Clubhouse Games review
Pick a card... or board or variety game
Video games are often a form of entertainment that let us indulge in things we normally wouldn't be able to. Save the princess of a faraway kingdom. Battle the force of evil with a myriad of weapons. Gather an army of followers to overthrow egotistic emperors. Sometimes though we get offerings that come across as a little more normal, which is where something like 42 All-Time Classics (or Clubhouse Games, which is easier to say) comes into it. A variety of card, board and variety games that generations have enjoyed away form virtual worlds all packed into a single DS game. While not quite the same experience as fantasy adventures I think it's fair to say that if these more traditional types of games are for you then this collection will certainly not disappoint.
Out of the three groups card games take up the bulk of the selection and is further split into basic, intermediate and advanced selections. Within this selection you'll find card games both familiar and unknown so chances are there will be some you can just dive right in. It must be noted though that some of these games are listed under alternative names, so just because you can't immediately see it doesn't mean it isn't there. Then you have the board games split across two further groups, covering various classics such as chess and checkers as well as more obscure ones. Finally are the variety action games offering the likes of darts, bowling and balance games with their own DS interpretation.
Generally speaking, understanding the rules of each game depends on your experience with them. If you're already accustomed to them then awesome, you can dive right in and have fun. Come across a game that's new to you (and considering the amount in here then that is quite likely you'll find such a game) and you can expect to find yourself a little confounded by the rules. Explanations do tend to be incredibly long winded, especially in regards to the more complex offerings like chess where there are so many rules and concepts to digest. It's hard to really criticise the game itself for this though as the complex rules are a part of the original games and complaining about it doing a faithful recreation seems a little silly. It is something to bear in mind though if you're not used to hobbies like this as there is really no way to simplify long rule explanations. I can commend the developers for working well to explain things in depth, with the use of images to provide clear examples. These rules can be accessed when it is your turn as well if you get lost during play.
In relation, enjoyment of the games really depends both on whether you enjoy these kinds of things (and chances are you wouldn't be considering this if you weren't) and how well you understand the rules. Shogi is something I couldn't really get into due to the sheer depth of the game and having never played it before. After a few plays I found that I still couldn't wrap my head around it. Fortunately there are only a few games as complicated as that but said entries do require a fair amount of extra commitment to learn the inner workings of. Those used to the real life counterparts may find some odd quirks though, especially in games involving betting. In addition to having a bet cap (preventing any kind of "all in" situations) it is also possible to end up in the negatives and still bet. Bear with these occasional odd moments though and it's all fine.
Hope the Goddess of Luck smiles upon you.
Gameplay controls change from game to game but ultimately all revolve around the touch screen. The most obvious example is dragging cards around, but it can also be in place for moving board pieces, selecting letters, drawing lines and dropping blocks, amongst others. For the most part these controls are very accurate and well suited to the styles, allowing for games to move at a pace faster that ordinary button based controls would not afford, making the addition of touch screen over analogue input a much more understandable concept. Some games can be a little tricky at first though, and that is mainly down to some of the variety action games. Throwing darts or rolling bowling balls down the alley can result in some frustrating misses a fair bit as swiping the screen with the stylus is definitely something that takes getting used to.
Number of players depends on the game being played. Some might only offer 2 player support (such as checkers) but for games that aren't restricted by their rules then up to 8 players can take part. More players taking part is always a good thing as you compete against more and you can drag in the computer to fill seats as well (along with multiple levels of difficulty for computer opponents). Although the downside for this is that it takes longer to go between rounds as you wait for other players to complete their turns, and this includes computer players as there is no option to fast forward past their turns.
Thankfully, the computer offers a decent challenge when you're filling spots with them, with some all too obvious quirks that sets them apart from human players. Sometimes their actions are easily seen as random, like in one game where you try and determine if someone is cheating, the computer just seems to shout liar randomly and turns up the frequency when any player is nearing the end of their hands. They do seem quite adept at handling the more complex games, so challenging the computer to chess is a worthwhile endeavour. Like always the computer is no substitute to human opponents but allows the single player to still have lots of fun or an ideal way to pad out participants if you want to.
Free play basically lets you play any of the games on offer with any number of players that the rules of chosen entry allows for. A select few games must be unlocked in the single player options first but most of them are accessible right away, which is an ideal way to simply plough through the activities on offer without dealing with too much crap. You can also try taking the experience online thanks to WiFi connection included.
Black looks to be in a spot of bother.
The single player has two other game modes designed specifically for them, with mixed results. Stamp mode is the better of the two, if coming off as a little pointless. Essentially you play through a predetermined order of games in an effort to earn stamps. Get three stamps and move on the to the next game. This is also the mode to unlock the last few games in, but it might seem a little pointless. Effectively the games on offer do not differ from playing them in Free Play mode except you have no control over the order or custom rules, and you can effectively fail three times and move on. Not a bad addition and it might work as a way to introduce you to games you might otherwise overlook but probably just put in to pad the features out. Mission mode is the bad mode. All missions are open from the start and can be tackled in any order. Each one puts you in a specific game and tasks you with set objectives, such as winning a game of checkers while losing no more than one piece. However, this mode suffers horribly from two problems. One is that the objectives are unreasonably strict, but this is simply compounded by the other problem, which is that most of the games on offer are pure chance. How do you achieve objectives in card games when your hand is always random? For these reasons any success in mission mode relies on getting lucky, which makes the whole thing irritating. Granted the only real rewards are avatars to use ingame, but it's clear that this was poorly thought out.
This is one of those rare games where a lot of work went into the gameplay engine but not so much into the presentation. The visuals are functional and clear. Icons are usually as large as they can get away with as one screen generally contains the playing area and the other used for score tracking. Cards, board pieces and other items used are easily recognisable, except that pieces for some of the Japanese games retain their original Japanese appearances. Good for consistency sake but it does mean leaving non-Japanese players a little confused as to which card/piece is which. Especially in Shogi. There are no bells or whistles in here though. Background images are very plain and simple, and although you can unlock new backgrounds and boards for the different games there is little incentive to do so as they are generally not that interesting to look at. I can't pick out anything to complain about as such other than it lacks the spark you might expect from a video game.
Audio is somewhat more depressing. There is a number of music tracks in use but the handpicked chosen are fairly boring to listen to and subsequently disappear into the background as you play. Sound effects are distinctive but mundane and are certainly nothing to write home about. You could easily mute the DS and listen to your own music collection without losing anything from the experience.
It's not your traditional video game and some may scoff at the very idea, but the execution in the gameplay is very good and an ideal way to experience the joys of such games all crammed onto a single DS card. If you want to try some card games inbetween saving princesses then this game is definitely a worthwhile choice for your collection.
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