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Nintendo’s Clubhouse Games is a comforting collection of classics on the Switch

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Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics has an extremely boring name, but also an extremely accurate one. It gathers together a few dozen classic titles — ranging from card and board games to things like pool and darts — into one package for your Switch. It’s not an especially innovative idea. But each of the games is presented with care and consideration, resulting in a delightful collection that’s just about the ideal comforting distraction.

What’s nice about Clubhouse Games is that it acts as an introduction to these tabletop experiences. You can pick any of the games at any time — there’s no unlocking process — and when you do you’re presented with a brief, charming tutorial video that gives you the basics. Each one is presented as a few characters chatting about the game and how it works. If you’ve built any of Nintendo’s Labo kits, the vibe is very similar here. For some of the more complex games, like shogi, you can also play through a quick guided match to help grasp the basics. Essentially, each tutorial gives you exactly what you need to know in a way that’s both pleasant and succinct.

The games themselves are similarly presented with a minimum of fuss. If you hop into a game of solitaire or checkers, there’s little there aside from the game. No flashy special effects or Nintendo branding. But it doesn’t look cheap or boring. Instead, the visuals and sound design combine to create a very tactile experience, despite the fact that you’re moving chess pieces around on a touchscreen.

One of the great things about Clubhouse is how it utilizes different control schemes for different purposes. If you’re playing darts, for instance, you can use touchscreen swipes to toss a dart in portable mode or, if you’re playing on a TV, you can hold the Joy-Con like a real dart and make a throwing motion. Bowling works in the same way while other games, like checkers, swap motion controls for standard button inputs. There are a few hiccups with the motion controls; I found darts to be a bit finicky, while bowling worked very well. (This is the Wii Sports bowling follow-up many have been waiting for.) But for the most part the controls do exactly what they need to.

When it comes to the games you already know, there’s something very comforting about Clubhouse Games. It’s been really nice to just hop on the couch and play some checkers with my seven-year-old, or squeeze in a few minutes of the surprisingly serene fishing game whenever I’m stressed. My favorite part of the experience, though, has been discovering new things. I’m finally learning how to play hanafuda, and discovering games I’d never had the opportunity to try before, like the ancient strategy game mancala. Clubhouse does a great job of presenting these experiences, too, grouping games into helpful categories like “social” or “sport,” and providing little bits of trivia as you play. My favorite section features some of the card and board games Nintendo made before it became known for the NES and Super Mario.

I’ve lost count of the number of games I’ve called “perfect for the Switch” over the last three years. But even still, Clubhouse is ideally suited for the platform, more so than just about anything I’ve played. It has games you can enjoy by yourself or in groups, and experiences that are suited for both portable and TV play. It’s not a flashy system seller — but it’s a game I’ll always want to have with me, just in case.

Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics is available today on the Nintendo Switch.

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7 new trailers to watch this week

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I love when books and films take place over really short periods of time, and I recently watched two that work within a similar time frame back to back: Booksmart (which I was seeing for the first time) and Cloverfield (which, if I’d ever seen before, I had completely forgotten). Both take place mostly over the course of a single night, which kicks off after a short setup sequence introduces their cast of characters.

The movies aren’t particularly alike, but side by side, it was clear what a comparably amazing job Booksmart does in getting its events rolling. The main character is set up in all of 30 seconds with a glance over her bedroom, and nearly every other character in the movie is established over the next 15 minutes. Then the night rolls, and we watch everything that was set up earlier fall into place.

Cloverfield, on the other hand, really takes its time. The setup isn’t that much longer — about 18 minutes — but it does so much less in that time period, loosely establishing just a few characters while we impatiently wait for something to happen. It’s a monster movie, and ultimately, they just need to get to the monster.

Check out seven trailers from this week (okay, one’s from last Friday, but it was a holiday) below.

An American Pickle

Seth Rogen stars in this wonderfully depressing looking comedy about a 1920s immigrant to America, who — through failures in early 1900s factory safety standards — becomes frozen in time and wakes up in the modern day, where he meets his great-grandson, who is also played by Seth Rogen. It’s a perfectly ridiculous premise. The film comes to HBO Max on August 6th.

Die Hart

Kevin Hart stars as a fictionalized version of himself going through a ludicrous training boot camp to learn how to become an action star, rather than just a comedic sidekick, in Die Hart. It’s a funny premise, but I’m not sure how many people will see it — the show airs on Quibi, which doesn’t exactly have a huge subscriber base. It comes out on July 20th.

Away

Hilary Swank stars as an astronaut headed to Mars in Away, a new series headed to Netflix. This first look doesn’t reveal much, but we should know more soon: the series debuts on September 4th.

I Used To Go Here

Gillian Jacobs stars as a burnt-out author who heads back to her old college for inspiration, and in doing so, seems to regress into a college student herself. Jemaine Clement co-stars as a professor. The film comes out on August 7th.

We Are Who We Are

HBO has a new series coming up from Luca Guadagnino, the director of Call Me By Your Name, that once again involves glamorous teenagers living in Italy. This first teaser is super short, but it gives off just enough Call Me By Your Name vibes to get me interested. The show debuts in September.

She Dies Tomorrow

Amy Seimetz wrote and directed this eerie, dryly comic psychological thriller about a woman who believes she’s going to die and the people around her who start to believe it. The film got great reviews out SXSW, and now it’s heading to theaters (and drive-ins) on July 31st before streaming on August 7th.

Valley of the Gods

Uhhhhh. There’s a snake limousine.

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Sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. breaks record for most expensive game ever sold

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Super Mario Bros. keeps breaking records three and a half decades after release. A mint copy of a US version of the 1985 game just sold for $114,000 at Heritage Auctions, breaking the previous record set by a copy of Super Mario Bros. in similar condition that sold for $100,150 at an auction last year.

That makes it, according to game collector and journalist Chris Kohler, the most expensive game ever sold to date.

A sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. just sold at auction for $114,000, which is a new record for the sale of a single game. Bet the owners of the $100,000 one, which is an earlier printing, feel great today. pic.twitter.com/lVdcla8d19

— Chris Kohler (@kobunheat) July 10, 2020

What makes this particular version so coveted? Well, it’s graded at a 9.4 out of 10, which means it’s in near-perfect condition, with everything sealed in the original packaging. It’s also a particular version of the US retail edition, which went through quite a few iterations over time. Here’s Heritage with a neat explanation of the so-called cardboard hangtab that makes this unit so rare:

What’s the deal with cardboard hangtabs? one may, understandably, wonder. Cardboard hangtabs were originally used on the US test market copies of black box games, back before plastic was used to seal each game. As Nintendo began to further establish their company in the US, their packaging was updated almost continuously. Strangely, the addition of the plastic wrap came before the box cutting die was altered to remove the cardboard hangtab. This rendered the functionality of the cardboard hangtab completely useless, since it was under the plastic seal.

There are four sub-variants of the plastic sealed cardboard hangtab box (this particular copy of Super Mario Bros. being the “3 Code” variant) that were produced within the span of one year. Each sub-variant of the cardboard hangtab black box, produced within that timeframe, had a production period of just a few months; a drop in the bucket compared to the title’s overall production run.

In short, a cardboard hangtab copy of any early Nintendo Entertainment System game brings a certain air of “vintage” unrivaled by its successors.

Heritage also outlines the broader picture in terms of the game’s value and nostalgia factor: it is the highest-selling game on the original NES console of all time, in addition to being the first entry in the Super Mario Bros. series and marking the first appearance of series villain Bowser.

Yet why, of all items, is this one worth $114,000? We can’t be entirely sure, as the auction winner remains anonymous. Typically, these buyers, often very wealthy, like to stay that way. That said, it’s certainly believable that someone with the money and dedication to building out the rarest of Nintendo or video game collections would want something like this on the shelf (or perhaps sealed in glass or in a safe).

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HBO Max is getting a Batman spinoff show based on the upcoming Robert Pattinson movie

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HBO Max has announced a new TV series focused on the Gotham City Police Department, which will be a spinoff of Matt Reeves’ upcoming The Batman film (which is set to star Robert Pattinson at Bruce Wayne / Batman).

The new series will be set in the same world as Reeves’ film and will be produced by Reeves and Dylan Clark (who’s also producing The Batman). Boardwalk Empire creator Terence Winter is set to write the series.

The series promises to “build upon the motion picture’s examination of the anatomy of corruption in Gotham City” and “further explore the myriad of compelling and complex characters of Gotham,” with the goal of launching a “new Batman universe across multiple platforms.”

The new TV series emphasizes how important DC properties are to the overall HBO Max strategy. By tying a TV series to its next big Batman film, Warner Bros. is hoping to leverage the popularity of its DC characters to help drive subscribers to the new streaming service. It’s a similar motivation that’s fueling the slate of already-announced DC series coming to the platform and the upcoming release of the Snyder Cut of Justice League that’s planned for next year.

The Batman isn’t the only property that WarnerMedia is looking to expand to HBO Max. The company is also set to try a similar experiment with its upcoming Dune adaptation. It’s already announced a spinoff for HBO Max, Dune: The Sisterhood, which will explore the larger world of Dune and the characters in it. It will be produced by Dune director Denis Villeneuve.

WarnerMedia isn’t the only company trying to tie its blockbusters to streaming: it’s a cornerstone of Disney’s strategy for Disney Plus, too, which has emphasized its Star Wars series (like The Mandalorian) and the upcoming Marvel shows like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier or Loki as ways to drive subscriptions.

There’s no release date yet for the upcoming Gotham PD HBO Max series; The Batman is scheduled to release on October 1st, 2021.

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