Shake the monkey all night long!
Have you ever had one of those life revelations where you discovered a hidden talent that you never knew you had? That's exactly what happened to me just a few days ago. I never knew it before, but it turns out that I am actually a musical genius.
My earliest days as a mere babe were spent with a rattle in hand. Seeing as how I had nothing better to do, I spent all of my waking hours mastering this shaking (along with the crying and screaming) ability. Nevertheless, time would see this hobby fade away as I was forced to enter "the real world," where rattle shaking is pretty much reserved for babies and backup singers.
Sega's latest party title, Samba de Amigo, has brought back all those fun memories and reaffirmed the musical genius that was lying dormant in my twenty-something body. Too bad it also costs most of my twenty-something salary.
Maracas. It's all about the maracas. Take two pieces of red plastic and shake them to your heart's delight. As you might expect, Samba is a rhythm-based game, requiring players to shake their stuff in the right place at the right time. Little blue bubbles head off toward a six-section grid (upper, middle, and lower for both the right and left sides), telling players exactly where and when to bust their groove. Finally, at the end of the music set, players are given a grade based on their performance. This style of gameplay is simple and extremely addictive. Almost anyone can do it.
The maracas controllers use a sensor pad that sets your range of motion. You can adjust the height and general dimensions these sensors will pick up. Then just stand in front of the screen and shake yer stuff!
Surprisingly, Samba's got more depth than you would think a maraca game could have. The game sports five modes including Arcade, Original, Challenge, Party, and Training, giving players a pick of their musical poison. Arcade, Original, and Training modes all deliver what's expected with your basic 'follow the blue dot' action.
The Challenge mode adds some depth by giving you a chance to earn a 'maracas shaking rank' as well as the ability to unlock a few new songs. For multi-player action, Party mode is where it's at. Here you'll find battle games (where you can blow up your opponent), couples games (to find out your love compatibility), and even a collection of mini-games (like Whack-a-mole and Vogue.)
Samba's graphics really capture the essence of a heavily drugged out party atmosphere featuring a maracas shaking monkey (Sounds like the GR office to me - Ed.) The colors are loud, bright, and may in fact induce an epileptic seizure. Visuals also are loosely based on performance, as a bad show will leave our little Samba monkey all by his lonesome on screen.
As with any music game, sound is extremely important. So what does Samba have to offer? A pseudo-Latin version of Tubthumping, Take On Me, and everybody's favorite maraca song, the Macarena. Oh my god, the apocalypse is here! These songs are terrible, plain and simple. Fortunately, there are still a handful of good tracks to balance out the bad. It's just too bad that they don't have the Banana Boat song, or anything by Harry Belafonte, for that matter. Daaaaay O....Daaa--aa--aa-y O!
Samba is a pretty cool game. It's different, it's got more depth than you'd expect, and it's awesome at parties. But before you make your mad dash to the local game retailer, there is some vital information that you need to know.
The game does not come with maracas. Go ahead, read it again.
The fact that this essential peripheral does not come packaged with the game is major letdown. Samba constantly refers to the maracas controllers. Warning messages for the maracas pop up at the start of game. Entering arcade mode has you select your height in order to aid in the maracas height detection. It even says "Get the maracas ready!" at the player entry screen.
But wait! There's still more bad news. This game is apparently for the exclusive hardcore gamers and rich kids club, since the maracas cost a mind-blowing, wallet-thinning EIGHTY dollars a pair. And of course, this is a party game, so two pair of maracas are needed to get the full Samba effect. Let's do some math...One game (at about 40 bucks) + Two pairs of maracas (80 bucks apiece, so 160 bucks) = One really big hole in your bank account, a 200 dollar hole to be exact. That's more than the cost of the Dreamcast itself! You could buy four games with that much money, and still have enough left over to order a pizza and a bottle of Coke.
Let's face it - this game is meant to be played with maracas. It can be played with the controller, but that's absolutley no fun at all. Without the maracas, this game turns into a bad version of Parappa the Rapper. A REALLY bad version.
So if you were about to throw a few Benjamins into ye ole fireplace, stop what you're doing and go get Samba de Amigo with two sets of maracas. All others may want to wait until they have a chance to schmooze off their rich buddy.