51 Worldwide Games Review – a journey through gaming history

When you first launch 51 Worldwide Games, a toy human figure cheerfully tells you that life on Earth has always been about two things: survival and having fun. While we can argue that there’s more to life than these two pursuits, it’s probably true that games have been around as long as, well, life has. Competition is part of human nature, and there’s a game that will appeal to every living person, whether it’s a lengthy battle of wits, a risky gamble, a lucky dice game, or physical precision.

51 Worldwide Games, known outside Europe & Australia as Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics, certainly casts a wide net for appeal, and for good reason. It’s a broad look at the history of games, quite similar to an anthology. If anthologies existed for video games.

The developer is NDcube. No stranger to multiplayer games of similar ilk, NDcube has been developing Mario Party entries for almost a decade. They also developed a predecessor to 51 Worldwide Games for the Nintendo DS. Here, they’ve been able to remove the pomp and circumstance of Mario Party, cutting to the chase with the individual games themselves. 51 Worldwide Games has very little loading, and aside from a brief introduction for first-timers, players can quickly jump right into a game.

On to the 51 games, then. As mentioned above, there is a wide variety on offer. You have games dating back centuries – perhaps even millennia – such as Mancala, Chess, and Backgammon. You have parlour games we’ve all encountered in our lives at some point: Dots and Boxes, Four-in-a-Row, and a Yahtzee variant called Yacht Dice. There’s a wonderful selection of card games: Texas Hold ‘em and Blackjack appease the gambling types; President and Sevens provide an element of strategy for the hand you’ve been dealt; Speed is a great change of pace with players hitting cards as fast as possible; a small collection of luck games and three Solitaire variants complete the package.

Plenty of sports are presented in a fun, basic way. Bowling and Darts play much like their real-life counterparts with Joy-Con motion controls, and both feel very satisfying to play. They even offer various modes; Challenge Bowling places pins in different patterns, and Darts can be played using either the standard 301 & 501 finishes, or a “highest-score wins” mode. Golf uses a top-down view with mechanics similar to NES Golf, hosted on a course based on the Wii Sports course. Baseball, Football, Boxing, Curling, and Tennis are represented through ‘toy’ versions. Toy Football in particular is a chaotic delight, with the ball bouncing wildly off the players, who can only spin and slide up and down their designated tracks on the pitch.

Shoji and Richi Mahjong are perhaps the most convoluted, particularly for western audiences who may be unfamiliar. However, each game comes with a helpful guide, and the more complex games feature tutorial games too. It’s very accommodating, although the awkward introductory dialogue doesn’t tend to help much. Thankfully, these can be skipped.

There’s a high level of polish on display, and each game feels brilliant to play, with strong audio and visual design. It’s very pleasant to look at, and the sound effects are solid. The Backgammon counters stack with a satisfying ‘clink’, the Mancala seeds rattle against each other in their pockets, and Hanafuda has a striking slap for when a pair of cards is made. It’s solid the whole way through, with unique sounds for each game. It’s a simple feature, but goes a long way to serve the aesthetic, and helps to make the player comfortable during the longer games. It’s a similar story with the soundtrack, as most of it is relaxing music, especially on the Fishing game.

Almost all of the games can be played with a Pro Controller or Joy Con, with a couple requiring the Joy Con for motion control. Overall it’s quite accommodating, although multiplayer will restrict the use of the Pro Controller for some reason. Many of the games can also be played in tabletop mode, using touch-controls, which is pleasant for those playing away from a television.

51 Worldwide Games offers as much as it can for single-player, with medals to earn for each game against computer players at various levels. There are four basic single-player games too, and Slide Puzzle is an intriguing challenge that may rack the player’s brain for a while. That said, 51 World Wide Games is unsurprisingly most enjoyable with multiple players.

Online play is simple. You choose up to three games, and play single-player until an opponent is found in one of the selected games. It’s a good compromise for the obvious potential problem of players being spread too thin across the various games. Online is smooth for the most part, although the game will lag if any player’s connection is weak.

Offline multiplayer is a hoot, at least for two players. Try the game with any more than that, and you’ll find your options limited to Blackjack, Ludo, and – if you have three players – Chinese Checkers. While there are obvious 2-player games abound, there are plenty that could definitely accommodate up to four players, particularly ones like Bowling, Golf, and Darts. Only a few more are playable online, which includes hand-hiding games like Texas Hold ‘em and Last Card. It’s quite baffling that the 4-player options are so limited, not least because Nintendo and Nd Cube are party-game experts.

Despite this significant drawback, 51 Worldwide Games is well worth picking up for the wide selection of games alone. Two players can sink plenty of time facing off in all of the games, and even for single players it’s a great time-killer. Everyone can relive old favourites and learn new ones too thanks to the simple guides. All neatly presented with charming polish, it’s one of the best compilation games on the Switch.

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