Also known as Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics, this title is an essential part of any Switch library.
It marks Switch-era Nintendo making a keen effort to attract the same “family-friendly” audience that they courted with the Touch Generations games on Wii and Nintendo DS. It’s also a great way to learn or brush up your skills on some classic games, whether you’re playing solo or with friends.
The concept of “gaming” wasn’t always about immersing yourself in RPGs that last for several hundred hours, or about hurling abuse at random strangers online.
No; in the dim and distant past, before electronics dominated nearly every aspect of our lives, it was about gathering around a table with friends and doing various things with bits of wood, glass beads and playing cards that could, in most cases, be summarised as “tidying up”. And once the digital age first dawned for consumers in the late ’70s, it was about gathering around your family television to play digital recreations of those tabletop pursuits on your woodgrain Atari Video Computer System.
51 Worldwide Games, also known as Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics, marks a delightful return to both of these bygone eras. And in the process, it becomes a true essential for anyone’s Nintendo Switch library.
I’ve never been especially good at gambling. Largely because I don’t do it a lot.
Experimenting with simulated gambling doesn’t fill me with a ton of confidence, you see, because games like this are an excellent way to see that, inevitably, if you keep going you’ll end up with nothing more often than not.
Here’s Black Jack, a launch title for the Atari 2600, and a game which Video Magazine gave a perfect 10 out of 10 rating in 1979.
Computers make good opponents for classic tabletop games, and have done since the earliest days of the 2600.
They get on with their turns rather than checking their phones or talking about the football (although 2600 board games on the hardest difficulty warn they may take up to 20 minutes to make a decision about their next move, which is almost as bad as my friend Sam deciding whether or not he wants to build the Well in Agricola) and they’re able to provide a reasonable challenge for both beginners and masters in a variety of disciplines.
Today, then, we look at an entry in Atari’s “Mindgames” range for ST: it’s Go-Moku/Renju, two very similar “five in a row” games very loosely based on classic Chinese game Go.
I absolutely loved MB and Games Workshop’s HeroQuest as a kid, but I rarely got the opportunity to play it on the tabletop with real people.
Imagine my delight, then, when Gremlin announced that they were developing a computerised adaptation of the board game I’d come to love so much. And imagine my even greater delight when it turned out to be a very good game indeed — although arguably perhaps a little too true to the original board game for a computer version!
This is a game that still holds up pretty well today in both its tabletop and electronic formats. Gather a party of friends — or go it alone — and see how far you can get in the substantial campaign!
I don’t play a lot of games on my phone these days, because a lot of them are touchscreen-controlled garbage, bad knockoffs of games that I didn’t really want to play in the first place or microtransaction-infested pits of misery and despair.
However, once in a while a game comes along with none of those issues. A game where you can pay once and just play it; a game where you’ll never see an ad, never be asked to pay again and not be bugged every ten minutes to “rate 5 stars on the App Store”.
And sometimes that game is even good! Here’s Take It Easy, by Ravensburger.
Dominos, another black and white title from Atari’s early days, surprised me by not at all being what I expected.
I was anticipating a fairly faithful adaptation of the tabletop game Dominoes — which wouldn’t have been altogether difficult to put together even with the rudimentary technology of the time — but instead I got a rather enjoyable, addictive two-player game in the vein of what we now know as the Snake genre.
While most people are familiar with Snake from its late-’90s Nokia phone incarnation, the idea of one or more players moving around a field and leaving an impassable trail behind them has been around since the earliest days of video games. Dominos was a very early example, following the genre progenitor Blockade by just a year. As such, it’s very simple in execution… but that doesn’t stop it being fun, particularly alongside a friend.
Any time you undertake a project like this, you have to accept that some elements of it are just going to be less of a “spectator sport” than others.
Such is the case with today’s Atari ST game, the not-much-to-look-at-but-fun-to-play Shanghai by Activision, an adaptation of Mahjong Solitaire that makes use of the ST’s built-in graphical user interface GEM as the foundation of its aesthetic. This was not at all an unusual approach back in the day, and is akin to more modern PC games running on Windows 95 and beyond making use of a windowed interface and standardised Windows controls. Not the most beautiful look, no, but perfectly functional — and a lot more intuitive to those who perhaps don’t play a lot of games.
Compared to more recent adaptations of Mahjong Solitaire, Shanghai is fairly limited, but it nonetheless remains a pleasingly relaxing, Zen sort of experience. Once you figure out how to read the screen properly, that is…