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Trivia. Gee whiz. How exciting. I'm sure you all remember playing Trivial Pursuit. The very thought of trivia as a computer game seems.. well.. dull. And its not like such a game would require much programming, or even time to put together. You could sit down for a a few hours in Hypercard or Basic and make a pretty decent trivia game in no time flat. Just get some questions, make a real basic engine, and fill in the blanks. Add a few random commands, make a system for keeping score.. viola. You've got trivia. Nothing to it.
So if trivia is so easy to make on a computer, and if it appears to be nothing more than a boring, senseless idea that makes your fingers itch to strafe, shotgun, and repeat.. then why is You Don't Know Jack so frigging cool?
Play it, and find out: It's gotta be the style.
You Don't Jack is the premiere computer trivia game: when most people think of trivia on computers, they think Jack. When Jack first came out, back in the day when CD-Rom games were in their infancy, I figured it would just be another shameless exploitation of the newfound ability to cram a bunch of sound and junk into one medium. If any of you have ever played some of the other 1st generation CD-ROM titles, like Night Trap or Dragon's Lair for instance, you probably know what I'm talking about. If not, let's just say the first games to hit CD-Rom were lame.. just an excuse to show off how much Full Motion Video we could fit on one little disk.
You Don't Know Jack had no video, but it did have sound. A lot of sound. A bout 24 hours worth of sound on one CD! Now THAT'S good compression. And instead of being wasteful, they were actually quite tidy -- the questions never got boring, and the satire, so thick you could cut it with a knife, was always entertaining. The host, Nick Shapiro, was witty and cynical. His derogatory marks toward your play just made you want to press on and play some more.
You Don't Know Jack was a stunning success, winning a few awards in an age that was dark for CD-Rom. It's success called forth a much needed sequel for those who had been through the 1,200 original questions and desired more. Enter You Don't Know Jack: Volume 2. More of the same, although not without its differences from its predecessor.
The point to the Jack games is simple enough. You and up to two of your friends go at it in a three way trivia fest that is set up something like a game show. You play either a 7 or a 21 question game. Then, you pick a category.. usually something pretty bizarre, like "Up your nose with a rubber senator." The question is then given a value. The question is popped on the screen, along with four possible answers. Buzz in first and answer correctly, and you net yourself the amount of $$$ the question was designated. Screw up and answer wrong, and that score will be detracted from your total.
Sounds simple enough, right? Well, it is... but when the hilarious comments start to fly about, and when you really start to feel the competitive spirit between your friends, you may find that three people crowded around one keyboard are having more fun than 16 people all around the country blasting each other to smithereens in Quake 2.
Jack: Volume 2 also presents players with some other types of questions. The gibberish question is back from the original. In the Gibberish question, a rather odd phrase is printed on the screen. You only have so much time to figure out what other phrase it rhymes with, usually a cliche or proverb of some sort. Figure it out first, buzz in, and get it right and you net yourself some greenbacks.. more if you answer earlier.
New to the Jack Series is the "Dis or Dat" question. This question only works for one player only. When it starts up, you'll be given two different categories, each designated to a different key on the keyboard. For instance, "Dallas" would be on key 1 while "Dynasty" would be on another. And then, words will start popping up at the top of the screen. You have to figure out if that word matches category 1 or category 2. For instance, J.R. pops up... you'd obvious hit 1, right? (I mean, J.R. WAS a Dallas character.. right?)
There are also a couple of other new types of questions.. one of the more noticeable ones being the "picture" question. Yes, that's right.. there are actually graphics in this version of Jack! In a picture question, a picture will show up on the screen -- usually a quite bizarre picture -- and you'll be given four choices. Each choice is a possible title for that picture. You have to pick the title that closest matches the picture shown. Just like the other questions, you gain or lose money depending on your answer.
And of course, the granddaddy of all Jack questions, the Jack Attack. In the Jack Attack, which is the FINAL question of a game, you'll be given a category.. for example, "I AM YOUR FATHER!!!" As you play the Jack Attack, words will drift into the foreground from the background. Slam on your buzzer when two words match the "clue," and you net 2000 bucks. Buzz in at the wrong time, and you lose 2000 bucks. SO if the words "Rosemary's Baby" were floating into the foreground, when the word "Satan" showed up, you'd slam on your buzzer.
The questions are easy to understand and easy to play, and even if you don't fully understand my explanations above, it'll become clear as you play.
Of course, how could I forget the "Screw" feature. One of the more brilliant elements of Jack is the ability to "Screw" the other players. If a question shows up for, let's say, the maximum amount of $6,000, and you know there's NO WAY the other players know it.. then screw one of em, preferably the one in the lead or closest to you in the lead. You get one screw for every ten questions, which forces the other player to answer the question. Be warned, though, that if they somehow get it right, they gain the money for the question.. and you, in turn, lose it. (Nothing more satisfying than screwing the screwer, though.)
The differences between Jack 2 and the original Jack don't end with new questions, though. The game also features new, well produced jingles that introduce each question, and a greater variety of them, as well as a new host -- Nate Shapiro's younger cousin. It sounds kinda like Nate, but his voice is a little higher. Personally, I don't think he's as good as Nate.. but what can you do? He still does a respectable job, however -- the Jack team doesn't hire bad hosts. (Although the netshow host IS kinda lame..) Also, the style has been redone a little bit.. mostly a new color scheme.. but it's still the Same Old Jack at the core.
The graphics are virtually nonexistent -- this is a trivia game, made mostly of words. With the exception of the "picture" questions, there aren't many pretty pictures to look at in the game. The style of questions and such in the game is unmistakable, though. The game uses its own set of fonts, and they sure do look nice. Also, each question is introduced by a set of animated, dancing letters. The category, question, and scores all jump on the screen with a unique style. The game is clean cut and efficient, just as it should be. In a game like this, the words alone are eye candy.
The sounds are all appropriate and excellent. As you ponder your next category choice, snippets of music ranging from playful banjos to full orchestral ditty's await you in the background. A gorgeous Acapella group introduces each question, usually in a rather humorous way. Words rush on to the screen with splats, spins, and whirrs, all keeping your attention in what would otherwise be a boring process. The host, though not as good as the original, is always entertaining, witty.. and never repeats himself. EVER. For every question, he has a new way to insult you for being wrong, and new long stories to tell if you get it right.. in order to explain WHY it's right. The variety of voice samples in this game may amaze you, if you realize how much they crammed on one CD.
All in all, Jack 2 is more of the same, with a few fun upgrades and a couple of unfortunate downgrades. If you loved the original, like I did, you should have no complaints about this sequel. If you have friends.. I should hope so.. and you want to share with them a trivia experience that is actually entertaining and funny, instead of just.. well, a luck thing like trivial pursuit, then sit yourselves down in front of Jack and have yourself a blast -- there's plenty of Jack to be played.
You came for the Lobster.. you'll stay for the Trivia! ;)