Samba De Amigo Wii
A shiny pair of bright red maracas were the first plastic instrument that found a place in my home. They sat proudly on the shelf in the early ’00s long before plastic drums and guitars brought the rhythm genre kicking and screaming to the masses years down the line. However, no matter how much I loved the Dreamcast version of Samba De Amigo, and no matter how happy I was I found one of the few copies available at launch, I always knew it was a flawed game. And I am sure even the most ardent fan would agree that the controls were a little bit off. Because of this, every now and then some of your movements would fail to register whilst playing.
For the most part this was due to the near experiential ultrasonic transmitter sensors Sega used in the maracas to judge positing and height. They would always mess up every so often, even if you had your feet perfectly planted on the yellow mat, and had your sensor bar perfectly velcroed into place with intrinsic precision. Even the crazed move of covering up any mirror in the room, just because I though it could make the transmitters work better did not really help things either. But at least it stopped me catching glimpses of myself while playing, so it seems every cloud has a silver lining after all!
Controlling Samba De Amigo on Wii is regretfully exactly the same – at times even worse – and hits all the wrong boxes in terms of accuracy. Once you play on anything above Normal difficulty, then prepare for many unforced errors ruining the fun as the game struggles to pick and choose between the six different location you move the ‘maracas’ (in the case a Wiimote and Nunchuk, or two Wiimote is you so wish) to keep in beat with the song. Another grievance of playing on the harder difficulties is the fact you have to hit a higher percentage of correct notes (bordering on unfair) to pass a song. Because of this you could end up failing a song through no fault of you own simply because your maracas were a small degree out of alignment and you missed a few notes midtune.
Regardless of this though, the game, just like the Dreamcast original, is still fun when played under the right circumstances and with the right people – namely you and a good mate of yours when slightly intoxicated. However, to unlock some of the songs you first have to venture through the single player mode at least once. Regretfully, this seems more like a chore than it really should, which is probably a good indication that the game is not quite up there with the best in the genre.
Speaking of the soundtrack, it in itself makes the game standout, as its samba influences easily set it apart from most of its rhythm peers. Sure, some of the tracks may be cover versions, but most still offer a unique experience, as you’re unlikely to ever see the likes of Las Ketchup and Gipsy Kings in any other rhythm titles. That said, the music on show is not for everyone, and will not suit everyone’s taste, but if such music offends you in some way then the game probably was never on your radar to begin with.
Even though this Wii version is made by Gearbox – who are mostly known for their shooters – it is still highly evident you’re playing a Sega inspired release. Even looking at the boxart, which boasts the smiling sombrero-wearing monkey that adorns the screen in almost ever mode screams “I am Sega game” when you see it on the shelf. The minigames on show are also highly indicative of Sega ideas, with stuff like Guacamole (Samba de Amigo’s crazed version of the funfair favourite Whac-a-Mole) and Monkey See, Monkey Do (a Simon Says type game) being very entertaining in their own right.
However, when all is said and done it is very hard to have fun with a rhythm game if the controls fight you every step of the way, and this in the end is the game’s ultimate flaw. Because of it, Samba De Amigo is once again a fantastic idea which has been somewhat tarnished by average execution. In truth though, there is not much more Gearbox could have done, as the Wiimote and the Nunchuk are just not up to the task of accurately determining the proper angles needed to play the game correctly.
Nevertheless, if you are looking for a party game to enjoy with a few friends it is still a great game to pick up and have fun over the weekend. Conversely, if you are the kind of gamer who likes to learn song layouts, practices all the way to Carnegie Hall, and then uploads a video of a brilliant high score to YouTube, then this one is probably not for you as it will only madden you in the long run.