Review: Samba de Amigo

Graeme Virtue | 6 Nov 2008 17:00
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A few years back, there was a legal stramash - I think that's the correct term - between Lady Miss Kier of Deee-Lite and Sega of America. The point of contention was the Dreamcast rhythm action game Space Channel 5, released in 2000. Lady Miss Kier claimed that pink-haired, mini-skirted cosmic go-go girl Ulala was based on her kooky Deee-Lite singing persona. (You can play at being the jury here.)

Coinkydink? According to the Court of Appeals in the State of California, Second Appellate District, Division Eight, um ... yes. Citing First Amendment stuff and the California state constitution's right of free expression, the court ruled in Sega's favor in 2006.

What the blazes has this got to with Samba de Amigo, recently rejiggered exclusively for Nintendo Wii? Well, halfway through the Career mode - at the point where the constant maraca-shaking begins to shift from fun-filled flailing to achey frustration - up pops Ulala. And with what song does the galaxy's favorite TV anchorwoman challenge the player? None other than Deee-Lite's swanee-whistle anthem "Groove Is In The Heart," a light-the-blue-touchpaper party-starter that makes "Love Shack" sound like Coldplay.

Another coincidence? Probably not. But at least Lady Miss Kier will definitely get some cash this time round. And if you have a soft spot for the ridiculous retro stylings of "Groove Is In The Heart," you'll probably dig the rest of Samba De Amigo too.

Originally a 1999 rhythm action arcade game created by Team Sonic, this belated Wii update was developed by Gearbox Software, the folks behind the dour Brothers in Arms series of tactical shooters. Thankfully, they've stuck to the classic Sega palette, striking a gleeful tone from the outset. The game's main hub is a ramshackle Waikiki beach hut under Outrun skies, soundtracked by irresistibly bouncy steel-drum music and a disembodied Wario impersonator who enthusiastically echoes aloud any option you select. "Career!" he exclaims. "Options!" (He even manages to enliven "Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection!")

The game mechanic remains largely unchanged from the arcade and Dreamcast versions. Armed with a Wiimote and nunchuck, one or two players align their fake maracas either up, ahead or down as directed, then apply a whipcrack shake in time with some follow-the-leader blobs. Advanced techniques include mimicking certain poses, while the new Hustle feature encourages choreographed dancing and the occasional Pete Townshend-esque windmill.

While active players will focus entirely on the vital procession of blobs, spectators can enjoy cheeky mascot monkey Amigo and his band of cartoon pals cavorting in the background in an eternally sun-kissed carnival. (as Along with Ulala, Sonic the Hedgehog occasionally turns up, too.)

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