On Feb 13, Zumba fitness dancing returns to XBox Kinect with Zumba Fitness Rush, bringing with it the craze that launched classes, clothing lines and, yes, even conventions all over the world.
My wife, Amanda, recently fell in love with the trend, attending daily classes this summer and helping me with my review of 2011's Zumba title for Wii. I enlisted her again last week to give me a sense of how well Zumba Fitness Rush used the Kinect's motion-sensor cameras, especially compared to the first Zumba Kinect title, which did not fare so well with gamers. Would the new game live up to an in-studio Zumba workout?
We danced to a few songs at a first-look event, and Amanda came away absolutely loving the game. To be fair, she had been waiting for it to come out since playing the Wii version and was excited to begin with. The Wii incarnation of the game workS by strapping a Wiimote to the hip, which did little to score players correctly for things like arm movement. From what we saw, the game's transition to Kinect has done a fine job of providing motion-tracking that scores accurately based on a full body range of movement and timing.
While I found some of the moves repetitive compared to other dance games, Amanda appreciated that the game focused less on quickly throwing complicated dance steps one's way and more on moving to the rhythm of the music. Don't expect to interpret the lyrics with your body or do the robot; instead, you'll get an aerobic workout with flares of salsa and reggaeton. Because Zumba Fitness Rush's dance moves are sustained for longer than in other games, indicators for upcoming moves are not constantly in one's face. They pop up sparingly, and the game is more aesthetically pleasing for it.
The songs and moves were lifted directly out of a Zumba class and the soundtrack included all of the staples from the Wii version of the game, with plenty of additional tracks. Each song has only one level of difficulty, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. In Zumba Fitness Rush, the tempo and length of the music inform the difficulty of the workout, meaning the slower-paced "easy" songs are not shoehorned into difficult mode by adding complicated moves that don't fit the rhythm.
I was very happy to find that the game had done away with Kinect conventions like constantly taking your photo or freestyle dance segments. These annoyances plague so many other games on the system and lost their novelty very fast with me. I've never looked great in the photos that Kinect takes -- they always seem to squish my body -- and it's depressing to have a snapshot taken of you when you're playing alone. I'm just as annoyed when games force freestyle dance challenges into every song. It kills my highly choreographed groove!
Zumba Fitness Rush could be the ideal game for those looking to learn how to dance, Zumba style. There's a tutorial mode to teach the ropes with step-by-step instructions. Kinect does a far better job scoring, based on full-body movement, than Wii does, so you're more likely to pull off your moves correctly. Essentially, the game will train you into a Zumba dancing machine.