Released on: June 5, 2020
Available Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Price: $52.49 CDN ($39.99 US)
One of the things I remember the most about the Wii is its slew of awesome Nintendo games (Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Kirby Return to Dreamland, Punch-Out, etc.) and its infamy as a shovelware machine. To the uninitiated, Shovelware is a term used to describe a game put together quickly and haphazardly to sell it at a low price. As one might surmise, these games are relatively low in quality; their discs make better coasters than games. When Nintendo revealed Clubhouse Games: 51 World Classic Games, it looked like a decent compilation of board games, but with the sour taste of Shovelware still lingering, I was skeptical. That is until a friend of mine got it and told me it was a lot better than expected. Since I wanted to play some of these games with him, I decided to get it too. Is Clubhouse Games: 51 World Classic Games a surprise hit?
Upon booting up Clubhouse Games, the player creates an avatar and chooses a partner. This partner will not be referred to again, as their role is to provide recommendations on games to play within Clubhouse Games. When I play Clubhouse Games, I already have a pretty good idea of which games I want to play. What’s more, if I genuinely have no idea, there is a button that will randomly select a game for the player. There is no real story to speak of, other than the charming little vignettes that play to give new players an idea of how to play the game.
As the name implies, there are fifty-one games to select from, ranging from simple games like Dots and Boxes, Four-in-a-Row (Connect Four), Last Card (UNO), to complex games like Chess, Shogi and Mahjong. What impresses me with these games is the effort put into their presentation and gameplay flow. No matter what game I chose to play, it always felt polished. I only remember the game inexplicably crashing once, and I could never replicate it or explain why it crashed in the first place.
What I enjoyed most about Clubhouse Games’ selection of games, is how many of them I played as a kid but didn’t remember until they popped up here, but with a different name. I remember playing Takoyaki when I was in kindergarten, but it had another name. President was another one I played back in high school but named differently. Finally, there’s Ludo, the original version of Sorry. Then there are new favorites, like Pig’s Tail, an easy to learn game that is way more intense than it has any right to be, Speed which is a fast-paced card game where the first person to get rid of all of their cards wins, and Gomoku, a variant of the ancient Japanese game Go that has the player line up 5 of the same colored stones in a row. The value per game is where Clubhouse Games shines, and it shines brightly.
Clubhouse Games does a great job teaching the player how to play games they might not know how to play. Backgammon always confused me as a kid, but with Clubhouse Games’ excellent presentation and explanation, my girlfriend and I learned how to play it. It became a favorite of ours. What’s more, Clubhouse Games has tutorials for the more complicated games, like Hanafuda, Chess, and Mahjong.
There are a few things where, if I had the power, I would improve on.
For instance, Clubhouse Games can be played with multiple people on one console, which is excellent. There are two problems with its execution. First: to player multiplayer locally using one console, each player must use a single Joy-Con. Those who read my review on the HORI Split Pad Pro Controller know my disdain for the Joy-Con, so not using anything other than the finicky Joy-Con is something I would change. Second: The selection of games significantly decreases when playing on one console. While not a deal-breaker, I wanted to play Last Card with my girlfriend, but because we are on one console, we aren’t able to. I am aware that it would mean seeing your opponent’s cards, but one solution could be to hide the player’s hand until they press a button to show the hand. While I know implementing this kind of system is easier said than done, I still wish it was possible to play many of these games on one console.
My biggest gripe with Clubhouse Games is its online component. The good news is that all multiplayer games are available to play with friends online. The bad news is that connecting to a distant friend is inexplicably tricky, and the net code quality is subpar. When trying to play with my friend who lives in a different province, I tried to connect to his room, but I was never able to find him for some reason. When I opened the room, on the other hand, it was hit-or-miss. Sometimes, he would find my room no problem. Other times I had to disconnect, then reconnect multiple times before seeing each other. If that weren’t bad enough, the game would somehow disconnect us on several occasions. I know that fighting and action games get scrutinized for having lag, or dropping connections, but I never thought that playing board games would be too tricky for Nintendo Online.
Despite the hiccups with playing online, Clubhouse Games is a value-packed compilation of highly polished virtual board/card and traditional arcade games. I would recommend Clubhouse Games to anyone who enjoys more casual games, and to those who play multiplayer games frequently.