You Don’t Know Jack – Review

You Don't Know Jack returns to consoles after a long absence.

For a series that was at one point as prominent as You Don’t Know Jack was, I’ve had little experience with it. The series debuted in 1995 and there have been many releases since then. Of the games released, I’ve only played the PlayStation version of the first game. I bought the PlayStation version a couple years back and a friend and I play it every now and then. It’s a great game to turn to when we’re in the mood for some trivia, or just something to laugh at. The newly released You Don’t Know Jack, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii and DS, and of course the PC, has brought  the experience back to consoles, and it’s a welcome return, although not much has changed.

You Don’t Know Jack is broken down into episodes, with each episode containing ten questions. The questions are often humorously written while maintaining a clear enough tone to know what’s being asked, mostly. Occasionally, it’s confusing to figure out what the question is asking for, as if the writer got too caught up in attempting to make a joke, instead of maintaining a balance between humor and understandability. The topics vary greatly, from scientific lingo to questions about recent pop culture; throughout our play session my friend and I were equally knowledgeable and lucky in our answers and saw a wide variety of topics.

The episodes contain ten questions along with a minigame or two and each episode ends with a Jack Attack. Episodes are not randomly put together so once an episode is completed, there isn’t much point in returning to it. Each episode begins with the host mentioning the sponsored wrong answer; as the episode proceeds, if you find an answer that relates to the sponsor somehow, pick it, you’ll get the question wrong, but for finding the sponsored wrong answer, you’ll receive a prize and some bonus cash. Before playing each person must create a profile, each person’s profile shows their stats and the prizes they’ve found, the prizes are something to replay older episodes for, but collecting them seems like pretty minor bragging rights.

Besides the sponsored wrong answer, there are a few other unique aspects to the game flow. At some point, the person with the lowest score will get to attempt a Dis or Dat. In Dis or Dat, the player with lowest score is given keywords and picks whether that keyword falls into one of the two categories, or occasionally both. The Dis or Dat that sticks out in my mind was the first one my friend and I got. We had to pick whether the words given were the names of Popes, or the names of Britney Spears songs, this example shows what the developers mean when they call You Don’t Know Jack a blend of high culture and pop culture.

The Jack Attacks play out similarly. The host gives a clue as to what the players are looking for, and they must match the two words that fit the best. In the center of the screen is one large keyword that is coming towards the players. While it’s onscreen, smaller keywords are flashing around, and if the connection between these two keywords is what was asked for, the players buzz in. The person who gets it the fastest gets four thousand dollars, but, if you buzz in on the wrong answer, you lose four thousand dollars. The Jack Attacks gave a chance for those who didn’t do well throughout the course of the game to have a final chance, but in my experience with the game so far, if you did well throughout the game, you’d likely do well during the Jack Attack.

You Don’t Know Jack is a blast, especially for thirty dollars. I haven’t tried the online, and the single player is a quick way to experience the game’s humor but for me, local multiplayer is the only way to play You Don’t Know Jack. With seventy-three episodes, it’ll be a while before I’ve experienced everything You Don’t Know Jack has to offer, and if I’m still left wanting more at that point, I’ll pick up one of the downloadable content packs, not that that’ll happen anytime soon.

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Guitar Hero Retrospective

 

Guitar Hero, the game that essentially revitalized the rhythm genre, started a massive video game franchise, and became a part of our culture, is now finished.

So the other day Activision Blizzard released their financial results for 2010 and while there were many interesting tidbits of information within, of interest to me is the news regarding the Guitar Hero franchise. Detailed within is the news that Activision is going to disband its Guitar Hero business unit, and stop production on this year’s Guitar Hero game, which makes me believe they’re done with Guitar Hero for a while, possibly until new video game systems are released. Hearing this news was shocking, more so to hear it on National Public Radio and not just the traditional video game websites. It was foreseeable news however, the market did become heavily saturated with rhythm games, and similarly, MTV Games recently sold off Harmonix, the developers behind Rock Band and Dance Central, but Activision seemed to have gotten while the getting was good and released, in most people’s opinions, too many Hero branded games. All that said, I’ve had a lot of positive memories with Guitar Hero and this news is a good opportunity to look back on them.

My first Guitar Hero was Guitar Hero II on the Xbox 360. I remember reading about it in the Official Xbox Magazine and decided to preorder it from Best Buy. After laying the deposit down, I waited. When the release date finally rolled around, my sister and I went straight to the Best Buy after school and picked it up. I remember us talking about someone driving on the highway, jokingly saying they were getting it as well, and that we had better beat them in case they bought the last copy. Ironically enough, they were in fact picking it up too. From then on I played hours of the game, eventually becoming competent enough to complete the hard difficulty, but never progressing much on expert. I enjoyed competing with friends, trying to outdo their high scores, and eventually spending a lot of time on ScoreHero.

I remember getting Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock as well. One day after college, I decided that was the day I’d get it, and my friend and I played through the entire game in one sitting. It was a blast, except for the fact that the second player doesn’t receive achievements. As with Guitar Hero II, Guitar Hero III took up a bunch of my time, and my skills continued to improve. Guitar Hero: Aerosmith was my next game. It was much easier compared to its predecessors, but it also had a different set up, playing predominately Aerosmith songs. It was a quick game to beat, and not that hard to obtain most of the achievements, it would be my last Guitar Hero game. At this point I had converted to Rock Band and its multi-instrument setup.

I enjoyed my time with the Guitar Hero games I’ve played and I look forward to picking up some of the titles I’ve missed. This was easy to see coming but it’s still sort of shocking, to realize that it’s already here, the discontinuation of Guitar Hero.

Sources:

Activision Blizzard Calender Year 2010 Financial Results

Guitar Hero Official Site

Score Hero

Mass Effect: Pinnacle Station – Review

In Pinnacle Station, Commander Shepard competes for the best scores in a training simulator.

Pinnacle Station was the second and last piece of downloadable content released for Mass Effect. The other piece of DLC, Bring Down the Sky, plays out like any other mission that Shepard gets. What I mean is that you travel to a location, figure out what’s really going on and decide how to handle the situation. Pinnacle Station on the other hand has no decisions to be made and is primarily action for the entire mission.

Pinnacle Station itself is a spacecraft that houses a robust training simulator. In it, you play through twelve scenarios, divvied up between four types: timed, where you kill every enemy as quickly possible, hunt, where every kill adds time to the clock, capture, where you capture points on a map as quickly as possible, and survival, where you must survive as long as possible. Each scenario has a leaderboard and you need to place first on each. I played through them all about the same; I ran as much as I could and never stopped using the assault rifle, and only one scenario gave me problems playing this way.

Completing everything associated with Pinnacle Station took me a little under two hours. While Pinnacle Station took me longer to complete than Bring Down the Sky, its focus was more narrow, and grew tiring. I think including your friend’s scores to the leaderboards would’ve added something of value to the package, unlike the in-game rewards you receive. There are three achievements totaling 150 Gamerscore so that’s nice, but if you don’t care about achievements and are more interested in the conversation and storytelling aspect of Mass Effect, save yourself five dollars and skip Pinnacle Station.

Bulletstorm – Demo Impressions

Racking up the points by toasting an enemy.

Bulletstorm is the next game from Epic Games, the studio behind Unreal and Gears of War among others. It’s being co-developed by a subsidiary of Epic Games, People Can Fly, themselves known for the PC first-person shooter, Painkiller.. As the demo starts Grayson Hunt, the main character, introduces himself and a little about the game, all the while harassing the player; from the get go, Bulletstorm looks to be a dumb, offensive, madcap, and ultimately, fun game.

The demo consists of one level, and as Grayson Hunt and crew make it to the end they have to kill with skill. Instead of playing out like a standard FPS where you’re solely focused on getting from A to B, Bulletstorm is more interested in you killing enemies in creative ways and giving you more points for doing so; it’s more about getting a high score, then reaching the end of a level. I can tell that the leaderboards will be one of the more interesting aspects to Bulletstorm and will keep players coming back. There will be a story mode, and while I assume from the demo that the story will be over-the-top zany and provide an entertaining experience, what draws me towards Bulletstorm is the potential competition between friends, and if there were to be a challenge room type mode where you play individual levels, attempting only to best your friends’ scores, that would be very appealing.

There are only three side arms in the demo, but they are all extremely deadly, and that’s before taking advantage of their alternate fires, producing even more gruesome results. Besides the standard weapons, Grayson Hunt also has a whip-like item that grabs enemies and jolts them towards you, with time slowing down when they’re right in front of you. It’s very easy to utilize and I used it as a beginner to combos. Afterwards, I’d kick the enemy away and unload on them, headshots on their flailing bodies, ripping their bodies apart with explosives, or by just shooting them into some dastardly part of the environment.

Grayson Hunt with the leash in action, yanking an enemy towards him.

The demo took place in a destroyed city full of rubble and debris, which leads me to believe Bulletstorm will take place in war-torn environments. The environment in the demo was quite drab, but the game as a whole looks to be brighter than the Gears of Wars games, a complaint of mine towards them. Bulletstorm will be a very vulgar game, the violence is ridiculous, and the profanity is profound, with the demo combining profanities for interesting results, for example, at the end of the demo Grayson Hunt called me dick-tits and suggested that the game wasn’t going to pre-order itself; yet it’s easy to not take offense at the game’s vulgarity, Bulletstorm is crude, but the tone of everything is humorous and cheeky.

I’d stayed in the dark about Bulletstorm up until now; it didn’t interest me at first glance but after playing the demo I can see that Bulletstorm is a quality game with a unique combination of gameplay mechanics that provide for an enjoyable time. The story looks to be a dumb, over-the-top, fun time, and I’m sure the multiplayer will be seriously good, but the real draw for me will be the competition between friends on the leaderboards.