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Created by Gearbox / Rated E / 1-2 Players / Wii Remote + Nunchuk (or 2 Wii Remotes) / MSRP $39.99
Review written by Ray of 2P START!


Sonic Team delivered this maraca-shaking rhythm game to the arcades in 1999, featuring psychedelic visuals and thumping Latin music. When it was ported to the Sega Dreamcast the following year, it brought along the home version of the maraca-controllers with it. Unlike the arcade version, these were wired to a sensor bar placed on the floor, which determined the height and location of each shake needed for gameplay.

Since the object of the game is based entirely on shaking these maracas in high, middle, and low positions, as well as crossing sides, one has to wonder why Wii Remotes were chosen as an adequate replacement when they aren’t actually capable of understanding that type of input. Basing your entire gameplay on a controller unable to recognize such actions only results in a broken game. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what we have in Samba de Amigo for the Wii.

There’s no doubt in my mind Gearbox pushed the Wii Remote to its limits trying to imitate the original Maracas. They’ve relied on tilting information to assume where the remote is being held, and as long as you’re playing on Easy or Normal, everything will work out pretty well. As soon as you look for more of a challenge with Hard, Very Hard, or Super Hard, the gameplay completely falls apart. You’re required to move around so rapidly that it can’t "assume" what you’re doing quickly enough, and yet simultaneously gives freebies away since it is incapable of knowing if you’re truly doing certain moves correctly or not.

I decided to test the game’s willingness to help out difficult moments by not trying at all. I loaded up a song on Super Hard and did nothing but endlessly shake the remotes in one place. I didn’t miss a shake. "Perfect," it told me. That is simply unacceptable.

Some reviews I have read suggest that even with the controls breaking on the harder difficulties, the fun factor makes up for it. I will agree that it is still a blast to play even with the controls not working, and I’m sure the casual gamer will have plenty of fun not really knowing what they’re doing, but that absolutely does not make up for it. Could you imagine beating Guitar Hero on Expert by pressing buttons randomly? You could imagine beating Dance Dance Revolution by running in place? It’s ridiculous.

Rhythm-based games become more enjoyable with the difficulty because you’re truly challenged to be as precise and accurate as possible. With Samba de Amigo, a higher difficulty only brings more frustration as you realize there’s nothing more you can do than watch the game interpret your moves incorrectly when you try, and give it to you for free when you don’t.

The songs themselves are fantastic. All of my original Samba de Amigo favorites have returned, and Wavegroup has done an excellent job in creating lively and energetic music to give this game some serious momentum. It’s just too bad there’s no reason to strive for high-scores…

This is also one of the first Wii titles to have a "Pay & Play" Wi-Fi logo on the box representing the downloadable content you can purchase online. 500 Nintendo Points will net you one pack of three new songs, which isn’t a very good trade if you ask me – especially since these songs are no more than two minutes long. This is because of its original roots of arcade-style gameplay, and something I wish games like Guitar Hero would take note of since playing the same four chords fifty times at the end of a song gets a bit old…

In the end, Samba de Amigo was a train wreck I saw coming a mile away. The Wii Remote is simply incapable of understanding the data necessary to play this game naturally, and Gearbox did their best to cover up a problem that can’t be hidden. But if we were forced to have Samba de Amigo for the Wii, then Gearbox should have done it correctly in one of three ways: 1) Create a new version of Samba de Amigo based on what the Wii Remote can actually do. 2) Wait for the Wii Motion-Plus attachment to fix all of the controller’s limitations. 3) Sell the actual maraca-controllers seperately.

Verdict: A great game that’s marred by broken controls.

Reviewer’s Completion: career mode 100% complete / all songs unlocked / all maraca sfx unlocked / all dance sfx unlocked / both bonus features unlocked /

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