The box art alone is enough to make Zumba Fitness appeal, but the substance found within isn’t quite as pretty. Zumba is a relatively upcoming craze that seems to be sweeping the world, combining popular dance styles to form fitness routines. Describing itself as the sexy high-energy Latin workout, Zumba sits alongside a variety of aggressive fitness games for Kinect, with the emphasis being on sits.
Jumping right into the game you’ll be welcomed by potentially the most frustrating Kinect menu navigation system I’ve encountered to date. Using your hand you’ll need to swish your arm left and right to navigate between options, and simply hold your hand out for selection. It’s very similar in concept to Dance Central’s design, but is far less responsive and continually decided to halt or speed up and fly through the many possible selections. I can’t be the only one already wishing that developers would just keep the pad for menus, especially ones that want to contain as much selection as Zumba Fitness’s. I’m fine with the pad!
Slowly working through the game’s offerings there is a wide range of choices with nine different dance styles; Reggaeton, Merengue, Salsa, Cumbia, Hip-Hop, Mambo, Rumba, Flamenco and Calypso. These are spread across thirty predefined Zumba routines and can be attempted with one to two players on a single screen or four players in turns. There are also a plethora of tutorials available getting you acquainted to each different dance routine.
Jumping into one of the beginner routines I quickly found my feet as the tutorial moves from one slow step to the next, then suddenly I’m flinging my arms and legs around like a complete and utter idiot, with no idea what or how to keep up with the instructor. The pace of the tutorial ramped up suddenly and whilst steps are meant to be repeated when failed they were skipped over, even though I was clearly extremely out of sync with the on screen trainer. Unlike alternate fitness titles that’ll ease you in, Zumba Fitness feels like it should include an entry requirement of prior Zumba experience, or at least prior experience with an irate rushed unforgiving trainer.
Moving to the game's main mode you have various choices between three minute songs to full length classes. Whilst the game features a workout calendar, there is very little customisability and routines can’t be altered or mixed in any way, so its purpose falls short. Inside of the routines you follow the actions of a coloured silhouette, ranging from green to red depending on your performance. Any time you fall outside of the silhouettes actions a red circle will be placed, indicating where you need to improve. There is also a growing colour bar at the bottom of the screen, growing as you progress though a routines length, although how or why is beyond me. Outside of a dot matrix appearing in the background of the game there is no visual representation of your actions on screen, making me wonder if this is on purpose to cover up the games moderate to poor motion detection. Testing this I put the old, but ever fitting, continual windmill manoeuvre into test finding that this skilled dance move was capable of getting green lit through a good portion of a songs routine.
As mentioned above Zumba Fitness features multiplayer, both online and offline. The most desirable option for the majority would be two players at the same time, although this choice would be best avoided. As with most Kinect titles Zumba Fitness will try to sign a profile in to the person in front of the camera, and as with most feature implementation this is executed poorly. A single multiplayer routine went from the initial two signed in accounts, right through to me being assigned to Guest 4 (after having been 1, 2 and 3) and my partner being assigned to my profile. All attempts to resolve this issue fell flat as the title would continually alter profiles for no apparent reason mid-routine. I’d like to give online multiplayer the benefit of the doubt, but was unable to find another player online to participate in any of the routines attempted and considering past performance I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Working through the game's routines alongside my wife I found her coordination was far greater than mine, no doubt solely down to her prior experience with Zumba, although still often failing to pick-up her actions or replacing either of our profiles with a ‘Guest’ account as if someone else had moved in front of the camera. She likened the game to the various dance routine videos she owns, which I feel is a fitting comparison for Zumba Fitness for Kinect; a non-interactive set of dance routines where you try to replicate the on screen trainer, with little to no feedback or interaction. Then again, if you wanted a non-interactive dance routine video, you could buy something like Carmen Electra Strip Aerobics and follow that instead of Zumba Fitness’s rainbow rhythms disco sensation.