If you're good at other trivia games, it don't mean JACK now.

The Irreverant Quiz Show Party Game. Berkeley Systems's only "real" software release since the After Dark screensavers. Coded by Berkeley Systems, written by Jellyvision.

YDKJ introduced trivia fans to something other computer trivia games didn't offer: Maniac speed, irreverant jokes, smartass hosts (Who are perfectly willing to mock your decisions), and plenty of vocals to go around. All set in a virtual television game show, complete with backstage bickering between staff members and a sarcastic producer taking your names and options. A must-play for anyone.

Hosts: Nate Shapiro, Buzz Shapiro, Guy Towers, Cookie Masterson, Josh 'Schmitty' Schmitstinstein, Troy Stevens

Questions: Gibberish Question, Jack Attack, Fiber Optic Field Trip, Fill-In-The-Blank, Picture Question, Audio Question (more to follow)

Other: Screw Your Neighbor, FlakJack, Burned, Don't Be A Wimp

UPDATE 7/5/2001

ABC and Jellyvision have (finally) made You Don't Know Jack into a live-action TV game show. The show attempts to capture the fast pace of the CD game while offering actual cash prizes, skits, and other oddities, such as the infamous $2 million question.


Being a fan of the YDKJ games, I watched the show a couple times to see exactly how they'd pull this one off. The show definately loses something when you can see the host's face. I'm sorry, but in my opinion, it's been a part of Jack tradition that the host is hidden behind the text that flies by the screen. This even came into effect at the end of The Ride, where it was a bit of a big deal to finally see the faces (Well... the lower half of the faces) of the five hosts. Troy Stevens (Paul Rubens) does a pretty good job as a host, but it loses something. Though I do like how they had Cookie play announcer, and you DON'T see him.

The same guys at Jellyvision are writing the questions and skits. That becomes perfectly clear when you hear the questions, they have the same bite and wit as the CD. They even brought back the Dis or Dat questions (But they made them full 3-player events). Even had the Jack Attack at the end. But they forgot the two vital things that's been in Jack since the beginning: Gibberish questions and screws. That's right, no 'Press butt kick I'm sore', no hammering the screw key to nail your opponents.

All in all, people who've never heard of Jack should like it, but fans might find it slightly lacking.

"My favorite thing on this particular show was doing something most game show hosts don't get to do: I got to laugh at the contestants if they were wrong. I don't know if the public will think it's funny, but it cracked me up every time."

-- Paul Reubens to CNN.

Produced by Carsey-Werner-Mandabach Productions, LLC, YDKJ debuted as a TV show in summer 2001, as Captain Spam notes above. As host, Reubens plays the fictitious Troy Stevens. The show does well at mimicking the computer game, adding lots of random goofiness like walk-on mariachi bands as well as skits that have nothing to do with the game. It's a different spout of creative ideas every time.

Here's the problem: I'm not sure this is the kind of thing you want to see every week. I watched the first two episodes, which I thought were loads of fun and not nearly as sneering as some critics said. But once you know how over-the-top it's going to be, the zaniness in each episode stops being charming.

Maybe ABC felt the same way, or maybe the show offended the network's Disney sensibilities, but the first six episodes languished in the can for months. YDKJ finally debuted as a summer replacement series and won its time slot for the first couple of installments. ABC has an option on 13 more but apparently doesn't plan to exercise it; YDKJ isn't on the fall 2001 schedule and has been removed from ABC's Web site. On the other hand, they do plan to show even more of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?.

Writeup rewritten Sept. 8, 2001

Hey You? Yeah, we mean you, Mr big I-Own-A-CD-ROM head. Think you're pretty smart, don't you? Think you know your trivia, don't you? Well think again.

Only a single version of You Don't Know Jack was released in the UK, which is partly explained by it being a complete rewrite content-wise. The core question structure (more on that later) remains the same, but pop-culture references are all distinctly British. Further, there is only a single host, the now eponymous Jack Cake, voiced by londoner Paul Kaye (of Dennis Pennis fame). Having not experienced the American version, I'm not sure if they upped the level of offensiveness, but I'm pretty sure that given its content they couldn't have dropped it! This essentially is the point of the whole exercise- screw up a question, do too well over the course of a few, or simply try to start a game on a friday night and you'll be subjected to assorted abuse, humiliation and mockery.

Play is basically the same regardless of the number of players (up to 3 can go head to head, provided you can fit them around the keyboard). For a seven question game, there are 6 questions, then the Jack Attack; for 21 question games you get two rounds of ten, then the Attack, with all cash amounts doubled in the second round.

Question selection itself favours the bold; if you got the preceding question right, or were the first to have a go if no-one figured it out, then you'll pick the next one from the three titles. These usually have only a tangential connection to the actual question, but this is still an advantage as it increases your chance of grabbing the Dis or Dat special round for yourself.

Typically, the question at hand will be of a standard form: Jack asks the question then 4 options are offered. Players have 10 seconds to buzz in, locking out the others; then they have 10 seconds more to pick one of the options. Get it right, and you get the cash (£1000, £2000 or £3000 depending on difficulty), but get it wrong and the amount is deducted from what you have! In a multi-player environment, there are two further complications: the ability to screw an opponent once per round (forcing them to answer, although if they get it right you lose the relevant amount of cash), and the "don't be a wimp" audience effect, where a player with a massive lead is forced to buzz in and attempt the question. Occasionally, instead of 4 options it's necessary to buzz in then type an answer- either a fill in the blank question, or a whatshisname, where clues are slowly offered.

Special question types crop up once per round- in the full length game, you get one of each, but in 7-question mode it's a random pick between the two. In Dis Or Dat, only a single player can participate, with the task being to divide 7 objects between two categories (serial killer or rock star, say). The Gibberish Question is particularly mad, as all players race to decipher a string of nonsense into a well known phrase that rhymes with it- clues are offered over the course of 30 seconds but cash ticks down with time. Screwing isn't possible in either question type.

Finally there is the Jack Attack, where it is entirely possible to reverse your fortunes in the game with about £14K up for grabs, but the potential to lose even greater sums. A keyword slowly emerges from the centre of the screen whilst others are launched towards it at increasing speed from off-screen: one of them will match within the context of the clue, and the player who buzzes in first gets the two grand and triggers a new keyword. The real challenge comes from not cracking up at some of the inane mismatches the program offers up; unless you're playing a hardened console veteran with lightning reflexes in wich case the hardest part is buzzing in before them...

Given the target hardware (486 class machines, or a 68040 Mac) YDKJ doesn't exactly sparkle in the graphics department, but the text doesn't feel clunky and crucially this minimalism allowed it to avoid any stuttering that would ruin the rather more intense audio environment. It's full of delightful little touches- the director shouting for the desktop to be lost or queuing up the fade to black, subversive little adverts that run with the end credits, and a set of 3 stickers to highlight the buzzer keys on your keyboard, and above all there's generally enough variation in the audio and question sets to prevent it feeling scripted or canned. As party games go, you'll be hard pressed to find one as delightfully offensive as YDKJ.

(Manufacturers) Warning: This product contains mature content, including suggestive sexual references and language that may not be suitable for children. Besides, they won't get it anyway.

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