When I was just nine years old, in 1995, You Don’t Know Jack was released on PCs everywhere, and took the quiz genre by storm. Never before had a game truly attempted to present itself as a controversial game show, where you could actually learn something to boot. While it was definitely not for kids (one sequence, called “three way” involved answering questions in rapid succession, with correct answers cueing a female orgasm sound effect), I couldn’t pry myself away from the game: the host “Cookie Masterson” was just too hilarious for his own good.
After a string of semi-successful sequels, and even a short lived TV Gameshow starring Paul Reubens, the series kind of just disappeared into obscurity, only to be resurrected in 2011 for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii, and DS. Does it retain the same magic, over a decade later?
While the new version isn’t as controversial per se, you’ll find a lot of questions dealing with subject matter such as “Tiger Wood’s Wood”, and just about any present day celebrity, franchise, or controversy out there. While it bills itself as a pop-culture trivia game, the amount of true pop culture questions are about half of the game’s offering. In fact, most of the questions have pop-culture wound in them to make a regular ol’ question seem more exciting.
For example, “Whack a Mole” helps make the question “what is a Mole (the unit of scientific measurement)” a bit more interesting. However, you’ll still get some questions like “what was the name of The Incredible Hulk’s alter ego?” So while fact junkies will no doubt benefit from a lot of high thought questions, anyone can feasibly play and have fun, provided you don’t hate trivia in general.
In addition to your standard question and answer routine, there are also multiple “themed” questions, such as oddball dream sequences that you have to decipher (that usually involve a movie plot), and “whose trash is this?” While nearly all of the themes are really fresh, fun, and exciting, there is one that’s painfully unfunny. “Who’s the Dummy” pits players against, well, a ventriloquist dummy that can’t pronounce the letters P, B, and M: your job is to decipher what he is saying, and answer correctly. The questions in this activity are always fairly easy, and aren’t worth the trouble of listening to Cookie’s irritating attempt to act like a dummy.
Also, each episode is brought to you by a fictitious sponsor, such as “What-A-Prick Cactus Company”. Every episode, you have a chance to get the “wrong answer of the game” award by incorrectly guessing something that has to do with the sponsor: so for example, a syringe is pointy, so that might fulfill the requirement. While it is a unique selling point, some competitive fact junkies might be pretty pissed off that the fact that you can earn a huge amount of cash (usually 2-3 questions worth) just by answering a question incorrectly, so not everyone will enjoy it for sure.
Since every episode is set in order, gone are the days where the game pools from a randomly generated series of questions in the game’s database. The downside to ditching the randomized question pool mechanic from the original series is immediately apparent. Once you’re done with all 73 episodes, that’s it. However, since the questions aren’t randomly drawn from a giant database, each episode feels encapsulated, and like a completely fresh experience.
Once you’re done with everything, you can buy some episode packs via DLC (tentatively priced at $5/400 MSP per pack). Normally the day one DLC model would grate on me, but since the launch price of You Don’t Know Jack is a mere $30, it’s not a big deal. Alternatively, you could always hunt for the wrong answer of the game in each episode, but the prospect of answering questions you already know isn’t that enticing.
If you play the multiplayer component, you can “screw” your opponent (prepare for a barrage of innuendo when you do it!), and force them to answer a question in five seconds. If they get it right, you get counter-screwed and lose some cash. You can only do it once per game, but in a group of friends you know pretty well, it’s a really fun social mechanic that’ll have you hooting and hollering about what you thought you friends did or didn’t know: and that’s what the game is really about.
Multiplayer can be played online (with it’s own set of achievements and ranking system) or on a couch with up to three other players. While online games can be fun, I highly recommend couch play, as nothing beats yelling at your friends!
Overall, You Don’t Know Jack still somehow manages to make fans of the original feel right at home, while ushering in a new era of quiz junkies. It’s a shame there isn’t a randomly generated option, but in such a competitive market, I can see why they elected to go the DLC route. If you’re sitting bored in your dorm room with three other friends, or you just want to test your knowledge of irrelevant and relevant trivia, I’d suggest picking up You Don’t Know Jack.
The menus look a bit stale at times, but overall, You Don't Know Jack oozes with charm at every corner.
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You Don't Know Jack is extremely simple to play, and easy to pick up, but the simplicity and lack of mini-games may turn off some. Support for Big Button Scene It controllers is a pretty big plus for those who own them.
Cookie is back and better than ever (he sounds exactly the same!), and the sound effects and voicework perfectly match the game's light tone.
There are a ton of questions on the disc, with DLC packs already rolling out. Additionally, with four player local play and online matchmaking, at a $30 base price, you can't really go wrong. However, it doesn't have the same "randomized" feel as the first games.
This reinvention of You Don't Know Jack is one of the best the series has had to offer, given all of the new features for this current generation.