It ain't no Trivial Pursuit, baby.
To be perfectly blunt, I’m absolutely amazed that another You Don’t Know Jack!
game has been released. There were a million-billion (read: roughly 10) versions of it back about a decade ago, and it encompassed some of my favorite memories of family gatherings past. It burst onto the PC gaming scene back in 1995 as an “off-beat” trivia alternative to games like Jeopardy!, and aside from their mandatory exclamation points, they have little in common with one another. Still, with no new "full" retail edition since 2003's Volume 6
, it's a welcome treat to have my Jack back.
So what’s it like then? YDKJ is a batch of the most twisted trivia you can find. All of them are logical word problems, but they’re completely unlike anything you might find on a standardized test... sometimes they’re based on math, sometimes it’s about progression, but it’s always written around something interesting and topical. I may not be much on math tests, but when I’m asked to multiply the Brady kids with the Partridge Family kids, I can do some equations (the answer is 30, by the way... six Bradys times five Partridge kids). And that’s the whole point of this game: topical humor
. TV show references, people in the news, recent events - they all find a way of getting in there. And everything is on the table; from the Jersey Shore to old vampire movies to political scandals, the writers really promote the idea that "nothing is sacred".
There are 73 rounds to play, each with ten unique questions and a Jack Attack (a quick-draw final round), so you can actually play this game 73 times without having to play the same questions twice. And that's just the initial batch; with the downloadable content, over 1,000 questions are shoved in there for maximum "what they hell does THAT mean" (and in the best way possible). There are a few different special questions - the classic Dis-Or-Dat question makes an appearance in every game as expected - but since there typically have been so many "throw it in and see what works" questions in the past, I was hoping for more than the typical multiple-choice fare. I understand typing on a console isn't really an option, but where's the Jack BINGO? Where's the Roadkill round? Can't a brother find a 3Way question? And each episode having only ten questions and a Jack Attack for each episode feels too short… why not bring back the option of a longer game?
I have to admit I don’t personally enjoy scary games, but the Jack Attack has always been one of the most terrifying things I’ve experienced in gaming. It’s not traditionally scary, but the presentation of every JA delivered by the YDKJ team gives me goosebumps to this day. It might be odd to ask someone to imagine “how scary a round of trivia can get”, but with answers shooting into the screen and various voices screaming at you when you're wrong, it can get nerve-wracking. This one is right up there with the best, and completely bucks the “darkness is frightening” tactic that previous games used before.
But the real beauty of this is playing with friends, and that's a big plus in this edition: true online play. Four players can play on one console or online, which is a beautiful, beautiful thing. This is very much geared for an at-home-smack-talk experience, though, especially with the greatest way to lay into your friends: the ability to Screw. Simply buzz in when you're sure your buddy doesn't know the answer
, and force them to answer it. If they're wrong, you get the cash… AND you can still answer! But if they're right, they get the money and you find yourself on the losing end, being brought down that same amount.
It's a great party game, even though as a veteran of it I don't like how the scoring system has been changed yet again to allow everybody to make money on every question. In previous versions, only one player at a time can ring in and answer correctly, but here everybody answers in secret and has a chance at grabbing cash. Maybe it's to make it more "family friendly" which just tells me Jack is calming in his old age, wants to cater to a more diverse audience. I suppose it isn't a bad thing, but it takes the old cutthroat challenge out of it, and that disappoints me. It used to be about getting in first and gaining bragging rights… now it gives off the mentality that everybody can get a trophy for a game well done.
Having played so many earlier versions, I can't say this is my favorite, but it is nice to overall see Jack return to form. The questions are as bizarre as ever, and it reminds me of the good ol' days of trying to wrap my head around questions that all make some sort of twisted sense. This isn't trivia for everyone, but there's definitely something here for the little immature kid in all of us.