Dance Dance Dance 'Til You Can't Dance No More. Or something. For fitness!
I'm at a little bit of a loss on how to score Zumba Fitness World Party for Xbox One. In terms of being a solid fitness app, Zumba Fitness World Party is great, with workouts built from dance routines with a lot of content in different dance styles, from Pop and Samba, to Hula and Ballet. But as a game, it's poorly built and overly reliant on Kinect functionality, as you can't even navigate the menus with the controller.
After popping in the disc for the game and having it install (a relatively small amount of content) I decided to dive into the game, starting with the World Tour option and selecting Brazil. Apparently what I had previously installed was something outside of the content, since the game required another 10-15 minutes to install "Brazil." Afterward, it wasn't necessary to install anything else, so I'm unsure if it was just the content from that region, or if it did all the extra content at once, since there was no wait for other regions.
Jumping in, I was surprised at the lack any real guide for the moves. Ideally, you're supposed to be a mirror image to the lead dancer in front of you who takes you through the individual song. In the upper right-hand corner, as you approach the next section of the dance, a preview appears showing you what's next in silhouette, but it's not exactly easy to get a look at it while you're entrenched in the dance moves. There also aren't any scrolling cards like those in Dance Central. Performing well in dances unlocks the next song in the sequence and different extra video content, and awards experience points to level up. While the World Tour sections are progressive, they also use different styles in a way that highlight different muscle groups and workout goals.
A more balanced approach to the dances is to do one of the game's many workouts, which move the player from one dance to the next, from a warm-up through different regional dances to highlight different body parts and levels of intensity. However, the game is called "World Party" and completing any one of the World Tour regions (or even just completing a few of the songs) gives a ton of points. It feels a little weird that the more balanced "workouts" seemed less point-intensive than the touring aspect that isn't quite as well-structured.
One area that World Party has difficulties as both an exercise app and a game is in player training. It's hard not to compare the game to Dance Central, where individual songs can be broken down into specific moves and practiced. Instead, World Party requires you to go to the "Learning the Steps" feature where you can practice individual moves one at a time, out of sequence. It's handy to get a look at some more difficult moves, but a slowed down version of the song that allowed you to work on mastering it would have been better.
Not that this particularly matters in terms of scoring. Zumba Fitness World Party doesn't really care if you get the moves perfect; it's more focused on the idea that you are dynamically moving the body parts it wants you to for each section of the dance in the right general area. This makes sense from the perspective of a fitness tool, where the emphasis is on the personal fitness goals, but less for a game, where greater precision should confer greater rewards. At the same time, it means that high-intensity songs in World Party are more difficult to master than those in something like Dance Central (where the Expert songs in DC is like a WP song on medium). It just means that mastering the dances is more a matter of personal discipline than game-based skill.
The dances really are fun, too. That's really the highlight of the game. My personal favorite was the Carmen ballet dance, since the leaping and squatting and quick, little jumps was similar to the workouts I've already been doing. I had a much greater difficult getting my clunky refrigerator-like body to do hip-intense Latin and pop dances, and I bombed out of the hula after three of the six songs in the Hawaii World Tour section. It's a really intense exercise experience, with a lot of dynamic aerobic movement.
However, the game mechanics are weak. It's difficult to see the moves that are coming next, your rating can seem arbitrary ("Hot" if you are moving at all and "Zumba" if you are particularly dynamic), and achieving the six-Zumba-ratings-in-a-row perk of "Euphoria" doesn't seem to do much but throw glowing visuals on the screen. There's also not much to determine how stars (out of five possible) are achieved for ratings, so it can seem arbitrary why a performance that nets you three on one song will net you five on another with the same degree of accuracy or intensity.
Worse, though, are the Kinect menu functions. You have to use Kinect to control the majority of Zumba Fitness World Party. You cannot navigate with the controller, and some menu functions are supposed to work with your left hand and others with your right. This can quickly get annoying. Sometimes when navigating the menus, it's a little too easy to select an option accidentally, without knowing what happened. Using Kinect's voice feature is supposed to allow quick menu navigation, but it was better to turn it off because it was picking up too many incidental clues from the game itself. This leaves you with the shoddy menu controls. In direct opposition to that, you have to use the controller to exit a Live Tour or Class session, since there's nothing on the screen or gesture that pauses the exercises once they've started. It's kind of a mess.
In short, as a game Zumba Fitness World Party is poorly made and poorly structured. But as a supplemental fitness video app, it's great, provided you can get through the menus without any problems. So it's probably a great buy for people already doing Zumba Workouts and other fitness programs, but not much use for anyone else.