You Don't Know Jack
If you've roamed around these parts long enough, you might've stumbled across a little oddity called You Don't Know Jack. Based on the popular CD-ROM game series, tabletop game, and short-lived network game show, You Don't Know Jack was a snappy online trivia challenge that seamlessly "combined high culture with pop culture". After months of daily DisOrDats and one hundred full episodes, Jellyvision ended their online service with a surprisingly heart-warming message delivered by Cookie Masterson himself, saying that You Don't Know Jack might return sometime in the future.
Well, folks... JACK. IS. BACK. (That's best if read with a deep movie announcer voice. But since dinosaurs make things even better, who would be best to read that line? Answer below.)
You Don't Know Jack, the "irreverent party trivia game", features hundreds of hilarious questions in a fast-paced game show format, complete with cash and prizes, a wise-cracking host, and ample carpentry hardware. While released on multiple platforms last week, we're taking a look at the Steam release.
For the most part, YDKJ is played as a straight-forward multiple-choice quiz, or at least as straight-forward as a quiz can be when you're comparing I Can't Believe It's Not Butter to the Kübler-Ross "five stages of grief" model. After the question and choices appear on the screen, use the  keys to select your answer ( for player two). The faster you answer, the more cash you'll earn if you're right, or lose if you're wrong.
Special themed categories, such as "Who's the Dummy," "Weird Trash," and the "It's The Put The Choices Into Order Then Buzz In And See If You Are Right Question" add some variety to the mix, along with the famous DisOrDats, where you've got to decide which categories answers belong to in quick succession. After two rounds of five questions, it's off to the dreaded Jack Attack, a knee-jerk reaction game of word association, where a close game can be won or blown in a matter of seconds.
In a Jack tradition, multiplayer games also give players the option to "screw" their opponents. If you think the other player doesn't have a clue about a question, hit your screw button ([Q] for player one, [P] for player two). They'll then have five seconds to work out the answer. If they're wrong, you can nick a ton of cash off of them, and still answer the question yourself for more money. But if they're right, your opponent steals the cash from you! It's a clever strategic twist that can turn a game around if played well.
Analysis: As you've probably gathered by now, You Don't Know Jack is far from your typical game of Jeopardy! (robot contestants or not). When you find yourself combining string theory with Cat's Cradle, or fast food with modern art, you find the game is way brainier than it claims to be, in that lateral thinking sort of way. Who knows, you might even learn something. And as your bankroll gets bigger, your bald head must flower! It's great to learn...
...Because wrong answers come with pretty sharp penalties. Along with sacrificing some samolians, host Cookie Masterson will berate your every mistake. (You might even catch flak for winning, so everyone's fair game.) But if you're lucky enough to find the Wrong Answer of the Game, you can score big bucks and a faaaaan-tastic prize from the sponsor!
One downside to the Steam release of You Don't Know Jack is that due to technical restrictions, you're limited to one- or two-player games, as compared to console versions that allow three- or four-player games, and even online network play. For a game that's ideal for party play, being limited to two players or teams is a bit of a bummer. Still, it's an excellent game to play with a friend that you can laugh with. (Or at.) Also, there appears to be DLC to be available at a later date; there's no word yet (as far as I know) whether it'll be available on Steam, or if it'll be free or paid content, but no one's ever complained about too much Jack, right? (Here's a good spot to slip in a trivia question about Ke$ha if you've got one.)
It would be somewhat irresponsible to recommend this game to anyone without mentioning that there is a thread of some lewd humor running through the proceedings. On the other hand, in probably the most confusing statement of this whole review, YDKJ is very tastefully lewd. Let me put it this way: Yes, there are dirty jokes that will pop up every now and again, that's practically unavoidable. And if you're easily offended by cheap insults hurled at you by a computer, you'd better get every question right or stay away from this game. However, Rather than flinging poop jokes everywhere, the entire production is still very tactful, using the "your mum" references sparingly.
This release of You Don't Know Jack is everything you'd expect from the classic franchise, from fast-paced humor to outlandish and challenging questions. Apropos of nothing, the answer to the above question was Mastadon LaFontaine. Naturally. Hungry for more? The Jack awaits.
Note: You Don't Know Jack is available on a number of platforms, including handheld and console gaming systems. The PC version is reviewed here.