From high-profile AAA releases to rapidly rising indie gems, 2023 has been a fantastic year for gaming. You wouldn’t expect the likes of a direct sequel to a game that was released on the Wii back in 2008, which was a port of a 1999 arcade title, to come out shaking its way to relevancy. But that’s exactly what Samba de Amigo: Party Central does, and I love every beat of it.
It’s easy to discount Samba de Amigo as just another motion rhythm game, a genre that seems to be too played out already. However, under the guise of its rudimentary gameplay, Samba de Amigo’s diverse music, colorful visuals, and engaging mechanics provide a refreshing break from the norm. In a way, Samba de Amigo: Party Central represents the fun factor of what games can bring, proving that there’s still room for experiences that prioritize simple fun over artificially extended experiences.
Shake the night away
When a musical rhythm game’s central gameplay element revolves around the use of virtual maracas, the Nintendo Switch feels like a platform that was made specifically for it. After spending some time shaking, swinging, and dancing with my joy cons, Samba de Amigo is not only a good way to keep me moving, but a fantastic time to be had with others as well.
Samba de Amigo is a game that you can easily just pick up and play. There are 5 circles on the screen. 3 for the right and 3 for the left hand. Your objective is to time your motion inputs according to the beats that will show up. Motion controls were surprisingly accurate and intuitive with only a few isolated incidents where I noticed that it wasn’t always registering. These problems usually occur when I try to play the game while sitting down, which isn’t exactly the recommended way to play, but given how physically intensive some of the songs can be at a higher difficulty, I sometimes had to.
To add a bit more variety to the gameplay, there are certain points in a song wherein you’ll be asked to strike a pose or follow a specific range of dance motions. You’ll also be presented with an opportunity to complete a challenge in the form of minigames for extra points. You’re always on the move here and every time you hit a perfect timing, it’s always so satisfying.
There are over 40 hit songs from a variety of genres to choose from. From Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj’s “Bang Bang” to Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon”, there’s going to be something for everyone. Given that this is a SEGA title, there are also songs from the Sonic franchise such as “FistBump” and “Escape from the City.” The developers have also promised that more songs will come as post-launch DLC.
A large part of the game’s enjoyment comes from its fantastic presentation. The screen is constantly filled with vibrant colors and quirky visuals. Great controls, audio, and presentation are the most basic fundamentals that any great game needs to nail down and Samba de Amigo does so with (literally) flying colors.
It takes two to tango
With how much fun I’ve been having, it would be a waste if I didn’t share the experience with others. Samba de Amigo is a near perfect party game to have. If anyone says that dancing with others isn’t fun, they’re lying. Trying to out-Samba one another through the scoring system at the end of each song breeds friendly competition (or a serious one if you want it to be).
But that’s the more boring aspect. A definite favorite of mine has to be the Love Checker. Essentially, you and a partner will have to dance a song side-by-side. At the end, the game will give you a rating based on how synergized you were with each other with your moves. Regardless if it’s with a romantic partner or not, this was such a fun mode to mess around with.
You can also be a little bit more creative with how you approach the game. There was a time when I wanted to play Samba de Amigo with a friend, but we didn’t have an extra pair of joycons. What we did instead was to play the regular mode but have my friend hold the left joy-con while I handled the right one.
However, if you really want to scratch that competitive itch, there’s also the World Party mode where you can compete against 8 dancers at a time. You will have to perform 3 songs all at the same time. A live indicator will show those who are grooving their hearts out and those who aren’t exactly keeping up. Global leaderboards will also be available for bragging rights.
It’s your dance floor
Aside from the active gameplay, Samba de Amigo also gives you the opportunity to customize your experience.
As you finish each song, you’ll be rewarded with XP and currency. These can be used to purchase different cosmetics to change the way your own Amigo looks. From headgear to clothes and even the maracas themselves. There’s a large variety of choices to mix and match with. Luckily, the game is somewhat generous with its rewards, so you don’t really have to sell your soul to mindlessly grind your way through to get the best-looking stuff.
There are certain items that are locked behind a currency that requires real-world money to purchase.
Final Verdict – 8.5/10
Samba de Amigo: Party Central is really just a great time to be had both on my own and with a group of friends. The proof is in the name itself, this has the potential to be the central beat of whatever party you’re in.
There are little to no barriers to entry, fun customization, and a great variety of gameplay systems to keep your feet tapping, heart beating, and arms grooving. If you’re someone who enjoys playing with others, this should be an essential part of your game library. But if you’re also someone who loves to keep active, Samba de Amigo: Party Central can definitely provide the most fun workout you’ve had in a while.
This review was made via a Nintendo Switch game code provided by the publisher.