Ever since we got our hands on Donkey Kong's DK Bongos for the GameCube, we've pined for a fun, percussion-based game on a Nintendo console. Rock Band has yet to be given a firm date for the Wii, so it's down to Samba de Amigo, originally a classic on Sega's own Dreamcast, to quench our thirst when it arrives later this year.
We managed to get a decent if brief hands-on with Samba de Amigo at a recent Sega event. Although there's sure to be a plethora of maraca-infused songs to choose from in the final game, we had to settle for one: Samba de Janeiro, which, as it sounds, is a Latin song well suited to the Wii Remote maracas.
Gameplay appears to be the same as it was in the Dreamcast original. You need to shake your Wii Remote and Nunchuk in time to a series of notes that spread out from the centre of a hexagon. The notes may head toward any corner of the hexagon, creating six different positions (represented by reticules) in which to shake your maracas. You'll essentially have high, middle, and low positions in which to shake either maraca. Every so often you'll need to pose according to an onscreen example that shows what position to freeze in.
Initially we found it a bit tricky to get the game to recognise the position of our maracas, but we found that once we stopped worrying about how to hold the controllers and started treating them as we would real-life maracas, we were fine. Just like the real musical instruments, you have to position them vertically when shaking up high, horizontal when shaking at waist height, and facing downward when shaking at the lower position. After some trial and error, we got the hang of it.
The stage itself was set in a bright, sunny, carnival-styled theme park. With serious doses of bright colours, funky Latin beats, and a groovy little monkey dancing across the screen, we found it hard not to get caught up in the atmosphere and shake those maracas with gusto. Playing the easy difficulty level was a breeze, and once you've finished a song, you'll receive a grade to let you know how well you've done.
The game seems to be quite early in development, and consequently we weren't able to try other game modes or songs, or play with any other options. Even though developer Gearbox Software has had to make quite a pitch change from its Brothers in Arms series, it's priming Samba de Amigo to be a fun party game for the end of the year.