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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