Not too long ago, video game fitness meant playing a game of DDR. The notion of losing weight while gaming seemed preposterous and it wasn’t until major media starting picking of stories of men losing a hundred pounds dancing to “La Senorita” on plastic arrows did the industry take notice and think “maybe we should make actual fitness games.” The trend caught on with 2008’s Wii Fit, which was so popular that it was sold at Sports Authority and inspired millions of men and women nationwide to adopt it as their workout plan. Not liking their thunder being stolen, actual fitness companies began to get in on the trend and eventually we got Zumba. Still one of the dominant forces in the fitness world, Zumba tries their hand in the video game market for a fourth time with Zumba Fitness: World Party, an Xbox One launch title and their most ambitious release yet.
World Party takes the franchise to a whole new level by taking players around the world to dance in locations including Puerto Rico, Los Angeles, India, Hawaii and more. To accomplish this, Zoë Mode flew in the top Zumba trainers hailing from these regions and set them up in front of a green screen with back-up dancers to coordinate routines. Everybody they got to contribute are masters of their trade and the background graphics are quite impressive. While it may have been cool to tape these in the actual countries, correctly implementing them in outside areas may have been impossible, so this is the next best thing. To get even more of a world flavor, clips of the locales are interspersed throughout.
There are multiple modes included, but World Tour is fittingly the highlight. This lets you go to one of seven destinations and perform a block of music. Each World Tour is about 20-30 minutes long, with just a few seconds in between songs for resting (and loading). Some World Tours are harder than others, but most try to be balanced. Playing this mode nets you Zumba Miles that unlock new songs in each destination, postcards and souvenirs. The postcard system is kind of pointless as it’s literally a picture that goes into a virtual scrapbook that does nothing and has no interactivity, but it’s always nice to know that you’re being rewarded, even if that reward is basically just encouragement. After a World Tour is completed (or single dance in other modes), players are awarded a score, technique percentage and the amount of calories burned is displayed.
If you’re more in it for regular fitness aspects, Full Class will be the go-to mode after World Tour is cleared. Full Class allows four durations to be selected including short, mid-length, full-length and custom. Short is about twenty minutes and full length an hour. Conversely, custom allows you to put together your own class, which may be preferred for Zumba veterans. Outside of Full Class, there’s also the Quick Play mode which simply allows you to select any song and play at will.
Song selection is impressive, with over forty songs and routines, plus two exclusive routines on Xbox One. Each song shows you the genre and intensity, allowing songs to be selected not just based on how they sound. Because this is a World Tour, tracks from multiple genres are included like Bhangra, Calypso, Bollywood, Samba and more. The majority of tracks are world music, with some unrecognizable and others classics like Haleiwa Hula, Mas Que Nada and Carmen. There are a few Top Ten US dance tracks including Emeli Sande’s Next to Me, Zedd ft Foxes’ Clarity and Lady Gaga’s Born this Way, but they make up for only a small handful of tracks. If you’re the type of person who wants to dance to the latest hits, Just Dance 2014 will be more your speed, but for a diverse tracklist that’s more focused on routines, it delivers in spades.
Of course, the most important aspect of the release is fitness, as World Party is indeed meant for working out. If you’re familiar with Zumba, you’ll know what to expect. It’s certainly not the highest-intensity workout. If you’re looking simply to burn calories, nothing beats jogging or running in place on a treadmill as these perfectly target your oxidative system and lead to an eventual burning of fat. You’re also not goingto bulk up, as even though parts of Zumba utilize resistance training, it’s never enough to stimulate any serious muscle growth. What Zumba is effective at, however, is making you have fun as you workout. Dancing doesn’t feel like a workout and it’s easy to be inspired to participate in Zumba and not make up excuses to stop because of this. It’s not the highest impact activity, but playing for an hour will work up a sweat and burn calories. Simply put, if you’re looking to burn fat and stimulate lean muscle growth, Zumba will be effective thanks to its aerobics and movements concealed to look like dance moves.
Zumba Fitness: World Party is the next best thing to attending an actual Zumba class. This is the most polished iteration yet, featuring well-choreographed routines, impressive looking backdrops and a great lineup of hit and world music. The HD visuals pop from the screen thanks to the Xbox One’s increased fidelity and the Kinect’s improved functionality. It may not be the most heart-pounding fitness game available, but those who like Zumba will find this a fine alternative to practicing it in public.
Version Reviewed: Xbox One