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Another step forward in the Zumba Fitness videogame franchise
on November 8, 2012
When Majesco released Zumba Fitness for the Kinect in 2010, by most accounts it was a groaner. It was clear that the game had been rushed to market to try to cash in on the Kinect launch. The result was a sloppy and forgettable game. In 2011, they made amends by releasing Zumba Fitness Rush. This version added much better motion tracking, real Zumba personalities like Beto and Gina Grant, an improved tutorial, and much more engaging graphics.
I'm happy to say that the newest iteration, Zumba Fitness Core, builds on the improvements and makes the game even better.
When you start off the game, you see stylized videos of a number of famous Zumba personalities, including Kass (Martin), Tanya (Beardsley), Nick (Logrea), Loretta (Bates), Gina (Grant), and Beto. Their animated counterparts will be your instructors throughout the game. While in the previous version they looked more "cartoony", with this version they're starting to almost look like the real person (almost).
Some of the options in the main menu are the same as previous versions, while others are new. They are:
"Single Song": You can choose a Single Song to jump right into dancing right away. You can scroll through songs and choose them by instructor (whom you can identify either by their picture or the color of the button), or by name, intensity (low, medium, high), genre (e.g., samba, disco, cumbia, hip-hop, etc.), or workout type (warm up, core, cardio, cardio with some core, core with some cardio, and cool down). 17 of the 33 songs are licensed tracks, and 16 are Zumba originals, an impressive ratio compared to past Zumba games. Here's a full list:
Ain't Nothing Wrong (Robert Randolph and the Family Band) - Pop
Alegria Pa Zumbar (Zumba Original) - Samba
Bailamos (Enrique Iglesias) - Pop Salsa
Balans (K-liber4life) - Reggaeton
Bem Vindos (Zumba Original) - Brazilian Funk
Boogie Shoes (Juptier) - Disco
Brokenhearted (Karmin) - Jazz
Crazy Love (Mara) - Samba Techno
Cumbia Flow (Zumba Original) - Cumia Reggaeton
Dancing With Myself (The Donnas) - Pop Samba
Desert Groove (Zumba Original) - Bellydance
Drop It Low (Kat DeLuna) - Hip-Hop
Ella Me Copia (Zumba Original) - Bachata Flemenco
For You (Zumba Original) - Axe
Gati Bongo (Orchestre Baka de Gbine) - African
Ho Jayegi Balle Balle (Daler Mehndi) - Punjabi Bollywood
Hola My Friend (Zumba Original) - Polynesian Rhythm
Jamming (Bob Marley) - Reggae
Jhoom (Shankar Mahadevan) - Bollywood
Jump Jive And Wail (Charlotte Swing Band) - Swing
Kazachok in Habana (Zumba Original) - Russian Folk
La Bomba (Zumba Original) - Techno Cumbia
Las Gatitas (Zumba Original) - Hip-Hop
Lift Ya Leg Up (Spice and Company) - Soca Calypso
Magalenha (Carlinhos Brown) - Samba Capoeira
Mirage (Naked Rhythm) - Bellydance
Nyana (Tiesto) - EDM
Paris (Oh La La) (Grace Potter and the Nocturnals) - Rock Burlesque
Quiebra (Zumba Original) - Quebradita
Roll Wid Di Don (Sean Paul) - Stepping Reggaeton
Shake It (Anane featuring Mr. Vegas and Tony Touch) - Hip-Hop Reggaeton
Suave (Kiss Me) (Nayer featuring Pitbull) - Salsa
Sugar Plum Fairy (Ryan Franks) - Ballet
Surf to the World (Zumba Original) - Surf Rock
Sweet Girl (Zumba Original) - Techno Merengue
Taki Contry (Zumba Original) - Celtic Bluegrass
The Trip (Tres Mundos) - Arabian Reggaeton
Vamos Pa'La Pista (Zumba Original) - Salsa
Vem Vem (Zumba Original) - Brazilian Funk
Zumba (Don Omar) - Latin Pop
Each song has a venue associated with it, which you can change. The venues range from city nightclub scenes to open air stadiums to scenes reminiscent of Las Vegas, Niagara Falls, and Hawaii.
Dancing works pretty much the same as previous versions of the game. You have one Zumba instructor whom you'll mirror the moves of, reinforced by other dancers in the background doing the same moves. Animated visual cues will come on the screen to let you know to get ready for the next series of steps. You'll also see a little silhouette of your body in the lower left hand corner that you can match against the instructor. The one thing I thought was missing was some kind of status bar to tell you how much of the song was left.
Some reviews have complained that the choreography can be repetitive, but I think these fail to understand the nature of Zumba: repetition of certain "classic" dance steps is by design, as it helps make the class accessible to both beginners and advanced alike and helps people start burning calories quicker. In other words, it's an exercise program first and a dance program second. If you're looking for more elaborate choreography, I'd stick with a dance game like Dance Central or Just Dance.
I was very, very impressed by the motion detection in this game. For the most part I found the accuracy to be excellent, even down to detecting which arm and leg you're moving (something the Wii, for example, could never do). When I tried most songs for the first time I usually scored about a 50%, which was enough for 3 of 5 stars. But as I repeated the songs and started to memorize the moves, I found my score and my accuracy going higher. One other little detail they've added is that if you really mess up on a song, the instructor at the end of the song will let you know with a shrug or a little head shake, unlike previous versions where the instructor would jump up and down excitedly no matter how you did. I also really liked how I could play the game even though the Kinect sensor is only about 6-7 feet from me; with other games I have to rearrange my entire living room.
At the end of each dance you'll see your level, your score, the calories you burned, and the percentage of moves you got right. You'll also see a rating from 1 to 5 stars. You'll have the option of taking your picture (thankfully it doesn't randomly take pictures of you without your consent), as well as sharing your progress on Facebook.
"Full Class" lets you take virtual Zumba classes, which are basically single songs strung together. You can choose Short Classes (about 19-25 minutes), Mid-Length Class (about 44-48 minutes), or Full-Length Classes (about 57-62 minutes). You can also put together Custom Classes choosing your own duration and song lists. One major improvement they've made is the inclusion of low intensity songs that can help you properly warm up and stretch before exercises as well as cool down afterwards.
"Learn The Steps" is Zumba Fitness Core's tutorial section. You can learn four basic steps for Salsa, Merengue, Samba), Bollywood, Reggaeton, and Cumbia. After you select a style and a step, you need to match Beto dancing that step in slow motion. As with Dance Central his arms or legs will glow red if you're completely missing the target. Once you get the steps right you can try it in real time. The nice thing about perfecting the moves in the tutorial is that a lot of these basic steps are used throughout the songs.
"Progress Tracker" is a much improved section of the game that helps you see the progress you're making and helps keep you motivated to come back over and over. You can view running statistics of time played, accuracy, and calories burned by day, week, or month. You can also collect Xbox achievements for various set goals, as well a define goals for yourself, which you can share with your Xbox Live friends and tackle them as "Community goals". Strangely and disappointingly, it doesn't look like the game is supported by Kinect PlayFit at this time.
Overall, I was extremely impressed by what Majesco did with Zumba Fitness Core. They could have easily phoned it in and basically released the same game as Zumba Fitness Rush and still made boatloads of money. Instead, they effectively moved the platform forward with better graphics, more instructors, more songs, and more features to help incentivize you to come back to the game again and again.