I Know Jack: My History with the You Don’t Know Jack Franchise

Back in the 90’s, there was an online magazine for the blind called the Audyssey magazine. It was our gaming magazine, and talked about audio games, text games, and even what we called mainstream or commercial games as long as they were accessible. According to that magazine, a certain game series known to party gamers as You Don’t Know Jack, was the second most accessible commercial game in existence. This was, at the time, probably true. It’s a series I grew up loving, and it is likely part of the reason for my current appreciation of modern comedy. Today, I just want to talk about it, and about my history with this amazing game series.

You Don’t Know Jack was named the second most accessible game back in the day because it was about 98% accessible. It was and is a comedy trivia game. You could play alone, or against your friends, and the game had a host who would read aloud all of the questions and answers. They would even make jokes between questions, and sometimes question-specific jokes for choosing certain wrong answers. Features like this actually got more complex as the series went on, and hosts gained the ability to criticize an individual player for getting specific answers wrong throughout a game. For instance, “Man, Player 2, you must be tone deaf or something because you got the last 2 music questions wrong. Take note, other players, now’s your chance!” That’s not a word for word quote from the game, but it’s an example of what later games did.

Anyway, the only inaccessible part of the game is, sadly, at the end. A segment called the Jack Attack leaves you with a clue, and bunches of words scrolling across the screen that you must match up with that clue, hitting your buzzer at the correct time when the right answer is present. The problem here is that nothing but the primary clue is read aloud, leaving us virtually unable to play this portion unless we decided to randomly press our buzzers and hope for the best. It ultimately didn’t detract too much, as we could still win the game if we were far enough ahead or if the other players did poorly, but it was still kind of unfair.

Fair or not, I enjoy many many hours spent playing each and every version of the game, loving the ways in which the game changed, the new question types that were added, the occasional appearance of celebrities, all of it. The first 3 volumes contained what I would say were minor changes at most, but the fourth volume, officially called You Don’t Know Jack: The Ride, was something special. For the first time, each game session was a linear episode. No longer were you able to choose your own categories, but the upshot is that it allowed the developers to do creative things, like giving each episode its own little story. The language episode, where the host gets progressively more and more drunk as the game progresses, stands out as one of the best, as he can barely read the questions toward the end.

Best of all, the whole game had an overarching story as well. This was never done again in the world of You Don’t Know Jack, but I think it was great. The story wasn’t anything to write home about really, but it did contain a couple funny plot twists, and resulted in one particularly awesome game feature. As the story progressed, the hosts of your games would actually change between those who had hosted you Don’t Know Jack games previously. This even included the host of a You Don’t Know Jack spinoff game called Headrush. It was awesome, and made for a grand experience as each host had different attitudes and entirely different commentary on your gameplay than the others. It was a lot of fun.

Things continued to progress, and there were more spinoff games as well, such as You Don’t Know Jack: Louder Faster Funnier, which is for some reason not included in the collection available on Steam. You Don’t Know Jack 5th Dimentia, essentially Volume 5, allowed for online play, but for some reason sacrificed audio quality. The humor was there, the complex in-game responses were there, (you were criticized if you happened to be using AOL at the time), but all audio quality suffered a downgrade. The game was still quite fun, however, so I didn’t complain too much about that.

You Don’t Know Jack Volume 6: The Lost Gold was, I feared, the last outing for the game. It only had 300 questions when most other games in the series had 800 to 1200 questions, it had the same low audio quality as 5th dementia, and had an uninspired and weird story about reclaiming the lost gold for some ghost pirate. I still enjoyed the questions, and found humor in them, but the game was the most meh of the bunch.

Fortunately, You Don’t Know Jack saw a revival on last generation game consoles, including 4 awesome DLC packs. This brought back the episode format, and some new features, such as the Wrong Answer of the Game, which would give you a prize for choosing the sponsored wrong answer. All this was tremendous, and audio quality was back up to standard. This was the revival I had been waiting for.

The revival continued when the You Don’t Know Jack mobile game came out. The accessibility of the app wasn’t great, but once you worked it out, this was really cool. It brought us back to the days of what used to be called the Netshow, which had new episodes coming out on a regular basis. This was like that, with a new episode coming out every week, referencing modern pop culture, or real current events in that typical You Don’t Know Jack way. Personally I wish this had lasted longer. The inaccessibility troubles were worth suffering through, in my opinion.

Fortunately, the geniuses at Jellyvision weren’t done yet. You Don’t Know Jack came back again, episodes and all, in the first Jackbox Party Pack, which allowed you to play with up to 8 players for the first time. It retained the format of the previous console releases otherwise, including the wrong answer of the game, and was awesome. It didn’t stick around for Party Packs 2, 3, and 4, but I’m happy to say that it’s about to return again in the Jackbox Party Pack 5. You Don’t Know Jack will never die!

It has been over 2 decades since the YDKJ series began, and it remains one of my favorite game franchises to this day. I wish the devs would take a shot at making that last portion of the game accessible, but though it appears this may never happen, my love for the series lives on. If you’ve never tried it before, you can get 9 of the YDKJ games in a collection on Steam, which includes the amazing YDKJ: The Ride. Thanks for reading, and please feel free to provide feedback, or leave comments, or conversate with me about this. Continue to be awesome!

E3 Day 2 Updates

Alrighty then! What I consider E3 day 2, which by the way is considered Day 1 by the general public, is over. A few interesting tidbits came out today that I want to share with you, some of which is new information, some of which is corrections to other information.

The biggest news is this. This was actually something I heard Jack Trenton say during the Sony Press Conference, but I wasn’t sure enough that I interpreted it correctly to make it news. Now it has been confirmed. Playstation Plus is now required for online play on the PS4. Now I can hear you all getting negative, but let me add to this a bit, and clarify things. Yes, it is required, you do have to pay for online play now, but it’s still a better deal than Xbox Live Gold. First, it’s $50 rather than $60 per year, second you still get all the PS+ benefits, including bunches of free games. Third, even if you don’t pay for Playstation Plus, you retain access to all your media services on the PS3 like Netflix and Amazon video and all that, whereas all those things require Xbox Live gold with Microsoft. Now, if you’re still going “But, but, but you have to pay to play online and that sucks!” I still understand, I still get where you’re coming from, but consider this. You may very well get what you pay for. Almost all online games on the PS3, not all, but almost all, are plagued by lag. With this new model, that may no longer be the case. So it can be considered a negative, but I urge you to try not to do so, at least not too much.

Secondly, a couple of interesting corrections. Both Final Fantasy 15, and Kingdom hearts 3 are apparently not PS4 exclusive. This strikes me as slightly weird, as it will be the first time a Kingdom Hearts game is on Xbox anything, but so be it, I guess. Me, I’m gonna get that one for the PS4. That’s where it started, that’s where we’ll conclude it. Otherwise I don’t mind much.

Here’s a funny one, though. Elder Scrolls Online is also going to be on Xbox One, so I do have to concede that little point I made about the PS3 taking in all the MMO’s. Ah well. Once again, that’s fine. Remember, we got solid numbers for PS4 exclusives, even if we haven’t necessarily seen them all yet. 40 within the first year of release. That’s still awesome.

A couple of quick additions regarding specific games. First, Killer Instinct is going to be a Free to Play game that will give you 1 character, namely Jago, and allow you to play as him in every way. You can play the full single player, you can take him online, all that with no additional charge. Then, if you like him, or just the game in general, you can buy additional characters of your choosing. Alternatively, they are going to release a complete edition that you pay for up front and all things will be unlocked. Killer Instinct also has some new mechanics, including something called Instinct Mode, which you can use as a combo cancel, even on an ultra. In the example, the player did a combo, transitioned into an ultra, canceled into Instinct mode, hit another basic combo, and went right into another Ultra. If I understood correctly, all this became one giant combo. Ah, Killer Instinct, I do love thee.

Additionally, a little more information on Titanfall. Apparently not every character in every scenario is controlled by a person. There are AI pilots and AI titans, (humans and mechs), to fill out the battlefield so you always have the challenge of a team battle. The match itself, in terms of the number of player-controlled characters in the demo during the conference, was a 7 on 7 match. So still not bad at all. Figured that’d be worth mentioning to make sure an awesome concept like Titanfall is as clear as it can be.

There were other things shown off today, including Watchdogs and Beyond, but I don’t feel there was any truly significant information besides the fact that I was right about what I suggested in one of my Audioboo posts, which was that the mobile companion for Watchdogs is not Smartglass, it’s its own app. This allows it to work with any version of the game, which I agree with. You can use it to both help your friends, and if you want to, hinder them, and even try to hack into them to totally ruin their day. I kid actually, they want to keep it fun. Any death caused by another player is just reversed, and you’re put back into your story without any kind of penalty. It’s kinda a competition between players that can happen at any time.

What else happened today? Well, the Nintendo Direct video played today, but there wasn’t much to it. Apparently only about 9 games are coming out for the Wii You within the next year, and most of them put out by Nintendo. There was a new Bayoneta 2 trailer, which we expected, a trailer for the new Smash Brothers game, which we also expected, Mario 3D Land, Mario Cart 8, Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze, the HD remake of Windwaker, a game just called X, a game called XY something or other, and one more. It was also announced that Megaman would be in Smash Brothers, but if you’re curious, there was nothing else about Smash Brothers. Nothing about newly added mechanics, just Megaman. And that was it. Absolutely the expected from Nintendo, and nothing more. They were right not to hold a press conference, because they just didn’t stack up, not even to Microsoft. Just a bit more proof that the Wii You is going down.

And that was pretty much the day. I will keep combing around tomorrow and Thursday, watching footage and whatnot, and bringing you more of this if there continues to be more to bring. See ya then!