I am a little late at jumping on the Zumba Fitness wagon and this has been my first encounter with the title. Due to playing other games, I did not buy the previous Zumba Fitness, but only got around to this one: Zumba Fitness Rush. So this "review" is more of a analysis for first-time users, and maybe those who own previous titles on either Xbox Kinect or Wii may find it useful too.
Zumba Fitness Rush (ZFR) is an exercise title, which naturally assumes that the exercises are aerobic/cardio based. The exercises themselves are dance choreography, but presented in such a stylish and simple fashion, that it is easy to master. Once you have danced to one of the sessions you'll also quickly realise that this is not just dance moves thrown together, but that the dances actually do work out your body properly. The music is set mostly to Latin beats which gives you that..."Zumba?" sensation and really make you want to shake your body (this coming from a man).
There are 6 instructors in this game that are real life Zumba instructors, though in the game they are presented so by their avatars. I saw below in one review someone commenting that previous Zumba games used the real live presentation of the instructors, but it's just natural that when you work with a game instead of a workout DVD that using avatars allow more flexibility in the programming of the game itself.
The design of the game at this moment to me is a plus side, because I find it easy to use and intuitive. Once you insert the disc, it will do the usual scanning and identifying. From there, you enter the main menu. You have a few options here, but basically you'll only be using two of them, i.e. the classes and the single songs. Single songs are just that: you select a specific song and dance to it. Songs are classified into low, medium and high intensity, with the latter being that one that's going to give you the most sweat. After you select the song, you dance to it and every now and again a flash card will pop up to give you a cue as to which moves will come up next. This is unlike Dance Central where the flashcards are continuous, as ZFR just give you every now and again a clue. As you dance, you follow the instructor's avatar onscreen and will see a display of your own outline in the bottom left-hand corner. Your performance is rated in stars, with 5 stars being the highest. Here I can comfortably say that to achieve 4~5 stars in the songs are relatively easy, even when you constantly miss certain moves. ZFR is very forgiving in this aspect and does not make you feel like you do badly just because you got a few moves incorrect.
That is the SINGLE SONG area. The other one you'll use most of the time is the CLASSES. Classes are presented I guess the way they would be presented at a real live Zumba Fitness course. You can choose between 3 kinds of classes: short, medium and full. The difference between them is only time, with the short one naturally being the shortest. What the class does is combine a set of songs from the SINGLE SONG session into a well-structured class. You will see that quickly as it usually starts with a medium intensity song, then a few high intensity ones, and then cool down at the end with a low intensity. This will be the place you'll camp most of the time when you play ZFR as the purpose of this game is to exercise through dancing, and the classes are the perfect way to do that. Also under the class heading is the ability to create your own playlist. This is awesome: you can make quite a number of personal playlists by selecting songs of your choice from the SINGLE SONG section.
These two sections are what ZFR is all about. For first timers, like me, and actually, even for those who know the game/dance, there is the LEARN THE STEPS section. Don't get excited though, as this section is very basic in nature and only shows you a few steps from 4 different kinds of dances like the salsa and cha-cha. Even once you have mastered them you won't easily recognize them immediately in the songs/classes as they are choreographed a little differently. However, go do them, as by completing this section you get up to 5 achievements worth a 100G on Xbox...if this matters to you.
What I find playing this title is that I really don't care much about the tracking of the Kinect sensor. I often don't even look whether I am getting a good score or not. As you get totally immersed in the experience you completely forget about all that tracking bit and just focus on the moves and building up a sweat. As mentioned, when I do miss a few steps the game is very forgiving and you will still obtain a pretty decent score, something that makes you determined that to even try harder next time. I like this approach as it is fun, something I am pretty sure the creators behind Zumba intended. Something all exercise and dance titles should incorporate.
One could argue that the omission of a proper tutorial section like Dance Central or Black Eyed Peas Experience is questionable, but again, if you consider this a Zumba Fitness product, you will realise that there are no tutorial sections when you go to an aerobics class or workout. It's just jump in and learn how to swim. ZFR though is so well choreographed that within playing a song just once you would have picked up the moves. Granted there are more challenging ones, but I doubt whether a tutorial would have helped much. It's more a matter of getting into the moves and mastering them, especially when it's on high intensity.
Another comment I would like to make. I've heard this kind of game being compared to a workout DVD/video, and that's what it is in a sense. When you break it down you quickly realise that this kind of game does not really care about 1-on-1 tracking of the Kinect sensor, though I have to admit that this title actually does do a pretty good job at tracking. My point is, even live aerobic classes in gyms are not about 1-on-1 copying, it's copying and applying the technique best to your ability, working up a sweat and feeling good about working out. The difference is a DVD workout title is static--the classes are rigid and you cannot match and choose and create playlists. This is one crucial benefit of a gaming title as it is basically a piece of software which allows the developers to be more flexible, such as allowing you to create your own playlists.
Another bonus is the voice command. I love this. Sometimes there are a few misses, but from the start to the end I can navigate the entire game by voice commands. I find this incredibly nifty.
Finally, a very important feature at this moment for our household is the co-op ability. ZFR allows a second player to join and make it perfect for two people to workout together.
To round it up:
- SINGLE SONGS should be displayed in a list rather than in a big button menu-style, making it currently difficult to select certain songs down the menu.
- some moves require a bit more space than usual dance games, but should not be a big concern
= no big tutorial section
= songs are Latino based with a few mainstream ones in between
- excellent voice navigation
- co-op ability
- easy layout of the menu
- great exercise routines
- can create your own playlists
Anyone interested in a sweat workout at home with cardio activity should consider this. This is aerobics in a dance fashion and made fun. Originally I wanted to give this game a 4-star, but looking back at this review and the last few weeks of using it, I can hardly say that it has ever frustrated me or let me down. I am pretty sure we will get some DLC (downloadable content) in the future sporting some additional songs and moves. As this is my first Zumba Fitness program I can understand why this has become so popular internationally.