Nintendo has been known for digital family-friendly entertainment for decades. However, long before that, they were a company making cards and tabletop board games. Now, they look to be combining the two, in Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics, their latest offering for the Nintendo Switch.
True to its name, Clubhouse Games includes 51 different games, from Mancala to Shogi, Spider Solitaire to Bowling, and Ludo to Carrom. Plus, for some reason, a piano simulator which counts as a bonus 52nd game. There are games from all around the world included, all playable on a local system, local co-op, or with other players from around the world online.
The selection of games is excellent, though I’m still puzzled at the addition of Toy Curling. Then again, I’m not sure of any other exclusively Canadian games, so perhaps they just needed representation. There’s a great variety, between board games, card games, and more 3D ventures like Darts and Billiards.
Of course, there’s no way that all of your favorite games are going to make it in the pack, and while I’m disappointed at the omissions of pyramid solitaire and Italian card game scopa, I’m hopeful that there will be future expansion packs or “sequels.” I’d also like a version of BS, but given this is Nintendo and that’s not exactly family-friendly, I realize my chances are slim.
All the games are playable docked or in handheld mode, though some definitely work better in one mode over the other. For example, Clubhouse Games boasts the return of bowling, a favorite from the days of Wii Sports. As you'd imagine, it’s a much better and more organic experience playing when the console is docked as opposed to in handheld mode.
The diversity included goes beyond selections for games and options for co-op play. Most games also let you toggle on and off certain rules, for example, aces high can be toggled in certain card games and fishing can switch between timed and endless modes. It allows for a lot of customization and makes for the ability to play games in short bursts or marathon sessions if you choose. As a bonus, Mario card designs are unlockable for Hanafuda, Matching, and any game involving classic playing cards.
The AI you face also has different levels, and while these can be changed, you do need to unlock higher levels by beating lower ones. If you’re good enough to play against a tougher AI, unlocking them is a non-issue and not terribly time-consuming. Beating AI also nets you “medals” and once you’ve beaten all of the AI levels on a game you’ll earn a trophy and the game recognizes that you’ve mastered it. For other, non-competitive games such as Takoyaki, you only need to win a certain number of rounds or score a number of points in order to achieve mastery and get a nice shiny trophy.
What about if you don’t know a game? I dived right into Yacht Dice with not a clue as to what I was doing. Once you select a game to play, Nintendo’s very helpful little people figures explain the basics to you, and you can also play tutorial levels or take a browse through the rulebook until you feel comfortable. The game lets you play at your own pace and in some cases offers hints and assistance as you go through, which can be turned on or off. My biggest gripe is that the short little dialogue when you select a game can’t be turned off in settings, but you can always skip it.
Online Play was the biggest disappointment for me, as you're required to select 3 games you’d like to play and aren’t given as many customization options as you have for local console play. It took a while to find people available on the servers to play, but once we matched up, the process went smoothly. Still, if I want to play Hex, I don’t want to have to put down Dominoes and Backgammon as alternate options.
Clubhouse Games also offers you the option to use an in-game globe, with figures all around the world. They’ll recommend different games for you, sometimes pointing out games by genre or by country of origin, and it’s nice to be able to browse in a smaller capacity. If you know you want to play a solo game, you can just find the guide on the globe and they have up to five options picked out for you.
One thing that I actually really appreciate is that you earn trivia facts after playing a game. You don’t have to win to get the facts, and you only get 4 or 5 per game, but it’s a fun little bonus, and it helps you realize how connected we all are as a global people. For example, one of my trivia facts on Last Card (aka Uno without the branding), was that variants of this game are played around the world. I had no idea, and it’s a neat little thing to find out.
Clubhouse Games might just be the best game I’ve played so far this year. With the excellent variety of games included and the number of customizable options, I feel confident saying that if you’re looking for some classic fun, at least one of these will do the trick, no matter what type of game you’re looking to play. While online play is disappointing, I’ve got my fingers crossed that Nintendo continues to expand this into what could be a truly wonderful ongoing series.
TechRaptor reviewed Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the publisher.
- Excellent Variety of Games
- Game Customization Options
- Fantastic and Helpful Tutorial System
- Online Play Has Disappointing Setup
- No Setting To Auto-Skip Game Intro Sequences