When it comes to the beginning of gaming, there’s nothing truly more iconic or classic than cards and boards. Some of the earliest forms of gaming entertainment for many both young and old came in the form of gathering around a table with friends or family and getting out a board or shuffling a deck of cards. Nearly fifteen years ago the first Clubhouse Games title launched for the Nintendo DS, offering players a variety of these classic titles to play on a handheld system. Although nothing much was heard of from the series after that, its Switch sequel was revealed earlier this year and planned to be packed with 51 different ways to play. The question is, do these titles hold up and make it worthwhile diving in or is it best to just play the old fashioned way?
As the title implies, there are 51 total different games that can be played. While there are a couple that are similar, such as two different kinds of solitaire and two versions of shogi, the selection is a solid assortment. Every title that allows multiple players can be played either against another person or against different levels of CPU that unlock as each one is beaten. The majority of titles are multiplayer, with a few that are for just a single player. Upon starting them up a brief tutorial will play before letting players choose their settings for the games if applicable. There’s one bonus that isn’t an actual game, being the piano which gives players a simple way to mess around with a playable keyboard.
A key important element in Clubhouse Games is that it teaches players the basics of every title and for many offers tips, hints or even ways to reverse moves. The tutorials are helpful and informative, which include basics on how to play in addition to some useful suggestions on strategy for many of the available games. Each one has a basic visual tutorial when starting them up which can be skipped, but for first-time players gives them a solid idea of how it plays. This is a great introduction and often displays that some titles might be worth a glance at the extra tutorial to learn the specifics. Some heavily Japanese-inspired titles such as Shogi and Hanafuda even make use of extra guides during play in order to explain things more in depth, especially with the few games that heavily rely on certain characters that might not be as recognizable to some. This makes each one a delight to learn how to play because there’s such a wonderful focus on investing new players on how everything works.
Those wanting to take a break from more competitive titles can wind down with a few different kinds of solitaire, a golfing mini-game and even fishing. Fishing couldn’t be tested in full for this review due to requiring multiple Switch systems to see its full capabilities, but the additional mode offers those with multiple switches the chance to line them up together in order to create a larger grid to fish together in new environments. There are a few titles that incorporate this Mosaic Mode which few will likely get the chance to experience, but they’re a nice option for those with close friends who want to pick this title up. Even the extra piano in the menu has a way to play with multiple Switch systems in order to make a larger keyboard and really pull out some musical pieces. Playing the piano alone offers a much smaller selection of keys, but the system can be turned upside down in handheld mode in order to turn it into a synthesizer to play around with.
The visuals are a pleasantly endearing part of Clubhouse Games. The cards and figures are realistic and make soft noises in regards to what they’d be doing while playing. The music that plays in the background is mostly simple and avoids being a distracting or annoying while playing. One wonderful thing added is that there are three different Mario-themed unlockables for a select few titles. By playing the related games players are able to unlock Mario playing cards, Hanafuda cards and Mario-themed tiles for matching cards. While just aesthetic, they’re a wonderful change to the basic card style and it’s a bit of a missed opportunity not taking advantage of a couple other alternatives such as the Super Mario chess set. Each individual title also has methods to master them, with most needing the player to defeat the hardest level CPU. Mastering doesn’t do much besides adding a trophy next to the game’s iconic, but it’s a nice badge of honor that some may enjoy making their goal to accomplish.
Clubhouse Games is not the best solo experience, as playing against CPUs can often feel one-sided in certain games or simply lacking that slow, methodical strategy one gets from playing against a real person instead of a fast-thinking computer. There’s a great variety of ways to play locally with someone whether they wish to play on one system or have their own to play along with. For those without people to play locally, however, they can go online and play the vast majority of titles against friends or randoms. It makes for the perfect opportunity to learn how to play these board games for the first time and a fantastic way to do so given the great tutorials and in-depth learning some of the more complex titles include. It’s easy to see how appealing this title is with many different people to play with, but it does have moments of simplicity in playing alone as it somehow makes solitaire a lot more enjoyable and even a silly fishing mini-game a calming delight. Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics may not be anything revolutionary, but it’s a fantastic collection of classic games from around the world that creates an easier way to enjoy them with others or alone than ever before.