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Nintendo DS Review: Clubhouse Games

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Clubhouse Games is a set of games, half of which are card games, that you play using the touch-screen capabilities of the Nintendo DS.

Unlike any other, this is a collection you should not be without. Tape this game cart to your DS, so you are never without it, wherever you are.

This is the poster child for Nintendo's Touch Generations, even more so than even Brain Age or Tetris DS. The reason is simple, as simple as the game itself – everyone young and old loves to play the games included in this package.

There is just so much variety, and it will keep your interest for hours at a time. You will be hard pressed to find another title packed with so many games — 42 in total — including card, tile, board, and parlor games.

Most games will be familiar; a lot of them will be favorites. That is the best part. All games have extensive in-game instructions, and tips, so you don't have to worry about not knowing how to play.

There are some oddball games included, and the instructions sometimes don't do the best at explaining said games. But in general, great job on the instructions.

All games are broken into eight categories, and most are playable via local and Wi-Fi multiplayer. Instead of listing a few of my favorites, it would do more justice to list what you get:

Basic Card Games
Old Maid
I Doubt It

Intermediate Card Games
Seven Bridge
Last Card
Last Card Plus

Advanced Card Games
Dive Card Draw
Texas Hold 'Em
Contract Bridge

Basic Board Games
Chinese Checkers
Dots and Boxes
Hasami Shogi
Connect Five
Grid Attack

Advanced Board Games

Field Tactics

Variety Games
Soda Shake
Word Balloon

Action Games

Single-Player Games
Mahjong Solitaire

Clubhouse Games is not a graphically intense display of pixels, but it doesn't have to be. The text is clear, and the presentation is quite clean.

You will find more pizzazz in Web versions of these games. But what Clubhouse Games lacks in flash, it makes up for with substance – in spades.

Sticking with the theme of "simple," these games are watered down. Texas Hold 'Em is not a full-fledged version, for example. Most games do have options though, and they allow you to change different rules.

Another example of simplicity in the game design is Bowling, as you cannot put spin on the ball. Though this is one of the most fun games included.

I spend a lot of my time playing Mahjong Solitaire. It has 10 different layouts to choose from, and is rendered very cleanly.

The worst of the lot is Billiards, which is a total shame. Billiards is one of my favorite games, in virtual and physical form. This version is broken, without even a standard way to hit the cue ball strait.

You can only play Nine Ball, which is fine. There is no way to hit the ball true, as you use the stylus to strike the cue ball. This never makes for a strait shot, as it is impossible to draw a strait line (back for power, forward to hit the cue ball) on the DS screen.

There is also an absence of ball physics. I understand they were going for simple with the entire package, but being too simple has broken Billiards.

But one game out of many does not kill Clubhouse Games.

Single-player consists of Free Play, Stamp, and Mission modes. Stamp Mode has you completing all games in order, and unlocking a couple games in Free Play. You get stamps for winning games.

Thankfully, you also get a stamp for losing, so you can stumble through games you are not good at.

Mission mode has 30 different missions to complete, such as completing a game of Spit in 90 seconds.

There is a lot to do in single player, but the game supports single-card download play for up to eight players, and takes full advantage of the Nintendo Wi-Fi service.

If you have a Wi-Fi hotspot, most of your time will be spent in the Multiplayer Mode. With 31 of the 42 games playable online, Nintendo has another huge win for the Wi-Fi service.

In games with friends, you can use a PictoChat-like interface to doodle, otherwise you can pick from pre-made phrases like "Nice Game!"

On the negative side of Wi-Fi play, Worldwide games are not easy to find partners for if the game is not popular. You could be waiting for the service to match you with someone else looking to play the same game you want to for a very long time.

This is where having a bank of Friend Codes comes in handy. This is not a fault of the game so much as it is a fault of the Friend Code system. I have a lot of "Friends" in my DS so I can find games easier.

Ideally, this game and other Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection games would give you a list of available players for Game X, not just stick you with a "Quick Match" option. But again, this is a fault I have with the service, not the game.

The game supports up to 64 Friend Codes, so once you find enough people who play Clubhouse Games, your multiplayer experience gets even better.

Clubhouse Games has something for everyone, and is a game you simply should not be without. It has no equal on any of the current handhelds, or mobile phones/PDAs for that matter.

There are some games you won't care about in this compilation. But considering the stunning amount in total, there are enough that make this a very easy purchase, as well as a highly recommended game for under the Christmas tree.

Clubhouse Games is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Simulated Gambling.

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About Ken Edwards