You Don’t Know Jack

As I posted earlier, I bought the recently-released Xbox 360 version of the classic video game You Don’t Know Jack (YDKJ). For the purposes of this mini-review, I’m going to assume that you’re familiar with the game. See the last paragraph for the tl;dr version.

I played a few games as a two-player game with my wife, and played a few more with another couple who also were fans of the old PC version of the game.

The game is organized into seventy-some “episodes” (remember that you’re supposed to be on a game show). Each episode has different questions, which is an improvement on the earlier PC-based games, where random question picking algorithms sometimes repeated questions in back-to-back games. The production quality is excellent, and the game takes advantage of the Xbox’s HD output. One thing I was minorly disappointed with is that transition between questions are always the same (at least so far; I’ve played about 6 episodes), where they used to have a few different “themes” in earlier versions.

They’ve done a good job of adapting to the new environment the Xbox 360 affords: you can now have up to 4 players in a game; you can optionally use the “big button” controllers from the Scene It! series of games; you can play over Xbox Live (although I haven’t done this yet); and you can expand the game with downloadable content (DLC) via Xbox Live.

Nits & Picks

One thing that I wish they’d kept is the ability to play longer games. If I recall correctly (and I may be wrong), you could play a longer, 21-question game in the earlier version, but this one had shorter (I think 10 question) games. Whereas you’d get more “screws” in round two, this game only gives one screw per player, per game. Also, the Jack Attack is worth so many points that you can really play poorly before the Jack Attack and win the whole game with a decent showing at the end. I remember the Attack being fun, but not so overpowering; perhaps the difference in game length is what makes the balance seem off.

One thing that was a bit annoying were player names. A player can sign in with an Xbox Live account and use their name (and get achievements), but other players had to take random funny names (like in the PC version if someone waited too long to enter theirs). Unfortunately, the game didn’t remember the player names or positions between games, even if the lineup wasn’t changing. This seemingly minor issue led to the first question being a bit confusing while people figured out “who they were” in the game.

There are also a couple of minor bugs: The “Big Button” controllers seem to have a hard time selecting some one to “screw”; the A button doesn’t seem to select someone to screw, although just leaving your screw above the player selects them after a couple of seconds anyway. We did manage to crash the game once somehow, necessitating a reboot of the system.

In general, this is a worthwhile effort, and I’m glad I bought it. It’s a faithful update of an old favorite, with new, current material and a nice implementation that takes advantage of the modern Xbox 360 console and online environment. I hope they continue to update it with more material.