Though it may not appeal to many sedentary individuals out there, Zumba is a fitness craze that swept the world almost as vigorously as celebrity fitness VHSes and DVDs. A Latin-dance based exercise class, Zumba takes fitness and makes it a considerably less arduous task and increases motivation by holding it in a class-based format that brings together multiple fitness-lovers for at least one big dance-fuelled session of Zumba every week. Its success in the real world should therefore not make it very surprising that the craze also caught on pretty well in the video game sphere as well. It is so successful in fact that Zumba Fitness is now a video game series that takes the idea and makes it fully interactive. Zumba Fitness Rush is the Xbox 360 version of Zumba Fitness 2 for the Nintedo Wii. Though the latter console offers a great platform for dance games, it is the former that offers up the best dance experience due to its hardware capabilities, so it is Zumba Fitness Rush that takes centre stage in this small review.
Though it does help to be a little rhythmically-minded when entering into a session of Zumba, the gameplay of Zumba Fitness Rush certainly makes the whole thing rather accessible for those with inevitably differing levels of ability and fitness. There's really nothing new or groundbreaking about the format: at its core the game simply involves imitating the dance moves of instructors on the screen and being judged on your performance. The only difference here is that unlike games such as Just Dance 2014 for the Xbox One (and other lesser platforms of course, Zumba Fitness Rush feels more akin to an instructional exercise DVD with significantly higher levels of interactivity and more potential for fun, though this shouldn't be surprising considering the relatively intensive nature of Zumba and its goal of making people fit.
In terms of progression in Zumba Fitness Rush, the emphasis leans more towards pick-and-play rather than embarking upon a journey or career mode. Though there are a few modes that can be enjoyed, this game doesn't have a goal-based gameplay progression that later titles in the series such as Zumba Fitness World Party do. You can get stuck in straight away by selecting the one-track mode that involves choosing a song and dancing along to an accompanying routine. Forty-two tracks are included in the game as it comes, each representing a variety of different musical genres from rumba to salsa and hip-hop to street-style dance. Venues can be selected though every song has its own default location, and the intensity level of the routine involved in each track is also displayed so you can get an idea of how much energy you will need.
True Zumba fans will enjoy the lengthier class modes since they involve dancing to several songs in quick succession in classes that range from fifteen to sixty minutes and beyond. These classes are for those with a specific fitness goal as opposed to the single songs which can form the central entertainment at a party or act as a bit of entertainment if you are in a bit of a rush. Beginners may wish to check out the tutorial section which allows you to drill down on the individual moves and steps of each dance instead of attempting to break into full routines with little or no knowledge of the moves involved in them.
The presentation of the game is largely excellent, as are the graphics that make the experience that much more magical. You'll notice that the menus do feel a little simple and DVD-esque but the graphics are difficult to pick faults in. The game puts other dance titles like The Michael Jackson Dance Experience to shame in terms of the natural-feeling movements of the on-screen dancers and the energy that each venue and class brings to the room. The sound quality is obviously impeccable as well. You'll notice that occasionally the Kinect will miss a move or two of yours, but compared to the Nintendo Wii version, the Xbox iteration will win every time due to the motion capture technology that requires no additional hardware to be strapped to your person or held in your hand; the Kinect is simply a superior bit of hardware that adds freedom to the dance experience.
It is clear that Majesco Entertainment put a great deal of effort into bringing the best possible Zumba game experience to the Xbox here. Zumba Fitness Rush is a game that sits atop much of the average fodder in the sphere of dance games. Its wide range of songs from a variety of styles, the natural-feeling movements of the on-screen instructors, and the fitness-routine aspect of the game are all features that make it superior to its competitors and also its predecessors in the series. Though beginners may need a bit of time to get used to the moves, the tutorial bridges the gap for tentative dancers while intermediate and advanced veterans will enjoy the intensive, extended routines making it a fantastic game for the widest audience possible.