If you’ve ever thought that Alex Trebek needed more snark, then Jellyvision Games has the trivia game show for you. You Don’t Know Jack is back, and it turns out tablet devices are a superb platform to play it on.
You Don’t Know Jack has had nearly 20 game releases since its launch in 1995, and it has a well-established format. You’re answering trivia questions on a game show with a demented host. The questions are a mix of wordplay, general knowledge, and pop culture, with enough topical references to make it clear that Jellyvision is not relying on old material. Most of the questions are multiple choice, and you get more points the faster you answer. Much like Jeopardy, you also lose points when you get the answer wrong.
This new iOS version is essentially a client for the Facebook version of the game, which launched in May 2012. Each episode is shorter than in past versions– five questions, instead of 10 or 21– and the game strongly encourages playing against your Facebook friends. The game also works fine if you don’t connect it to a Facebook account, but the lack of in-game revenue from your social network may slow your progress a little.
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In general, the shorter format works in You Don’t Know Jack’s favor. The five questions play out in about seven minutes, which is a good length for mobile play. There’s also plenty of variety in each episode. Usually, you’ll see three ‘normal’ questions, the final ‘Jack Attack’ speed round, and one special question. You may be asked to decide which of seven musicians are members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and which belong to the Chuck E. Cheese band. You may be given a phrase of gibberish and asked to type in a common saying that rhymes with it. There’s even a set of questions where you receive a clue and must decide whether it matches up with an elephant, mustard, Teddy Roosevelt, or Dracula.
While the game is identical to the Facebook version, it looks better presented full-screen on a tablet than it does on the small Facebook game canvas. It’s an immersive experience that feels more like watching television than playing a computer game.
Tapping in answers is also intuitive and quick. The only place we ran into trouble was the final ‘Jack Attack’ question in each episode. Jack Attack asks you to tap the screen when you see the right answer, and we tapped late a little too often. Maybe it’s just our slow fingers, but Jack Attack seemed to be timed to work best with mouse clicks on a PC.
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The Facebook connection has other drawbacks as well. Trying to share information is frustratingly slow, a common problem for any program trying to interact with the Facebook architecture. The game also limits your play by charging in-game currency for each episode you play. (You do get one free episode each day.) You earn currency very slowly, so if you want to play a lot you’ll either have to buy more or have very active friends.
Despite this limitation, You Don’t Know Jack is tremendous fun. The questions are interesting, the commentary is zany, and the fake ads from the show’s ‘sponsors’ are hysterical. This is a game that can do what the best game shows have always done– become part of your daily routine.