February 1, 2007

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Clubhouse Games (DS)
Agenda, 2006
By Glenn Given production@hippopress.com

Forty-two card and board games in my pocket, you boast? Oh yeah, Clubhouse Game? Well then where the F is Pinochle?

Seriously, seeing as how games I didnít even know that I loved (all hail Shogi!) are now sucking up vast amounts of my non-Warcraft life, itís a shame that Pinochle wasnít included. Sigh. Clubhouse Games makes quite an impression, though, with its other-than-Pinochle-wise exhaustive collection of popular card games (from Spit to Seven Bridge), a grandparentís house full of board games (chess, backgammon et al.) and a smattering of cute DS versions of bowling, darts and the like. There are a few oddballs mixed in, like Soda Shake (where you ďshakeĒ a bottle of soda and pass it around until it explodes) and Dominoes, which, despite its being explained many times I have no idea how to actually play, among others.

While Clubhouse Games is an excellent way to burn up those odd 15-minute lulls in your day with a quick few hands of Gin, itís the WiFi multiplayer on 37 different games that makes the grade. Only one copy of the cartridge is required to have a go as the DS will beam copies of the particular game chose to the other players. You can also go online and challenge players from across the globe (provided that you have their DS Friend code) in ranked matches. Players can talk via the DS pictochat interface throughout the game (which in a game like spades or bridge seems like a bad enabler) and the multi-player experience is one of the best to date on the handheld.

The flaws that Clubhouse Games possesses are merely irksome (what with renaming Bullsh** to I Doubt It and A**hole to President ó despite the larf-tacular synchronicity of the latter) with three notable exceptions. In many of the card games players are allowed to bet into the negative, betting is often capped and some games have play limited to a set number of hands. Strategically this neuters many play-styles although frankly, if youíre looking for a hardcore Texas Holdíem simulator, perhaps this ainít for you. The group play is unbeatable and solo play against the compotent computerized opponents is satisfying although card sharks will likely make mincemeat of the AI.

Clubhouse Games sells on the value of its staggeringly broad collection of classic fun. Youíre simply not going to find this many games, translated with this amount of care in such an inviting package anywhere else. Itís a generation-gapping title, a superbly crafted time-waster and a keystone game for your DS collection. A-

ó Glenn Given.