Samba de Amigo: Party Central is a strange experience. While you’re shaking the Joy-Con to the beat, you’re staring at a monkey’s creepy smile playing his maracas. It’s unsettling, but overall, this game provides a thrilling rhythm-based challenge with a selection of decent songs. It’s just a shame that the game’s Latin-inspired routes take a backseat to a poppier soundtrack.
Samba de Amigo: Party Central (Switch [reviewed], Meta Quest]
Released: August 29, 2023 (Switch), TBA (Quest)
How does Samba de Amigo: Party Central’s controls fare on Switch?
If you’ve played Samba de Amigo on Wii, you’ll know the motion controls it employed weren’t the greatest: frankly, they were inaccurate and hard to deal with. Thankfully, Samba de Amigo: Party Central fares far better on Switch. Facing the controllers sideways, you tilt the Joy-Con upwards, downwards, and to the side to input the beats. On easier difficulties, it feels satisfying to pull off as you shake these controllers frantically, yet accurately.
However, higher difficulty settings are where the game lost me, as the transition between a higher note to a lower note is not read that well by the game. If you’re constantly moving around the Joy-Con, there tend to be missed inputs. I found that registering the lower notes at a quickening pace was difficult because it required a full swing down, not just a tiny shake. I also found the sensitivity for sideways motions a bit tricky. The sensitivity for a slight flick to the right or the left is a bit finicky at times. If you’re looking for a higher difficulty of play with motion controls, you may be out of luck.
On the other hand, you can just switch to a controller-based input. In this setup, you’re tilting the analog sticks on the Joy-Con or your controller. You can also utilize buttons, but to me, the sticks feel more natural. For the most part, this input works well, but I find that shaking the maracas frantically can be tough as you have to flick the stick multiple times in the same direction. Party Central‘s control method is a big improvement from the Wii title, but at higher difficulties, you may struggle. That said, I still enjoyed my time with the rhythm mechanics and jammed out to some awesome songs along the way.
Some tedious mechanics
The new controls aren’t the only thing that’s different in this sequel. Sega tacked on a few annoying mechanics to this game. First up is the Roulette system. This mechanic can speed up the music or make it slower and is usually frustrating; becoming a nuisance rather than an enjoyable part of the game. There’s also an annoying clapping mini-game that’s inaccurate a majority of the time. Thankfully, you can remove them from the gameplay in the Rhythm Game mode.
However, the roulette mini-games are mandatory during the single-player Streamigo campaign. You can indeed avoid the activation bubble during gameplay, but sometimes you may need the additional points from these mini-games to succeed. Additionally, during the song, you may need to pose with the Joy-Con. These are easy to do, and usually quite fun to pull off. However, there’s an announcer who repeats the same dialogue over and over again. One announcer is particularly annoying with his ’70s game show-like voice, though the other announcer is far less abrasive.
Don’t get inebriated while playing this game
What is most definitely abrasive, on the other hand, are the visuals. They’re colorful and really pop on screen, but some of the models are just weird to look at. Amigo has this creepy smile and then he winces weirdly, and some of the models look like they’re ripped from the Dreamcast without touch-ups. The chaotic environments, however, are actually well-suited. Buildings bounce up and down to the music, and the landmarks seem deeply inspired by the series’ roots.
The pretty visuals can be a lot to take in as you see characters bouncing unnaturally behind Amigo and a DJ inside a bear costume. The environments certainly pop on screen with some creative artistic spins that accentuate the party atmosphere. Thankfully, despite the noisy background, you can still read the notes on-screen clearly.
The song list will be polarizing, which is a problem
Unfortunately, the majority of the song list is pop. There are some highlights like “The Cup of Life,” “Vamos a Carnaval,” and “La Bamba,” but there are some odd picks too like “You Give Love A Bad Name” by Bon Jovi and Bastille’s “Pompeii” that don’t give off a party atmosphere in the slightest. I also felt like a lot of the songs featured in the game have been in other music-rhythm titles before as well like Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger” and Kesha’s “TiK ToK.”
Hopefully, with DLC, we’ll get some more Latin-based songs like “Livin’ La Vida Loca” by Ricky Martin and “Asereje” from Las Ketchup.
A variety of modes
There are all manner of modes to choose from in Party Central including one inspired by the battle royale genre called World Party. Across multiple rounds, you’ll fight to keep your spot: If you have a lower score than the position needed to stay on, you get eliminated. Similar to Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory, you also unlock abilities that can be frustrating to other players like removing notes from their screen or making the song quicker. It’s something that could distract you for a few hours but it’s a mode I won’t be going back to time and time again because of the tamper mechanics.
Additionally, there’s the Streamigo mode. It’s like playing the game on Twitch, complete with a fictional chat, and challenges to finish. For example, you need to score a certain amount of points or complete the track with a certain grade or higher. You won’t be able to finish some of these goals unless you go into the annoying Roulette unfortunately as it gives you more points that help you progress. The Streamigo! mode isn’t particularly interesting and adds no story content whatsoever. It’s just tacked on to make you feel like you have more content to play than the game actually has.
Something that adds replayability is the costumes you can collect and buy with the currency you earn in-game. There are jackets, banana suits, a knight’s armor, dinosaur costumes, and even a Sonic outfit to wear in this game. As you progress levels with experience, you’ll gain new looks and currency. They’re simply cosmetic but they can give you the look you hope to give Amigo as he shakes his maracas.
Samba de Amigo: Party Central is bananas in good and bad ways
Samba de Amigo: Party Central is an entertaining music-rhythm game in theory, but it slips on banana peels that Sega threw on the ground constantly. The controls are certainly an improvement from the Wii game, but the game still suffers from a lack of input when you move sideways. The roulette system is a nuisance — especially in the single-player mode where you can’t turn it off — and the song list is a little disappointing with some overused pop tracks that have been featured in other games.
Despite all that, I still find enjoyment in this game as the concept of shaking a Joy-Con to the beat never gets old to me. That’s despite Amigo’s smile haunting my nightmares tonight.