October 9th, 2006Written By:
It seems that in their continuing pursuit to capture the more casual, more mainstream audience with their Touch Generations series on the DS, Nintendo has decided to publish Agenda’s Clubhouse Games in an effort to appeal to one specific cultural pastime of ours – family games.
At first glance, I assumed Clubhouse Games would be little more than another slapped-together collection of a few card games. Within minutes of starting it up however, Clubhouse quickly proved to be a surprisingly polished package, containing more than 40 games consisting of at least two dozen card games and probably just as many board games along with other games usually associated with family fun. Clubhouse Games also runs under a nicely put together interface that feels simple but at the same time gives the game a sense of value.
If there's at least one card game that you or your family particularly likes, chances are you'll find it in Clubhouse Games. There's the usual games like Blackjack, Hearts, BS, Rummy, Spades, Texas Hold'Em, as well as a bunch of other more obscure games, all split up by level of complexity. As for board games, Clubhouse includes standard fare like Checkers, Chess, Backgammon, Shogi, and Chinese checkers as well as some other cool stuff like Battleship, Squares (here it’s called "Dots and Boxes" but squares is what we called it back in high school), Dominoes, and even Soda Shake.
Even if some games had to be renamed either for copyright or for language reasons (which could confuse some people looking for their favorite game), I still didn't expect to see nearly this much content crammed inside Clubhouse. I myself happen to be pretty big on Solitaire whenever I have a minute and am able to prop up my laptop, so having something like that for instance on my DS is just about a godsend, the same goes for any other game you usually get with Windows on your computer.
What I do find a bit strange in Clubhouse is the inclusion of more physical games like Bowling, Darts, and Billiards: all games that would require some kind of physics engine, which in this game ends up making things feeling rather awkward in the case of all three. Bowling is somewhat workable, but Billiards and especially Darts seem to be games more based on some kind of luck rather than actual skill.
Most of what's there is already initially available at the beginning, but a few games (like Shogi for instance) must be unlocked through Stamp mode, a sort of progression mode where you must win matches in selected games in order to advance and eventually unlock other games. This seems to be a pretty good way of encouraging people to learn how to play games they've never tried before, but most people who play Clubhouse Games will probably stick to Free Play Mode.
Other than the surprising selection of games here, what really seems to put a sense of value and weight on the package that is Clubhouse Games is how well made the interface is. Clubhouse Games is controlled completely via touchscreen, with menus that are adequately designed around the stylus, providing another example of how navigable things can be made on the DS interface.
For instance, each game comes with fully detailed text instructions for how to play which can be scrolled with the stylus, although some tutorials would have been nice for those who don't like to read so much. At any time during play you can instantly access options and see the rules for each game and even use pictochat while and search for others also using it. However, what probably furthers Clubhouse as possibly one of the best multiplayer DS games is the multiplayer functionality, both local wireless and online.
One of the best things that Clubhouse Games brings to the table is the ability to play against people online in chess or checkers on a handheld game machine, which definitely proves to be a satisfying experience. While not every game is available to play over Wi-Fi, most of the important ones are there, which gives this possibly the most variety of any online game on the DS so far. When playing with friends online you can chat using pictochat and when playing with strangers you can send simple pre-written messages, which is at least a step forward from not being able to communicate to strangers at all. Bottom Line
Your family probably owns at least one deck of cards, a checkers and chess table might be lying around somewhere in your home, you might even own a set of dominos. If you're lucky you might even have your own pool table. In that case, if you mainly play your handhelds at home then you probably already have access to almost everything Clubhouse has to offer right there. However, this game should still be appreciated for its impressive volume of content as well as its interface and set of features, solidifying it as an excellent way to play a nice family game when you can't put down a deck of cards or fold out a chess board. Score8.0/
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