By now, we all know that the Xbox 360’s Kinect was never meant for the hardcore gamer. The closest thing we ever got was Steel Battalion, and that game’s reviews went south very quickly. So, it stands to reason that developers are focused on making Kinect games that families can enjoy together, and by extension, games made for the younger gamer in the household. Developer Majesco Games has cornered that market via the Zumba craze, by releasing both Zumba World Party and Zumba Kids.
The Xbox 360 version of Zumba Kids takes the proven formula of motion-based dance and fitness, and plops it into a game that targets the seven-to-twelve year-old demographic. Majesco has actually released a statement, which mentions that Zumba Kids is being released as an attempt to combat childhood obesity, something that has been on a sharp incline in recent years. Judging from the huffing and puffing that my nine year-old daughter and her friends were doing after an hour-long session with this game, I’d say that the developer is certainly on the right track.
The game aims to keep kids’ attention with over thirty different preteen-friendly musical artists, including Willow Smith whipping her hair back and forth, and Justin Bieber using an inordinate amount of hair product. OK, so that doesn’t actually happen in the game, but the variety of music keeps things fresh, with a different dance routine for each song.
As with the adult Zumba games, there are original songs here as well. Most are poppy, and bass-heavy, but the routines were fairly easy for my daughter to learn. I got up a few times in order to give her a breather so that I could try a couple of routines, and they were admittedly quite fun. After two songs, I had broken a sweat, and it was at that point that I realized that it may serve this review better if I watched my nine year-old go through the different modes of the game from that point forward.
The different dance styles found on this disc include Cumbia, Salsa, Hip-Hop, Reggaeton, Merengue, Swing, Surf, Disco, and many more. My daughter and her friends seemed to favor Disco, Salsa and Hip-Hop, as those had the most energetic routines. I preferred them as well, because that meant a restful (and possibly early) sleep for them that evening!
There are three game modes in Zumba Kids. Quick Play allows the dancer to choose any routine from the thirty offered for a quick dance. Full Party, the most robust game mode, lets the kids choose from a block of songs to dance to, in addition to custom routines. Then, there are also three minigames, which my daughter and her friends absolutely loved. Power Up, Freeze Star and Act Like A… are all motion-based and immersive activities that don’t seem like exercise on the surface, but it’s certainly felt afterwards. Out of that list, though, Act Like A… was the consensus favorite. Within its construct, the kids were encouraged to mimic the movements of different animals, all in the name of getting a high score.
There are also plenty of rewards and unlockables here, which help keep the kids motivated. Stickers and buttons can be used to customize each gamer’s experience in the menus, and there are also unlockable videos and fitness tips for the kids to learn from and enjoy.
The game itself is easy to pick up, and great to look at. The colors are vibrant on-screen, and the kids that are dancing in the routines all genuinely look like they are having a great time, which further motivates the dancing gamer.
Lag that was experienced in many games from Kinect’s earlier days is not present here. The sensor is very intuitive to the movements of either one or two players on screen, and there is only a millisecond of difference between the action on the floor and the mirrored on-screen action. Some of the dance moves can get quite fast and somewhat complex, but the Kinect reads every single one of them. A non-working game would be suicide with the impatient pre-teen and tween set, so it’s wise that Majesco released such a polished game.
Yes, keeping the kids busy on a lazy Sunday afternoon is a challenge sometimes, but with a fun and engaging game like Zumba Kids, it’s easy to pop it in the disc drive and give the kids the run of the floor. It’s interesting, engaging, interactive and fun, and isn’t that what every parent is looking for in the games they buy for their kids?
Zumba Kids is a great motion title, which does its job very effectively by presenting a younger audience with an interesting form of interactive exercise.