I got some hands-on time with Samba de Amigo: Party Central, and playing Sega’s long-awaited rhythm game sequel on the Switch was fun enough that I’m sure it will satisfy anyone who likes swinging their arms to the rhythm. Waving the joy-con controllers in time with popular songs like “I Really Like You” by Carly Rae Jepsen or, much to my delight, “Escape from the City” from Sonic Adventure 2, was a good enough time that I’m sure anyone who is hankering for a follow-up to the original arcade and Dreamcast games will probably be happy with Party Central. But y’all, it was hard for a short king like myself at Sega’s summer showcase to try the Meta Quest 2 VR version and realize that my small stature basically broke the demo.
To be clear, this is no one’s fault. Well, except for my parents for deciding to get married and have children despite both being 5’5” on a good day. The mishap is not at all indicative of how the Meta Quest version of Party Central runs, or if it recognizes little guys who are rhythmically swinging Mark Zuckerberg-approved motion controls around. But it did make me look like a fool who is bad at rhythm games in a public setting. I was a musician in a past life, had I lost my touch? No, it just turned out the game was not calibrated for a 5’3” Kotaku writer who tried the demo at the end of the preview event after everyone else.
The first thing that should have tipped me off to a problem was how close the UI was to my face when I put the VR headset on. I don’t play a lot of games in VR, so I thought that was normal, but it made the game harder to play on its own. The notes I had to hit were zooming toward me at an alarming speed and while I thought I was moving my arms fast enough to stay on rhythm, it kept telling me I was missing every note on the track. I changed songs and difficulty, thinking maybe I was just not as good at Samba de Amigo as I thought. But still, my every swing of the Quest 2 controllers was met with zero feedback that I was actually accomplishing anything.
After enough failed attempts, I asked the Sega employee running the demo if they’d been dealing with any calibration issues, as that’s my typical course of action when it seems like the timing’s off in games like Guitar Hero. But they had a better idea: We should recalibrate the VR headset’s perceived space. Turns out, the issue wasn’t that I wasn’t hitting the notes, it was that the game had been calibrated for someone much taller than me and wasn’t even registering my motions. After we outlined a new space and range of motion for the headset, everything was fine except for my ego.
Anyway, Samba de Amigo: Party Central is coming to Switch next week on August 29, and the Meta Quest version will launch later this year. Calibrate your headsets, short kings. People over six feet tall may not be able to see us without looking down, but your VR headset should always be seeing you for the tiny monarch you are.
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