The latest installment in the successful and long-running You Don't Know Jack trivia game series is similar to its predecessors in most respects. It pits you against up to two other human opponents in a mock contest to win as much cash as possible - your job is to answer various trivia questions quickly and correctly. As with most other games in the You Don't Know Jack line, 5th Dementia has a simple but elegant and highly polished presentation; funny, well-written trivia questions; and a great host, whose voice-over brings the game to life. What distinguishes 5th Dementia from previous games in the series is the inclusion of an online play component, which lets you easily take on a couple of online opponents in a friendly, or not-so-friendly, trivia battle.
Like its predecessors, You Don't Know Jack: 5th Dementia has a similarly minimal appearance. This doesn't mean it doesn't look good - though most of the graphics simply consist of the question text scrolling onto the screen, the presentation itself is still colorful and attractive. Perhaps the most notable addition to the graphics in 5th Dementia is that you get to choose a persona for yourself. There's also a large variety of funny, animated characters available - though you get to choose from only four at a time. These various digitized characters react depending on whether you get questions right or wrong, and they're especially helpful for putting a face on your online opponents.
The game opens with an echoing announcer who explains the simple rules in pretty much the same exact manner as in previous installments, only with a lot more echoing. However, he does give you the option to choose between network and single-computer play. But this announcer lacks the same biting humor that's always made You Don't Know Jack so funny and so contemporary. Fortunately, as soon as you begin play, you'll meet the game's actual host, Schmitty, who fares a lot better. He's sarcastic and cynical but still enthusiastic enough to get you into the game. His comic timing is right on - but this is partly because the game itself does such a good job of streaming the audio samples together. Plus, the game has plenty of variety. The original You Don't Know Jack was noteworthy for the quality and realism of its streaming audio - and, really, the effect is no less impressive years later in 5th Dementia. The game also has a great, fast-paced soundtrack that effectively heightens the tension when a question is up for grabs. Fans of the series will also enjoy the variety of radio-commercial spoofs that play as the credits roll at the end of each match.
Each time you play 5th Dementia, you and up to two other human players will progress through a sequence of 15 questions, all of which fall under a particular theme, if but loosely. There's no option to play a shorter game - or a longer one, for that matter - but you'll find that the 15-question games sometimes seem a bit long. There are 600 original questions in the game; this is quite a few, but part of the game's value is diminished since you learn the correct answer even if you get a question wrong. The questions vary in difficulty, and while a lot of them rely on cheap puns or innuendo for their humor, many of them are very clever.
The questions are mostly multiple choice, although the game has a total of seven different types of questions; you'll encounter a few of the other types at random during each match. Most of these question types will be familiar to You Don't Know Jack fans. The "dis or dat" questions help you decide whether a series of items belongs to which of two categories - for instance, storm conditions or Mediterranean foods. Anagram questions let you try to unscramble an expression, and the sooner you figure out what it is, the more money you'll rake in. Each match ends in the jack attack, a lengthy word-association puzzle that gives you a good chance at making a serious comeback. The game also introduces a new question type, "bug out," which can be both amusing and quite intense. As bugs fly onto the screen and squeak out various words and phrases, you'll need to buzz in and squash those bugs that don't correspond with the onscreen clue. The catch is whenever you squash the right bug, the money you get is deducted from your opponents.
Another way that 5th Dementia helps make matches more competitive and more dynamic is by making you pick each question's dollar value as different possible values quickly spin by. If several players are competing, the total cash value is added together. This can be exciting in the rare occasions when the stakes turn out to be unusually high. Otherwise, since you'll need to choose a cash value before each question, you might find that you'll soon grow impatient with this step; you'll just buzz in immediately and accept whichever cash value shows up first.
Online play couldn't be easier in 5th Dementia. Basically, the game can automatically match you up with a couple of random opponents in a matter of moments, though you have the option of creating your own game room if you're planning to take on your friends online. You can hit the function keys at any time to taunt your opponents and also type in short messages to chat between questions. What's especially good about the online component of the game is that you don't even need to buzz in before you answer a question - you just hit the number that corresponds with the right answer as soon as you can. This makes online play fast and exciting. The online play is probably the best thing about the game.
You Don't Know Jack: 5th Dementia is an excellent party game, but unlike its predecessors, its online play component also makes it ideal even when other people aren't at home. The game has a few problems, and its limited number of questions means you'll eventually run into repetition. But while it lasts, it's highly entertaining and even maybe a little educational; especially since you can share the fun with complete strangers.