Samba de Amigo: Party Central Hands-on Preview – Just Shake

Posted on May 24, 2023

Samba de Amigo, the maraca-shaking rhythm game that debuted on the Dreamcast and had a port on the Wii back in 2008, is looking to stage an epic comeback. Well, as epic as shaking maracas to Lady Gaga can be, anyway. 15 (!) years since the series last saw the light of day, we’re now getting the relaese of Samba de Amigo: Party Central, and with a fun tune-based party premise that doesn’t quite have you looking as silly as say, Just Dance, it could become a bit of a sleeper hit.

The premise of Samba de Amigo: Party Central is ultra simple; with Joy-Con’s in hand, you have to shake them to the music of 40 catchy tunes. The on-screen prompts direct you on where to shake; there’s three on the left, and three on the right, with circles moving from the middle to the outside. The coordination starts off simple enough as you hit the directional targets, but there’s variety in how you hit each one.

Some notes will require you to start from the top and then move your arm in a direction, following the arrow on screen. This started off simple the first time I saw it, like moving from top to bottom, but later on a more challenging stage had me doing zig-zags and tracing all kinds of shapes while in the thick of it. Other notes you’ll be required to shake the Joy-Con for a few seconds in one spot, usually while you’re using your other Joy-Con to hit other notes. Easier modes have it quite scaled back, but harder difficulties combined all of these elements in devilish ways that rhyhtm game lovers will very much enjoy.

“…harder difficulties combined many elements in devilish ways that rhyhtm game lovers will very much enjoy.”

In the midst of all that, you’ll be striking poses as well, although if you feel a bit funny about posing you can just move the Joy-Con’s in the general required direction and get away with it. Still, in a party environment, the various poses and dance moves Party Central throws at you will surely make for a crowd-pleasing time. There’s a pick-up-and-play quality here that gets lost a bit in games like Just Dance (where you might feel pressure to nail tricky dance moves) or Beat Saber (which requires you to have a VR headset strapped to your face). Party Central looks to find a happy medium, and I understood what the game was trying to achieve instantly and enjoyed it within moments of playing.

There’s a standard Rhythm Game mode where you just choose a song and difficulty and go for it, but Party for Two had the most fun for myself and the team I played with, with a few options to choose ffrom. Showdown has you battling for fans to see who is the best, with the loser having to do a random dare (like strike a pose or someting, nothing too dark or nefarious, although certain parties could come up with their own rules, I’m sure). Love Checker measures how in-sync you are with the other player, complete with some cute joint poses, and a variety of Mini Rhythm Games are thrown in for good measure, like knocking baseballs out of the park to the beat. The minigames feel like a nice add-on, but I can’t see myself going back to them more than once or twice.

StreamiGo! is a version of a campaign mode, where it’s a series of challenges formatted like a social media platform, and you complete missions and battles with other “influencers” to gain followers and progress to unlock more challenges, while World Party has you playing with up to 8 other live players in elimination style rounds, which is about as close to a battle royale as you’re ever going to see in a rhythm game, probably. These modes should give you a lot of entertaining options to hold your groovy interest.

All of this is presented in a colourful, wild backdrop that places Samba de Amigo: Party Central squarely in the silly category, with many dancing animals in various outfits cheering you on in the background, with your main monkey allowing for a variety of character customisation options that can be unlocked, so you can have your own style. It really does feel like a wacky party atmosphere, which goes a long way in adding to the light-hearted family-friendly vibe they’re clearly aiming for.

As for the full tracklist? With 40 songs, it’s a mix of certifiable bangers from Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, Kesha and a mix of party favourites and SEGA game tracks mixed in for good measure, it’s a decent list with something for everyone, and more music expected to come with post-launch DLC at a later date. Check it out:

  • “Break Free ft. Zedd” by Ariana Grande
  • “Pompeii“ by Bastille
  • “You Give Love A Bad Name“ by Bon Jovi
  • “I Really Like You” by Carly Rae Jepsen
  • “Payback (feat. Icona Pop)” by Cheat Codes
  • “Karma Chameleon“ by Culture Club
  • “Let You Go (feat. Kareen Lomax)” by Diplo & TSHA
  • “Good Feeling“ by Flo Rida
  • “Runaway (U&I)“ by Galantis
  • “I Will Survive (Eric Kupper Mix Extended)“ by Gloria Gaynor
  • “I Love It” by Icona Pop
  • “Centerfold’ by J Geils Band
  • “Bang Bang“ by Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj
  • “Sucker” by Jonas Brothers
  • “Move Your Feet“ by Junior Senior
  • ”TiK ToK“ by Kesha
  • “Moves Like Jagger (feat. Christina Aguilera)“ by Maroon 5
  • “Panama” by Matteo
  • “Pa’lla“ by Max Pizzolante
  • “Plastic Hearts” by Miley Cyrus
  • “I Won’t Let You Down“ by OK Go
  • “Celebrate” by Pitbull
  • “The Cup of Life (La Copa de la Vida)“ by Ricky Martin
  • “XS” by Rina Sawayama
  • “Bom Bom” by Sam and the Womp
  • “Get Busy“ by Soolja
  • “Azukita“ by Steve Aoki, Daddy Yankee, Play-N-Skillz & Elvis Crespo
  • “Escape From The City” from Sonic Adventure 2TM
  • “Fist Bump” from Sonic ForcesTM
  • “Macarena (Cover)”
  • “La Bamba (Cover)“
  • “Fugue (Classic)”
  • “Scent of Your Sweet Love” from SEGA®
  • “Let’s Find It and Shake It” from SEGA®
  • “Chosen Mask” from SEGA®
  • “Wedding March” from SEGA®

Samba de Amigo: Party Central might not have been on anybody’s “Best games of 2023” video game bingo card, but I can’t deny how enjoyable it was shaking my fists like an idiot to all of those catchy pop hits, and the gameplay itself seems to have enough variety that it will satisfy the casual crowd while maintaining a deeper challenge for rhythm game aficionados.

Samba de Amigo: Party Central is set for release on August 29, 2023 on Nintendo Switch.