You Don’t Know Jack’s Back: Classic Games On Steam

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.

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30 Comments »

  1. meloncrab says:

    !!!!!!!

  2. Maxheadroom says:

    Very fond memories of these and several beery nights playing the first one in my first flat.

    Still, probably the first game on Steam to make me seriously consider Big Picture Mode :)

    • Fumarole says:

      Yup, often the post-game credits were more entertaining than the game itself.

      “Major Dick action figure: Uzi sold separately.”

  3. amateurviking says:

    Looks like the kind of game that one would normally play standing up, holding a pint and being painfully aware that you’re running low on 50ps.

  4. Cinek says:

    Competing with GOG, huh?

  5. Bull0 says:

    I guess the obvious question is what happened to Volume 5?

    • Deano2099 says:

      The big feature of 5th Dementia was the online play, which I guess was too much effort to re-do and get up and running (and because of how the interface works, would have been a pain to take out).

  6. anandus says:

    Awesome!

    I had some good times with these games.
    Weekend nights, friends, crates of beer and YDKJ.
    Good times.

  7. LionsPhil says:

    the UK release is still lost to the mists of quiztime

    I have it on CD. It was a masterpiece, and possibly the most competent example of localization I’ve seen. And great narration.

    Great times getting it going in a Win95 VM at a party and a friend telling me the resolution was wrong. Cue the game: “aaaand…lose the desktop”, it goes fullscreen.

    • Oozo says:

      The German localization was surprisingly excellent as well. Good times.
      Also, that TV-show is by far not the as bad as it could be.

      • Spoon Of Doom says:

        Exactly! I was a little miffed that the Steam releases don’t have the German localization available, because it sucks quite a bit of nostalgia out of it for me, but I’m still happy as a fish in the toilet about this.

        What I noticed is that rhyme questions are siginificantly harder when it’s about idioms and figures of speech which are not from your native language. Still great fun, though.

        • neolith says:

          This. YDKJ is the only game I’ve ever seen that has a GOOD localization. I usually despise games translated into german, You Don’t Know Jack is the exception.

  8. InternetBatman says:

    We picked all these games up for a dollar each from a thrift store and thought it was a steal then. I might get them again just to have an easier time. The best two are volume 4 and volume 6. You can actually beat volume 6, which is kind of fun.

  9. Jekhar says:

    Why Steam and not (also) GOG? If you rerelease your old games, wouldn’t it make sense to (also) offer them on a site whith a userbase who fancies such things?

  10. Mungrul says:

    Wow, gonna have to buy at least the first one for nostalgia’s sake.
    I had it on my creaky old Mac IIci back in the 90s when I was at college. It was one of the few games that was available and would run without any compromises, and I dearly loved it.
    Yes, the questions were very US-centric, but I didn’t mind because as John says, even getting questions wrong was a treat.
    Nowadays, with access to the internet and Wikipedia/Google, it may even be a nice American pop culture history education!

  11. Rane2k says:

    Very nice!
    I also was late to the party on these (played the first in 2001), but its was an absolute blast!

    Now we only need the localized versions on Steam as well.
    Usually I don´t care for german versions of things, but since this is something that I´d play with some friends & some beers it would be better to have it in our own language.

  12. Baltech says:

    I had the german versions of 2 and 3. The US versions should be sufficiently different to warrant a rebuy. Also MORE COOKIE MASTERSON PLS!

    I remember the best time for playing these to be an eraly Sunday afternoon, still stlightly buzzed from a long romp the night before.

    But seriously people, there is no excuse anymore. Try at least one of them. They’re still some of the funniest games and general and THE funniest quiz games, period!

  13. Spacewalk says:

    I bought Vol. 2 from a dodgy store back in the day but when I got it home and opened it up there was a different game inside so I welcome the re-issue because I might finally get to experience it.

  14. Dozer says:

    Sorry John, I’m not coming back. You’ll need to get used to other people driving your buses.

  15. Syphus says:

    If I buy The Ride again, can I get back the audio CD that had all the commercials on it?

    • Mctittles says:

      Oh yea! I forgot about the awesome commercials. “It’s big, it’s hot, why doesn’t it kill us all? Learn more about the sun NEXT”.

  16. Frank says:

    So who are these Jackbox folks? The original devs (= writers and voice actors only, I guess)?

  17. dE says:

    So the auto mated the phone system… well thanks for that mental image. Creeky, creeky, squeeeek.

  18. Robmonster says:

    I loved the UK version of this, it’s a real shame that isn’t available. Are the US versions as good?

  19. Ayam says:

    The latest one released on Steam (I think Vol 1 XL) is 2 players max with no online play which kills the deal for me. I was so hopeful.

  20. Maka Albarn says:

    So, for someone who has never played one of these, and is curious enough about the prospect of an “actually fun” trivia game to try one, which single entry is recommended? Or are they all as good as one another? I was born in the early 90s if that makes a difference.

    • Mctittles says:

      My favorites are 2 and the ride. 2 is classic YDNJ, but the Ride ups the “Excitement” factor a bit. It also adds in a feature where when you “screw” your opponent instead of just forcing them to answer the question you get to hit the S key as fast as you can for a certain amount of time with each hit pushing a physical screw into the screen an d obscuring the question making it more difficult to answer. Actually for that added feature alone The Ride is my recommended best.

  21. Mctittles says:

    One thing I’d love to have with this is cloud saves. I’ve restarted these so many times moving computers and feel a bit of a cheater if I get the same questions again with new players.

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