Like its name suggests, Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics for the Nintendo Switch offers a wide range of single and multiplayer games. Nintendo never made a secret out of the games on the collection, but I'm still impressed by the diversity of the distractions available. This is no bargain bin shovelware party game collection that gives you twenty small variations on Solitaire. Clubhouse Games' fare ranges from childhood favorites like Connect Four to traditional Japanese games that take some getting used to.
If the words "traditional Japanese games" make your stomach quake a little bit, never fear. I initially felt intimidated when I dove into Clubhouse Games' iterations of Shogi and Hanafuda (the name Clubhouse Games uses for Koi-Koi—a game you play with Hanafuda cards). That intimidation turned into a wave of thankfulness when I learned Nintendo includes thorough explanations for each game. In the case of complicated titles like the above-mentioned Shogi and Hanafuda, there are even lessons on tap.
These explanations and lessons are as useful as they are appreciated. If you're a brain-dead potato like myself who doesn't know how to play chess (I'm serious), Clubhouse Games gently teaches you through several sessions. The lessons explain the pieces, how they move, and encourages you to play for yourself by marking danger spots on the board. I honestly don't know if anyone will ever pull out a chess board and challenge me later in my life, but now I feel confident I can react positively to the event instead of letting my mouth hang slack. I'll lose, but at least I won't stick the Knight up my nose and ask, "Am I playing right?"
Lessons aside, Clubhouse Games' method of introducing each game is the most "Nintendo" thing in the universe. When you pick something, a family modeled to resemble plastic game pieces waddles onto the fray and explains your choice in a sentence or two. Then the family members turn on each other and start playing for keeps. These clan struggles double as a visual guide for how the game is meant to be played. You can skip them, of course, but they're mighty useful when you enter unknown territory.
Further instructions can be found beneath the family drama. Said instructions are blessedly short and simple, and they're presented in a slideshow format that's easy to digest. Dominoes has long been a mystery to me, but Clubhouse Games explained the basics of the game in a way I understood immediately. Now I hate myself for running away from Tilly every time she tried to get me to play Dominoes in Red Dead Redemption 2. ("Arthur—")
Clubhouse Games' simple but thorough rule explanations is one of its best features, but there's a lot to admire in this neat package. If you simply don't feel like mucking around with rulesets and lessons, there's a pile of games that are self-explanatory. You know how to play air hockey, right? Even the aforementioned plastic family stares at you silently instead of explaining the game. Toy Baseball is a hoot if you love Persona and Yakuza's batting cages as much as I do. The Game That's Connect Four in Everything but Name takes me back to the rained-out recesses of my childhood when our teachers told us to play games and be good while they slipped outside for a smoke.
I've yet to dive into the deepest depths of Clubhouse Games, but from my current angle, it has everything you want from a mini game collection: Family drama, flashbacks to damp-smelling grade school carpets, and plastic instructors whose eyes—nay, their indented suggestion of eyes—bore holes in your soul. It also has a great selection of games that require differing levels of skill (or none), and is a patient, effective teacher if you need to do some game learnin'.
Clubhouse Games is out on June 5. Look forward to our review in the near future.