By John Walker on November 7th, 2013 at 10:00 am.
Here’s some news that puts a smile on my face. Until yesterday, getting the original You Don’t Know Jack games to run involved either the elaborate complexities of a virtual machine, or a time machine. But no longer! Jackbox Games have updated a whole bunch of them to run on the PC right in front of you, and put the lot out on Steam. Hurrah!
I was late to the YDKJ party. You may well be later. But trust me, these aren’t what they look like. I’d ignored the series for the same reason I ignore most endlessly sequelled quiz games. They just looked tacky. But oh my goodness, no – these are some of the funniest games in existence. These games are so funny that even the announcements of the question number can have you guffawing. I only caught on in 2011 when the latest version was released in the States. (It still isn’t out elsewhere, madly.) And that sent me back to the very beginning, which I wrote about here.
In the bunch released now you’ve got the following:
You Don’t Know Jack Vol 1 XL
You Don’t Know Jack Vol 2
You Don’t Know Jack Vol 3
You Don’t Know Jack Vol 4: The Ride
You Don’t Know Jack Vol 6: The Lost Gold
You Don’t Know Jack: Headrush
You Don’t Know Jack: Movies
You Don’t Know Jack: Television
You Don’t Know Jack: Sports
Each is £2, which is a perfect price, or you can get the lot for £15 via this collection. They’ve done a smart job updating them – they still run in a small window, but it’s still one that takes over your whole desktop nice and neatly, without frazzling your resolution. Of course, these games are verrrrrrry dated. Vol 1 came out in 1995 – that’s 18 years ago, number fans – meaning there’s a good chance you won’t have been alive when the questions were written. And even if you were, which admittedly is most of us, the two most recent decades of information are completely irrelevant, and the references to TV and commercials are not only US-centric, but now should be categorised under “history”. Also, these are all the US versions – the UK release is still lost to the mists of quiztime.
However, that really doesn’t stop this being fun. Because what’s so extraordinary about these games is the incredible effort that’s gone into the voice recording. Whoever the host of a particular game may be, every question has jokes recorded for not only the right answer, but also all three wrong answers. It means the quiz never feels like an awkwardly pieced together auto-MATED-phone-SYSTEM, but instead something personable and hugely entertaining.
Also entertaining was the peculiar and very short-lived attempt to make it into a TV show in 2001. It was hosted by Paul Reubens, as fictional presenter Troy Stevens, with game host Cookie relegated to reading the scores. Come on – it had questions in Japanese. And a round called Who Wants To Marry A Farm Animal.