|By Dan Hearth||Tuesday, 28 Aug 2007|
Clubhouse Games is a collection of 42 different games of various genres. Each game falls into different categories: the majority of these are card games, but there also board games, action games, and variety games.
When you first start playing, it’s likely you won’t be familiar with a lot of these games since many of them go by different names; probably to avoid infringing on certain copyrights. For example, “Grid Attack” is near identical to the popular Milton Bradley game “Battleship”, the difference being you have generic rectangles instead of boats. Other games have odd names for seemingly no reason, such as “I Doubt It”, which is essentially “Cheat”, a game where you play cards in numerical order and cheat if you must. If you’re not familiar with a game, it can usually be easily identified by reading the rules. Some games have very simple rules, such as “Old Maid” or “Memory”, while others are downright confusing, like “Koi-Koi” or “Field Tactics”. Thankfully, every game has detailed instructions included that can be accessed at any time by simply hitting the “Rules” button at the bottom corner of the screen. This is a sorely need inclusion for some of the trickier games.
The entire game uses the stylus exclusively, and I firmly believe that some of these games were worked on more than others. Some games are easy to play and are quite enjoyable while others are frustratingly hard; not because of the rules of the game, but because of the way they are played using the DS’s controls. One such game is “Bowling”, where you throw the ball by drawing a line on the bottom screen in the direction of the pins. This doesn’t sound too difficult, but the DS is so sensitive that the slightest curve in your line will send the ball flying into the gutter. “Darts” is another game included and it’s controlled exactly like Bowling is, by drawing a line in the direction of the dartboard. Yet somehow, Darts plays beautifully where the darts actually go in the direction you are aiming. It baffles me how some of these games are so finely tuned while others are… well, not.
There are three different single-player modes: Free Play, where you play for fun or just to practice, Stamp mode, where you play through each game one by one in a set order, and Mission mode, where you must play under specific rules and clear some rather difficult objectives. All three modes offer unlockable bonuses for playing them. If you win any game in Free Play enough times, you are rewarded with a theme that alters the game’s appearance, and each game has at least four different themes. There are a few games in Free Mode that are locked and playing through Stamp mode will allow you to unlock them. Mission mode challenges you to beat certain games under specific rules, for example, winning a game within a time limit or scoring a certain amount of points. Most of these are extremely difficult and require you to learn each of the games’ rules and play employing certain strategies. Each mission you clear unlocks an icon, which is used as your avatar when playing. These range from animals, food, vehicles, faces and other things. The vast number of unlockable secrets should keep you playing for quite a long time; try clearing Stamp mode on every difficulty or winning all of the game’s missions.
Because of the sheer number of games included, it’s hard to get bored of this game, but the real fun is to be had playing with others. Out of the 42 games included, 39 can be played with friends (the other three games being “Solitaire”, “Mahjong” and “Escape”, which are strictly single-player affairs.) The number of players varies depending on the game you choose, but it ranges from 2 to 8 players. You have two choices for multiplayer: you can play in the local area in which you only need one game card, or you can play over the internet using the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection. If you play over Wi-Fi, you’ll need to exchange your Friend Code if you want to play with some buddies, though you can also search for an opponent from anywhere in the world in case you have no one to play with. The game also has a built-in leader board in case you want to see how you match up with the rest of the planet. In the event your opponent(s) disconnect before the end of the game, you can finish up with the computer playing in their place. As great as the Wi-Fi mode is, it’s a lot more enjoyable to play with your friends. Playing with friends, either locally or over Wi-Fi, allows you to use the game’s built-in PictoChat feature, which for some odd reason wasn’t included for the Worldwide mode. Maybe Nintendo didn’t want strangers sending you offensive messages or drawings of wangs? At any time during your game, you can open up the chat window and send messages to your friends. It’s something to do between turns, but it can be an annoying distraction sometimes when you’re waiting for your friend to finish doodling so you can continue playing.
The game’s presentation is pretty minimal, but it gets the job done considering the type of game this is. The generic tables and game boards are simple, but it’s not a big deal when you’re trying to focus on the game at hand. The sound is likely this game’s lowest point. The sound effects are pretty dull and the music is repetitive. The audio doesn’t really add to the experience and so you may as well play with the sound off. You won’t be missing much there.
If you’re into card games and board games, this game has a lot to offer. It’s fun to play with friends, and even on your own there is fun to be had, but this game is definitely not for everyone. You won’t like every game on it, but there are a few really great ones in there that I feel make this game worth the purchase.