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Review – You Don’t Know Jack

 

Publisher: THQ
Developer: Jellyvision
Platform(s): Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii, DS, PC
Genre: Trivia
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
ESRB Descriptors: Crude Humor, Drug Reference, Language, Mild Blood, Sexual Themes
Players: 1-4 (local and online)
Official Site: http://www.youdontknowjack.com
Get It Now: Amazon, GameStop

(This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.)

The Scoop: In 1995, Jellyvision unleashed upon the world a trivia game unlike any other:  You Don’t Know Jack, a game in which “high culture and pop culture collided”.  The result was one of the most popular PC trivia games of the middle and late 90’s.  The popularity of the series led to a significant number of new editions of the game, including movie and sports themed variations, a spinoff for teenage trivia buffs, two PlayStation editions and a short-lived ABC game show hosted by Paul Reubens.  This is the first physical release of a You Don’t Know Jack title since 2003’s “The Lost Gold” and the first game in the series to appear in a console since You Don’t Know Jack: Mock 2 was released on the PlayStation in 2000.

The Setup: Quite simply, You Don’t Know Jack is a trivia game in which up to four players compete for virtual cash and prizes.  However, this isn’t your typical trivia game.  Questions are laced with innuendo and pop culture references.  However, you still need some book smarts to help you out and earn some bragging rights amongst your friends (or enemies).  As with any other trivia game, the person with the highest score is the winner.  Well, at least in their minds.

The Good: You Don’t Know Jack is a simple pick-up and play trivia game for up to four players.  This is a first in the series as all of the other games only supported up to three players at once.  You can either use regular Xbox 360 controllers or you can use the Big Button controllers (which were packaged in with Scene It!) to play the game.

Each episode consists of three rounds.  The first two rounds consist of five questions each.  In normal questions, the question will appear with four possible answers.  Each player has 20 seconds to lock in an answer.  Each player has his or her own clock, which determines how much money a player wins or loses per question.  For each hundredth of a second that ticks off the clock, you lose a dollar.  Therefore, each question starts at a value of $2,000 with the dollar values being doubled in the second round of the game.  The quicker you answer, the higher the value of the question will be.

Even more fun comes with screwing your opponents.  Erm.  Well, not in a literal sense.  But by “screwing” your opponents, you force them to answer any multiple-choice question with only a five second window to lock in an answer.  If they get it wrong, you steal some cash from them and have the opportunity to win some extra dough by answering the question.  You just have to screw at the right time.

I’ll let you formulate your own jokes for that last sentence.

There are also special questions that appear during the course of a game.  The DisOrDat question will appear in every episode of the game.  These out-of-seven questions will have you trying to figure out seven items and in which group (or groups in some instances) these items fall in.  For example, for one DisOrDat I had to figure out seven Twitter Tweets and if they belonged to either the Dalai Lama or Taylor Swift.  DisOrDats this time around can be played multiplayer.  In offline DisOrDats, players will be able to steal a DisOrDat from the main player if the question if they’re fast enough and the main player guesses incorrectly.  Online DisOrDats are played simultaneously, with the results of each player scored independently.

Other question variations in You Don’t Know Jack include deciphering host Cookie Masterson’s dreams, which sound very similar to certain movies.  There’s also Cookie’s terrible ventriloquist act, which you have to translate and answer a question to.  There’s also some trash digging, correct order questions and even some questions that come from Cookie’s obsession with fortune cookies.  I can honestly say that there isn’t a question type in the first two rounds that I dread playing.  It’s honest to goodness fun to play a game without hoping something you don’t like happens in an episode.

The final round of the game is called the “Jack Attack”.  The round begins with a subject being revealed to the contestants.  A topic then appears at the center of the screen, to which you have to match it up with one of the flying answers that appears on the screen that matches the subject revealed at the start of the round.  Players earn $4,000 for each right answer and lose the same amount for guessing incorrectly.  The player with the most cash after the final round is the winner,

Making its debut to the series is something called the “Wrong Answer of the Game.”  Each episode has a sponsor for this wrong answer that corresponds to an incorrect answer sometime during the game.  Pick that wrong answer and you win a prize and earn some cash.  That’s right, you’re being rewarded for being wrong.  It seems simple, but you have to keep the sponsor in mind and look for an answer that relates to it.  In a game where you’re mainly rewarded for being right, you sometimes overlook trying to find the specific wrong answer until someone actually gets it.  Then it’s a “Ohhh!  I didn’t even think of that!” when it happens.  It’s a funny and neat little twist that can sometimes help that last place player earn some cash.

There are 73 episodes that are included with the game.  Each of these episodes takes between 10 and 15 minutes to play through.  So, at the very least, you’ve got about 12 hours of gameplay here.  Considering the $30 asking price, that’s a complete steal.  There’s also already one downloadable pack available on the Marketplace for $5 that contains 10 more episodes and there are already two more DLC packs in the hopper.  You’re really getting a lot of bang for your buck here.

I bet I know your first question:  “How long until you repeat episodes?”  Well, here’s the great thing about You Don’t Know Jack:  It keeps track of what episodes you’ve played whether it’s been in a local game or an online game.  All of the episodes that you’ve played are marked with a check mark next to them.  The episode selection is randomized, but you can manually select what episode you’d like to play, too.  Great work by Jellyvision to implement something that a lot of trivia games don’t even bother doing.

The online experience is pretty good, too.  You have a choice of either hosting or joining a player match or creating a private session to play with a couple of your online buddies.  On some occasions some games took just a little bit to get started, but it never hampered the main game in any way.  I’m not particularly sure what happens if a player drops out of a game, though.

Graphically, there’s really not a whole lot to write about.  You have animations before each question and generic fonts and the such during your games.  Then again, if you’re at all familiar with any of the previous games in the series, then you know that all that’s really necessary is the best part of the You Don’t Know Jack experience:  the sound.

Cookie Masterson returns to host this version of the game, and his one-liners and delivery are absolutely terrific.  While most of his compliments and explanations are usually dripping with sarcasm, it’s what makes the game.  If your friends aren’t going to bust your chops during the game, be sure that Cookie will.

It’s not just Cookie that makes the complete auditory experience.  You’ve got sound effects, fake commercials, the game staff making comments and announcements over the intercom that you actually will want to listen to before and after each game that you play.  Most of them are absolutely hilarious to hear and you’ll want to have your pals listen to them when they come over to play, too.

The Bad: Of course, with any trivia game with pop culture references, there’s only a certain period of time for some of these questions to make sense and seem relevant.  It’s a minor nitpick, but I’m sure in fifteen years we’ll have forgotten who Lady Gaga was.

If you’re looking to play this game as a single-player endeavor, I would highly suggest you don’t.  Don’t take this as a criticism, though.  This is just a recommendation that a lot of people I’ve played the game with have agreed with me on:  This game is meant to be played with friends.  Not only is there offline play, there’s a very good online experience to be had.  There’s no excuse to not play this with others.    Again, this is just a recommendation.

The final round of the game, the Jack Attack, seems to be a little on the unfair side to the dominant player of the game.  If you’re the player who has dominated the first two rounds of the game, anyone has the opportunity to come in and have a good final round to win the game.  It makes the first two rounds of the game feel a little meaningless if you’re in that kind of situation.  It isn’t a game breaker by any stretch of the imagination, but I can see how it could be a little frustrating.

Final Verdict: It has been quite a while since a full retail Jack hit the marketplace, but it has certainly been worth the wait.  You Don’t Know Jack is a trivia game that I would highly recommend to anyone looking to have a fun time with pals.  The content that you get for the $30 asking price is a bargain.  I very rarely have been this pleased and entertained with a trivia game, including any of the previous entries in the Jack series, too.  If you dismiss this as just another cheap trivia game, well then…

YOU DON’T KNOW JACK!

Review - You Don't Know Jack, 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating
 

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