Rating: ★★★★½

There’s something I’d like to talk to you about. Have a seat. Are you ready? You Don’t Know Jack is back. Yes, you heard me right. You Don’t Know Jack is back. For iOS. I can die happy now.

You Don’t Know Jack (YDKJ) is a beloved gameshow-style trivia game with a history of splitting sides with over a dozen titles and a failed TV show. Its popularity stems from non-stop witty banter and insulting monologues by the hosts, and the hilariously random questions that stretch players’ imaginations with questions on pop culture and interesting facts. And the questions are rarely a simple choice…nearly every is a riddle designed to make you sweat.

There is no other trivia game that will make anyone nerd out at the pop culture references from the last 30 years. Everyone can play YDKJ and have a good time because the array of questions spans farther than host Cookie Masterson’s giant ego, from Baywatch to lolcats to Red Faction. And I love him for it.

The iPhone and iPad versions – identical yet priced differently, meaning if you buy one you don’t get the other – currently feature 22 “episodes with 11 questions each. Episodes tend to last between 15-20 minutes individually, which makes the full game 6-8 hours of fun.

Gameplay follows a simple process: every episode opens with Cookie welcoming players with an insult, then a brief, witty or catchy animation before Cookie reads the question out loud. Then four answers appear on screen and a 20 second timer counts down, and players have to choose an answer before time runs out. Money is earned (and lost) based on how quickly questions are answered…16 seconds left earns or loses $1600.

What makes YDKJ the best trivia game franchise is how everything is win-win. Answering incorrectly can be funnier than actually being right because then Cookie will insult, berate, belittle and verbally molest players into a hysterical stupor. I absolutely love it. It’s fun to lose because being told about how wrong, dumb, and pathetic you are in so many colorful ways is ridiculously entertaining. Think of it like sitting in the front of a comedy show waiting for the comic to pick on you, without the public embarrassment.

Then there’s the trivia, which is outrageously funny. Questions may be straightforward, or word riddles with hilarious connotations or ridiculous references. They may even be read aloud in such a way that players can’t help but chuckle along. From how the question is worded to how it’s said, to just how ludicrous the question is…every little thing in YDKJ has been handled by comic geniuses.

There are only two things that limit the experience. First, YDKJ does not feature multiplayer, which has made  the famed trivia series so loved over the years. I myself got hooked on the franchise at a party years back, and playing with friends is one of the most fun experiences known to man. There are plenty of options for how to make this mobile YDKJ work well on the iPhone and iPad, but none are currently available, and it’s a damn shame. According to Jellyvision however (Update: And according to Jellyvision CEO Harry Gottlieb), at least one multiplayer mode is in the works.

Good luck answering this one

The second is bugginess, which attacks without warning. The app doesn’t crash, but occasional graphical errors do occur. Once a quarter of the screen went black; another time textures just shot out painting my screen like a spider web. Fortunately there is an autosave function after every new question, so even if the battery dies once YDKJ is started, a “continue” button lights up that starts players right back at that question.

Buying You Don’t Know Jack, for me, was an emotional decision. I came in expecting it to be funny and exciting, and 22 episodes later I am thoroughly entertained, and even a tad educated. The price is high at $4.99 on the iPad ($2.99 for iPhone for the same game), though Jellyvision will support the game with new episodes free in future updates. I couldn’t ask for anything more, except multiplayer. Give me multiplayer and the world will be whole, Jellyvision.



James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.