Bringing the early 2000’s arcade-like experience to your home, Samba de Amigo was previously a hit on the Wii, full to bursting with personality and more than a little RSI wrist pain, and now we have Samba de Amigo: Party Central, trying to bring the series to life in a big way, thanks to being on one of the most popular consoles out there right now: Nintendo Switch.
If you are without prior experience of the series and its perennially grinning monkey, this is a rhythm game from Sega requiring you to strap on your Joy-Cons as virtual maracas, shaking them all around in time to the music. Your task is to match the timing of coloured balls on-screen as they line up with static targets on-screen. With hand positions for up, middle, and down, shaking the controller at the just correct moment will reward you with points and a “GREAT” or “PERFECT” appearing on-screen, depending on your accuracy. It’ll also put your quick thinking and even quicker reactions to the test by using a system of poses and dance moves, reminiscent of Just Dance.
More than once, I’ve found myself pulling a classic disco point or drawing a series of letters in the air, like the K-Pop idol that I was always destined to be, only to find bemused family members slowly shaking their heads in what I can only imagine is sheer awe at the powerful shapes I’m throwing. This is not a game for the introverts out there. Admittedly, I’m not actually a big fan of this feature, much preferring the classic “wave your arms around like a lunatic” gameplay to the more choreographed spinning and posing but I can certainly see the appeal that this would have for a younger, more dance-oriented audience.
For those who are a little more self-aware, there’s a further option in the form of Pro Controller support. Whilst utilising the control sticks offers a more precise method of play, I feel that there’s something lost when you’re not dancing in your lounge, mouthing the words to Kesha’s “Tik Tok”. Don’t get me wrong, the joy con may only do a fair to middling job when it comes to accuracy, but for sheer pop star performance, they can’t be beat!
With an art style very reminiscent of the previous outings in the series, Samba de Amigo: Party Central is bold, bright and somewhat brash. Bombarding you with vibrant colours, brightly flashing images and sparkling firework effects at every possible opportunity, it’s a game that OLED screens were made for. It has that classic Sega chunkiness from the Dreamcast era but now injected with the lively pop of modern UHD gaming. This is the kind of experience that Switch OLED was designed for. With dancing animals at every street corner, there’s a carnival going on inside this game and my word does it want you to know about it!
With a simplistically laid out home menu, you’re only ever a button press or two from diving into your favourite songs. And there’s just about a little something for everyone in the roster of over 40 songs, with 80s hair-rock classics such as Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name”, the timeless meme of “Baka Mitai”, or even remixed disco hits like “ I Will Survive”. There’s plenty of potential for this roster to be further bolstered with new releases of DLC with Japanese, K-Pop, and Sonic the Hedgehog music packs currently available at launch.
The single player campaign on offer, “Streamigo”, tasks you with completing challenges within songs to gain followers and mano-a-mano duelling against CPU challengers, in a streamer-esque roleplay. Varying from amassing a number of perfect hits, keeping a long combo chain going or completing a set number of fast maraca rolls, they helped to keep the gameplay fresh whilst you earn virtual currency to spend on outfitting your own little Samba. Offering a seemingly infinite amount of customization, you can buy hats and outfits to your heart’s content making your own perfect monkey avatar for use throughout the game. With a gallery mode allowing you to bask in the glory of your newly designed outfit, there’s always that perfect piece to save up for.
This is a game perfect for a party atmosphere, with many multiplayer minigames, and head to head maraca duels just ready and waiting for your next get together with friends. This feels like the perfect situation for Samba de Amigo, with fun and japes aplenty, it’s guaranteed to raise a smile or two with a crowd. However, just make sure that they bring their own Joy-Con as modes make use of pairs sadly, not single controllers. Failing that, why not play against the world with the online party mode World Party, allowing you to take on some of the fastest maraca shakers ever to grace the planet in a bizarre sort of musical battle royale.
I’ve had a grand time with Samba de Amigo and can already see this being brought out at Christmas and birthday parties as an instant ice-breaker. With a little more content and maybe a little patched accuracy tweaking, this is sure to be a regular feature at our social gatherings. After all, who can resist pretending to be Bez from the Happy Mondays for a few minutes? It’s certainly not perfect but good gosh it’s fun.
Loads of fun
Lots of modes
Lovely to look at
Accuracy never feels right
Needs more content