Review by striker64

"An excellent game for fans of any genre."

You Don't Know Jack was once a fantastic pop-culture trivia game available for the PC. A few new iterations came about on the PC and later on the original Playstation, but many of the newer titles failed to capture the magic of the original. Does this newest entry live up to expectations?

You Don't Know Jack is, at its heart, a trivia game. Anywhere from one to four players can participate. Begin by choosing an episode, which contains three rounds. Rounds 1 and 2 have five questions each, while Round 3 contains Jack Attack (touched on later). In Rounds 1 and 2, players are given 30 seconds to answer a multiple-choice question (mapped to the circle, square, X, and triangle buttons), with prize money awarded based on how much time is remaining. If you answer correctly with 15.02 seconds left on the clock, you win $1,502. If you answer wrong, you lose that amount of money. In Round 2, all points values are doubled, so you would win/lose $3,004 instead. In all, there are 73 categories, with (at the time of this writing) 2 additional DLC packs available for purchase. Each category takes around 10-15 minutes to complete, so based on that estimate you are looking at 12 to 18 hours to play through just the included categories, which is good for a budget title.

What makes You Don't Know Jack so unique is that its trivia questions are anything but standard. Each question is worded in some unique way, so you not only have to know the trivia the question is asking, but you also have to figure out exactly what the question is asking in the first place. One example of such a question asks if popular online celebrity blogger Perez Hilton were to come out with a candy pez dispenser with a Perez pez head on the top, how many pez would the Perez pez head hold? The question is really asking how many pez a standard pez dispenser holds, which is of course 12. There's also a good bit of irreverent and profane content included for good measure, and the game is forthcoming about this, as the very first question posed in Episode 1 asks “How many Earths can you fit into Uranus?” After answering the question, Cookie (the host) opines that you could probably fit one more Earth than that into Uranus if you really relax. Given this, You Don't Know Jack isn't a game for children by any means. Further, if you cannot appreciate some good irreverence every once in a while, this game is not for you.

Such a title is only as good as its content. From the off-the-wall phrasing of the questions to the constant witty banter of host Cookie Masterson, who will unapologetically berate you for a wrong answer and gladly explain why you should be so dumb as to expect the answer to be anything but the correct one, it is fantastic. You will surely laugh at least a few times during each episode, and the background banter that takes places in the start menu is humorous enough to be worth listening through at least once.

Aside from the “standard” (for You Don't Know Jack) trivia questions, there are a few themed questions thrown in for diversity. Different types of questions include Nocturnal Admissions with Cookie Masterson, which is where Cookie eats a heavy dinner/snack right before bed, and has a dream about a movie. However, thanks to his snack, his dream is all strange and off, so based on the vague description of the dream, you have to figure out what movie was in his dream. There's also Who's The Dummy, which involves Cookie trying to take up ventriloquism. However, his dummy, Billy O'Brien, has trouble with the consonant sounds B, P, and M, and they become D, T, and N, respectively. This change is reflected in the question as Billy phrases it, so you not only have to figure out what the question is asking, but you also have to discern what he's trying to say since those specific consonants will be wrong. One personal favorite is Cookie's Fortune Cookie Fortunes with Cookie “Fortune Cookie” Masterson, where Cookie eats a fortune cookie and reads the fortune (complete with a full mouth of fortune cookie), and you have to answer a question based on that. These all help to break up the monotony of standard trivia questions one after the other and help keep the category interesting.

Two popular question types from past You Don't Know Jack titles return to this entry, those being DisOrDat and Jack Attack (which appears solely in Round 3). In DisOrDat, the player with the lowest score gets to play. You're given two categories, and you have 30 seconds to determine if the seven different subjects that appear are from the first category or the second category, or, in certain DisOrDats, both. For example, you may have to determine if a given subject is a former Pope, or a Britney Spears song, and while that may seem obvious, they are not nearly as easy as you might expect. Each of the seven subjects is worth $300, so if you choose correctly you get $300, and if you choose wrong, you lose $300. You're also given a time bonus based on how much time is left after you've answered all seven subjects. The player or players not participating in DisOrDat can also steal the subject by making the correct choice before the first player makes their choice, and if the first player makes the wrong choice. So let's say in the previous example of a former Pope or a Britney Spears song, the subject Innocent comes up. If a player not participating in DisOrDat answers Pope first, and the participating player picks Britney Spears song, the non-participating player will steal the subject and win $300 (since Pope is the correct answer). In Jack Attack, a clue is given, and following that a word, phrase, or name will appear in the middle of the screen. The player then has to choose the correct associated word, phrase, or name that fits the category. The associated words fly onto the screen one at a time, and the first player to choose the correct associated word gets $4,000, but if you choose the wrong associated word, you lose $4,000. So for example, the clue could be Kings, and the name Michael Jackson appears on screen. The correct associated word is King of Pop. DisOrDat allows a player behind to catch up, and Jack Attack allows players with quick reflexes to really rocket ahead of the rest of the pack if they know the correct answer.

One new feature for You Don't Know Jack is the Wrong Answer of the Game. Each episode is sponsored by some off-the-wall fake company, and in one of the ten questions there will be an answer that is wrong, but it references the sponsor. As a result, you get a prize related to that sponsor, plus a bonus $4,000 if it is Round 1, or a bonus $8,000 if it is Round 2. One example is the Insincere Greeting Card Company, in which case you would be looking for an answer that's somehow related to greeting cards. The correct wrong answer for this is Hall & Mark Oats, as while it does not correctly answer the question being asked, the “Hall & Mark” part of the answer refers to the greeting card company Hallmark. Given the rather large bonus amount of this feature, particularly in the second round, getting this can greatly sway the game in one player's favor.

You Don't Know Jack is fine enough to play alone, but the fun factor is ramped up even more when you play with a friend or two or three. This is not a typical “buzz-in” game; rather, every player has a chance to answer the question within the time limit (and not answering at all and letting the time run down to 0 simply means you neither gain nor lose any money). Given that, quick reflexes are rewarded since faster correct answers are worth more money than slower ones. At your disposal is also the Screw feature (mapped to the L or R buttons), wherein if you don't think the other player knows the answer to the question, or it appears they are not going to answer, you can Screw them and force them to pick an answer within 5 seconds. If they pick the wrong answer, they lose money and you gain money, plus you're given an opportunity to answer the question correctly and gain even more money. However, if the screwed player answers correctly, they gain more money than normal and you lose money, making the Screw quite the strategic tool. Given that some of the questions are overly complex in trying to figure out what they are asking in the first place, it can sometimes be beneficial to screw another player immediately after the question is read. The screwed player only has 5 seconds to answer, which admittedly is not enough time to process some of the more complex answers in the first place, so even if they know the answer after they figure it out, it just isn't enough time.

It is not all good for You Don't Know Jack's gameplay though. Previous entries into the series included the option of a 7- or 21-question episode, whereas you are limited to only 11 questions per episode here. This is still a good amount, as you will get 1 DisOrDat, 1 Jack Attack, and 9 standard questions in each episode, and it perhaps helps those with short attention spans, but it would have been nice to have a longer game option. Further, no matter how many times you replay an episode, it will still always have the exact same questions in the same order every time. It would have been nice for the questions to be randomized throughout episodes, or even just have the first ten questions in random order in each episode, but that isn't the case. Given this, online multiplayer becomes more about memorizing the order of the questions and their answers, which is very easy to do, and the winner becomes the person with the fastest reflexes instead of the most trivia knowledge.

Graphics are not so important to such a title, but there is plenty enough there to enjoy, and it enhances the experience that much more.

Overall: 9/10
While there are other trivia titles out there, none even come close to the humor provided by You Don't Know Jack. Its combination of irreverence and trivia from just about any category, including pop culture, science, history, and others, will capture both fans and non-fans of trivia/quiz games alike. Although there is not an option for a long game, the 11-question format is excellent for a few categories here and there, or a long session of several categories with several friends over. As a budget title, this game is well worth the asking price for a single player experience, and as a multiplayer/party title it is worth much more. If you enjoy trivia titles, absolutely pick this one up.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 04/12/11

Game Release: You Don't Know Jack (US, 02/08/11)

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