Game Systems Handheld Entertainment Nintendo DS/DSi/3DS

You Don’t Know Jack (Nintendo DS)

Long before people were playing web-based games like Farmville on Facebook, Jellyvision brought an advertisement sponsored pop culture trivial game to the internet.  Using state of the art (at the time) technology including high quality streaming audio (the entire show was narrated) and flashy animated graphics, the game was a smash hit.  Between rounds, the player would be hit with catchy e-mercials targeting the hip nerds of the day – hawking shoes (Sketchers .. It’s the S!), clothing and anything else that would appeal the target audience.

Dubbed YOU DON’T KNOW JACK (YDKJ from now on), this game is run more like a game show than a trivia game – complete with smart ass ever-running commentary and perky quirky sound effects.  The wise-cracking announcer doesn’t just announce the questions, but also puts the smack down on your answers (especially the incorrect ones).  He will even offer more information about the correct answer.  The style of the game is what really separated it from “just another game” of the trivia genre.

To keep the game fresh over the years, the developers added additional game mode to mix in with the solid base of rapid fire multiple choice questions.  Sometimes they would scramble answers with deliberate bad spelling or grammar, make you jump on the buzzer with high speed word relationships, reorder answers to fit and many more.  Multi-player modes came along, offering head to head competition.

Over the years, YDKJ was ported to every device that could possibly support the ability to playback the snarky announcer’s commentary (anything with a CD drive was up for grabs).  Volume after volume was released – especially on the native PC platform.

As with any long-lived series, it had to eventually run out of steam (and sales) and they disappear into obscurity.

After some hiatus, it was announced that the game was making a comeback on all major platforms including handhelds like the DS.  It seemed to take forever for it to come out, but it finally hit the shelves and while the rest of the world is reviewing the 360 and Wii version – I wanted to cover the DS version.

The game comes on a very full 64MB cartridge for $29.99 – the SAME price as the big console versions.

There are a full 37 “episodes” in the game – each one featuring two full rounds of questions and a final “Jack Attack” round – plus some bonus stuff in between.  Supposedly, this is enough content to keep you busy for about fifteen hours.

How does the DS version hold up?

The good news is that YDKJ has never been a super high impact game graphically.  The DS version looks just like the original did – and based on the media I’ve seen for the other versions, it holds up just fine (maybe that’s why they figured they could charge the same price).  The great quirky “question intro” videos are there and span both screens.  There appear to be a handful of variations of each one – but you’ll be seeing them repeat soon – which is to be expected on a 64MB cart.

Since the magic of this game is largely due to the hilarious audio it would have been a complete travesty to have it missing from the DS version.  Fortunately, the DS version audio is intact – every punch-line is there and you can tell they did everything possible to squeeze the game onto the cart.

Unfortunately, the squeezing took a toll on the audio.  While the fidelity is pretty good (occasionally you’ll find some areas lacking – but it doesn’t detract from the fun of the game) the levels are a bit low. This is typical of the Nintendo DS Lite and DSi – but when the game is heavily dependant on a comedic soundtrack, it gets a bit distracting.  Plan on wearing headphones or playing in a very quiet room to get the most out of the game.

Now that the obligatory “video/audio check” is complete, let’s dig into the meat.

YDKJ has always been about clever pop culture trivia – and as with anything that relies on pop culture, it has to move on with the times.  One of the biggest problems with YDKJ is that it’s kind of time-centric.  If you were to go snag a copy of an early version on the Playstation 1, for example, and you were born in 1990 – you aren’t going to enjoy it nearly as much as those targeted by the game originally.

Put your mind at ease.  The developers are fully aware of this and have worked hard to drag the game (somewhat kicking and screaming) into the 2010s.  The questions are properly targeted (don’t worry, GenXers, there is plenty of content for you too) and the innuendo has been ratcheted up for the new generation.  It’s rated T for teen, and believe me – it will live up to its warnings of Crude Humor, Drug Reference, Mild Language and Sexual Themes.  I have always wanted a slightly more raunchy version of this game, and it’s moved along with the times.

Once you’ve chosen one of the 37 episodes (you can also have one chosen for you at random), the match starts.  You’re playing against the clock.  You buzz in and select an answer at the same time.  The faster you select an answer, the more money is at stake.  Get it right, you’ll get the cash.  Get it wrong, and it’s deducted from your total.

Each round is 5 questions in length.

After the first round, you get a game variation – such as a Who’s The Dummy? or Funky Trash or an Order Question.  It’s still about identifying the right information, but it’s done in a different, fun way.  The Dummy variation will have you translating the mispronouncing of words by a ventriloquist dummy in order to answer the question.  Funky Trash will have you matching trash with its owner.  You get the idea.

Following this round break, the second round starts.  Finally, you get a Jack Attack to finish the episode off.  In the Jack Attack mode, you’re given a clue.  Then giant words flash up one at a time along with shifting smaller words.  When you see a pair of words that match (AND that fit the clue) you buzz in and score cash.  Get it wrong, and you’re out the money.

You can see Episode 1 played all the way through on my Quick Look video:

While I never played multiplayer back in the day, many people did and loved it.  The DS version allows for two players on a single DS – close snuggling is required.  One player plays with the D-Pad, one player plays with the buttons.  Each person gets a “screw” – which you can invoke during a question.  Screw your buddy and they have 5 seconds to answer, or lose the money on the clock by default. (and you get it).  If they answer wrong, you get the money.

Single player “bonus” games are played by the person in last place only – give them a chance to catch up.

Wrapping up the package, there are full instructions in game along with a basic stats screen that will tell you your cumulative score across all episodes, best episode played, etc.

The game features four total player slots – and every person that plays (single or doubles) requires his own slot.

So what’s the bottom line?  This is YDKJ.  It’s pretty much the same game you remember, only this time you’re paying $30 to play it instead of watching Sketchers ads periodically.  It took me about 10 minutes to get through episode 1, so simple math will say that the solo experience will net you 370 minutes or about six actual hours of play.  That’s about $5 an hour of entertainment which is a bit over  my “movie currency” price of $4.50 an hour for quality entertainment – which says to me that this game is overpriced by the numbers.

It is VERY difficult to pay the EXACT same price for the DS version of a game when the big console version is going for the same price AND has DLC for more value!  You won’t get that on the DS and that is worth a reduction in price.  In fact, when I first saw the game on the shelf at $30, I almost cried FOUL.  THQ should be ashamed of themselves for setting that retail price.

Die hard fans of YDKJ will find the price of admission a minor pittance to get back that cherry high of high impact trivia gaming.  You think your friends that play World of Warcraft have a nasty addiction?  YDKJ had a similar following.  They’ve played them all – and they will buy this one too.

Those that burned themselves out of the game in the 90s and think they are ready for another go at it – I’m telling you to wait a couple of months until the price drops to $19.99 (which I promise you it will).  At that price, I’m ready to recommend the game to the previous fans of YDKJ.

For everyone else, you might want to hold on to your cash.  YDKJ is a very fun and entertaining trivia game (any game that can make you LOL is worth something in my book), but with only 370 questions and very finite play – you may be disappointed when it’s over so quickly.  When this game hits $20 (or better yet – $15) don’t hesitate to jump on board.

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+

Leave a Reply