Do you like to shake your thing? Are you the most happenin’ thing to cross a floor since Baryshnikov? Conga Master Party! won’t help you with that, as it’s not really about rhythm or dancing. Those things are baked in via your conga master’s natural finesse, but at its core this game is more about capturing like minds than dancing like a pro. It’s in this unique twist that the core mechanics of the game have shifted away from the dance/rhythm mechanics you might expect from a game named Conga Master Party! – and it’s in being unique that the game truly stands out.
To explain the mechanics of this one, first I’d have to say that Conga Master Party! is sort of like an endless runner – in that you’re constantly propelled forward. Your only recourse against this motion is to turn using the left and right shoulder buttons, or to speed up by holding them both. Thankfully, you’ll be spending a lot of your time using all three of those options, as you try and put yourself as close to as many people as you can as quick as you can, for as long as they need to be captured. That’s because while this game is sort of like an endless runner, it’s also like a base-capture game (a la capture the flag) – aside from the fact that the “bases” can move on their own.
While an endless runner about capturing something by being near it may seem like a strange concept, the idea behind Conga Master Party! is actually rather ingenious and very much interesting. It becomes a game about being careful while pushing your limits, and of course that’s where the spanners get thrown in. Not only do you have to capture people by being near them, but there are also areas that require a certain number of people in your line to enter, as well as malicious people, things, and even pigs out on the dance floor to try and trip you up.
The most basic of the obstacles you face are the stationary objects commonly known as banana peels. Littered around the dance floor, these dastardly objects cause you to slip and slide in a straight line should you cross them – inertia propelling you in whatever direction you were facing. Bananas are easy to avoid as they don’t move, though they aren’t so easy to see in some places, and may be laying in between some tricky captures as well.
Then there are the in-motion threats – like the janitor, the bouncer, and the bodyguard. While the janitor serves much the same purpose as the banana but in constant motion (making you slide on his slippery mop trail), the bouncer and bodyguard take the more direct approach of kicking your ass and making your controls both sluggish and awkward for a few moments. It’s pretty safe to say that the in-motion threats are a bit more trouble than the stationary ones.
Finally, there’s the pig. Pigs – unlike other threats – are able to be captured, but in doing so they will kill your momentum (which acts as your life gauge). Picking up a pig through proximity will cause an immediate drop in momentum, and can be the difference between continuing and getting shut down in many late-area encounters. Thankfully, like their human counterparts that you should actually want to capture, they have a weakness; bumping into them will reset their capture gauge. It’s easier said than done sometimes, but it definitely has its uses in preventing a problem.
So, past all the mechanics of the thing, Conga Master Party! is a game about using proximity to capture dancers and make your conga line the longest as possible. In story mode, the game wants you to fill a quota of four types of dancers before moving on, and gives you a little “run and jump to avoid aliens” mini-game between areas to try and keep some of your earned line. It runs through different areas with different music, but every level is pretty much the same task – just laid out differently and requiring more skill. The progression in the story mode is actually top notch in that aspect, and I really like the way they’ve laid things out for the player.
Also present in story mode is the idea of tickets, which allow for a spin on a special wheel of options at the end of each round. You can lose by landing on a pig, or get percentage bonuses to help you start the next level – with beaten levels even allowing you to spin for additional character choices.
Aside from story mode, single player also offers an endless mode. This alternative mode all about getting a long conga line, and ignores the individual quotas for the love of numbers – whatever the internal make-up. You simply keep going until you lose all your momentum, and look for that high score in the process. Cha-cha-cha!
Multiplayer offers eight of modes to choose from, with all but one offering two-to-four player play. Cut the Conga pits you against up to three local friends in a match where the longest line you can make in three minutes wins – the twist being that a fishin’ Lakitu is dropping items around the board, and you can cut your opponent’s line if you pick up the scissors. Mortal Konga is a mode where you have thirty seconds to pick up pigs instead of dancers, and then have to pop your opponent’s pigs until only one of you has any left. 1-2-Conga has you play until you run into each other, which triggers rock/paper/scissors for half your opponent’s line. Just Conga has you play until you grab the dancer power up, at which point you use the Joy-Con to post and your opponent must copy it or lose their entire line. Command and Conga is a cooperative mode much like a story level, requiring a quota to win and maxing out at two players. Grand Theft Conga is a “one stray dancer” mode where you must capture and keep said dancer in your corner ’til you hit 100%. The Last Conga is a mode about keeping momentum going, with the last player standing the winner. Finally, Conga Hunter is a mode where the first person to twenty people in their line wins.
If any of this is giving you trouble in-game, there’s a helpful how-to-play menu that will try and explain things to you in pieces. I don’t think it’s as thorough as I’ve been in explaining everything, but it’s there if you need a quick reference on something you’ve forgotten or yet to commit to memory. The best thing however, is to learn by doing the thing – and story mode is perfect for that.
Also notable in the mix of mechanics is the fact that you can unlock characters with different attributes – spanning the stats of speed, turning, proximity, and likability. While you’ll be given some to start with, there are over forty to unlock in total, and with compatible amiibo you can even get them cool costumes to further decorate.
Looking to the presentation of it all, Conga Master Party! is actually pretty appealing to me visually. The pixel art style of the levels, the unique looks and touches on the characters, and the general vibe put into the game make for a very interesting looking play area with lots to see. Levels have their own themes based on the name of the establishment, and the in-between bits in the story mode (where the aliens try and abduct you) are lively and interesting. Pixel art or not, this game does not come across as boring to look at.
As for the audio of Conga Master Party!, it puts a smile on my face. Just looking at me, you’d be able to tell that I really dig the tunes they’ve included to theme each level. Catchy but simple, the repetitive tracks are ear worms that you may find yourself shimmying, bopping, or even singing along to – even after many, many plays. As such, and despite the fact that it’s not necessarily my typical fare, the music included in Conga Master Party! is expertly chosen and matched with the gameplay. I’m very appreciative of their attention to detail here.
Speaking of things I appreciate, Conga Master Party! – as a whole – is an extremely addictive, fun to play, and unique title. It offers a combination of gameplay elements that I’ve not experienced before, and that still feels fresh after a fair amount of play. It’s safe to say that Undercoders have hooked me with their outside the box thinking and great style, and I think this will be a game I’ll be playing (and singing/bopping along with) for a long time to come.
It’s certainly not for everyone, but should you be the least amount curious after reading this review then I think you should give it a shot. This is one of those “different” experiences that might just stick in your head, and I definitely had fun with it – so you can too!