You Don't Know Jack

Please note: I will not be making the obvious joke about this game not being based on the Al Pacino made-for-HBO biopic mini-series on Jack Kevorkian. That’s an easy joke, and we’re above that (no, really, stop laughing).

Most people who owned a PC in the 90s will recognize the name You Don’t Know Jack, or at least the bald head that graced the cover of every YDKJ released. And there were a lot: twelve iterations released in stores between 1995 and 2000. That’s not counting expansion packs, website games, spin-offs, books, and the TV show either. Yes, for about three hours in 2001, there was even a YDKJ TV game show, hosted by someone who’s enjoyed a comeback of his own lately: Paul Reubens. After 2003, developer Jellyvision took a break from the Jack brand to focus on advertising, web design, tax software, that sort of thing.

Now, Jack has returned with the reintroduction of You Don’t Know Jack. The first Jack game since 2003 is also the first to be released mainly on the major consoles; Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii. There is a version for Windows, but it doesn’t have the online capability, and won’t receive any of the downloadable content.

For any of you unfamiliar with the property, Jack is basically a bent trivia game show, starring your host, Cookie Masterson. Ten multiple questions are presented in each “episode” (73 episodes are included in the game). Questions like “What’s goin’ on?”, to which the answer is–of course–The Cenozoic Era; and “If the makers of ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’ came out with a ‘Five Stages of Grief’ line of products, what would the next product be?”, the answer being “I’m Very Angry That It’s Not Butter.” Special questions and rounds have also returned, including the “Dis or Dat” and “Jack Attack”, as well as new ones like “Who’s The Dummy?” and “Cookie’s Fortune Cookie Fortunes with Cookie ‘Fortune Cookie’ Masterson”.

That’s cute and all, but…is it any good? Well, yes, especially for parties. The writing is fantastic; Jellyvision even hired professional comedy writers to do the majority of it. Up to four people can play at a time, and each player gets a screw, for which to screw an opponent with. The questions themselves aren’t as difficult as Master Edition Trivial Pursuit (before Hasbro got to it, but don’t get me started on that), so even your friends who don’t like feeling like idiots can play. Each episode takes 15-20 minutes, so you can have a whole tournament at your party in an hour or two, and move on to Rock Band (or maybe even a real game, like Munchkin).

Not much else to say about YDKJ. I give it a solid 3 ½ cups. It’s funny; you should buy it. It’s obviously great for groups of people, but also a single trivia-addict with fifteen minutes to burn during the day. For $40, it’s cheaper than a lot of board games you’ll actually only be able to play with other people. One expansion is already available, with at least three more planned, so you won’t run out of questions any time soon. It’s not quite the best of the series, but it’s hopefully the return of a great unique party game franchise, in a time where developers are flooding the market with party games and games for non-gamers. If you have any interest in getting smarter, and laughing as you do it (I’m looking at you, QI fans), try out You Don’t Know Jack.