It’s funny how time changes things. A few years ago, it seems that every time you turned around another company was spewing out another exergaming title for the Wii, and Microsoft and Sony couldn’t wait to get in on the action. These days, it seems that interest has waned to the point where I’m only reviewing one Wii game every few months.
Sadly, I don’t think it’s because there’s a lack of interest in the genre among us enthusiasts. The bigger problem is that back in the days when exergaming was hyped up so much, so many of the titles were just lackluster “me too” titles that game publishers pushed out to cash in. Sure, there were the occasional ones that bucked the trend like EA Sports Fitness and Wii Fit, but those were the exception.
Zumba Kids was a game that was released in December 2013. You can tell from the amount of time it took me to review it that I wasn’t necessarily knocking down any doors to play it. And surely enough, after playing it, as I suspected there really wasn’t anything new.
When you start Zumba kids, you see a splash screen with three kids in colorful outfits. Most of the dancers in the videos, not surprisingly, are kids who do a pretty good job as junior Zumba instructors.
Once you press “A” to start, the game has four menu options:
– Quick Play
– Full Party
– My Zumba
Select Quick Play and you can scroll through the song choices. A preview of each song will play as you hover over it.
One interesting thing to not is that ALL songs are labeled as “medium intensity”. When they produced this game, they eliminated a lot of the most complex dance moves, as well as a lot of the more “suggestive” moves you might see in adult Zumba. That said, there are some parents who might still consider the moves here too “suggestive”. I won’t get into that discussion here, other than to say that if you’re a parent considering buying this, just watch some of the videos below and decide for yourself what is age-appropriate for your kids. The good news is that from a lyrics perspective, none of the songs seem to be as “controversial” as the playlists that Just Dance for grown-ups has.
You can choose from a different venues in the background: Los Angeles (pink), Caribbean (red), Brazil (green), Europe (blue), Hawaii (orange). As with the adult version of Zumba Fitness, the playlist is comprised of selections from each geographical location, making for a pretty diverse list.
Here’s a list of the songs, their medium intensity, their dance style, and the venue:
123 Shake – Medium Intensity – hip hop – Los Angeles
Baila Pa Emociona – Medium Intensity – Soca – Carribbean
Beauty and a Beat – Medium Intensity – Hip Hop – Los Angeles
Boogie Wonderland – Medium Intensity – Disco – Los Angeles
Barnaval, carnaval – Medium Intensity – Samba – Brazil
Beltic morning – Medium Intensity – Irish Dance – Europe
Clap, Stomp, Jump – Medium Intensity – Hip Hop – Brazil
Dance, Dance, Dance – Medium Intensity – Hip Hop – Brazil
El Batazo – Medium Intensity – Hip Hop – Brazil
Fireball – Medium Intensity – Hip Hop – Los Angeles
Fish & Poi – Medium Intensity – Hawaiian Reggae – Hawaii
Fur Elise – Medium Intensity – Ballet – Europe
I Like to Move It – Medium Intensity – Hip Hop – Hawaii
Jala Ke Jala – Medium Intensity – Latin Pop – Puerto Rico
La Cachumbalera – Medium Intensity – Cumbia – Carribbean
La Gallina – Medium Intensity – Cumbia – Caribbean
Lento – Medium Intensity – Hip Hop – Puerto Rico
maue Soca – Medium Intensity – Soca – Puerto Rico
Miss Fusion – Medium Intensity – African/Soca – Europe
Mr. Fusion – Medium Intensity – Sino/Bollywood – Europe
Otea Tahiti – Medium Intensity – Tahitian/Samoan – Hawaii
Oye Como Va – FAmily Jam – Salsa – Puerto Rico
Queibra as Cadiera – Medium Intensity – Axe – Brazil
Quiero – Medium Intensity – Rock and Roll – Puerto Rico
Say Hey (I Love You) – Family Jam – Pop/Reggae / Carribbean
Spread Love – Medium Intensity – Hip Hop – Los Angeles
Swing Thing – Medium Intensity – Swing – Europe
Tutuki – Medium Intensity – Tahitian – Hawaii
Wipe Out – Medium Intensity – Surf Rock – Hawaii
Zumbazoka – Medium Intensity – Techo Soca – Carribbean
You can choose Zumba Routines or Freestyle Mode.
Zumba Routines work just like the grown-up version, where an on-screen dancer will demonstrate choreographed moves and you need to “mirror” them. One difference between this game and Zumba Fitness is that instead of putting your Wii remote in a Zumba belt, you hold it in your right hand just like Just Dance.
As you can see “Medium Intensity” doesn’t get into very intricate footwork or arm movements. This is good in some ways—kids will just get frustrated trying to follow choreography that’s too complex. But I think it backfires in other ways. From an energy perspective, kids have so much of it to burn, so these routines might get boring for some of them. That said, if they string together a bunch of them, there’ll still be some decent cardio benefit.
As with the adult Zumba game, each time the system detects that you’ve hit a move perfectly it’ll award points and flash the word “Zumba” on the screen.
One thing I noticed is that the tracking was simply not very accurate. I danced these videos virtually perfectly, but as many times as I tried it the system would never award me more than 2 or 3 stars in most cases.
I tried everything, even to the point of getting on my knees to simulate more of the height of a kid playing the game. Taking a cue from adult Zumba fitness, I even held the remote upside-down. Believe it or not, once I did these two things I started getting much better scores.
I suspect a lot of parents won’t mind poor motion tracking, as a lot of kids are happy just to be jumping around and won’t be paying too much attention to how high their scores are. Still, given that this is something Ubisoft figured out a long time ago, I only wish that the developers of this game were as detail-oriented.
“Freestyle” mode was a weird one. You can select any song, but you won’t see dancers on the screen. Instead, as the music plays you’ll see an on-screen meter that gauges how strenuous your activity is. Fill the meter, and you’ll see paint blotches and strokes appearing on the screen. Along the way there’ll be mini-games, such as having to “freeze” completely for a period of time and “coloring in” different pictures, all controlled by waggling the Wii remote. Clearly this was made for very young players who might otherwise feel “left out” when the bigger kids are dancing to the choreography, but I personally didn’t find either the features nor the execution particularly intriguing.
The “full party” option is basically the same as a regular Zumba “class” on the adult version, where you can play a string of songs spanning a certain number of minutes. It consists of three categories of menu options.
short (20 minutes) – 10 classes
medium (45 minutes) mini games – 10 classes first 5 have mini games
full (60 minutes) – mini games all 10 classes
custom class – make your own playlist
I tried a class and *finally* scored a 5 of 5 stars with a ballet routine, of all things.
I did like that the music and choreography was more “kid friendly”. In fact, throwing in choreography like the one simulating ballet and the other simulating Irish Dance is a decent way to introduce kids to all kinds of dancing.
That said, while this wasn’t a horrible title, but it also didn’t really add much we haven’t seen a million times before. There’s no excuse for spotty motion tracking these days, and some of the “extra features” such as “freestyle mode” seemed almost thrown in without very much thought. I’d give it 3 of 5 stars; probably not worth a purchase unless you happen to be a Zumba enthusiast and your kids are interested in following in your footsteps (literally).
Rating: 3 of 5 stars.