Nintendo is reviving the Clubhouse Games brand with a new entry, Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics, which is due to release on Nintendo Switch in early June. The origins of this compilation began quite some time ago, 2006 in fact, with the first game, Clubhouse Games (or 43 All-Time Classics in Europe), launching on DS. It received decent praise for its accessibility, range of games and its game-share mode which gave players the ability to gift their friends or family a demo so everyone could enjoy tabletop classics with one game card. Thankfully, what made the original game a hit with board game and card game enthusiasts has remained. With 51 Worldwide Classics making the jump to Nintendo’s hybrid console with some interesting features, an abundance of games and a promising online function (of which we’ll go into more detail in the review), the successor to the DS classic is shaping up well. For our preview, we’ll be highlighting some of the main differences between the Switch title and the original. So, without further introduction, let’s talk about what’s changed.
Fans of the original may be happy to learn the Stamp Mode from the first title is no longer present. As soon as you start up, all 51 games – or 52 if you include the Piano – are available to play both in single-player mode and with friends. Previously, you had to earn stamps to unlock other games which led to major frustration, especially when you were forced to play something you weren’t familiar with, found challenging to understand or just didn’t gel with. Thankfully, all games are unlocked from the beginning, so there are no completion requirements for access to additional games in the library. It’s bittersweet, though, as a clear goal has been removed with everything readily available. On the flip side, it’s an open approach and great if you want to play with friends on a certain game.
Although we can’t share impressions on individual games just yet, the range of games on offer is nicely varied. There’s no longer a large focus on card games, the catalogue has a stable mixture of games this time around. If you prefer, you can view every game in a grid view and just tap or click on the one you want to play. But if you’re in the mood for a certain playstyle, there’s the option to browse the range on a globe where Game Guides – little figurines that talk – have categorised them into smaller assortments such as Historical Games, Worldwide Classics and Nintendo History to name a few. Each Game Guide presents a variety of things to try like Blackjack, Hanafuda, Dominoes and Four-in-a-Row. If you fancy some games that require touchscreen input, simply head over to the figurine who specialises in displaying those type of games for an easy way to differentiate them from the rest of the bunch.
Speaking of which, the menus and the quick-start games are sleek and simplistic, making this a true pick-up-and-play title. Sure, the overall presentation is painfully simple and it feels like the Nintendo magic we all know and love is absent, but there are no lengthy character dialogues to shift through and no storylines to follow, making it a breeze to navigate with minimal fuss. And if you’re unsure on how to get to grips with, say, Mahjong or Shogi, the quick (and often surprisingly funny) how-to videos are snappy and informative enough to easily refer to as many times as you deem necessary. As we’ve seen with Labo, when it comes to visual instruction manuals, Nintendo has a deft way with words.
Nintendo has seemingly stripped down a very simple concept. Perhaps this is due to feedback or a change in player behaviour, but we can’t help but think that with the omission of a clear goal, 51 Worldwide Classics could well be the Wii Sports of Nintendo Switch – and that is in no way deemed a flaw. Up until now, the Switch has been surprisingly lacking in the party game genre; not something we’re accustomed to when Wii U had Nintendo Land at launch and Wii came bundled with Wii Sports.
There is, however, bowling, darts and a tank game that is dubiously close to one found in Super Mario Party, but it’s a classic case of ‘less is more’ here. By not having the preamble of a lengthy boardgame to grabs stars like in ‘Party, or furiously wagging the Joy-Con in 1-2-Switch to milk cows, this will no doubt appeal to a much broader market. You won’t find it too difficult to find something that you, your friends or your family will enjoy playing.
Akin to Animal Crossing: New Horizons but without the familiar Nintendo charm, this is another piece of Switch software that is launching at a time where having fun together is as important as ever and, from what we’ve played so far, 51 Worldwide Classics has the foundations to bring a bit of joy in these uncertain times.
A copy of Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics for preview purposes was provided by Nintendo UK. A full review of the game will be published in due course.