The Best Exercise Games for the Xbox Kinect

Review of Zumba Fitness Core for Kinect

Posted by steve on November - 8 - 2012 with 0 Comment

Zumba Fitness Core

Another excellent entry into the Zumba Fitness series

After a shaky start with the first Zumba game in 2010, Majesco greatly improved the franchise with Zumba Fitness Rush and now improves it even more with Zumba Fitness Core, adding new songs, new moves, new instructors, and robust online capabilities.

Rating by steve: 4.5 stars

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 that made you feel like you were really in exotic locations around the world.

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:

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. Some of the familiar artists include Enrique Iglesias, Sean Paul, The Donnas, Karmin, and many more. Here’s a full list:

Title Artist Intensity Genre Workout Style
Ain’t Nothing Wrong Robert Randolph and the Family Band Medium Intensity Pop Cardio/Core
Alegria Pa Zumbar Zumba Original High Intensity Samba Core
Bailamos Enrique Iglesias Low Intensity Pop Salsa Cool Down
Balans K-liber4life Medium Intensity Reggaeton Cardio
Bem Vindos Zumba Original High Intensity Brazilian Funk Core/Cardio
Boogie Shoes Juptier Medium Intensity Disco Cardio
Brokenhearted Karmin Low Intensity Jazz Warm up
Crazy Love Mara Medium Intensity Samba Techno Cardio
Cumbia Flow Zumba Original Medium Intensity Cumia Reggaeton Cardio
Dancing With Myself The Donnas High Intensity Pop Samba Cardio
Desert Groove Zumba Original Medium Intensity Bellydance Core/Cardio
Drop It Low Kat DeLuna High Intensity Hip-Hop Core
Ella Me Copia Zumba Original High Intensity Bachata Flemenco Cardio
For You Zumba Original High Intensity Axe Core/Cardio
Gati Bongo Orchestre Baka de Gbine Medium Intensity African Cardio/Core
Ho Jayegi Balle Balle Daler Mehndi High Intensity Punjabi Bollywood Cardio/Core
Hola My Friend Zumba Original Medium Intensity Polynesian Rhythm Core/Cardio
Jamming Bob Marley Low Intensity Reggae Cool Down
Jhoom Shankar Mahadevan Medium Intensity Bollywood Cardio
Jump Jive And Wail Charlotte Swing Band High Intensity Swing Cardio
Kazachok in Habana Zumba Original High Intensity Russian Folk Cardio/Core
La Bomba Zumba Original High Intensity Techno Cumbia Core/Cardio
Las Gatitas Zumba Original Medium Intensity Hip-Hop Cardio/Core
Lift Ya Leg Up Spice and Company High Intensity Soca Calypso Cardio/Core
Magalenha Carlinhos Brown High Intensity Samba Capoeira Core
Mirage Naked Rhythm High Intensity Bellydance Core/Cardio
Nyana Tiesto Low Intensity EDM Warm up
Paris (Oh La La) Grace Potter and the Nocturnals Medium Intensity Rock Burlesque Core
Quiebra Zumba Original High Intensity Quebradita Cardio/Core
Roll Wid Di Don Sean Paul High Intensity Stepping Reggaeton Cardio/Core
Shake It Anane featuring Mr. Vegas and Tony Touch Medium Intensity Hip-Hop Reggaeton Cardio
Suave (Kiss Me) Nayer featuring Pitbull Medium Intensity Salsa Core/Cardio
Sugar Plum Fairy Ryan Franks Medium Intensity Ballet Core
Surf to the World Zumba Original Medium Intensity Surf Rock Cardio
Sweet Girl Zumba Original High Intensity Techno Merengue Cardio
Taki Contry Zumba Original High Intensity Celtic Bluegrass Core/Cardio
The Trip Tres Mundos Medium Intensity Arabian Reggaeton Cardio
Vamos Pa’La Pista Zumba Original High Intensity Salsa Core/Cardio
Vem Vem Zumba Original High Intensity Brazilian Funk Core/Cardio
Zumba Don Omar Medium Intensity Latin Pop Cardio

One thing you can see right away is that there are a lot more different unique styles, from Russian Folk to Bollywood to Arabian Reggaeton.

Each song has a venue associated with it, which you can change.  The venues include:

  • The Alberto – a fancy dome-shaped outdoor nightclub scene
  • Big Water – brightly lit waterfalls
  • Elephant Palace – a brightly lit dance club
  • Lucky Fountains – a scene reminiscent of Las Vegas
  • Luau Moon Party – a beach scene reminiscent of Hawaii or a Polynesian island.
  • NYC Soundsystem – a club on the city streets
  • Royal Ballroom – a ballroom with a grand piano and chandeliers
  • Zumba Amphitheater – the classic open-air Zumba stadium

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. Some of the songs are easier to dance to than others at first, but because of the nature of Zumba the steps are repeated a couple times throughout each song, so if you play enough times eventually you’ll memorize and perfect them. 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 silouette 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.

I’ve heard some people complain that the dancing can be repetitive, but I think those people fail to understand the point of Zumba: repetition of certain “classic” dance steps is a key characteristic of Zumba, as it helps make the class accessible to both beginners and advanced alike, plus it 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. When you hit the target move, you’ll be rewarded by seeing one of three bars light up (either Nice, Hot, or ZUMBA!), and if you keep up a string of consecutive accurate moves you’ll see things start to flash.  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). Just as important, the game didn’t give false positives either. 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.

Something else I liked was that even though my Kinect setup is compact (I only have 6-7 feet between me and the Kinect Sensor), I could still play the game without rearranging my whole living room as other games like Nike+ Kinect make me do. Even though my arms and legs are partially cut off in the video image, the game still does a pretty good job of tracking me.

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 (Sidestep, Forward and Back, Travel, Backstep), Merengue (March, Two Step, Six Count, Zumba Shuffle), Samba (Basic Samba, Samba Lunge, Samba Travel, Box Step), Bollywood (Bhangra Cross-Stomp, Bhangra Bounce, Pony Step, Rocking Step), Reggaeton (Stomp, Knee Lift, Sestroza, Bounce), and Cumbia (Two Step, Forward and Back, Sleepy Leg, Sugar Cane). 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. Statistics lets you see graphs of your score, time played, accuracy, and calories burned by day, week, or month. If you play often, it’s really satisfying to go back and see the history of all your exercise. Achievements lets you collect Xbox achievements for accomplishing certain goals, such as completing a tutorial to burning 2500 calories to achieving 80% technique in three songs. A new option called Goals lets you set your own goals by time played, calories burned, and number of routines danced in a certain number of days; once you set a goal you can also share it with your friends on Xbox Live and track everyone’s progress under “Community Goals”. Bonus Content lets you view content (i.e. bonus videos) you unlock in the course of playing the game. Leaderboards lets you compare your scores to the high scores of other players on Xbox Live (hint: you or I are not coming close).

The Zumba World section lets you purchase downloadable content, read Zumba News, or find a local Zumba Class.

The game is not without little imperfections, of course. Selecting menu items using the cursor can be a little clunky, and voice commands for me were hit or miss. I don’t necessarily blame Majesco for this, as this seems to be common among many Kinect games. Also, if I’m going to be real nitpicky, it was possible to “fake” the motion detection in certain cases, but overall I’d still say this is far and away better than any previous versions. And to get really, really nitpicky, I find the naming convention of these games to be very confusion: I’m not sure why they don’t call it “Zumba 2 and 3” versus “Zumba Rush and Core”.

Another big disappointment of this game is that it’s not supported by Kinect PlayFit as of this writing. I’m not sure if this is the fault of Majesco or Microsoft, but ultimately it’s in both of their interests to make this work eventually.

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. I also like the fact that with Community Goals and Leaderboards they’re dipping their toes into some of the more communal and social aspects of Zumba, which after all one of the biggest appeals of Zumba. Hopefully as technology improves they can continue to refine this. Perhaps some day we’ll be able to have real Zumba group classes right on our Kinect, with real people dancing in the background instead of just computerized images 🙂