Review: Clubhouse Games Express: Card Classics (DSI)

Clubhouse Games Express: Card Classics
Genre: Card Games
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: 04/27/09


Continuing with the “pieces of actual released DS games as standalone downloads” theme, we move on to Clubhouse Games Express: Card Classics, a standalone version of Clubhouse Games that comes with five multiplayer card games for one or more players. Assuming you don’t own Clubhouse Games already, this might not be a bad download, as it’s a fun little virtual card game collection to play around with that comes with DS download play for multiple players and five full card games. This isn’t an especially feature-filled release, though, and while it’s amusing to a point, it’s honestly pretty bare-bones and basic in terms of actual content.

Clubhouse Games Express: Card Classics comes with five card games to choose from, each of which can be played with up to eight players, though you can play by yourself if you’d rather, and the computer will fill in the required opponents as needed. You can also play the game with your friends through the wireless connection via DS download play, so friends with a DS or a DSi can challenge you to a game or two without much time or effort. The game looks fine for what it is. You can select a little icon to represent yourself, but the actual game itself is mostly just a card table and animated cards moving back and forth, which is fine, if a little basic. The music is cute and enjoyable, if not memorable, and it changes in tone depending on the situation, so it speeds up when someone is close to winning a game, for example. The sound effects are mostly arcade-esque effects to signify winning and losing, and the sounds of cards being shuffled and dealt, and again, these all sound fine.

There are five total card games in Clubhouse Games Express: Card Classics, some of which you’ll be familiar with, others you might not. They are as follows:

Black Jack – This one is one most of you should be familiar with. You’re dealt two cards and can ask for more as needed, and the goal is to get to a total hand of twenty one without going over, while also beating the hand the dealer has. Those who know how Black Jack works will probably be fine with this version, as all of the standard rules apply. You can hit, stand and double down, the dealer has to hit until they reach seventeen, and in general, the game is as easy or hard as real Black Jack, so fans of the normal game will find this to be much the same.

Five Card Draw – Poker, ladies and gentlemen. Take five cards and try to build a winning hand from them, be it one or two pairs, three of a kind, a full house, a flush, a straight, or whatever. The rules are pretty simple: toss in your ante to join the hand, then raise the bet, call to match the present bet, or fold and leave the hand, until one player wins, either by bluffing his way to victory or playing the best hand. If you’re familiar with Poker, you’re familiar with this.

Last Card – This plays like a simplified version of Uno mixed with a little bit of Hearts. You’re given a hand of cards and the objective is to play cards of the same suit as what’s presently in play, or failing that, to draw cards until you have a card you can play. The person who plays the highest value card starts the next turn, and the person with no cards in their hand first wins the game. Unlike Black Jack and Five Card, there’s no betting in Last Card, so you win this game by having the highest overall ranking over a series of games, which is done by being out the earliest the most often.

Last Card Plus – This game is essentially Last Card with a bunch of additional rules, making it a lot more like Uno. In this case, players take turns playing cards of the same suit OR value, or drawing cards if they cannot play a card, until they run out of cards, much like in Last Card, but here there are a bunch of special rules to consider. The Ace makes the next player miss a turn, the 2 and 3 cards make the next player draw that many cards (just to be a jerk), the 8 changes the suit to one of the player’s choice, and the 9 reverses play order, among other things, making Last Card Plus a much more complicated game than Last Card, though if you can learn the rules, it’s also a whole lot more fun.

President – This game is similar to Last Card, though there are some significant changes to the play mechanics. In essence, someone starts off by playing a card, and the next player either plays one or more cards of higher value, until no one can play a higher value card, and then the sequence starts over. Much like Last Card, the objective is to run out of cards, but unlike Last Card, there is no drawing of cards if you cannot play a card; the hand is simply over for you. Multiple cards of the same number or of sequentially increasing value may be played by one player as well, so a good play can bring you from last place to first place in seconds if you’re in good luck.

Now, since Clubhouse Games Express: Card Classics is purely a game for card game fans, it’s not going to turn your head if you’re not a fan of that sort of thing. It’s also apparent that if you already own Clubhouse Games for the DS you’ll most likely have no use for this. These obvious issues aside, the fact of the matter is that while Black Jack and Five Card Draw are timeless classics, Last Card, Last Card Plus and President are generally more obscure card games that aren’t likely to sell you on owning this game. Frankly, they’re similar enough to one another that one or two of them could have been omitted to make room for some more diverse and recognizable card games. The games are fun enough, sure, and the option for DS download play is nice, yes, but if you have to explain the rules to everyone before you can all play, that’s kind of pointless. There’s also the question of, “Why would I download and play something like this for five dollars when I could just buy a deck of playing cards for two dollars which doesn’t require anyone I know to own a DS?” that comes up in this sort of situation. Clubhouse Games dodged this question by coming with a bunch of other games to play that were not so easily replicated, but Clubhouse Games Express: Card Classics, being ONLY card games, is not so lucky.

If you like card games, and you either are okay playing against the CPU or have friends who like card games, Clubhouse Games Express: Card Classics is an amusing and fairly inexpensive download that might be worth a look. The visuals and audio are clean, if unimpressive, there are five games to choose from that are reasonably playable and amusing, the controls are simple to learn, and the multiplayer works through DS download play so only one person needs to own the game. There’s nothing here but card games, though, so if you’re looking for something a little more involved the actual Clubhouse Games game might be more of what you’re looking for, and if you already own that, there’s no reason to own this. Further, only Black Jack and Five Card Draw are immediately recognizable games, three of the games are very similar to one another, and some of the games are going to require more than thirty seconds of explanation to understand, which limits the appeal and worth of the title a bit. For five dollars, Clubhouse Games Express: Card Classics is amusing enough to be worth checking out if you like card games but hate having to carry around and make space for actual playing cards, but it’s not really worth the investment otherwise.

The Scores:
Game Modes: MEDIOCRE
Graphics: MEDIOCRE
Sound: MEDIOCRE
Control/Gameplay: GREAT
Replayability: GOOD
Balance: GOOD
Originality: WORTHLESS
Addictiveness: ABOVE AVERAGE
Appeal: ABOVE AVERAGE
Miscellaneous: GOOD
FINAL SCORE: DECENT GAME.

Short Attention Span Summary:
Clubhouse Games Express: Card Classics is kind of a misleading title. While there are five fun card games to be played here, only two of them are really “classics” in any sense of the word, and the complexity of some of the games makes this less of an “express” experience than one might want. There are five card games to choose from, the game looks and sounds serviceable enough to be fine, there’s DS download multiplayer, and the controls are very easy to work with. On the other hand, the only real classic games in this download are Black Jack and Five Card Draw, the other three games are very similar to one another, several of the games will take multiple games of play to make sense if you’ve never played them before, you’ve seen everything this has to show off if you own Clubhouse Games, and you could replicate the entire experience with a deck of cards and an open table. For five dollars, Clubhouse Games Express: Card Classics isn’t bad, and it’s worth it if you like card games, but it’s not really worth checking out otherwise.

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