I have many fond memories of playing the original You Don't Know Jack and its various expansions back in the late 90's on PC. Starting today, the series' recent revitalization has hit a new high point: You Don't Know Jack has come to Facebook, and it is wonderful.
I actually played YDKJ on the Xbox 360 for the first time just this past weekend. It was an instant trip down memory lane; the game felt like it hadn't aged a day. Well… there were some mechanical changes, and the game didn't quite "feel" the same, particularly in that we never screwed the other player, but still. For the most part, last year's game was a fine revival.
But even as we played, my friend remarked at how the game felt like a slowly ticking clock — every game brought you closer to the end of the content you'd bought, and closer to not being able to play anymore. "You know what," we both said in perfect unison, "You Don't Know Jack really needs to be on Facebook."
What do you know? As of today, the game is out on Facebook, and it is fantastic. The game-show format works perfectly, and it's smartly designed around asynchronous play. In a given game, you "play against" your Facebook friends who have already played the level, timing your responses and rewarding you based on how fast you move.
It's a smart move, since it allows players to play on their own tempo but retains the feel of a live match. Of course, the fun energy of sitting with your friends and playing can't be replicated on Facebook, but that's OK.
The writing is back and as witty and random as ever, and in theory — I got to play a round of a game called "Elephant, Mustard, Teddy Roosevelt or Dracula?" The keyboard-requiring Gibberish Question makes a welcome return, and while the Jack Attack loses a lot of its thrill by making it possible for every character to get the answer right, the result is actually that the game is more balanced, and the final round isn't as much of an unbalanced game-changer as it's been in past games.
Best of all, the game's press materials promise that the editorial team will be constantly pushing out new content to stay topical and relevant.
You Don't Know Jack is free to play at first, and though you'll win new games as you score more points, eventually you'll have to buy more games to keep playing. Games are $US2.00 for a batch of 5, with discounts kicking in at the 20-game mark. You can also buy "performance enhancers" that inflate your score, which is a bit bizarre — it's not clear whether the game is having a laugh. The final purchasable item certainly is a joke — for $US2.00, players can buy an achievement called the "Buy this achievement achievement." Heh.
So, to sum up: Timely, topical triva updates, the same writing, humour and presentation of the classic game, and the ability to challenge your Facebook friends any time, any place. Sign me up.
You Don't Know Jack [Facebook]