by MARTY DEMAREST & r & & r & Samba de Amigo & r & Rated Everyone; Wii & r & 2 Stars & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & exhumed my Maracas the other day. They were buried in a box, tangled with harmless guns, deaf microphones, unstrung fishing poles and a set of silent bongos -- all old video game controllers that were designed to offer me real-world experiences that mimicked the games I played. But unless I feel the urge to return to Sega Bass Fishing or Donkey Konga, those accessories are now nothing more than dead plastic.
In theory, the motion-sensitive Wii Remote has eliminated many of those gimmicks. But when I consider the Wii's attachable zapper gun-grip, snap-on steering wheel and Wii Fit exercise stand, I wonder if the Wii is really an innovation. So I decided to test the Wii's cutting-edge wireless controller against eight-year-old technology from the defunct Dreamcast. I untangled the Maracas, plugged them in and turned on the TV.
The remake of Samba de Amigo presents Sega's millennial rhythm game with a bigger splurge of graphics and more songs, but the basic gameplay remains the same. The object is to shake maracas in sync with the game's music. Each maraca has a high, medium and low position, and the game directs me to shake a maraca in one or two of those places on cue. Occasionally I'm asked to strike a pose.
The only logistical challenge the original presents is getting the hang of the Maracas. Each of the big red plastic shakers has a small electronic transmitter dangling beneath it that ultimately connects to a sensor on the floor. As long as I raise and lower my Maracas straight up and down over the sensor, the game has no problem reading my motions.
The Wii version simulates the Maracas with either two Remotes or a Remote and a Nunchuk. Two Remotes work best, and the Wii recognizes their relative position reasonably well. But where the plastic Maracas were faultless in sensing a shake-movement combo, the Wii seems to have a hard time recognizing this simple, hybrid gesture.
On Samba de Amigo's easy levels, this isn't a problem. But at greater difficulty levels, the game requires me to move rapidly, delivering a shake while moving along. Despite numerous calibrations, recalibrations and more test performances of "Tequila" than any person should endure, I kept getting erratic responses. Those ancient, plastic analog controllers at least have the advantage of always being where they are, doing exactly what they are doing.
THE GOOD: Sega locked up the "Macarena." That song may be the most dangerous musical invention of mankind. The remake of Samba de Amigo requires a bit of playing before it unlocks that particular beast, where it's safely hidden among 40-some other oddball tunes. (Latin covers of "Volare" and the "Theme from Rocky," anyone?)
THE BAD: The Nunchuk is a terrible maraca. The Wii seemed utterly confused when I raised or lowered the little egg-shaped device, often sensing (incorrectly) that I had moved it over to my other hand. And since the Nunchuk lacks a built-in speaker and vibration gyroscope (both of which the Wii Remote has), it's a silent, still shaker in a game that's all about music and motion.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A wacky rhythm game undermined by wonky controls.