Just under 3 years since the original version of Conga Master released on PC and just over 2 years since the game reached consoles, the game all about starting and maintaining a conga line has finally arrived on the PlayStation Vita. As support for the Vita has waned in the past year, new releases are highly sought after and with Conga Master Go, long suffering Vita owners who bought the handheld on the strength of the indie game releases finally have a good reason to dust it off and fire it up once again.
Conga Master Go is – unsurprisingly – about starting a conga line. Presented in a top down view, each run begins with your chosen dancer busting open the doors to your chosen venue, muttering their catchphrase and then they begin to boogie. Your character is forever moving forward, like a disco dancing/head banging/pirouetting shark, but can be rotated using tank-esque controls – the left bumper moving the character left and the right one sending them right. There’s a handy dial on the floor around of your dancer with an arrow displaying the direction they’re heading in to make sure you never get too lost. If you find the need to cover large distances fast, you can also hold down both shoulder buttons at the same time which gives you a speed boost across the dance floor.
The aim of each level is to attract people to join your conga line. Each venue is filled with dancers who are all doing their own thing and it’s your job to dance around them long enough to fill up a bar that appears above their head. Once it’s full, they join the back of the conga. Just don’t bump into them – jostling any would-be conga comrades is seen as being rude in Conga Master Go and the attraction bar locks you out of it for a few seconds and then resets to zero. Adding new people to your conga line is essential as it fills up your ever decreasing ‘Momentum’ bar. You start each level with a full bar of Momentum and with each person you add, the momentum gets somewhat replenished – but the longer your conga line, the less momentum is added by each new person and the more momentum is eaten up by movement. For example – when you’re just starting out your conga and it’s only a few people long, adding a single addition to the line might fill the Momentum bar completely once again, but when your dancing snake is 50+ people long, you’ll have to add people every few seconds just to get from one side of the room to the other. Thankfully, the longer your conga, the easier it is to add people as the entire conga line procession helps to build up the attraction bar of any dancers doing their thing nearby. Adding people to the line in quick succession can earn a combo bonus too which not only improves your end of level score but also gives a boost to the momentum you earn.
In the real world there’s always a few killjoy’s who want to end a conga line and that’s the same in Conga Master Go too. Meat Chad’s (I don’t know their real name but that’s what we’ve come to call them in our home) are muscle bound idiots that don’t get wooed by your conga charms, no matter how much you prance around them and if you bump into them they punch you, sending you flying uncontrollably. Elsewhere there’s cleaners that leave a wet trail in the wake of their mop which will send you skidding across the floor should you cross it and there’s the occasional banana peel on the floor (dancers really wanting to keep their potassium up to avoid cramp?) that do the same thing too. Bump into waiters and you’ll temporarily become inebriated which messes with your movement until you’re compos mentis again and then there’s pigs (like, actual pigs, for some inexplicable reason) which can be attracted to your conga line like any other dancer but if they do join your dance troupe, reduce your momentum by a chunk.
Navigating these obstacles while strutting your stuff as close to viable conga compadre’s without bumping into them can be incredibly tense at times. Watching your Momentum bar burn down as you cyclone around a group of head bangers hoping beyond hope their bar fills quicker than your momentum empties is real nail biting stuff. It can be equally heart breaking stuff to be on the cusp of adding a whole bunch of dancers to your line when you accidentally clip a waiter who then sends you bumbling into all of them, resetting their attraction bars.
To aid you, each venue has a few little secrets up its sleeves. Dotted around each dance hall are power-ups’s, the majority of which require you to sprint (hold down both the left and right shoulder buttons) into a piece of the world to bring them into play. These items can do a variety of different things – stop your momentum bar from decreasing for 10 seconds, double the amount of attraction you do on a dancer, double the range that your dance moves have or simply add a chunk of motivation to your bar. Each venue also has a secret area which is locked until you’ve got your conga line to a certain number. These area’s are usually enclosed and have a large number of people quite close to one another so you can really ramp up those combo’s.
You’ll need to make the most of these secrets if you want to overcome Conga Master Go’s main mode – Story mode. In this mode, you choose a character with their own abilities (speed, turning circle, attraction speed, attraction range) and head out to start some Conga, starting at the Secret Flamingo Club. In this mode, each dancer has an icon above their head that’s part of the attraction bar. There are 4 different symbols – a top hat, hearts, a cool face and a light bulb – and each dancer that you add to your line that has one of these icons above their heads fills a corresponding gauge at the top left of the screen. To clear each level – for which there are 8 – you need to go in, bust a move, fill up each gauge by attracting enough of each type of dancer than head to the exit door without your Momentum bar hitting zero. Each of the game’s venue’s offers a little something different in both tone and challenge. Some of the haunts are full of furniture that you’ll have to dance around while others have a large amount of Meat Chad’s to avoid.
For the most part, Conga Master Go is really quite pretty. There’s a real charm to the pixel artistry on display and the animations – particularly for the crotch grabbing rocker characters – are really quite spending. On the whole, the game is really easy to read because of the art style but there are times when parts of the venue, flavour just added to give each place a little life aside from the dancers, can be perplexing. For example, in the Enchantment Under the Sea level, there’s an outside section with some cars and what looks like a whole bunch of dancers to entice. It’s only when you get there will you realise that almost all of what look like dancers are actually just scene dressing background. There’s a few moments like this that can be a tad confusing and when you’re running low on Momentum, it can be a tad frustrating to waste time there.
As you might expect from a game about dancing, the soundtrack to Conga Master Go is sublime. Each dance hall has its own theme whether that be electric disco, house or smooth rhythms. This game has it all and they’re all ear worms that’ll have you boogy-ing along too. While sitting down to write this review, the “CONGA!” song from the Conga Burger level, which feels like it has some Brazilian influences in it, has been playing on repeat on my internal jukebox. I may have even said “Conga” out loud a few times but you can’t prove a thing.
Technically, Conga Master Go is almost flawless. I have stumbled over one quite peculiar bug in the Lucky Strike Disco Bowling level (I was struggling to find any dancers. The place was literally deserted until I went back to the entrance where I found more than 20 people crammed around the door) but this happened once and only on one level. Otherwise, the game runs as smoothly as John Travolta’s dance moves in Saturday Night Fever.
Quite a rarity for a PlayStation Vita game is the inclusion of local multiplayer in Conga Master Go. Here, players can each use each side of the PS Vita (or the DualShock 4 if played on PSTV – yes, it’s compatible) with player 1 using the D-pad and Player 2 using Circle and Square to rotate left and right to play on the same screen. There’s a variety of modes, each of which have a pun-ny title that riffs on existing games. Examples are 1-2-Conga (1-2-Switch) which challenges each player to form the longest conga line possible within 3 minutes but if the players collide, they play a game of rock, paper, scissors with the winner stealing half the conga line of the loser, and Mortal Conga (Mortal Kombat) which challenges you to collect pigs which are then wrapped in bubbles then once the timer runs out, the aim is to pop all the bubbles behind the opposing player before they pop all of yours. The multiplayer modes are quite ingenious twists on the core mechanics but there’s one issue – Because you’re playing on the same screen, the view zooms out to ensure all players are within camera shot at all times. If both players head to opposite corners of the venue, the action becomes so small on the screen that it’s difficult to see what’s going on and what direction you’re headed in. If you’re playing on the PSTV on a large screen, this isn’t so much of an issue but on the PS Vita’s screen, it becomes too small to be enjoyable.
One rare bug, some occasionally confusing background artwork and multiplayer modes that suffer on the PS Vita screen are the only gripes I have with an otherwise charismatic, unique and enjoyable game in Conga Master Go! It’s deceptively strategic when you get into the groove, complete with a toe tapping soundtrack and mechanics that have kept me coming back for more long after I’ve finished the Story Mode. While it’s not going to be winning any Game of the Year awards, it’s a fun way to kill time on a train journey on the PS Vita.
Conga Master Go! is available now on PS Vita (reviewed)
Publisher: Hidden Trap
In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of the game. For our full review policy please go here.
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