I had become aware of it when it first happened, but over the break I was finally able to act: most of You Don’t Know Jack’s classic editions had been re-released! In high school and college I spent countless hours playing the game “where high culture and pop culture collide,” so I was excited to get my hands on the classic editions again.
The game has made a resurgence in recent years, starting with a website where games were posted, followed by a CD-ROM edition (that’s become available as a download more recently) that also was released on various modern consoles, and most recently the various permutations of the game and its shorter-length Facebook-based cousin on newer mobile platforms such as iOS and Android, as well as more creative ports to Ouya and Roku.
An example of a Gibberish Question from an early edition of the series.
In its nearly 20-year run, the gameplay is basically the same: Multiple choice questions, with occasional curveballs such as “Dis or Dat,” the “Gibberish Question” and so on, and finally, the “Jack Attack,” where buzzing in when the right choice appears earns cash, and buzzing at the wrong time loses cash – every wrong buzz, in fact.
The game’s hallmark is injecting humor in various places, whether it be a wrong answer, merging a pop culture reference with a classic piece of history, or the Jack Attack itself, such as the above. It makes for compelling gameplay, particularly for those who prefer their Jeopardy! with a side of sarcasm.
I was definitely an excited guy when I saw the game begin to make a serious comeback in 2011, especially when I saw ads for the game take over the S train connecting Grand Central to Times Square a couple of years back, just before the game’s release. I’ve watched excitedly as it has ingratiated itself on various platforms, introducing it to a new generation. Other than the “Sports” edition, which I skipped because it was never really my category, I also have owned every edition they’ve released, including the direct-from-Jellyvision Games “Vol 6: The Lost Gold,” which to me seemed mostly a loveletter to the hardcore fans who waited patiently forever for another edition. And of course I’ve played all the modern permutations of the game as well.
Now, about those classic games. While obviously aging as far as the references go, the humor is still solid and the games playable, except for that pesky fact that technology evolves. A number of years ago Jellyvision Games released a patch for the early games to make them XP compatible (the earliest ones predated the NT transition), so clearly playing them on a platform such as Windows 8 would create issues.
Late last year Jackbox Games, the recently-rebranded Jellyvision Games, came to the rescue and began selling the classic editions on Steam as well as on Amazon’s download store for a mere $19.99. The kit includes 9 of the classic editions, including 5 of the 6 original volumes (Vol. 5, because it was much more online dependent, is for now a goner) as well as three classic themed versions and their teen entry, “Headrush.”
Missing here is the roll-ups of their original online game, “You Don’t Know Jack: The Netshow,” of which their were two editions of questions released in CD-ROM form. Hopefully they come later. Most importantly, the games play on all modern PC platforms, up to and including Windows 8. For those who don’t want/need all nine, or would prefer just to get certain volumes, they’re available both on Steam or Amazon for just a couple of bucks a piece.
A question from Volume 3.
Volumes 3 and 4, which are in the kit, are my favorites of the series, so I’m really looking forward to getting back into them (they’re hosted by the current host of the series, “Cookie,” and I am sort of partial to his hosting style and voice). I’m also looking forward to giving Vol. 6 another go; it was fun, but it came out at a time when I didn’t have the opportunity to really get into it. Meanwhile, I finally own “Sports,” so my collection is complete. I tip my hat to Jackbox for bringing back the classics, while keeping going with the modern permutation.