Even if you aren't familiar with You Don't Know Jack, the hit 1990s-born game series, you are bound to be comfortably acquainted with its attitude. The slick, snarky, and somewhat scatological humor you'll find in the latest version is almost a genre unto itself. Developer Jellyvision is not only riding the wave, it might be partly responsible for rocking the boat and starting the wave in the first place.
Back today on every system worth mentioning, You Don't Know Jack is a revelation to those who think party games involve plastic guitars, button mashing, or whatever Super Mario's doing this year. Get together with two or three friends, pass around the controllers, and you're pretty much guaranteed a good time. Just you and a friend? Jack's got you covered. More friends than you care to count? Well, the individual games are fairly short, so everyone can get a chance. Have one really brainy friend that always embarrasses you at Jeopardy, or a really shallow friend that pretty much lives with his headphones on? Jack mixes pop culture with book learning - and it's multiple choice now. Anyone who speaks the language and possesses a sense of fun is invited.
You Don't Know Jack is a revelation to those who think party games involve plastic guitars, button mashing, or whatever Super Mario's doing this year.
Heck, You Don't Know Jack even loves you when you lose. A major percentage of the Achievements are tied to poor performance, and some of the funniest jokes in the game are unleashed when the incorrect answer is picked. One type of round, Dis or Dat, gives preference to the player who's farthest behind. Then there's the clincher: the Wrong Answer of the Game, which awards big money to those who pick an erroneous response that's there by design as a way to tie in to each episode's fictitious sponsor. If you're too quick on the draw, you might find your derisive laughter turn to tears as that "stupid" answer the other guy gave yields more than twice what your right answer was worth.
The questions are asked in clever ways by the show's sarcastic host, Cookie Masterson. Cookie's an interesting character, because he's not played as a loud and clueless stereotype or as a slimeball. He's dismissive and insulting, sure, but his delivery doesn't immediately peg him as being either for or against the player or as being either too big for the show or oblivious to its silliness. Cookie just does what he does, posing the questions and getting the big laughs. There's a solid layer of intelligence and even a believable persona underneath what could have easily been a cartoon characterization.
With seventy-three episodes clocking in at about ten or fifteen minutes each, You Don't Know Jack is good for at least twelve hours. You are free to replay episodes at any time, but the game does keep track, so you might get caught if you try and pass off a game as all new to you. In fact, one look at the leaderboards online should convince you that some people do play the same episodes over and over, or at least use cheat sheets, because there are an awful lot of high scores out there that would require lightning fast answers and flawless recognition of the Wrong Answer of the Game, not to mention playing solo or with an accomplice. But, hey, those people are missing the point, so it's their loss.
Just the same, I would have like to see the correct answers randomized in position (i.e., the same answer being assigned to different buttons for different play-throughs), so that a veteran of a particular episode would have to do more than just wail on the button while the question was being asked. I don't think the game even punishes you for buzzing in too soon anymore. Randomizing the positions of the answers and especially randomizing the sequence of questions in the game would have gone a long way in making your score actually mean something. Ah, but is it I that's missing the point now?
My advice, go out and buy You Don't Know Jack. Support clever game design and legitimately funny writing with your dollars. Even if you play it by yourself, it should leave you feeling like a grand prize winner.