Previews

Samba De Amigo

Shake, shake, shake, shake, shake your head

Games journos mill aimlessly around a hospitality suite. In struts NGamer to a Ricky Martin beat. Heads turn as we jive over to the demo unit, grab the controls, adopt our finest rumba pose and rattle out a room-mesmerising A-ranked rendition of Bellini's Samba De Janerio.

Here's what actually happened: games journalists sit in a hospitality suite. In stumbles NGamer, late. Pushing through to a demo pod we grab the controls and adopt our finest rumba pose.

"Why are you standing like that?" asks the Sega rep. "This is Sega Bass Fishing." Shamed, we reach the correct unit and promptly fail Bellini's Samba De Janerio.

Memory can be a funny old thing. It paints our lives as a string of masterful moments, kindly censoring out all our missteps. And we do it for games, too.

Mention Samba De Amigo and eyes glaze over as one-time Dreamcast owners remember all those Latino holidays they had from the safety of their sofas - all the passionate rhythm, none of the favela-based stabbings.

Daylight come

"Oh, those beautiful maraca peripherals," they say, but little else. It's the weighty sensation of plastic rattlers that Amigo-heads really warmed to.

Take away the ability to jive around your living room like a one man carnival and you're left with little more than a rudimentary rhythm challenge and a terrifying monkey with the eyes of a Sunny Delight addict.

Question is, without those chunky plastic wonders can we hope to have a Samba De Amigo of our very own to nostalgically over-sell for years to come?

Mechanically, Gearbox have done a sound job. The concept is as simple as it ever was: a right maraca and a left maraca, you just have to shake each one at the height the game tells you.

High, middle and low are represented by the three circles to Samba's side; as blobs move over them, simply ensure the height of the respective 'maraca' matches and give it a shake.

And we want go home

A highlighted circle shows your height. Simply flapping your arms up and down a few times shows how well synched they are as the highlighted circle effortlessly flits from top to bottom.

It's not based on angle, as with the sword poses in No More Heroes, nor does it use the sensor bar - the nunchuk's tight synching is testament to this.

Using just the accelerometers, it's impressive that the vigorous shaking required to hit the notes doesn't upset the game's height registering.

Yes, as mentioned above, we are miserably poor at the game, but we'd put this down to personal rubbishness rather than any specific in-game flaw.

Having the confidence in the technology is the major hurdle - every shake is currently hindered by a panicked glance at the circles to ensure the game is registering height correctly.

A nearby Dreamcast fan fared much better - it would seem that this confidence is key to all iterations of Samba De Amigo.

One Wii-specific worry that didn't come to fruition was the dreaded 'after-shake'. If you've played the rhythmic bell-ringing game in Zack And Wiki, you may be acquainted with this particular fiend, where the momentum of a single shake registers as a second unintended shake.

In Zack And Wiki you had to nervously tweak the remote in order to play single notes during Bonelich's musical asides; here you can shake as hectically as you want and it only registers as one. Wise move.

Wii say day-ay-ay... oh

Actually, hectic may be the wrong word. Samba may dance an infectious monkey boogie all around the screen, and it may sound like a lively street carnival (although admittedly this demo build was limited to endless loops of the game's adopted theme, Samba De Janerio) but there's something strange holding the party atmosphere prisoner inside your telly, preventing it from spilling into the room.

This is where the importance of the original maracas reveals itself - with the lightweight remote and nunchuk in your mitts, there's little in the way of physical connection with the mad game world.

It looks, sounds and plays right; it simply doesn't feel right. Here's hoping Sega can tighten things up in time for release.

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