Review: Clubhouse Games (DS)

Clubhouse Games
Developer: Agenda
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Parlor Games
Release Date: 10/9/06

Few things in this world are as enjoyable as sitting around shooting some pool with buddies or playing a game of chess on a rainy day. Nintendo took the whole idea of parlor games and such to a new level with Clubhouse Games. Clubhouse Games is a huge package, 42 in all, of practically every classic card and board game under the sun. Sure, some changes had to be made. Battleship isnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t called Battleship, itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s now â┚¬Å”Grid Attackâ┚¬Â. Bullshit is called I Doubt It and so forth. The question becomes with all of these games, how does it play? Wellâ┚¬Â¦

1. Collection

There are 42 games in Clubhouse Games. They are *takes a deep breath* Old Maid, Spit, I Doubt It, Sevens, Memory, Pig, Blackjack, Hearts, President, Rummy, Seven Bridge, Last Card, Last Card Plus, Five Card Draw, Texas Hold â┚¬ËœEm, Nap, Spades, Contract Bridge, Chinese Checkers, Checkers, Dots and Boxes, Hasami Shogi, Reversi, Connect Five, Grid Attack, Backgammon, Chess, Shogi, Field Tactics, Ludo, Soda Shake, Dominoes, Koi-Koi, Word Balloon, Bowling, Darts, Billiards, Balance, Takeover, Solitaire, Mahjong Solitaire, and Escape. All in all itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a huge collection of games, not mini games but games, which you might actually consider playing without someone else.

Clubhouse Games isnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t without its own flaws though. Some of these are dumbed down significantly. Pool, for example, is only 9-ball and there are only four pockets. In Chinese Checkers, you only have to move 6 pieces across the board instead of the typical 10. Betting is severely limited in Texas Hold â┚¬ËœEm, and you canâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t put curve on the ball in Bowling.
Furthermore, the lack of house rules for a lot of the games is an absolute pain. I canâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t tell you how frustrating it is to play checkers and to have to make a jump if a jump is available. Things like that screw up my whole strategy of the game. There are several little instances like this that mar the collection on the whole.

Clubhouse Games is a fantastically varied series of games. The problem is that around half of these games have very limited options or are so poorly done that youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll end up playing them once or twice and never touching them again. As it stands, Clubhouse Games is arguably the greatest collection of games ever, but somewhat disappointing in its presentation of these classic games.

Score: 7 out of 10

2. Graphics

Simple is thy name when it comes to Clubhouse Games. There are only a few games that look more then something GBAish and even then, thatâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a stretch. Clubhouse Games has a very, very simplistic presentation. By no means is this a fault though. Clubhouse Games simple presentation allows the focus to be on the games. Thereâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a degree of customization to each game that unlocks the more you play at it too.

If there is a fault to Clubhouse Gamesâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ look, it comes in some of the movement animations. Some parts of the game just feel jerky while other animations just sort of happen. When playing darts for example, the game has a relatively weak sense of a 3D space. The movement feels really unnatural. The same can be said on occasion when playing checkers. When your opponent takes one of your pieces, thereâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s no real sense of being jumped. Clubhouse Games cuts corners when it can simply to make things look better.

The gripes visually one can have with the game are minor. Almost all of the animations in the card games are very natural, and the simplistic layout makes playing practically anything easier on the eyes. Clubhouse Games makes the very obvious observation that it isnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t a graphically powerful game. Rather then dwell on that, Clubhouse Games is presented cleanly and clearly in a visually subdued manner.

Score: 7 out of 10

3. Sound

Out of all of the corners that Clubhouse Games cuts to fit everything in, the gameâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s soundtrack is probably the most noticeable casualty. Clubhouse Games has very little variety to the soundtrack. Furthermore, while some of the tunes are catchy, there just arenâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t enough of them. Sound is really victimized here for content options.
Thatâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s not to say that the sound is bad. The sound effects and music are relatively unobtrusive and in the case of something like Rummy or Connect Five, the shifts in music add something to the game. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s just that sound is clearly secondary here.

Score: 5 out of 10

4. Controls

I love Clubhouse Games. I hate Clubhouse Games. The controls are awesome. The controls completely suck. As with the rest of Clubhouse Games, thereâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a lot more hit here then miss but more then enough miss to take things down a bit. The worst offenders of course is Pool and to a lesser extent Bowling. Pool just feels so unnatural while in Bowling you have little to no control over the ball.

There are a few games with somewhat spotty control as well. Grabbing pieces in the Jenga like balancing game Stack Em is difficult simply because of the touchiness of the sensitivity of the pieces. Some card games also have problems. Most of the poker games have limited betting. In five card draw, you can only bet up to twenty chips a hand (and raises) while in Texas Hold Em, all bets are limited to five chips. Furthermore, you canâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t just keep playing any card games. Eventually you reach the set amount of games and the winner is declared by who has the most chips. The final annoyance comes in I Doubt It as the computer almost will always beat you in calling someone a liar before you even have a chance to react. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a pain.

The majority of the controls in the various games are good though. Most of the card games have smooth animations and the touch screen is very accurate. In a game like Bridge or Spades, it is simple to move and play cards. Other games that require a bit more precision from the touch screen, such as Darts, really nails the feel of the game down.

Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s just very easy to nit pick against Clubhouse Games simply because of an error here and there, and the lack of some options that should have really been there (very few people play Checkers where you have to make a jump if you can Nintendo). The lack of options is what really brings down the control score, not the somewhat touchy controls on a few games (though it certainly doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t help).

Score: 6 out of 10

5. Replay Value

Clubhouse Games does a whole lot more right then it does wrong. There are an absolutely huge number of games included in this package with unlockable themes and tunes to increase the variety of the game. Each game requires you to win 15 times before all of the themes are unlockable (60 total card games to unlock each deck).

Additionally, Wi-Fi play is included in each game with the ability to Pictochat online with your friends. Donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t laugh. Online pictochatting adds an immense amount to this game. Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢d wager that this could give PokÃÆ’©mon Mystery Dungeon or Animal Crossing Wild World a run for the most time consuming DS game ever.

Score: 10 out of 10

6. Balance

Speaking strictly in terms of playing against the computer, Clubhouse Games, has a very nice difficulty curve to it. Even the most adept classic board and card game player will run into a few games in this collection that they are novices at and as you know, the best way to learn a game is to play it. The easy difficulty is truly designed for people who have never played the games before or are young and just learning. For example, it had been a few years since I had played chess when I decided to fire up Clubhouse Gamesâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ version of it. After exchange queens, (I like to get those off the board quickly because I play a game focused around moving my knights freely) the computer saw fit to try and take out my knights which is what I was moving the most. The computer sacrificed the bishops, a knight, and both rooks attempting before bringing down my noble steeds. To say it was an asinine thing to do is simply an understatement.

On a totally different game, Shogi, I still get my ass beat pretty thoroughly before either winning a close game or losing a blow out. I flipped it up to Normal and got completely owned practically every time. The difficulty is really quite accurate and ramps up nicely if you turn it up. If youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re very familiar with a game and want a challenging experience, by all means, turn up the difficulty. Otherwise youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll be pretty underwhelmed with what this game can do.

Score: 10 out of 10

7. Originality

As the European title proclaims, this game is a collection of 42 All Time Classics. While the packaging may be new and online play is a nice feature, Checkers, Solitaire, and Othello are not really original games. As â┚¬Å”All Time Classicsâ┚¬Â the vast majority of people are familiar with a decent number of these games long before video games were even invented. Furthermore, the fact that most of these games can be played online for free hurts the originality score. Still, Clubhouse Games is an amazingly deep package that has rarely graced consoles or portables. None of the games are original, but the depth and uniqueness of the package in a non-PC medium wins Clubhouse Games a few points here and there.

Score: 5 out of 10

8. Addictiveness

The inclusion of Pictochat into an online game alone makes this game offers hours of fun for the whole family (assuming youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re a family of 12 year olds who like drawing penises to each other). Pictochat aside, thereâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a reason most of these games are decades to centuries old. People can devote their lives to playing some of these games. Beyond a somewhat shoddy interface, thereâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s really no reason to put this game down, ever. With so much to do and so many of those games being true classics, Clubhouse Games is really the king of compilations so far on the DS. The presentation does hurt it’s addictiveness quite a bit.

Score: 8 out of 10

9. Appeal

Again, Clubhouse Games contains arguably the most classic card and board games in the history of mankind. The only â┚¬Å”classicâ┚¬Â games that are missing from the package are a few casino games, Monopoly, and maybe Boggle. Thereâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s an almost universal appeal. Granted, some people who see video games as a way to blow stuff up will pass on this collection, but they are in the minority. This is as close to a universally appealing game as we have ever seen on any platform, anywhere.

Score: 10 out of 10

10. Miscellaneous

Something about Clubhouse Games just feels rushed. There are way too many here for a game that should have been an absolute home run. Clubhouse Games is a good game, but given the source material it was working with, it should have been a great game. Unfortunately, I just donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t see myself playing this game too much on my own simply because of the disappointing interface. Thereâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s still a huge amount of multiplayer to go through with Clubhouse Games, but it just could have and should have been a tighter experience. Instead, we get a game thatâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s really unpolished with a few unplayable versions of relatively simple games to put together and a lack of options.

Score: 3 out of 10

The Scores
Story: 7/10
Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 5/10
Control/Gameplay: 8/10
Replay Value: 10/10
Balance: 10/10
Originality: 5/10
Addictiveness: 8/10
Appeal Factor: 10/10
Miscellaneous: 3/10
Total Score: 73/100
Final Score: 7.5

Short Attention Span Summary
Clubhouse Games got a relatively high score for what makes up the package rather then the total package itself. As a game, thereâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a ton of value here as it features almost every card and board game worth playing. Still, Clubhouse Games slacks on its presentation a bit too much. The near unlimited replay value and appeal really help this game out, but I just canâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t shake the feeling that this could have been one of the hallmark titles for the DS. Clubhouse Games stands as a disappointment simply because it could have been great. Instead, it is just merely good.