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The Best Exercise Games for the Xbox Kinect

Review of Zumba Fitness Rush for Kinect

Posted by steve on February - 21 - 2012 with 2 Comments

Zumba Fitness Rush

Majesco gets it right with this sequel to the original Zumba Fitness

The original Zumba Fitness for Kinect was plagued with horrific tutorials and spotty motion controls. Happily, it’s all been fixed with this new version, called Zumba Fitness Rush. Highly recommended for Zumba fanatics and beginners alike.

Rating by steve: 4.5 stars ****1/2

zumba fitness rushUnless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years (in which case you definitely need to get up and start moving!) you’ve no doubt heard of Zumba, the fitness sensation where you get an intense aerobic workout by dancing to energetic music.

Invented by Alberto “Beto” Perez in Columbia in the 1990s, Zumba has become a worldwide sensation, selling millions of DVDs and introducing a brand new kind of fitness class to fitness centers everywhere.

The original Zumba Fitness video games, released in November 2010 for Wii and Xbox Kinect, sold millions of copies but were admittedly quite lackluster. While it was great to be able to dance Zumba routines to your TV screen, motion tracking on both systems was terrible (something especially disappointing on the then-new Kinect), and the so-called tutorials didn’t do a very good job of teaching those new to Zumba. I’m happy to say that Majesco listened to its users.

In November 2011, they introduced Zumba Fitness 2 for the Wii which made great improvements. They added different beautifully designed venues (such as a Yacht in Miami or a Rooftop in New York) complete with crowds of synchronized animated dancers in the background that help put you in that “party mood”. They also added licensed music tracks from artists like Pitbull and Nicole Scherzinger, and even used the cartoon versions of real-life Zumba instructors Beto, Tanya Beardsley, and Gina Grant as your guides. It was a huge improvement over the original.

It took Majesco a few more months to release the sequel (called Zumba Fitness Rush) for the Kinect, but I’m happy to say it was worth the wait. The Xbox version Zumba Fitness Rushstarts out with the same new features as the Wii version, but adds three more Zumba instructors (Kass Martin, Jason Thompson and Erica Pierce), adds five new venues, and 10 additional music tracks. And of course the Xbox version has much more detailed graphics and glorious hands-free control. When you start the game, you have six menu options:

1) Single Song:Here, you can just dive into dancing. You can scroll through the list of songs of many different musical styles, ranging from Cumbia to Samba to Batucada to Mambo to Hip Hop. The intensity of the songs range from Low to Medium to High.

Most of the songs are Zumba originals, but there are a few licensed tracks (Pause by Pitbull, Poison Remix by Nicole Scherzinger, and We No Speak Americano by Yolanda Be Cool and DCUP).Dancing works the same way as with most dance games–a Zumba instructor will dance on the screen, and you have to mirror his or her moves. A visual cue card will show up to tell you what move is coming up next (it’s animated, which I find much more useful than the cryptic icons I see in other dance games). Your silhouetted image appears in the lower left-hand corner, so you can compare your poses to the trainer’s.

I liked the fact that even though my Kinect is only 6 feet from the TV (so my legs are cut off), the game still let me play and still had accurate motion tracking.Despite the similarities to other dance games, one thing to keep in mind is that Zumba Fitness Rush is an exercise game first. The dance moves are simpler and more repetitive by design. The game is less about fancy choreographed dance moves, and all about aerobic dance steps that get your heart pumping. For some bizarre reason you don’t see numerical scores as you’re playing, you just see a row of 5 stars on the bottom of the screen. As you hit your moves, you’ll be graded “NICE!”, “HOT!”, or “ZUMBA!” and your star count will go up accordingly.

I found the accuracy to be vastly improved over the original version. You could get a couple “NICE” scores by faking it, but you really had to hit the moves precisely to get the “ZUMBA!”.

After you finish a song, you finally see the numerical score along with the number of calories you burned, the percentage of moves you got right, the number of stars you earned, and a ranking (Zumba Fan, Zumba Rocker, etc.). Calories burned is a useful addition, but one thing I realized is that it may not be entirely accurate, since calculating calories burned depends on your weight and there’s nowhere in the program that they ask for that. By my calculations, the number calories they display are based on someone who weighs an average of 175 pounds; if you weigh more or less you’ll have to adjust the number higher or lower respectively.

2) Learn the Steps: In the original version, the “tutorial” consisted of showing you demonstrations of dance moves that were impossible to follow. Then, when it came time for you to try it, if you so much as sneezed the system would congratulate you on mastering it.In the sequel, the tutorial is much more useful. You’re taught four basic steps of Salsa (Sidestep, Forward and Back, Travel, Backstep), Reggaeton (Stomp, Knee Lift, Destroza, and Bounce),  Cumbia (Two Step, Forward and Back, Sleepy Leg, and Sugar Cane), and Merengue (March, Two Step, Six Count, Zumba Shuffle) by the animated Beto himself.

You start out doing the steps slowly, and then once you’ve mastered that you can dance at normal speed. The system will accurately detect if you got the move right, and will reward you with a “check” once you do.  There are of course many other steps and musical styles within the game, but learning these basic steps will get you warmed up and ready.

3) Zumba World: As of the launch date (2/13/12), the screen here still says “We’re sorry, these features are not available yet. But check back soon!”. They promise that under this menu option, you’ll get the latest in Zumba news, let you locate a local class, and get new routines via DLC.

4) Full Class: Here, you can choose from 15 Short Classes, 15 Mid-Length Classes, 15 Full Length Classes, or design your own class. Classes are really nothing but individual songs strung together; the only real difference between Class mode and Single Song mode is that at the end of the class you can get statistics all the songs you played, not just one. The one annoyance I found about the classes was that there’s no indication of how many songs you’ve danced to and how many there are left to go. I chose a “Short Class” which ended up being 22 minutes long. The “Mid Length” class I chose ended up being about an hour long. Needless to say, I didn’t try the “Full-Length Class”.

5) Progress Tracker: Here, you can view Statistics (calories burned, total time played, and  accuracy) by calendar day, week, or month, view Kinect Achievements (badges you get for accomplishing various milestones in the game), or view “behind the scenes” videos that you unlock during the course of the game. I do like how you’re incentivized to keep playing the game to unlock new trophies and videos.

6) Options lets you turn visual cues on and off, and adjust the sound effects and music volume.

There were a few minor annoyances with the game. Similar to what I said about Classes, while you’re playing any song there’s no indication of how much time has elapsed in the song and how much left there is to go. The result is an effect where, if you’re not familiar with the song, it can seem to go on forever. I would have liked to see at least an option for displaying some kind of timer on the bottom of the screen.

The graphics are much more stylized than the first version, which can be both a good thing and a bad thing. On the good side, it makes the dancing a lot more exhilarating. On the negative side, some of the camera changes (e.g., from the trainer to the crowd and back) can really be distracting. Even worse, when you hit a series of moves right, you’ll be rewarded with “Euphoria Mode”, where the screen flashes a white so bright that you feel like you’re being blinded (and ironically, you’ll probably miss the next couple of steps because of it).

But the positive features of Kinect Fitness Rush outweigh any negative ones. It’s definitely one of the better workout games available for the Xbox. Even with “Low Intensity” songs you’ll get your heartrate pumping and will build up a sweat. The scoring is such that beginners won’t get discouraged, and yet experts will feel fully rewarded for hitting their moves.

If you’re a Zumba fan, this is a must-buy if you want to have the Zumba experience at home; it’s not quite the same as being in a real gym with a real instructor and fellow dancers, but it’s probably the next closest thing to it. If you’ve always been curious about Zumba, this is a great way to learn it so that if you do sign up for classes you’ll already have some experience under your belt.