You Don’t Know Jack review

You Don’t Know Jack from Jellyvision is a long-running and popular series of comedy quiz games that originally launched back in 1995, the dawn of the “CD-ROM” era of home computers. It has long been a beloved series for its offbeat, irreverent humor, polished but minimalist presentation and crazy, unconventional questions, and now, some 17 years after its original release, it has hit Facebook.

You Don’t Know Jack has always spoofed popular TV show quiz formats, but is not based on a specific one, instead following its own unique format. The Facebook game features several different types of round, including conventional multiple choice questions; “Dis or Dat” rounds where players must choose whether various things fall into one category or another; and “Gibberish” questions where players are given a nonsensical clue that rhymes with something else and must then type in their answer. Each game lasts for five questions and concludes with a “Jack Attack” round, where players are given a clue and must then match concepts together according to the clue given. Part of the challenge in these rounds is in deciphering exactly what the question is asking the player to do.

Some of You Don’t Know Jack’s questions are quite U.S.-centric, which is part of the reason previous entries in the series (most notably last year’s new versions for modern consoles and mobile devices) haven’t made it to other regions such as Europe. However, the game is still playable and accessible to non-Americans thanks to the almost nonsensical nature of most of the questions. Most questions demand a degree of general knowledge and common sense coupled with good reading comprehension and the ability to decipher crude puns, meaning that with time, anyone can enjoy success.

Social play is incorporated through an asynchronous multiplayer solution. Players’ answers and response times are recorded and saved, then when a friend plays, they compete against the “recordings” of their friends. This allows for a feeling of “live” competition even when players aren’t online at the same time, though it removes the series’ traditional ability to “screw” an opponent and force them to give an answer within ten seconds.

The game monetizes in several ways. Firstly, players may purchase additional games to play — normally, they only receive a limited number per day, with additional free games provided if they scored enough points to level up. There is no “unlimited play” option, however, meaning dedicated players will have to continue paying to play beyond a certain point, as the maximum number of games which may be purchased in one go is 40 for $12.50 (125 Facebook Credits).

Further monetization is provided through the sales of “performance enhancers” which boost a player’s score by 10, 20, 30 or 50 percent. The player is provided with one of each of the 10, 20 and 30 percent boosters upon playing the game for the first time, but must pay for further items of this type. While light-hearted “cheating” has always been part of the You Don’t Know Jack experience, these items very much fall into the “pay to win” category, which may cause some players to be put off, given the highly competitive nature of the game.

You Don’t Know Jack’s Facebook adaptation is an excellent version of the classic series despite its use of “pay to win” items and the relatively small number of free games players may claim per day. Its production values are noticeably higher than those of many other Facebook games, with the fact that all questions are fully-voiced by the series’ host “Cookie Masterson” being particularly noteworthy. The series’ signature fake commercials are also present  and provide a bit of light relief between games as well as incentive to progress — as commercials are unlocked, they can be reviewed at any time from the game’s main menu.