Have you ever dreamed about lighting up the dance floor the same way John Travolta did in the 1977 film, Saturday Night Fever? If this has been a lifelong goal you are yet to fulfil, perhaps you’ll just have to remain hopeful, and in the meantime gather your family or a group of friends to instead play Conga Master Party!
Developed by Undercoders in association with Rising Star Games, Conga Master Party! doesn’t require a sense of rhythm like your regular dance game. This is because it’s actually a party game that caters for up to four players to provide hilarious arcade action. After selecting from one of the many pixel-based dancers – all sporting unique stats – you head out to the nearest dance location to conga.
Each level takes on the guise of a themed nightclub. These range from traditional venues such as the “Secret Flamingo” to locations commonly featured in classic dance movies, like burger joints and bowling alleys. At one point you even crash the local Conga University at four in the morning to party until sunrise. All of these venues are bright and colourful with flashing lights providing a typical night club atmosphere, and the retro art style manages to add a lot of personality to each environment. Assisting this process are the many famous faces in each club including the likes of Gene Simmons from KISS to fictional characters such as Marty McFly and the Doc from Back to the Future.
Once you’ve arrived at your selected venue, you’re ready to dance; Conga Master is easy to play. All you have to do is move your selected dancer across the floor with the L and R buttons and add people to your conga line by dancing near them. The concept is somewhat reminiscent of the famous Nokia mobile game, Snake. As you dance, there are plenty of hazards that you’ll need to be on the lookout for. Floor cleaners mopping up spills will make you slide, banana peels will make you slip, muscle men being their usual egotistical selves will take a swipe if you get too close, and stinky pigs will ruin your groove if they join your conga line.
The goal in each level is to get a certain amount of people to join your conga line so you can move onto the next nightspot. You must achieve this while avoiding all of the potential dangers and also keeping your momentum gauge in the green; this gauge is what keeps the party alive. If your dancer runs out of momentum, it’s game over. The player must continually attract people to the dancer’s conga line as quickly as possible - this can be achieved by picking up two or more people at once to start a combo. You can also dash across the dance floor to speed the process up by pressing L and R simultaneously; you'll need to manage this ability carefully as using it draws energy from the momentum gauge.
To progress in the story mode you’ll have to attract four types of dancers to your line in every club; these dancers are represented by the symbols above their heads. Once the symbol meter is filled they will join your conga line and boost your momentum gauge. Every time you accidentally bump into a person, meanwhile, you’ll reset their meter. Also of note are green tokens around each level that offer temporary power-ups; some improve the range you are able to attract people from while others can refill, freeze or increase the size of the momentum gauge. There are also special characters – like cats – that give your gauge a big boost.
Every time you move onto a different club in the story mode an obscure mini-game is activated where a flying saucer attempts to abduct people from your conga line. In order to minimise the damage you’ll have to tap the A button to run as fast as possible while jumping pigs with the L button. Every time you jump a pig you earn a ticket, and each of these unlocks a “Bonus Time” wheel spin. These wheel spins unlock new characters with different stats and can also provide you with power-up tokens. As lines carry across from club to club, it helps to have a longer queue upon entry of a new venue.
The story, while slightly challenging, is short-lived. It's also repetitive and you can't help but feel a bit lonely when playing it for extended periods. There’s also an endless mode that is basically about earning the highest score you can - both of these modes can only provide so much enjoyment. Ultimately, the primary purpose of single player is to unlock new characters and levels that can be used in the multiplayer section of Conga Master Party! Unfortunately, as inspired as each level is visually, there is no real difference in how they play. This is much the same with the characters. Some locations have locked off “VIP” areas, containing even more people, that require a certain amount of people in your conga line before you can enter, but apart from this it’s the same hazards and crowds to navigate from one club to another.
The real party starts with the multiplayer. In this section of the game two to four players can conga battle across several different game modes, each with a different mechanic, that are parodies of popular video game franchises across multiple platforms. These games include Mortal Conga, Grand Theft Conga, Command & Conga and also a few exclusive Nintendo Switch modes.
In 1-2-Conga if you run into another player you must play Rock, Paper, Scissors with the winner stealing half the conga line of the opponent player. In Just Conga – inspired by Just Dance – you must pick-up the dancer power-up and strike a pose for others to copy; other players must then match the pose or they lose their line. This is where the gyro in the Joy-Con comes into play. In the mode Grand Theft Conga, players lead a lonely dancer to their corner of the dance floor and are required to hold onto them until a percentage meter is filled. Mortal Conga, featuring fittingly themed music, has players frantically collecting as many pigs as possible, then popping rival’s bubbles. Cut the Conga, based on Cut the Rope, has players using scissor power-ups to cut rival conga lines.
All in there are eight multiplayer modes in total, and this is what will keep you coming back for more. A common link between all these games are the cheap tactics opponents can often get away with to win. This is what makes it so thrilling. A lot of the time you may find yourself working hard to assemble a conga line, then a rival player can quickly wipe it out or steal all the people by using an appropriate power-up. Other tactics might be other players simply knocking people out of the way. The action in multiplayer occurs on a single screen with the camera panning in and out, depending on how close players are to one another. Its intelligent design works well with the overall theme. Even in tabletop mode the action is still just as fun, with slick presentation and functionality.
The music is an important part of Conga Master Party! After all, it’s what keeps the dancing alive. A diverse range of tracks are included, some with weird lyrics while others are likely to sound familiar. These fall under well known genres like disco, dance, rock and roll and samba. There are other styles of music as well, with many of these tracks drawing inspiration from musical styles that became popular between 1960 to 1980. The stages are appropriately themed to match this music, with popular cultural references from each era. The pixel artwork has been interwoven with the music and dance themes; it’s clear a lot of inspiration for the soundtrack and visuals has been derived from classic American-made dance films of yesteryear.
An added bonus in Conga Master Party is amiibo functionality. This feature allows players to tap their amiibo and unlock additional outfits for the characters in the game. Some will be wearing chef overalls, crowns or even wielding a sword and shield. These are only cosmetic changes that players can live without, so in that sense it's a nice little add-on if you happen to have some amiibo to scan.
If it’s not already obvious by now, Conga Master Party! is best enjoyed as a multiplayer title. Sure, you can still enjoy the single player, but if you have no one else to play the other part of the game with then - be warned - you're missing out on half the fun. It’s a great party title that can be bust out when friends or family are nearby, and you’re perhaps seeking some simplistic but cheeky fun that will have you all in hysterics. For the multiplayer alone it’s worth your consideration. So set a date and get ready to conga the night away.