning round where players buzz in to match words related to each other by a clue given at the start of the Attack. For example, if the clue is “The Hair Up There”, then Medusa would correspond to Snakes. If I have one complaint, it’s that the Jack Attack can completely turn a match around. With $4000 for every right answer, matches often come down to a reflex race, since most people will know most of the answers, although there are some exceptions (matching celebrity siblings requires a bit more knowledge than most other clues). So, many times the player with the best reflexes can end up winning, even if he did poorly during the 10 trivia questions.

The game’s a ton of fun, but it’s best when you have friends to share it with. There’s still fun to be had on your own, but the game shines when you’re competing and laughing at the games together. This is the point that I’ll mention that the PC version only has local multiplayer, and even then only 2 players can compete. With that in mind, I’d recommend picking up the PS3 or 360 version so you have the option to take your trivia prowess online. Unfortunately, the Jack Attack is so timing-based that even an ounce of lag can wreak havoc during that portion.

With 73 episodes and DLC already releasing (10 episodes for $5, which is a pretty good deal in my opinion), you don’t really have to worry about running out of questions as long as you pace yourself. Perhaps the best part of this package is that it’s only $30, which seems outrageous to me. Anyone passing this by is either a fool or hates fun. So grab some friends, sit down, and get ready to find out that…