The Best Exercise Games for the Xbox Kinect

Review of Zumba Fitness for Kinect

Posted by steve on May - 1 - 2011 with 0 Comment

Zumba Fitness for Kinect

Disappointing to all but the most hard-core Zumba Fitness adherents.

Zumba Fitness for Kinect is more or less a direct port of the Wii game. Which means very little of the Kinect’s capabilities are used. Motion tracking, a critical requirement for any fast-paced dancing game, is woefully lacking, as is any meaningful tutorials for learning Zumba dance steps. But if you can get past all of that, you will get a good cardio workout.

Rating by steve: 2.5 stars

zumba fitness for xbox kinectZumba Fitness, of course, is a dance fitness craze that’s been sweeping the nation. The concept is simple: instead of boring, repetitive cardio exercises, you learn real latino dance moves and dance to them in a class full of others dancing the same steps. As a result, at the end of the session you’ve gotten the same workout as those calisthenics, but you’ve had a ton of fun in the process.

It seems like a concept perfectly suited for the Xbox. Unfortunately, in what was probably an attempt to get this Xbox game to market quickly, the developers of this game seem to have made a lot of mistakes. In the Wii version, perhaps problems like this are expected. But for the Kinect, where the bar has been set much higher by excellent games such as Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, such sloppiness is unacceptable. The game will sell probably continue to sell phenomenally, mostly due to the brand name. But it could have been so much more.

The first indication that the game is not up to par is the menu controls. I’ve repeated in almost every review how annoyed I am that each game has a completely different user interface to navigate menus. The interface in Zumba Fitness is by far the worst of them all. There are big buttons on the screen, but for some inexplicable reason, you don’t navigate them by putting your hands over them but rather by manipulating an extremely hard-to-control slider bar at the bottom of the screen. Not a good start (I was a bit amused to find that under their “Tutorials” section, they had one section on how to navigate the menus–which of course no one can get to unless they’ve already figured it out by themselves).

One of the things I was looking forward to most was the Tutorials. After all, it’s sometimes hard in a public fitness club setting to follow the instructions of the trainer–with video games you can (theoretically) repeat the tutorial over and over again until you get it right. Surely enough, Zumba Fitness for Kinect does have tutorials for a large number of common dance moves, including:

Calypso Basic
Calypso Single Single Double Pump
Calypso Basic with a Travel
Belly Dance: Basic Stance
Belly Dance: Combination
Belly Dance Tap Step Alternating Legs
Cumbia: Basic
Cumbia: Machete Step
Cumbia: Sleepy Leg
Merengue: March
Merengue: Que Te Mueve
Merengue: Pump
Reggaeton: Bounce
Reggaeton: Single Single Double Basic
Salsa: Travel
Salsa: Forward and Back
Salsa: Cuban

Here’s the problem. On the Xbox, you’d expect certain features. It would be nice, for example, to see a real video of an instructor breaking down steps for you and talking you through them. Or a video image of you standing next to the instructor so you can mimic her exact moves instead of trying to copy a “mirror image”. Or, motion tracking accuracy that is not just accurate, but uncanny. After all, we’ve seen the latter two things in games like Your Shape: Fitness Evolved.

Unfortunately, Zumba Fitness does none of these things. Strangely, the Tutorials section seems an almost exact port of the very flawed version on the Wii. The on-screen character is the same stylized silhouette as on the Wii–I would have expected much better use of the Xbox 360’s graphics power. The lessons zip through each step, not giving you an opportunity to repeat steps to learn them. Worse, the motion detection is horrible. As an experiment, I just marched in place while the tutorial was going on. I got messages like “you got it!” and “great hip motion” and “great arm movements” as if I was Eddie Torres. I understand these platitudes are meant to encourage people, but seriously, in a tutorial I don’t need an ego boost, I want to be taught.

The good news is, these are actual dance moves you’re being taught. The bad news is, trying to learn hip motions, complex leg movements, and arm gestures from a fast moving mirror image with no other reinforcement is very difficult.

As for actually playing Zumba Fitness, you can choose different routines (which consist of multiple dance moves) a la carte.

– Asalto (Reggaeton/Cumbia) – Intermediate, 4:56
– Baila Pa Emociona (Calypso, Warm Up) – Beginner (4:11)
– Bla Bla Bla (Cumbia / Reggaeton) – Expert (2:58)
– Bring it On Girl (Latin Dance) – Expert (3:49)
– Con Movimiento (Ragga / Dance Hall) – Expert (4:53)
– Don’t Stop (Samba) – Expert (2:38)
– Echa Pa Un Lado (Merengue / Swing) – Intermediate (5:02)
– El Amor El Amor (Merengue / Beginner) – Beginner (4:20)
– El Bacilon (Merengue) – Intermediate (3:57)
– El Twist De La Munquita (Rock ‘n Roll) – Beginner (4:40)
– Enciendemela (Cumbia / Rumba) – Expert (3:31)
– Feel Like Dancing (Ragga / Dancehall) – Intermediate (3:52)
– Funizinho (Warm up) – Expert (4:57)
– Hala (Reggaeton) – Expert (3:57)
– La Bruja De La Cosquilla (Merengue) – Expert (4:40)
– La Luz Del Flower (Merengue / Hip Hop) – Expert (3:51)
– Mawa Sillah (Calypso) – Intermediate (3:54)
– Mueve La Cadera (Merengue) – Expart (5:38)
– No Quiero Mas (Salsa) – Intermediate (2:57)
– Pa La Diskoteka (Techno / Cumbia) – Expert (
– Vamos DJ (Conga / Hip Hop) – Expert (5:04)
– Zocalypso (Calypso Warmup) – Beginner (5:35)
– Zumba Lluvia (Cool down) – Expert (4:06)
– Zumba Mami (Reggaeton) – Beginner (3:34)
– Zumba Sueno (Salsa) – Beginner (4:37)

As you can see, each routine ranges from one to five minutes. When you dance a routine, you basically have to mirror the on-screen dancer’s motions. If you match the motion, the dancer will turn a green color and the progress bar on the bottom will fill up. While the accuracy of the detection was markedly better than the Wii, it still paled in comparison to other Kinect games like Dance Central and even Playstation Move games like Singstar Dance. It was closer to a last-generation Wii than a next-generation Kinect.

I would have liked to see a video image of myself so I could see how accurately I was following the moves. Instead, there are two stylized (and pretty worthless) video silhouettes of my torso and my legs which provide me no useful information.

You can string along different individual dances, or you can play the “Zumba Party” or “Zumba Class” mode. These are 30 minute chunks of different Zumba routines one after another. Weaknesses of the game aside, you really do get a great cardio workout if you commit to doing it a few times a week. You can also make your own workout schedule using the built-in workout calendar. There are also multiplayer options, one allowing you to have a “dance off” with a friend, and the other allowing two teams of two to dance off against each other. Of course, the fickleness of the motion tracking makes this less fun than it could be, but as long as all your friends

Overall, Zumba Fitness for Kinect feels like a game they rushed to the market without really understanding what the Kinect’s potential is.

There are a few nice touches that the Wii version doesn’t have. You can connect to Zumba Live to compare your scores to people around the world.

Overall, I would give Zumba Fitness for Kinect two and a half stars. For seasoned Zumba participants, if you don’t mind the idiosyncrasies of the motion detection, Zumba Fitness is a great way to up with Zumba exercises on those days when you can’t make it to Zumba class (or if you find them prohibitively expensive). On the other hand, if you’re new to Zumba and want to learn, this game doesn’t do a great job of it–you’d be better off enrolling in a class with a real, live instructor.