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Samba De Amigo

Every once in a while, I come across a game that is hard to judge. Initially very fun, Samba De Amigo first struck me as a must have Wii game. It was great; shaking the maracas in time to a number of well-known samba styled songs. An alternative to Guitar Hero or Rock Band I thought; something that definitely should have a place in my collection. Unfortunately, not long after the first song was over, I found myself feeling dejected, empty, and overall, hugely jaded.

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It must be said; it’s not often that I feel like this about a game. With bright and breezy presentation, a simplistic formula, and a host of loveable characters, Samba De Amigo may well be the ideal package for many Wii owners. A quick blast through the infantile tutorial, and players will be ready to start the career mode. With four difficulties on offer, it’s a shame to see that only the two easiest are ready to play from the outset.

Starting the career mode couldn’t be any simpler. After calibrating the nunchuk and remote to the correct hands, you’ll be ready to take to the virtual stage. Initially, this prospect is exciting. A vibrant party atmosphere is created, as Amigo begins to fulfil his sister’s request to dance with him on stage. Although generic, there is hardly room for any storyline at all here. In fact, the straightforward narrative works well, and gives the player at least some sort of explanation for the carnival shenanigans they are about to take part in.

Once the beat starts and the anticipation wilts away, Samba De Amigo becomes a repetitive, unchallenging, and largely one-dimensional experience. For anyone who has played any rhythm action title before, the familiarity should be instant. By matching each beat to the corresponding high, medium or low coloured pads, a high score will easily be met. The problem is, this high score will be reached without breaking sweat, even for the younger generation the game is suitably aimed at. Although this is the case, a wealth of adult players who want a fresh challenge are likely to try their hand at this game. Even on the higher difficulties, there is little worry when completing each song, as many beats can be correctly hit without too much taxing of the brain.

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During each song, players will be expected to complete a number of dance manoeuvres and poses. Although this sounds exciting, it quickly wears thin, as all these constitute is waving your hands from side to side and holding them there for a few seconds. Granted, an extremely innovative mechanism would need to be in place for this to have a further complicated structure, but the order in which commands appear are hugely similar and predictable. This system does give the player something slightly different to do, but is never implemented in a seamless and rewarding manner.

Even though this title is particularly easy, there is fun to be had amongst the fourty-four songs the game initially holds. For samba and dancehall fans, this is sure to be a real treat. With superstar artists such as Rihanna on show, this particular niche is sure to be pleased with the selection. For the more observant players, they’ll be sure to notice that many original recordings are missing in favour of a variation of soulless, uninspiring, and unintentionally cheesy versions of world famous tracks. Whoever decided that it was a good idea to save money from not buying an entirely original soundtrack certainly didn’t have their ears in tune, as the remakes mark a definite low for the title’s production values.

Within a couple of light-hearted hours of gameplay, additional difficulties and useless extras will be available for the player to utilise. New maraca sounds can be unlocked during the career mode, adding a tiny smatter of variation to the songs on offer. The lifespan is bound to be extended soon enough, as this is the first ever title to employ the pay to play downloadable service offered over the Nintendo Wi-Fi set-up.

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Running alongside the career mode is the chance to either team up or battle against a friend. With a number of different modes ready to play, this is where the fun begins to creep in. In the cutesy “Love Love” mode, friends can work together, synchronising dances and trying to reach a high score. If you’re feeling a tad more competitive, there is always the chance to see who has the best modes in the “Battle” mode. Competing for the best score works well, as the screams of frustration begin to ring out if your opponent misses a note. As you work to build up a “Bomb Counter”, the game begins to build tension and suspense. By reaching ninety-nine correct beats in a row, players can unleash an explosion on their rivals and eat away at their precious life gauge. The last multiplayer rhythm game comes in the form of “Survival”, where players work together in order to make as little mistakes as possible. Unlike the single-player, this section is definitely rewarding, and ushers the principal of teamwork in without notice.

If the aforementioned multiplayer modes turn stale quickly, an assortment of mini-games are readily available at the players fingertips. Using the basic formula from the rest of the title is vital here, as players can play the funfair favourite basher, “Guacamole”, a variation if “Simon Says” and even volleyball. Unfortunately, these mini-games perfectly highlight the lack of evolution shown in Samba, as these particular types of extras were seen on a selection of EyeToy PlayStation 2 products many years before. They are the type of add-ons that you’ll try once, quickly become bored of, and throwaway without a second thought. It’s unfortunate for the game overall, as with an in-depth mini-game selection, this could have helped make the final package more attractive as a whole.

When the festival is over, and Amigo back in his home, a feeling of slight disappoint will uneasily ring around the arena. Although the title is easily accessible, well-decorated and simply constructed, there is very little here to justify a full price tag. Aimed towards the gaming youth, I’m sure many players will find a limited amount of entertainment from this production. Unfortunately, once the main tour is over, Samba De Amigo is sure to hit the shelf alongside other average titles, becoming severely underused and facing an early retirement.

5 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in September 2007.

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