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You Don’t Know Jack (2011) Review
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by Rob Williams on February 25, 2011 in Gaming

Good trivia videogames don’t come around often enough, but if there’s one series that has the potential to deliver, it’s You Don’t Know Jack. The series was popular in the 90s, and for good reason. It was smart and hilarious at the same time. Fortunately, the latest release sticks true to the original, and the best part? It costs $20!

During the mid-to-late 90s, PC gaming was hit with a barrage of fun trivia games called You Don’t Know Jack, and over the course of five or six years, there were at least ten different versions to peruse. What made YDKJ special is that it wasn’t a typical trivia game and could prove fun for people of all ages.

The biggest reason for this is that the game employs an excited, often-hilarious host to deliver the questions. There’s no simple “answer the question on the screen” here, but rather, the host does well to involve its participants, and sometimes manages to insult them, too.

At around the turn of the century, YDKJ releases dwindled to the point of non-existence, although some variant of the game became available as an online-only offering a couple of years ago. So, after about 10 years of the game not having been released as a full software product, the folks at Jellyvision decided to give the series a reboot to see how it’d be received, and the result is… “You Don’t Know Jack“. Original, huh?

The game at this point has been out for a couple of weeks, and so far, it seems to have been well-received. Jellyvision did an outstanding job at making the older YDKJ games fun, and after playing through 10 or so chapters of the latest offering, I can honestly say this one stays true to the original. My younger brother, who was too young to enjoy the originals at the time of their release even loves it… and he tends to be the fussiest gamer out there.

Thus is the reason YDKJ is such a successful and fun game… it brings families together and creates a ton of laughter. It’s not a game that’s meant to be played solo, although it can be. Like most games out there designed to bring families and friends together, YDKJ will do well to get people up and shouting at the TV for the right answer – and some will be ridiculed by the host for being wrong.

The latest iteration of YDKJ doesn’t throw random questions at you out of a large collection, but rather splits things up into chapters, where all of the questions and themes are fixed. That means, that if you truly wanted, you could replay a chapter in order to master it… but what would be the point?

Each chapter consists of ten main questions, and a couple of bonus features. Prior to entering a chapter, you’re told who the (fake) sponsor is, and what you need to do is find the wrong answer in that chapter that’s related to that sponsor. This is one of the oddest rules for a trivia game, because it quite literally requires you to choose an incorrect answer; it’ll give more points than answering correctly would!

Strewn throughout the game are special features, such as “Who’s the Dummy?”, where the ventriloquist host uses his dummy to ask the questions. But, since the host isn’t too talented in this regard, many letters are not pronounced correctly, so he ends up pronouncing a word like “Dummy” as “Dunny”. It seems foolish, and it is, but it’s hilarious.

The entire chapter is split into two halves, with the second having questions worth twice as many points as the first-half. This is something I’m not crazy about, because you could answer every question wrong in the first half and still come out ahead in the second. It’s just a very strange way to do things.

It’s even more true when the final “bonus” round of sorts is brought into things. Here, a word is placed in the middle of the screen, and other words soar through the air towards you, and once you see a word that has something to do with the word on the screen, you can quickly hit a key. The problem here is, each of the right answers are worth $4,000 each, and generally up until that point you might only have $15,000 total, and that’s good. So if you are playing against another team, the real importance boils down to the entire second-half – especially this bonus round.

Another fun feature is “DisOrDat”, a game that follows a similar premise as the aforementioned one, except here, two words are shown on the screen and then you have to pick whichever one is better related to the word that pops up. As an example, Pope and Britney (Spears) is shown, and some words shown include, “Hilarious”, “Toxic”, “Lonely” and “Innocent”. Each correct answer gives money, and wrong answers take it away.

Despite its minor flaws, I’d heartily recommend this game to anyone who loves a good trivia game, or wants an easy way to get the family together to laugh. The humor is genuinely hilarious, and the questions really get the gears in your head moving. There are a couple of downsides to mention, though.

The PC version of the game for some reason has a couple of limitations. First, there’s no online play, which is quite an obvious downside. Second, it supports only two players, not four. Lastly, while the console versions of the game have been promised DLC question packs, the PC version has not. To that, I ask, “WHY?”. They’re just questions! Given the large fanbase of YDKJ fans on the PC, I hope the developer changes its mind and enables DLC in this version in the future. It doesn’t seem like it’d be difficult, so the omission is quite bizarre.

Aside from that, the game ships with 73 chapters, each of which will take about 20 minutes to clear through, and priced at around $20 for the PC version, you’d be hard pressed to get more value for your gaming dollar than this.

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