Games time forgot: You Don’t Know Jack: The Ride

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It’s not often we highlight trivia games on Games Time Forgot. In fact, I wouldn’t be stretching it in the slightest to say that we have never inducted a trivia game into our almost-selective hall of fame.

Until today.

You Don’t Know Jack: The Ride, coloquially known as YDKJ4, is, by far the best entry in the irreverent trivia series. It basically acts as an effective conclusion to the YDKJ collection, despite the fact that (A) it’s not actually the last game in the series, and (B) it’s not like any of the previous games had an overarching plot which needed to be concluded. Still, the game actually has something resembling a plot — you’re riding an elevator through hell, and all of the different YDKJ hosts pop in and out to ask you trivia questions based on each of the floors.

It’s darker, funnier, and more fast-paced than any Jack game to precede or follow it, and unless a miracle occurs, it’ll probably be the only trivia game ever inducted into the Games Time Forgot series.

There also won’t be any pictures this time around. It’s a trivia game. These things happen. 

Story:

As said above the fold, the entirety of The Ride‘s 500+ questions take place in a dark, minimalist, industrial-looking Hell. Every floor is a different category, and each large set of floors is hosted by a different, classic YDKJ host (Nate, Guy, Cookie, and Schmitty actually read questions, while YDKJ2 host Buzz is constantly mocked and belittled by the others). 

As you play through the game, the hosts warn/entice you with cryptic statements concerning “The Bottom” — an area you reach after playing through every floor in Hell. There doesn’t really turn out to be all that much down there, of course (you get a quick, surreal full-motion video), but even the most miniscule bits of storyline in a trivia game like this are more than welcome. 

 

Gameplay:

Every YDKJ game is set up in pretty much the same way. You can play either a 7 or 21 question round (depending on your mood), against one or two real life friends or, if you’re lonely, you can play alone. No shame in that.

The questions themselves are difficult, but not so difficult that you feel cheated when you lose money for an incorrect answer — and even so, you always have the option not to buzz in in the first place. While majority of the questions in your average YDKJ game are of the “normal” variety, i.e. straightforward questions with four possible answers, the series also includes a number of extremely bizarre-yet-entertaining special question types. To copypasta from Wikipedia, some of the more interesting ones include:

– DisOrDat: Featured in all versions except Volume One and Sports, the DisOrDat is only played by one player, with a 30-second time limit. The player is given two or three categories and seven different subjects, and it is up to the player to determine which category the subject falls under. (For example, a player might have to determine if Jay Leno was a daytime or a nighttime talk show host, or if orecchiette is a type of pasta or a parasite.)

The Three-Way Question: Players are given three words that have something in common and several clues that only relate to one of words. Players must match the clues to the proper words.

Gibberish Questions: Players are given a nonsensical phrase that rhymes with a more common phrase or title. (For example, “Pre-empt Tires, Like Crack” could be the gibberish to “The Empire Strikes Back”.) The first player to buzz in and type the correct answer wins the money. Clues are given as time passes, but the amount of money the player can win decreases with the amount of time that elapses.

In multiplayer games, players also have the option to “screw” their opponents — in other words, force them into answering a question you assume they don’t know the answer to so that they lose money when they answer incorrectly. Harder questions have higher cash values, so screwing your opponent when a $6,000 question is on the table is always a pretty good idea as they’ll end up losing exactly that amount if they get the question wrong.

Anyway, I told you all that so I could tell you this: The Ride takes the best bits of the other YDKJ games and manages to combine it with a darker, more cynical sense of humor (you will be mocked not just when you answer incorrectly, but when you type in your name, when you answer the initial question to determine which floor of Hell you land on, and even when you answer too many questions correctly in a row) and much faster pacing. 

For example: the 7 or 21 question rounds are done away with on your very first run through the game; whichever option you choose turns into a 13 question round from the beginning until the end of the game.

Also, instead of choosing the category of your next question from three possibilities as you could in all the other YDKJ titles, you choose the general theme of an entire round by way of answering an initial personality question before starting your game. For instance, after entering your name and deciding your round length, you might be asked, “An enormous fire erupts in a mall. You only have time to save one store from destruction: which do you save, Blockbuster Video or Barnes and Noble?” Answering Blockbuster will result in movie-based questions, while answering Barnes and Noble will give you a more literary-themed round of trivia questions.

Placing the category choice at the beginning of the game not only makes the game go faster (as you won’t spend unnecessary time choosing your next category after every single damned trivia question), but gives a greater sense of cohesion to each round of play. Instead of feeling like a collection of totally random trivia questions, The Ride‘s rounds feel deliberately structured, and almost episodic in their nature. One round will focus on the subject of death, another on dairy products — you never know what you’re going to get, but it’ll always be an interesting and detailed look at a very specific topic.

Since the category is chosen early on, the dollar values of the specific questions themselves are chosen by the player in a twitch-reflex minigame: numerous dollar values quickly scroll past the screen, and hitting your buzzer at the right time locks a particular cash amount for a particular question. This adds a significant element of chance and tension to the game, as difficulty and point value are no longer related — a game can go either way based solely on how quick a player’s trigger finger is.

Like the dollar value minigame, the action of “screwing” another player, while functionally unchanged, is improved with a bit of twitch gameplay. In The Ride, screwing your enemy doesn’t just force them to answer a question against their will. After screwing someone, you can continue to tap the screw key over and over and over; covering the entire screen with literal, visual screws which obscure your opponent’s vision of the actual question. So, not only are they now forced to answer a question they didn’t want to answer, but, depending on how rapidly you hit the screw button and therefore how many little screws are fired into the screen, they may not even be able to read the damn question in the first place.

Additionally, more question types are present in The Ride than most of the other titles, including:

-Road Kill: In this fast-paced question type, you’re given two clues. Then a series of words fly by. You have to buzz in when the word the connects the two is on the screen. Pay attention to all the answers for a chance at the bonus at the end.

-Jack BINGO: Here, you are given a five-letter word. Then you’re given a series of clues. Your job is to buzz in when the first letter of the answer is lit up. If you collect all five letters, you get the bonus prize. 

And that’s in addition to the kickass question types found in other games, mind you. 

At its core, The Ride takes everything that makes You Don’t Know Jack great — witty, sarcastic hosts, clever fake commercials which play during the credit sequence of every game, difficult questions, and inventive word puzzles — and combined it with a really clever theme mechanic, improved visuals, and some entertainingly intense timing/rapid-press minigames.

 

Why You Probably Haven’t Played It:

Well, the games didn’t sell all that poorly in comparison to their development costs. Hell, after The Ride, the YDKJ series continued with no fewer than nine subsequent titles — though still, I assume that most gamers don’t necessarily play trivia games as a matter of course. 

Personally, I was introduced to YDKJ out of necessity: my computer sucked too hard to play 3D games, so I was left with Jellyvision’s challenging, funny, and graphics-light trivia series. I ended up buying every Jack game up to and including The Ride (except YDKJ Sports, for obvious reasons), at which point my family got a new computer and I was able to see my very first polygon. I ended up ignoring the YDKJ series from that point on and I later sold all my old PC games, but I still have fond memories of The Ride, and the dark humor and rapid-fire questions contained therein.

So, should you get it? It’s absurdly priced at $20 on Amazon.com, but it’s only 150 Goozex. If you’re not sure if a trivia game is worth any of your hard-earned dough, then I’d suggest hitting the official You Don’t Know Jack website: right now, they’re running a totally free, episodic version of their trivia game. Every new day brings a new round of DisOrDat, and every week brings a full-fledged round of questions, more or less identical to any you’d find in a “real” You Don’t Know Jack game which you would have to pay “money” for.

If you like what you see at the YDKJ site, then buy The Ride. If you don’t, don’t. Simple as that. 

 

Anthony Burch