The Best Exercise Games for the Xbox Kinect

Review of Zumba Fitness World Party for Xbox 360

Posted by steve on November - 19 - 2013 with 0 Comment

Zumba Fitness World Party

Zumba Fitness for the Xbox has come a long way since those dreadful days in 2011. Live video dancers instead of silhouettes, excellent motion controls, and excellent Kinect voice controls make this a must-have for anyone who wants to have an intense workout and fun at the same time.

Rating by steve: 4 1/2 stars

zumba fitness world party xbox reviewIn many ways this post marks a momentous occasion. It’s the 50th fitness game I’ll be reviewing for the Xbox 360, and likely among the last as publisher gradually pull away support. On Friday, I’ll be picking up the Xbox One, and along with it a new Kinect 2.0, a new online service called Xbox Fitness (no relation), and hopefully a new era in video game exercise.

But don’t worry–my mission is still going to be the same, to try out all the Xbox One games that are good for fitness and exercise and let you know whether they’re worth your time. And if you’re not quite ready for the Xbox One, don’t worry, if there are new games released for the 360, I’m hanging on to my 360 and I’ll be covering those as well.

Zumba Fitness World Party is a fitting way to close out the Xbox 360 era. In many ways it demonstrates how far the Xbox 360 has come in the last 2-3 years. When I reviewed the original Zumba Fitness for the Xbox in May 2011, it was a big disappointment. Motion tracking didn’t work, the menu controls were almost impossible to use, and the game had the feel of being slapped together.┬áZumba Fitness World Party suffers from none of those ailments.

When you start the game, you’ll see a video of Beto, Priscilla Satori, Gina Grant, Loretta Bates, Peter Lee, Nick Logrea, Melissa Cruz, Heidi Torres, Armando Salcedo, Kass Martin, Eric Aglia, and Dr. B and the Bhenga Bros dancing in locations around the world. It’s a great way to introduce you to both the instructors and the locales you’ll be encountering in the game.

The options on the main menu are:

World Tour
Full Class
Quick Play
My Zumba

One thing I loved right away was that I could speak voice commands to my Kinect–and it actually works now (unlike in past years when I had to shout at the TV at the top of my lungs). You can also navigate using your hands, but they still don’t let you navigate using the Xbox controller.

When you select World Tour, you first select your Xbox profile. you’ll then be brought to the main menu where you can choose a country to “visit”. They include Brazil, the Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii, India, Los Angeles, and Puerto Rico. When you visit each part of the world, the playlist reflects the music of that region, which is pretty cool. Here are the songs in each region, along with the genres and exercise intensity:

Brazil (Afro Samba, Capoeira, Brazilian Funk, Samba, Axe, Brazillian Pop, Reggae)

Na Ponta Do Pe – Medium Intensity
Batucada Dance – High Intensity
Garota Nacional – Medium Intensity
Ruas Encantadas – High Intensity
Coisa Brasileira – Medium Intensity
Mas Que Nada – High Intensity

Caribbean (Dance Hall, Cumbia, Calypso, Reggae)

Vibes – Warm Up
Marioneta – Medium Intensity
Loco – Medium Intensity
Caribbean Dream – Medium Intensity
Pega Pega – Medium Intensity
True to Myself – Cool Down

Europe (Irish Step, EDM, Burlesque, Russian Folk, Flamenco)

Clarity – Warm Up
The Beggerman Jig – High Intensity
Una De Salao – Medium Intensity
Russian Dances – High Intensity
Put the Gun Down – High Intensity

Hawaii (Hawaiian Pop, Traditional Hula, Modern Tahitian, Hawaiian Reggae)

Maoli Girl – Low Intensity
Haleiwa Hula – Low Intensity
1865 (95 Degrees…) – Low Intensity
Jungle – High Intensity

India (Bollywood)

Mashallah – Medium Intensity
Indian Moonshine – High Intensity
Boro Boro – High Intensity
Kaim Rahe Sardari – High Intensity

Los Angeles (Pop, Hip-Hop, Swing, Blues)

Beam Me Up – Warm Up
Born This Way – Medium Intensity
Shake Your Hips – High Intensity
Next to Me – Cool Down
Exotic – Medium Intensity
Puttin’ on the Ritz – High Intensity
Do You Feel Like Moving? – High Intensity
Came Here to Party – High Intensity

Puerto Rico (Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, Latin Pop, Reggaeton, Girly Funk, Bomba/Plena)

Limbo – Medium Intensity
Bailando Por Ahi – Medium Intensity
Echa Pa’lla – Medium Intensity
Corazoncito Bonito – Low Intensity
Perros Salvajes – High Intensity
Aguanile – Medium Intensity
Zumba Boricua – HIgh Intensity

For each country, you earn “Zumba Miles” for dancing to the first two songs, and then use those to unlock subsequent songs.

During the course of the “World Tour” you’ll unlock “passport stamps”, “souvenirs”, and “postcards” as you dance. It’s a true challenge, because the Kinect is extremely accurate to the point where you can’t just phone in a performance to get 5 stars, you have to earn it.

When you begin the dancing, you’ll see a scene from the area of the world you’ve visiting, and a Zumba instructor will be in the center of the screen. As with all these kinds of games you’ll need to mimic his or her moves as if you’re looking in a mirror. You’ll also see a running count of the “Zumba Miles” you earn.

If you dance well, you’ll see more Zumba dancers join in. In a clever touch of humor and realism, in some scenes you’ll also see a crowd of “amateur” Zumba dancers in the background who like you and me may not exactly be following the moves correctly (but like you and me, are trying their best).

As with other games of this ilk, you’ll also see an animated preview of the next dance move that’s coming in a postage stamp-sized window in the upper right-hand corner.

Unlike previous versions of Zumba Fitness, instead of an animated cartoon figure or a faceless silhouette, you’ll see the actual video image of the instructor. This makes it a whole lot easier to pick out the moves they’re doing, and is a lot more like a realistic Zumba session than ever before.

When you hit a right moves, you’ll see the words “Zumba!”, “Nice!” or “Hot!” appear on the screen, and the more precisely you dance, the more stars you earn. They’ve all but perfected the motion tracking. In previous versions of the game, your experience would be littered with false positives, where you’d get credit for the wrong moves, or false negatives, where you’d swear you were doing the move right but the system would refuse to reward you. I found the accuracy in this game to be remarkable. The first time I danced to any of the songs, I’d get either 1 or 2 stars, but the more I practiced, the more stars I got.

My play area is only about 6-7 feet from the Kinect, and yet it did a pretty good job of detecting me. Even though my legs were cut off, it did give me “credit”, although I get the sense my scores might have been higher if I had enough room for my whole body (then again, if you look closely at the videos, you’ll probably conclude that the system was overly generous to me).

There isn’t an option to “break down” each song to really learn them, so you’ll need to learn them by practicing repeatedly and by mastering the basic steps in the dance tutorial (which I’ll describe below).

The “Full Class” option is more like a traditional Zumba class where you can choose one of 15 Short Classes (between 9 and 22 minutes), one of 15 Mid Length Classes (each about 40 minutes), one of 15 Full Length Classes (about 60 minutes each), or your own Custom Class. In all the Classes, you basically dance to songs in the playlist continuously until the time is up. Your star rating will appear under each class, so if you don’t hit five stars, you’ll have incentive to go and play the class again.

With “Quick Play”, you can jump in and start dancing to any of the 40 songs.

“My Zumba” lets you view your progress. You can see how many days you’ve been playing and get weekly reports on the amount of time you’ve played, the calories you’ve burned, the number of sets you’ve danced. You can also set goals for yourself and view the bonus videos, levels, and awards you’ve unlocked.

You can also view your postcards (signed by Zumba instructors standing in front of scenes from the different countries) and souvenirs (photos of cultural trinkets and knickknacks) in your “World Scrapbook”.

This section also has “Learn the Steps” where you can choose a dance style, basic step, and speed and master it. As I mentioned before, there’s no training option where they break down each individual song, but by mastering the basic steps for each song you’ll basically be able to tie them together when dancing the full songs. I really liked the use of the Kinect voice commands here, as you could tell your Kinect to switch styles, steps, and speeds on the fly without interruption. There is a diagram in the upper right hand corner of the screen that’s supposed to show what part of your body is doing the move right and what part needs improvement, but I found this to be more confusing than not the way it was implemented.

Here are the Dance Styles and Steps you’ll be able to practice:

Axe Samba – Basic Samba, Samba Box
Bollywood – Basic Bollywood Step, Step Together Cross Arms
Brazilian Funk – Booty Pop, In-Game Step
Burlesque – Hip Up and Down, Throw Arms
Capoiera – Balanco, Ginga
Cumbia – Front and Back, Sleepy Leg
Hip Hop – Cat Daddy, In-Game Step
Hula – Kaholo, Umi
Irish Step – Cross Over Leg, Knee In and Up
Merengue – 6 Count, Pas De Bouree
Pop – Booty 180, Kick Ball Change
Reggaeton – In-Game Step, Knee Lift
Salsa – In-Game Step, Side Step

As I’ve said with past Zumba games, Zumba Fitness World Party is definitely the next best thing if you can’t make it to a real Zumba class. You get instruction from the top Zumba dancers in the world, you get 40 great songs to dance to, and you can dance any time of the day or night. And Ubisoft has finally perfected Kinect voice controls and motion controls–better late than never!

If you’re a Zumba enthusiast, you’ll be thrilled with this one. The live action video demonstration is an excellent new feature, and the new “world travel theme” that really provides incentives for you to keep dancing. And if you’ve never tried Zumba before, you might be surprised at how intense a workout you can get.