Review – You Don’t Know Jack (2011)

February 14, 2011 — Leave a comment

Originally published in The Daily Toreador.

When the “You Don’t Know Jack” series of trivia games was in its prime over a decade ago, my mother didn’t allow me to play it. The often raunchy, sometimes borderline offensive pop culture jokes weren’t deemed fit for my young ears.

Now, the series is making a comeback with a new game for just about every gaming platform out there, and I can see what the fuss was about.

“You Don’t Know Jack” plays like a television game show, to the extent that it features a host and even sponsors for each individual “episode” of gameplay. You and up to three friends (well, one friend if you’re playing on the PC) gather around your TV and try to answer questions faster than one another in order to win more money.

The game features 73 episodes to play through, with each episode consisting of 10 questions that are the same every time you play. This means replaying episodes is pretty pointless, as you’ll know exactly what to expect every time.

On the other hand, this eliminates a common problem you get from card-based trivia games a lot of people play at parties. With those, when shuffling the deck of questions before every game, there’s always the chance that you’re going to keep drawing cards you saw in the last games you played, which can really dampen the experience. By keeping questions within set episodes, “You Don’t Know Jack” can guarantee that an entire gameplay session will be a new experience for those who haven’t played it before.

And the humor is really where “You Don’t Know Jack” separates itself from other trivia games. This comes across even in the simple act of asking questions, which the game usually does in a very roundabout way.

For example, while a bland and boring trivia game might ask, “What is the second stage of the seven stages of grief?” “You Don’t Know Jack” instead asks, “If ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’ released a new product based on the second stage of grief, what would the product be called?”

And the host doesn’t tend to pull punches. He’ll insult Lady Gaga, badmouth “Jersey Shore” and definitely insult you, the contestant, whenever possible.

Usually, questions are of the type where you are given a set of possible answers and you want to select the right one as quickly as possible. But the game is good about mixing things up from time to time, such as with its “Dis or Dat” questions.

Every episode also has a “sponsored” “Wrong Answer of the Game,” which is a very specific wrong answer to a question that, if you guess it, will give you tons of extra cash, as well as a silly prize.

The only problem with all the humor in the game is that it gives the game a fairly limited shelf life. The pop culture references are great now, but a number of them could easily be outdated or tired in a year or even less.

One upside and potential solution to this is that the developer seems committed to supporting the game with downloadable content. There is already a $5 pack available for download that adds 10 more episodes to the game, and more are on the way. This sounds like a much better solution than releasing a new version of the game every few months, as happened last time the series was a really big deal.

For 73 episodes that take between 10 and 15 minutes to play through, there’s quite a bit of content packed onto this disc. On top of that, it’s appropriately priced at $30, which feels like the right choice and offers a really good value.

Obviously, you’re going to get the most out of the game if you can play it with several friends in the same room. The Xbox 360 and PS3 versions offer online play, which is great, but it’s not as fun as playing in a party setting or with family.

If you want a good, funny trivia game and don’t mind if it’s outdated next year, I highly recommend “You Don’t Know Jack.”

This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 with a copy of the game provided to The Daily Toreador by THQ.

Britton Peele

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Freelance video game critic for sites like GameSpot and GamesRadar. Amateur fantasy author.

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