Samba de Amigo
It is impossible to be unhappy whilst wearing a sombrero. That is why I have instructed my lawyers to hand them out at my funeral. It is also why the monkey in Samba de Amigo has had that crazed grin on his face since he first appeared on Dreamcast in 2000. Now SEGA's bringing the game to Wii, with a few changes.
First of all, you no longer play with electronic maracas. The Wii remote and nunchuk make adequate substitutes, except for the fact they don't look like maracas or sound like maracas and aren't electronic maracas.
We're also promised a brand new tracklisting - or at least, "popular new songs as well as fan favourites from the original game". Today, though, only one song is on show: Samba de Janeiro. You know.
Might as well have a go, then. The visuals look pretty much identical to those in the Dreamcast version: chunky shapes, bright colours, PCP-crazed monkey. You have to shake the controllers in time with the coloured dots on screen, and occasionally stop the shaking to strike a pose like some kind of early nineties-era Latin percussion-obsessed Madonna. (How different the headlines might have been back then had she opted for sombreros and maracas instead of religious controversy and that silly bra.)
My first attempt is poor. I can't seem to time any of my shakes properly, despite having all the natural rhythm of Natasha Kaplinsky. All right, Diarmuid Gavin. The SEGA lady informs me I'm shaking the controllers too hard; it's more a flick of the wrists. She's right and my score improves, but it doesn't really feel like I'm playing the maracas. According to the SEGA lady, the game is still in the early stages. "There's a lot of work still to be done, mainly on the controls," she says, and again she's right.
The placeholder menu shows "Multiplayer" and "Wi-Fi Connection" as options, but we're told nothing along either of these lines has so far been confirmed. Let's hope they make it into the final version, which is due out by summer. And let's hope they sort out the controls by then. And throw in some more songs. And free sombreros.
House of the Dead 2&3 Return
Time for another blast from the past. Both classic HotD sequels are being bundled onto one disc for the Wii release, which is out on 28th March. Instead of a lightgun you'll use the Wii remote and nunchuk to shoot endless waves of zombies.
The game is compatible with the Wii Zapper, but there aren't any available at the SEGA event so remote alone it is. It works perfectly, with no lag between button presses and on-screen shots and smooth tracking across the screen. As an added bonus, satisfyingly squelchy if tinny sound effects emerge from the remote's speaker. It feels like home, as Madonna would say.
The downside of this is the games look rubbish by today's standards. Neither HotD 2 or 3 have aged well, and if you're a young whippersnapper you're likely to throw the remote aside in disgust and wonder how anyone ever put up with this sort of thing.
But those of us who can remember a time before Oyster cards and who enjoyed House of the Dead in the arcades should still be able to slap on the rose-tinted specs and have a good time. (In fact rose-tinted laser eye surgery is worth considering if you're also interested in Samba de Amigo and SEGA Bass Fishing.)
The gameplay is intact and the cut-scenes are just as silly as you remember, if uglier. There are six game modes, including Arcade and Time Attack, and a second player can drop in for classic co-op action at any time. There's a pleasing amount of blood and squelching, just like in the good old days.
In short, if you're not a fan of on-rail shooters it's unlikely you'll give a monkeys about this, even if they're wearing sombreros. If you never played the original HotD games and like your visuals sharp and shiny you're equally unlikely to be impressed. However, with all the good stuff present and a price tag of under GBP 30 for two arcade classics, HotD fans could well have a treat in store.