Review – Samba de Amigo: Party Central

Games like Samba de Amigo make me happy. There’s something about Sega’s dumber outings that captivate me like no other kind of game. Remember their barrage of ultra-dumb, ultra-fun arcadey outings from the Dreamcast era? Space Channel 5, Crazy Taxi, Monkey Ball, Seaman, Samba de Amigo… Sega used to go overboard on absurdity, resulting in some of the most adorable games in the history of the company. This is why I love when some of those games make a comeback on modern platforms, namely the Nintendo Switch, where the spirit of the Dreamcast’s experimentalism and lunacy lives on. Samba de Amigo: Party Central is the revival the series needed, and boy, did I love it.


The joyful kind of fun only the Dreamcast was able to provide is back.

What is Samba de Amigo, you might be asking? Well, the original game came out in the late 90s on arcades and the Dreamcast, following in the footsteps of other rhythm games of the time, such as Dance Dance Revolution and Taiko no Tatsujin. By shaking two maraca-shaped motion controllers in six specific positions, you earn points. This came out years before Guitar Hero ramped things up in terms of complexity and depth, but that’s not a problem. All you need to do is shake maracas accordingly, making the game incredible accessible right from the get-go. At the same time, it’s obscenely hard to master once you try to venture into harder difficulties. The perfect kind of arcade experience.

So, what’s the difference between Samba de Amigo: Party Central and the Dreamcast, arcade, or Wii variants? Not a lot, to be honest. Well, besides the fact I am not shaking maraca-shaped controllers, or an ultra-dated and crappy Wii Remote. Instead, I’m using the Joy-Cons, which might not be the best controllers for NORMAL games, but are utterly fantastic when it comes to motion controls. Sadly, not a lot of developers have realized that, with very few Switch games taking advantage of these capabilities. Thankfully, Party Central does, and whilst the motion controls aren’t perfect, they work wonderfully in this case.

Samba de Amigo setlist

Bon Jovi, Yakuza music, Pitbull… there’s everything in here.

You just need to be aware of how the positioning of the maracas influences on the gameplay. There are six “rings” where the notes will fly by: one pair on top, one pair in the middle, one pair in the bottom. The game wants you to shake the maracas according to the height, so you might feel a bit confused at first with you losing a note streak by just slightly tweaking the maraca in a different angle. Move those arms, baby! This can dub as a workout if you play it for more than fifteen minutes at a time, as the game will also ask for you to perform some occasional poses according to what’s asked onscreen.

Other occasional minigames might be triggered during a song. They aren’t anything spectacular, but they add a fair share of replayability to the mix, as they are triggered at random. The game might tell you to perform extra poses. It might tell you to pretend that your Joy-Con is a baseball bat and tell you to hit some balls. So on and so forth. It’s stupid as hell, but it’s the perfect fit for a game like this.

Samba de Amigo minigames

Those randomly generated minigames are dumb, ridiculous, pointless, and hilarious. I love them.

One thing that worried me before booting Samba de Amigo: Party Central up for the first time was if the Nintendo Switch would be able to render the game and its sheer idiotic amount of particle effects at a decent framerate, without hindering gameplay. Responsiveness is key in a rhythm game, so I was worried that, for instance, the framerate would result in delays in the arrival of a note on the “maraca marker” (I really have no other way of describing that damn thing). Weirdly enough, there are framerate issues, but they are only seen in the nonsense happening in the background. It’s almost as if the game is rendering two layers: a gameplay-centric one, with zero framerate issues whatsoever; and a background one, where it doesn’t really matter if the game is struggling to render the visuals or not.

Finally, modes. If you are looking for a complex campaign mode, some single-player centered stuff, look elsewhere. Samba de Amigo: Party Central is, as the name implies, a party game. That doesn’t mean there isn’t fun to be had by yourself. Just like in games like Just Dance, Guitar Hero, or Invector, picking up a song and playing it to the very end, looking for a high score, getting cash to spend on cosmetics, was more than enough to keep me entertained for hours. That, of course, was all due to the setlist.

Samba de Amigo costumes

It’s peanut butter monkey time! Peanut butter monkey time!

A music game lives and dies by the quality of its setlist, and thankfully, Samba de Amigo: Party Central does not disappoint. At first, I was just hoping for it to feature some of the songs that made the franchise famous in the first place. The first game was originally released in the late 90s, at the peak of the latin revival fever, so it had songs like “Macarena” and “La Copa de La Vida” by Ricky Martin. They are both featured in this setlist as well, but there’s so much more.

Do you want rock music? Samba de Amigo features “Centerfold” by The J. Geils Band and even “You Give Love a Bad Name” by Bon Jovi. Looking for some pop? How about “Just Dance” by Lady Gaga or “Celebrate” by Pitbull? Maybe you’re into some alternative? “Move Your Feet” by Junior Senior and “Pompeii” by Bastille are here to keep you busy. Now, how about some random Sega bangers? As in, songs from random Sega games? “Escape from the City” from Sonic Adventure 2, and even “Baka Mitai” from Yakuza 0 are featured in this setlist. It’s pure insanity. There is just everything to keep you busy for an eternity, with different difficulty options and the aforementioned random minigames to ensure not a single run through a song feels the same.

Samba de Amigo shake

Maraca shake rampage!!!

What Sega needed to do with Samba de Amigo: Party Central was to ensure that the foundations were solid, the controls worked as intended, and the gameplay loop was fun enough both on your own or with friends. This game is an absolute blast. It retains that wacky, experimental vibe from the Dreamcast era, with utterly ludicrous visuals, a bunch of nonsense blasting your senses, and enough content to keep you busy for a while… at least until the release of the next song pack. Grab your Joy-Con-shaped maracas and shake it away, baby!


Graphics: 7.5

It doesn’t look much more impressive than any other previous iteration of Samba de Amigo, but let’s be honest, there’s no need to improve upon that quirky art style. Framerate dips occur at times on what’s happening on the background, but never with the gameplay elements themselves.

Gameplay: 8.5

The Joy-Cons work wonderfully as makeshift maracas. You will need a few minutes to get used to their positioning and tracking, but once you get a hold of the mechanics, shake it away, baby!

Sound: 9.5

When a game has a setlist comprised of “Baka Mitai”, “Macarena”, “You Give Love a Bad Name”, and even “Just Dance”, you know you’re in for a treat.

Fun Factor: 9.5

Incredibly dumb, but oh so joyful. It’s shallow on the amount of modes, but as a party game, or even as a quick fitness session, it’s magnificent. The soundtrack is a thing of beauty.

Final Verdict: 9.0

Samba de Amigo: Party Central is available now on Nintendo Switch and Apple Arcade.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Samba de Amigo: Party Central was provided by the publisher.