Wii | Majesco / Zoe Mode | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer/co-operative play) | Out Now
Right off the bat, it's easy to observe how well-rounded this game is in its mode selection. Starting out, you'll create a profile for yourself to track your progress and thankfully, there are more than enough files for an entire family to get in on the action and then some. After dealing with those formalities, your first stop will be the Tutorial area where you'll be walked through some preliminary stuff by means of simple menu screens. If you're looking to actually learn some basic moves, you can select "Learn the Steps" and a Zumba trainer will go through some of the dance styles on a step-by-step basis.
When it comes to actual play modes, your first option is Zumba Party. Here, you complete a series of classes one after the other lasting upwards of 10 minutes in length, making for a real marathon session even on Beginner or Intermediate. In Zumba Class, you can choose from one of the many dance styles and participate in a routine that incorporates moves from that style. And finally, Single Routine allows you to choose individual songs and engage in shorter minute-long dances. In the way of tracking your overall progress, there's also a Workout Calendar option that enables you to customize your own experience over continued plays. It isn't quite as user-friendly as what you'd see in Wii Fit, but it gets the job done.
As a multiplatform game, Zumba Fitness has been marketed as a hands-free experience. That's definitely an accurate statement for the Kinect version, but what about the Wii release? To work around the limitations of the platform, the developers worked in a special game-exclusive accessory called the Zumba Fitness Belt. The peripheral is of good length -- wrapping around your waist comfortably and securely fastened using Velcro straps. The Belt has a pocket where you can place your jacket-free Wii Remote, allowing you to concentrate more on the experience and less on the inner workings of the system. Navigating the menus while the controller is inside the pocket is a bit awkward at first, but it's something you get used to.
Without dancing around the subject, I'm sure you're wondering whether or not the system effectively tracks your movements the way it's supposed to? Well, I'll let you be the judge of that. First of all, the controls are very dependent on proper setup; that is, placing the controller inside the pocket, ensuring that it rests directly on your hip bone. You'll need to fasten the Zumba Fitness Belt tight so it fits just snug around your body. As you start dancing, you'll quickly notice how flawed the system is, and it doesn't even take a full-on session to make this realization. Just in exploring the Tutorial area, the flaws quickly come to the fore.
What you'll find is that in trying to replicate the on-screen coach as closely as possible, even if you're off by a good margin or you use the wrong foot, the system will still score your movement as being perfect. Without having a good handle on what's being asked of you, the instructor will quickly transition into the next step of the lesson. So long as you keep moving, even if you haven't even done the moves perfectly, you can actually speed through the later steps. Obviously, that's a big problem and this is before you even reach the actual dancing component.
The thing is, regardless of whether or not you're set to the highest difficulty setting, the fact of the matter is the controls are inferior and do not serve as a sufficient means of tracking movements. Although much depends on how responsive you are with your hips, sometimes the game does pick up on when you're moving around the room. But again, even if you make a major mistake in following the instructors on-screen, the game will likely still count it. Furthermore, I can see many people just playing without the controller at all, which puts into question the value, validity and strength of this release.
I was mostly satisfied with the way the dancing stages were presented in this game, along with the way the game gave visual feedback on your performance. For example, depending on how close the game says you are to following the moves, the colour of the primary on-screen dancer will change. He or she will have a yellow hue for when you are slightly off, or a green hue for being in total sync. Along the bottom of the screen is an energy meter that fills up with every successful move you perform. Once it has become full, the stage will be enhanced with additional dancers and other basic effects like sparks or lighting changes. Due to the fast-paced nature of many of these songs, following the on-screen dancers perfectly can be a challenge, especially when the controls aren't up to par. At times, upcoming stage directions will appear on the floor to give you a heads-up that you'll need to move around, but for the most part, it really boils down to focus and practice.
The dance routines turned out even better than I expected. They really get you moving and are lots of fun to play. As far as the fitness aspect is concerned, this game does a really good job involving your arms, hips and feet. If you've tried other dance games on the Wii or even other systems, you'll appreciate that the movements they have you doing never feel mechanical or forced. And because things are switched up fairly often, most of the routines don't feel repetitive which is another big positive.
The energetic tunes they have you dancing to are varied and highly immersive, to the point that you rarely feel bored. No matter what your tastes are, you'll find yourself forming a liking to many of the songs in the package which is great. Both of these features definitely act as a saving grace for the questionable elements, so it's definitely possible for the average player to still find enjoyment out of Zumba Fitness.
Things get a little bit tricky when we start getting into the matter of personal progression, though. Even if your dancing skills are poor, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the way the game manages to instill in you a sense of self-confidence. The progression one will experience after multiple sessions is something that's definitely noticeable, and I think that's a big plus. Having said all that, if you're stickler for measuring performance through score improvements, you probably won't find the game to be too fulfilling because of the sub-par tracking system. Your "rewards" will be measured more in sweat than in high scores, and that's something you may not necessarily have a problem with depending on what you intend to get from the game.
As far as multiplayer is concerned, Zumba Fitness does a decent job of appealing to those who would much rather workout with a friend. In addition to the standard gameplay modes, Multiplayer also includes Zumba Attack -- a competitive battle where players take turns to see who can earn the most points -- and a 2-vs-2 team option. The only drawback with multiplayer is the fact that it's not as accessible as something like Just Dance 2. You actually need to go out and purchase additional Belts from the official site. But at least they do have a mode in place where you can take turns if you don't intend on purchasing additional accessories.
I wasn't a big fan of the way things were organized, particularly while scrolling through the song list. Everything here is listed alphabetically by the song title, but the average consumer would care more for the difficulty or the style, not looking through a list of unrecognizable tunes (that is, if you're not part of an actual Zumba program). So I thought it was silly that you couldn't change the order. However, I felt everything else got the job done, and so there's not much else to complain about in this area.
For those of you out there who are more determined to stick with their fitness program day in and day out, Zumba Fitness can be seen as a good buy. Even with the problems plaguing this release in the way of flawed controls, I can't deny that the routines themselves are a lot of fun. In all honesty, if it were not for the good quality choreography and the infectious music, the problems existing with the controls would have destroyed this game's chances for success in the video game market. While I definitely don't think it's worth buying at full price, if you're looking for another fitness-oriented game for your Wii, Zumba Fitness isn't a bad choice.
19/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 5/10 - Flawed control system that doesn't accurately track your movements, routines are well-choreographed and really get you moving
Presentation 6/10 - Layout organization is a bit sloppy in some areas, setup is not entirely user-friendly, visual feedback for your performance
Enjoyment 4/5 - Energetic routines and infectious music act as saving graces, level of progression is discernible, scores don't perfectly reflect progress
Extra Content 4/5 - Plenty of classes, good mode selection, multiplayer requires additional accessories, up to 8 profiles, not worth the full price
Equivalent to a score of 63% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System