But at the end of the day Samba De Amigo on the Wii isn’t an unqualified success, and it all comes down to the controls. Gearbox has obviously tried hard and a calibration routine before play starts does help, but the game seems very sensitive about where and how you hold your remote and nunchuck. Early on your humble reviewer and family struggled to get the game to recognise shakes in certain positions, while specific poses or hustle moves soon filled us with incomprehension. What were we doing wrong? Why wasn’t that shake recognised? Why is the indicator over there when I’m shaking over here? After much trial and error we found that sitting down and moving the maracas in smaller, more controlled movements delivered better scores, but – frankly – Samba De Amigo shouldn’t be that sort of game. You should be able to stand up and wave your arms in the air like you just don’t care. And the sad fact is, you can’t.
This isn’t a total deal breaker, but it does mean that Samba isn’t quite the party game it should have been. The other thing that holds it back a little is the track list. The classic Samba and Latin tracks are still cool, of course, and old Samba De Amigo favourites like Chumbawumba’s Tubthumping and the Theme from Rockey still work well. However, while Wii Samba has 23 all-new tracks they don’t really bring the game into 2008. Santana’s Smooth? Lou Bega’s Mambo No. 5? Dee Lite’s Groove is in the Heart? We can expect some more modern hits from future downloadable content packs, apparently, but it would have been nice to see some suitably Samba-ised versions of current songs right now.
This is still one of the best Wii titles to appear in months, but that’s probably saying more about the current state of Wii software than the quality of this particular game. I suspect Samba De Amigo will delight a few families and make the odd drunken party go with a swing, but I also suspect that old Samba addicts will come away feeling just a little bit let down. It’s hard to blame Gearbox – I’m sure the team did their best with the controllers – but Samba De Amigo Wii hasn’t quite got the old shake, rattle and roll.
In many respects an excellent update, Samba De Amigo falls down because the controls just don’t work as well as they should. Still fun, but not a party great of Singstar or Guitar Hero proportions.