If there’s one consistent message in the year 2020, it’s this: People should stay inside. The coronavirus has left people sheltering in place and civil unrest has made curfews widespread.
As America swings from one crisis to another, home life has become more important as families see hours of quality time stretching out before them. They can spend it binging Netflix series or they can turn to “Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics” on the Nintendo Switch.
Yes, the title doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but the latest entry to the console’s library packs plenty of amusement for a family game night. Leveraging the versatility of the Joy-Con and the system’s touch screen, the developers at Agenda have programmed 51 fine-tuned games plus a rudimentary piano for players.
The roster is a mix of card games, board games, toy-based curiosities and other pastimes. “Clubhouse Games” supports up to four players and has an online mode. Through a free downloadable program on Nintendo eShop, players who have the full game can play with another Switch console. That means one full version can support multiple consoles for local play.
At its core, “Clubhouse Games” is a party title. It’s a project that excels in group settings — much like a board game. Competitors can argue over the lucky roll in Yacht Dice — aka Yahtzee — or they can test their skills at Darts by using the Joy-Con motion controls.
The games themselves don’t take too long and they’re easy to pick up and play thanks to the familiarity. Players will know games like Checkers, Dominoes and Chess. They’ll even recognize carbon copies of childhood favorites such as Sorry!, Uno and Connect 4, albeit they’re listed by their non-copyrighted names.
Agenda leveraged the visual power of the Switch to create lifelike facsimiles of various games and adapted each so that it feels close to the original. The tactile sensation of dropping chips on the Four-in-a-Row board isn’t there but the core strategy of outhinking the opponent remains.
“Clubhouse Games” has a trade-off. Although the feel of a classic game isn’t entirely there, the fact that players can jump in without setting up pieces or cleaning up is a major benefit. It also lets players cycle through the amusements at a rapid-fire pace. If your group decides Toy Boxing isn’t cutting it, you can switch over to Blackjack in a minute. If Slot Car Racing grows dull, players can try their hand at 6-Ball Puzzle, a “Tetris”-style diversion.
What’s great is that “Clubhouse Games” tallies the wins and losses for each competition. It’s essentially the unbiased scorekeeper and arbiter though I wouldn’t try arguing over the rules with the Switch. It is going to ignore you.
If a player wants to enjoy the distractions of “Clubhouse Games” alone, Agenda supports that as well with surprisingly good single-player mode. It gives them access to all 51 games. Players will just have to battle the computer. In addition, titles such as Klondike and Spider solitaire are meant to be played alone.
Agenda rewards players for their victories with medals and players can try more difficult versions to test their skill. They can even earn cosmetic upgrades such as Mario-themed cards for playing through a single-player mode.
The most surprising element of “Clubhouse Games” is the educational factor. Many of the 51 worldwide classics have their origins in different cultures and feature long histories. Agenda acknowledges that and gives players the background behind games such as Mancala, from ancient Egypt, and Hanafuda, a card game that Nintendo originally manufactured.
The developer groups the activities in themes and ties them to unlockable figurines that act as guides through each game. This single-player mode is a great way to learn the basics of each enterprise. It gives gamers who a chance to learn a new pastime in a welcoming environment. They’ll have all the virtual equipment and rules at hand.
“Clubhouse Games” does a decent job of teaching players the 51 games. Offerings such as Shogi or Riichi Mahjong are complicated, but thankfully, Agenda presents these games intuitively. It allows players to learn the games through the best teacher — experience.
The sheer variety in “Clubhouse Games” is its strength. The developers maximize the fun of these tried-and-true games by making them easy to play so the focus stays on what makes each of them great. Even if fans don’t like one activity, there’s plenty of others to choose from and they can perhaps find a new hobby to focus their passion on.
‘CLUBHOUSE GAMES: 51 WORLDWIDE CLASSICS’
3 stars out of 4
Platform: Nintendo Switch
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