Although it won't make the week of lone-wolf gamers who prefer a spot of first-person shooting or some solo space travel, Samba De Amigo will prove entertaining in the extreme for front-room exhibitionists.
The idea of Nintendo's latest rhythm game is to shake your Wii controllers in the manner of a pair of maracas, following the antics of onscreen characters. Sophisticated it's not, but after a couple of shandies it should inject the party spirit into even the surliest of guests.
In detail - By Michael Plant
‘Shake, shake, shake,’ shouts the curiously square-headed piñata monkey, and shake you will as you make your way through the latest in the Samba series courtesy of SEGA. Sometimes, though, you’ll be shaking in confusion and other times seemingly out of time to the beat, but the whole time nonetheless a daft grin will be plastered over your face and that of any friends who might have come over for a blast of the game's classic Latino sounds.
Samba, if you hadn’t guessed already, is a rhythm game. In fact, the original release for the SEGA Dreamcast (remember that?) was one of the very first games to implement the ‘rhythm’ style, now developed so well by the likes of Guitar Hero, Rock Band et al. The idea here is that the Wii remote and nunchuk act as maracas, which you shake either up, straight on, or down to the visual cues. For a bit of variation the Samba instructor will also have you dancing in any number of styles or striking a pose as he sees fit. Play modes include a career mode, a free-play mode where 1 or 2 players can duke it out for supremacy and a series of mini-games unlocked via the career mode.
So then, what’s it like? Fiddly in places, but fun for an hour or two with a bunch of mates is the short answer. Unfortunately, the first thing that anyone new to game will notice is that the maracas don’t always shake on-screen when shaken in your hand. No amount of calibration seems to sort this out and the problem results in a feeling of detachment from the game. While it's bearable in a party game atmosphere, it can get frustrating when going for that last level in ‘superhard’ difficulty. There’s also a lot lacking in the graphical department – backgrounds consist of Miis and various piñata animals dancing about in a garish technicolour nightmare.
Despite those problems though, I can’t help but like and even recommend Samba if rhythm games are your bag and Guitar Hero is getting a little on the stale side. Multiplayer is fun, and a clever handicap system allows veterans and newbies to go at it head-to-head on equal footing. The songs are genuinely entertaining and will bring back fond, rose-tinted memories for anyone who’s ever been to a Spanish hotel’s disco night. You can even download more music thanks to the Wii’s Wi-Fi connectivity for a mere 500 Wii points. And, lets face it, in these times of global doom and gloom, any game that has you doing the monkey to the tune of Papa Loves Mambo has got to be worth a go.