With the Nintendo Switch’s versatility, a collection of board, card and other tabletop games seemed inevitable to fit onto a single Switch cartridge. Dock the Switch and play it on the big screen for everyone to enjoy or lay it down flat on a table to recreate the feeling of a board game, Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics packs many classic experiences into one collection to become the focal point of any gathering; it all comes down to how Nintendo plan to deliver them in their own unique way.
It’s actually a little difficult to discuss the gameplay here seeing how it is a collection of 51 games. Therefore, the primary way to critically analyse this collection is not on the quality of the games (because most of them are tried and true board/card game classics), but how they’re played on the Nintendo Switch console; the question is ‘does the Nintendo Switch heighten or diminish the experience?’.
In case you are wondering, here is the full list of games in Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics:
- Hit and Blow
- Nine Men’s Morris
- Hare and Hounds
- Chinese Checkers
- Mini Shogi
- Riichi Mahjong
- Mahjong Solitaire
- Last Card
- Texas Hold’em
- Pig’s Tail
- Klondike Solitaire
- Spider Solitaire
- Toy Tennis
- Toy Football
- Toy Curling
- Toy Boxing
- Toy Baseball
- Air Hockey
- Slot Cars
- Shooting Gallery
- Dots and Boxes
- Yacht Dice
- Battle Tanks
- Team Tanks
- 6-Ball Puzzle
- Sliding Puzzle
There’s also Piano which is, essentially, just a single-octave Piano. This Piano is technically number 52, but it’s not a game; it’s just a piano.
First off, Clubhouse Games takes full advantage of the console’s versatility; if you want to play games on a table like you would for most board/card games, take off the Joy-Cons and lay the tablet down flat and whilst in this position, you can either play with the Joy-Cons or use the touchscreen and play the games like you would in real life; you could also go with tabletop mode if you want to sit side-by-side with another rather than facing each other (if you want to use the touchscreen in tabletop mode, I would highly recommend using a playstand to avoid knocking the tablet over); there is TV Mode that limits you to only using the Joy-Cons, but it’s certainly the easiest way for all players to view the screen at once – it was certainly my ideal way to play Clubhouse Games, but having the options so seamlessly work in all other modes was fantastic.
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I am an absolute sucker for well implemented rumble effects and I wasn’t let down with Clubhouse Games. Going into it, I had my reservations about the game and what it could achieve; board and card games are physically tangible concepts that most video games struggle to replicate to their fullest capacity. Whilst Nintendo have always been one to think outside of the box and provide hands-on experiences with games like Wii Sports, Nintendo Labo and Ring Fit Adventure, they are still, at their core, video games. The idea of having NFC chips on every piece for every game in this entire collection would have been way too complicated to pull off, therefore providing tactile feedback through the Switch’s HD Rumble is the next best thing. Being able to feel a recreation of dropping Mancala seeds or rolling the dice in the cup in Yacht (Yahtzee… it’s Yahtzee) through the Joy-Cons is a fantastic touch and is arguably HD Rumble used to its fullest potential.
The game has the option to be play all 51 games with computer AI, but it is clearly made for multiplayer with another human being that you can audibly interact with, just like most board/card games. My partner and I had a lot of fun playing through each game together on the big screen but when she was busy and I felt the itch to play a round of Chinese Checkers, I could easily jump online and play with others; sure, the fun of not sitting across from one another and being unable to see their reactions reduces the magic, but the game is still fun regardless.
If you don’t want to play games with CPU AI, you can always jump online to play with friends or anyone willing. Their difficulty primarily range from up to three varying levels and if you’re good at a game (like I am with Chess), you may find that the AI can be quite dumb until you play on the Amazing difficulty. When entering the online mode, you can choose up to three games that you would like to play and the game matches you with another player who wants to play one of those three games. This made the process of finding an opponent much easier considering that there are 51 games to choose from and that could take a long time if you’re holding out on another player to want to play one specific game. On top of this, if you are needing to wait, the game lets you play any game against AI, making any waiting time feel like you’re not waiting at all. I did, however, found myself wanting to interact with my opponent as they purely felt like glorified AI. Nintendo are known for lacking voice chat in there online games, but even being able to choose from a series of suggested quotes could have added a lot more connection between players.
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Lastly, if you bring Clubhouse Games to a friend’s place and you want to play games against them on your own respective systems, your friend can download the Guest Pass, which acts as a demo of four games (Dominoes, Four-In-A-Row, President and Slot Cars) as well as making it possible for local wireless multiplayer to play all supported local multiplayer games. This can be done with up to four players, but it depends on the game.
Story / Personality
If you’re familiar with our reviews, you know we don’t usually include “Personality” in the Story heading (although we might from now on); but Clubhouse Games doesn’t have a story, so we thought that the addition of discussing its personality is the best approach.
Before starting each game, instead of tediously reading tutorial guides, the game has little skits that feature human game board tokens discussing the basic rules. The voice acting is fine, if not somewhat cringeworthy at times, and the dialogue is corny, however that is fitting considering that Clubhouse Games is intended to be enjoyed by players of all ages. Nintendo could have simply gone with text boxes, or even attempt at recreating board/card game manuals, but making the tutorials much more digestible decreases the dread of giving an unknown game a try for the very first time. I’ll also admit, the dialogue made me chuckle a few times and the fact that the effort was made and voice actors were hired specifically for these roles is to be acknowledged.
Graphics / Art Direction
The art is simplistic, and that is the best possible choice that Nintendo could have made. The menu layout is clean, making it convenient to quickly select the game that you wish to play. Within each board game, card game and toylike sports game, the presentation is modern and does a great job to highlight the subtle intricacies of each one. However, despite the occasional Easter egg, I found that Clubhouse Games‘ presentation can make the game be easily be passed off as a generic mini-game collection for home computers back on Windows XP computers.
Music / Sound Design
The soundtrack is generic and simple and whilst this isn’t a bad thing as it doesn’t demand too much attention, allowing the player to concentrate, it doesn’t do much beyond that. As previously stated, the voice work is generic and occasionally cringeworthy, but I loved the intricacies of each game’s sound effects, such as the dice in the Yacht cup or the sound of the wooden tokens in Shogi.
Final Score: 76%
I had a lot of fun with Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics and I will forever be bringing it to friends’ and family game nights, but most of the 51 games are better played in their physical forms. The convenience of the collection is its best aspect, being able to take with you a wide collection of tried and true games that bring people together. However as I continued to play through the games, I wasn’t surprised to uncover that it quickly became a glorified mini-game collection, providing no incentive to come back unless all your friends come together.
Thank you for checking out our Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics Switch review, thank you Nintendo AU/NZ for the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support:
- Andrew Caluzzi (Inca Studios / Camped Out!)
- Belinda Cubitt