Samba de Amigo finally got its first proper sequel on consoles with the release of Samba de Amigo: Party Central. To go along with it, there is also this Apple Arcade game, titled Samba de Amigo: Party-To-Go (). Given the heavy online and multiplayer focus of many of the modes in the console version, Party-To-Go can’t easily follow in the dance steps of its fellow. For better or worse, this is a different sort of beast despite sharing the look, user interface, unlockables, and most of the soundtrack with its console counterpart. Wait, “for better or worse”? This is a review! Let’s determine which of the two it is!
What is Samba de Amigo? Well, it’s a rhythm game that was originally released in arcades in 1999 and on the Dreamcast in the year 2000. This puts it relatively early in the whole rhythm game boom, especially when looking at ones that used plastic instruments. SEGA is always a few years too early to the party, and it’s never a good thing for them. In this case, the plastic instruments were maracas, and they were a lot of fun. You had to hold them at one of three heights and shake along to the beat. Sometimes you would have to make poses, too. Great fun in the arcade and at home, especially if you have spectators there to laugh at you. The soundtrack leaned Latin, but had plenty of classic SEGA tunes and pop hits to round things out. It even had a cover of A-Ha’s Take On Me by ska band Reel Big Fish! Ska! It’s like punk, but with horns and happy!
While the game had a cult following, that was really all it was able to manage. Part of that came down to its home version being on the Dreamcast, part of that came from the cost of the maracas, and part of that was just rudeness. It’s a good game, people. It got a Wii port several years later, but the Wii remotes just couldn’t sub for the maracas. Also, it had Mambo Number 5 on the soundtrack. In 2008. That’s flying too close to the sun, SEGA. This port was developed by Gearbox, the makers of Duke Nukem Forever and Brothers in Arms DS. I get the impression it didn’t do very well, so Amigo went into the vault only to be allowed out to play in SEGA All-Star games.
The monkey has been freed, however. Not just one game, but two. Sort of. Since this is a review of Party-To-Go, I’m going to be focusing on it. I reviewed the Switch version of the other game, Party Central, in the SwitchArcade Round-Up if you want to read about that. In Party-To-Go, you’re given just two modes to play. First is the Rhythm Game mode, where you just pick a song to play and the difficulty you’d like to play it at, then have at it. The other mode is exclusive to this Apple Arcade game. Story Mode takes you through a weird tale of Amigo and the Legendary Maraca trying to bring music back to the Earth. It takes the form of a series of missions that you’ll have to complete. Finish one and you’ll get some story and unlock the next. You’ll also earn coins and levels the same you will in Rhythm Game mode, and can use them to unlock cosmetic items for Amigo.
I like this Story Mode a lot better than the StreamiGo mode in Party Central. There’s less song repetition, and it’s less vague about what you need to do to succeed. The story itself is pretty… banal, to be kind. It makes use of some decent FMV cutscenes now and then, but for the most part it seems to be going for the vibe of an instant message conversation. Which is fine, except the characters are usually face to face. It’s filled with the kind of dialogue you just want to skip through, peppered with the occasional really good line. Well, at least we now have irrefutable evidence the monkey is in a romantic relationship with the puberty-gifted fairy. It’s a fun mode to play through, and I suppose that’s the bottom line.
The soundtrack is mostly similar to Party Central, with a nice mix of classics and contemporary music across a variety of genres. Not many songs from the original return, and it doesn’t seem like the DLC songs from the other game are in the list here. But you do get a few exclusive songs including tracks from PSY and Lady Gaga, and that’s cool. The tunes are definitely more general in their appeal than the first game’s soundtrack, but that’s fine. It means most people should be able to find at least a few songs they know, and will be able to learn some new ones, too. Win-win.
Samba de Amigo: Party-To-Go does not have maracas controllers. It does not attempt to replicate them, and even warns you not to shake or move your device. No, this game is entirely touch-based. The screen is divided into left and right and three different height levels. When the ball enters the circle, tap that side and height. When it tells you to pose, put your fingers in the right place. When it tells you to swing the maracas back and forth, slide your fingers back and forth. It’s certainly more accurate than the maracas or any motion controls would be, but it isn’t as fun. I also find some of the sliding motions and commands to be a bit unintuitive to pull off with touch controls. It feels like SEGA just tried to cram in everything Party Central does gameplay-wise into Party-To-Go, but not all of it works due to the differing input method.
Still, setting aside what it isn’t, Samba de Amigo: Party-To-Go is a decent enough rhythm game with really strong production values for the most part. It’s not quite as good as Apple Arcade stablemate Taiko no Tatsujin, but the music is good, the gameplay mechanics are fairly easy to grasp, and between the Story Mode and unlockables you certainly have a lot to do. At times it feels like something cobbled together with bits of another game, which it probably has been, but it sometimes feels like it’s doing its own thing too. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, there is controller support here. It works like the button controls in Party Central, mapping the positions to the sticks and buttons. I wouldn’t advise it.
I think the Story Mode and extra tunes in Samba de Amigo: Party-To-Go make it worth trying out for fans of the series even if they’ve already grabbed Party Central, but there’s no question this game loses something the further it moves away from the grace of the maracas controllers. If you don’t care about that, and there’s a very good chance you don’t, the only thing you really need to worry about here is that the demands of the note charts seem more tuned for console play than touch. You’ll have to really twist your fingers at times. Otherwise, it’s a decent game for its genre with a solid list of tracks to tap along to. Nothing remarkable, but good enough.