Let’s just cut to the chase, shall we? Clubhouse Games is a must-buy for Nintendo DS owners who enjoy playing card games and board games by themselves or with friends. This single cartridge houses 42 different games which range from Poker to a Risk clone to a game where you shake a bottle of soda. To get an idea of what those 42 games looks are, here’s the list:
- Old Maid
- I Doubt It (B.S.)
- Seven Bridge
- Last Card
- Last Card Plus
- Five Card Draw
- Texas Hold ‘Em
- Contract Bridge
- Chinese Checkers
- Dots and Boxes
- Hasami Shogi
- Connect Five
- Grid Attack
- Field Tactics
- Soda Shake
- Word Balloon
- Mahjong Solitaire
The skeptic may say, “Yeah, there are a lot of games. I’ll bet they’re all really crappy, though.” That person would be wrong. The user interfaces of each game are well-designed and intuitive, so that a person new to the DS should be able to pick them up. Anyone who has played Solitaire on the PC would be familiar with the interface for this game, for example. Figuring out the controls for the card and board games are not a problem.
The controls for the action games, however; can be problematic. Billiards, for example, requires a player to touch a movable icon next to the cue ball to position the cue stick’s trajectory. The player must then strike the cue ball using the-oh, forget it. We’ll say this. Playing Billiards is hard. Darts and Bowling, however, once you get the hang of them, are actually fun. The other two action games, Balance and Takeover, take little getting used to.
Figuring out how to play a game is made very easy. Once a player has selected a game, rules for that game are filed under a tab at the bottom of the screen. These rules are as robust as you’d find in a store-bought board game; but with the added bonus that they cannot be lost. In some cases, the instructions are robuster than those you’d find packaged in a board game. These instructions, also, have animated graphics and charts to help players understand how the games are played. In some cases, the instructions are so thorough that I decided to not read them because I was getting bored.
Clubhouse comes with not all the games unlocked. Players must complete the Stamp mode, in which they are forced to beat each unlocked game to get new games. This was a treat, because at the outset, I had no desire to play some of the games I didn’t recognize, such as President and Ludo. But being forced to play unknown games added value to the game as a whole, because I discovered new games I actually enjoy more than the ones I already knew about.
Another play mode is called “Mission,” in which players have certain tasks to accomplish in order to unlock avatars. An example of one such task is to “shoot the moon” in Hearts, another is to jump seven of your opponent’s pieces in one turn in Chinese Checkers.
The online component is very fun, particularly if you have a friend with a copy of the game. If you’re hoping to just jump into a game of Backgammon with a random person on the net, you could be waiting a while. Also, while playing with friends, the game has a Picto-chat-like feature, in which players can handwrite notes back and forth during games. While playing with strangers, conversations are limited to pre-programmed phrases like, “good job!”
One interesting note-Clubhouse includes Koi-Koi, which is a version of Hanafuda, a Japanese card game for which Nintendo got its start manufacturing cards in the late 1800s. Didya know that?
Other miscellaneous good things about the game: It records your wins for each game, and some games, such as Dominoes and Darts have more than one play mode. In fact, Dominoes has five different play modes; 5 Up, Block, Draw, Muggins, and Sniff, and Darts has three; High Score, 01, and Standard Cricket.
The game also has unlockables for each game in the form of themes. In action games, after a certain number of wins, players can unlock paper, stone and digital modes, which change the appearance of for example; the darts, dartboard and background of Darts.
For several games, players can customize the rules for playing.
Another bonus: because of the easy pick-up-and-play nature of some of these games, the title is perfectly suited for those who don’t like swapping out cartridges all the time; and is also well-suited for sitting in waiting rooms, playing during breaks at work, and while using the “facilities.” As an added bonus for those who play the game at work, there is a little digital clock in the upper-right corner.
All in all, it’s a robust title with very few flaws and a lot of play time potential. While some titles are the type you play once, complete, and put on the shelf; this is one title DS players would likely come back to time after time.