Zumba Fitness Core
Wii | Majesco / Zoe Mode | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now
Keeping things consistent, Zumba Fitness Core starts off by regenerating the exact same amount of offerings in the way of settings and gameplay modes, which are: Single Song, Full Class, Learn the Steps, Progress Tracker, as well as a menu designated for visual and audio configuration. Figuring those who played the earlier titles are accustomed to navigating the interface a certain way, Zumba Fitness Core continues the uncomfortable approach of requiring players to point at the screen to make selections at all times, whether doing so at the very beginning on the Main Menu, or to follow up on a completed performance and view results and consider your next steps. This is something that bothers me since it doesn't pay much respect to the instructions and how they've required people play the game -- namely, to have the Wii Remote resting inside the included Zumba Fitness Belt, with the buttons facing outward. Thankfully you can pause the game by pressing Plus or Minus, which isn't too bad aside from having to dig into the belt a bit, but all other scenarios force you to remove the controller completely from the accessory, and unless you were to do so partially and twist the controller to aim at the screen, it's not the most practical setup.
That said, the actual organization is somewhat approachable, though perhaps not as approachable as last year's game to my judgment. Generally players know ahead of time what they'll be getting into as far as the type of dance and workout styles that have been harnessed in the design of the dance routines. Addressing the great variety present, some of these include hip hop, folk, swing, pop, ballet, and international styles, with many of these either having Cardio or Core muscle strength focuses. While involving arms and legs in equal measure as part of a full-body workout, Majesco has decided to market this iteration as one that emphasizes core workouts above all else. I'm not completely convinced the execution in its entirety confirms such claims, but I wouldn't say it's a lie either, seeing as there's quite a bit of support to the cause, particularly with the instructed leg movements.
When you first get a glimpse of the scene during gameplay, it's almost like a neighbourhood block party just because of the activity taking place with different folks following along with the main instructor, and this goes for all of the available settings, whether the sessions take place in the streets or just to the side of some active waterfalls. By not fumbling on too many of the moves, you can trigger Euphoria, a visual state that has a tendency to add life and colour to the environment. While I personally didn't have an issue with the flashiness of it all, I predict some may find it a tad distracting if they're having trouble following along for the first time. In analyzing the scope of the visuals and the make-up of the character models, the presentation appears to be a slight step down from Zumba Fitness 2, but it's hard to say for sure. What might make a more of an impression to the negative side is when you observe some of the robotic arm movements, and legs visibly locking for a brief moment as the instructor presents the dance move to be emulated. But in terms of the overall layout of things, elements are more or less in the same position as before.
While being a bit more on the advanced side when compared with other games in the genre, gameplay is relatively systematic in progression so as to help you monitor changes and not get thrown off balance by sudden alterations in a routine. Generally how the flow works is you'll be given visual cues in a box appearing on the right from time to time, with a silhouette that previews the next move. The routine for Nyana is a good example of one that develops gradually with new moves being added on a comfortable basis. Granted, it also has the quality of something out of an aerobics class, but at least there are regular patterns that can be followed without newcomers feeling like too much is being demanded of them.
With that being said, Zumba Fitness Core doesn't always abide by its rules and has a habit of, either unlike or more so than past games, introducing abrupt changes without any prompts. Feeling confused is a regular thing I'm sure even existing fans will cite as they reflect on the flow of these performances. And on occasions when it reverts back to obeying the guidelines it sets for itself and players, there are some rather silly variations that do a mediocre job of trying to spice up routines that might need something extra as the two-minute mark hits. For example, Las Gatitas has a number of segments that involve leg lifts and side movements, so as these are introduced and then reintroduced throughout the course of the routine, you'll, at one point, cross both arms over your body, while putting both hands on your head the next time around. If you read between the lines, you might pick up on an underlying attribute that actually connects to something important I'll be talking about shortly.
To now touch on the wide mix of choreographies players will be investing in, you have some, like the one for Bem Vindos, that are more about basic movement patterns to provide footing for future, more detailed routines; some that have fun build-ups that add layers to what may not seem like anything special at the start; some are predictable for the styles they cater to but are made enjoyable because of the pace they adopt (as in the case of Jump, Jive and Wail); and a small few that have some curious or strange parts to them, with Vem Vem being one example (albeit I'm tempted to bump that description up to "mildly disturbing"). Without even having a scrutinizing attitude towards such matters, an observation that will quickly rise to the surface is how repetitive some of these routines are, which admittedly isn't completely dissonant from the characteristics of routines from past games. Only, if you've been following this series, you might find as did I that such conditions are more obvious for some reason.
In some cases, repeating moves across a three- or four-minute song successfully skid past the hurdle of boring the player because of the challenging delivery that is sometimes required, or, as I mentioned before, the minor variations that are stacked onto existing patterns so players can feel motivated to add their own flavor in connection with what you're being encouraged to do. There are times, however, where routines underwhelm or become tiresome (not physically, but in the way they've been designed), even with adjustments in pace and delivery. This is somewhat true in the case of Roll Wid Di Don, which, in fairness, is fun for what it is but to some it might be a situation of too few moves being stretched for longer than they should. Contrast this and others with the likes of the disco-style routine for Boogie Shoes, which is great fun with all the swift leg movements that are required, yet it feels balanced and doesn't overstay its welcome. As you can probably tell, there's a mixed quality here that somewhat barges ahead of the appreciated style variety, and the lack of assertiveness understandably ferments the view that Zumba Fitness Core is a notch below Zumba Fitness 2.
If you were taken in by the idea of dancing to songs like Pause by Pitbull with last year's game, don't be deceived by the inclusion of licensed tracks here, as a greater portion of the choreography that accompanies these songs is laden with stretches. At first I thought the warm-up songs (e.g., Brokenhearted) were the only ones privy to this approach, but there are others that have a similar disinterest in ambition and throw stretches in as a means of unintentionally disrupting flow. It's disappointing to say the least, especially when you know more could've been done in these cases. But what's far more upsetting is that Zumba Fitness Core once again continues the tradition of poorly-executed controls. Even when the belt and controller are securely fastened, technique isn't something that can be reliably pulled off. Evidencing this is the fact that moving your hips to and fro instead of doing leg movements, moving in a direction opposite to what's asked of you, or simply adjusting the belt, will all still often result in you achieving the highest score evaluation, thus making personal progression a moot point. It's not something you can put faith in at all due to how inconsistent it is in reading your motions in relation to what's being asked of you. It's a huge shame, and it's not something that's easy to forgive either.
During your breaks, you can have a peek at the Bonus Content area, which contains videos advocating the Zumba culture, the importance of a healthy lifestyle, and things of this sort. Under the Progress Tracker section, you can set goals for yourself, take a look at any awards or informational blurbs you've unlocked in line with the game's level system, and track your performance across a calendar period. So if personal performance was properly supported, regular users would have a nice supply of tools to track their progress.
I've come to see that Zumba Fitness, whether viewed through the lens of the fitness program or one of the games, is crafted a certain way to do more than just get people moving, but also to break through self-imposed barriers that may otherwise prevent an individual from channeling their desire for self-improvement into action. Trying to muster up an eager spirit to get involved when there's a shortage of energy (whether for lack of motivation or due to personal limitations) can in itself be exhausting. But when you finally break free from that inhibiting position and are then not rewarded for doing so, such can leave you feeling despondent and in need of additional motivation to leap past, now, the lack of support. As much as I think there's a tenacity to get it right and overcome the limitations imposed with it being on the Wii, I'll be perfectly frank and say this series is doomed unless the next title sees to major changes in the control department -- maybe not in a financial sense, but certainly from a critical perspective.
Neither Zumba Fitness nor its sequel nailed it in the control department, and this is where a major part of the criticism stemmed from in years prior. Unfortunately, Zumba Fitness Core confirms this has been a bad precedent, in the way it not only lets participants down, but it also does not fulfill the goals that were established upon inception. Feedback is vital to these objectives, and when it can't make that happen in a trustworthy fashion, it ultimately rescinds any of the sensational empowerment it seeks to project, serving as more of a stepping-stone motivator rather than something you can develop a relationship with and feel actively supported by. It's mortifying to see the game doesn't service or function as well as it should, and I wish I could believe the series will recover from the stain of troubled controls or that I could still find room to forgive Core for not meeting to a certain standard. But the truth of the matter is, even elements in connection with the choreography haven't performed exceptionally well, and when you add it all up, Zumba Fitness Core is too flawed to be given a worthy recommendation.
17/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 3/10 - Inconsistent tracking proves ruinous, some routines are more repetitive than usual and could have better variations, abrupt changes
Presentation 7/10 - Character models appear robotic in places, good song selection, interface and setup concerns still present, involving visuals
Enjoyment 3/5 - Some routines don't impress or are disappointing, Zumba fans will likely still have fun with it but can't accurately evaluate progress
Extra Content 4/5 - Tracking tools to measure progress, bonus material including videos, achievements and unlockable venues
Equivalent to a score of 57% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System