I'm burnin' I'm burnin' I'm burnin' for Zumba.
According to the press materials, the Zumba exercise program currently has over 15 million people taking classes in 186 countries. I am not one of those people. I don’t dance, especially within viewing distance (and, therefore, pointing and laughing distance) of other people.
I do, however, appreciate exercise software. Honestly, the ability to get a guided workout in the privacy of my own home is part of the appeal of Nintendo systems for me, and that guided workout is Zumba® Burn it Up’s main goal.
From the start, I knew I was going to need help with this review. Zumba doesn’t spend any time asking you questions about your fitness level or your experience, it just throws you into a virtual cardio class and gets you moving. Whether you have any experience with Zumba fitness—be it from classes or earlier software releases—is irrelevant. This is the song, these are the steps, now start moving.
This was a bit off-putting at first, as I instantly felt I was in over my head. As such, I solicited the help of wife, Tieraney, who has always been such a good dancer that I still don’t fully understand how I ever appealed to her. She shared my initial impressions of the game, having no familiarity with the music (the bulk of which are not songs American pop/dance fans would know) or the steps. By the time she’d finished her second routine, however, she was starting to get things down. I’m still working on it.
A session begins with you selecting whether you want to participate in a full routine (15, 30 or 45 minutes), dance to specific songs, or set up a multiplayer session. There is no avatar customization or anything of the sort, just the selection of a Zumba-branded badge to identify your account. The music then starts, and you start the cardio workout.
The upcoming dance step is previewed in a small animation on the screen, but it won’t do you much good until you learn them. Thankfully, aside from a tiny “Miss” on the screen, you’re not punished or critiqued if you aren’t nailing the moves. With only a single handheld Joy-Con to record what you’re doing, it’s not like it’d be any more accurate than Just Dance, anyway. Rather, the point of the routines is to get up and start moving. The more energetic you are, the more exercise you’ll get. Your body won’t care if you’re not in sync with the three dancers on your TV, it’ll just care that you’re working out.
That said, the dance moves aren’t terribly difficult. You’re not auditioning for Dancing With the Stars, after all, you’re exercising. As such, it’s not too hard to feel comfortable with the routines after going through them a few times. There aren’t a lot, so it’s a good idea to stick with one for a while before moving on to another. 30+ songs may not seem like a lot, but you get everything you need here without bothering with subscriptions or DLC. Tieraney found a few routines she didn’t like (“I’m a 40-year-old woman,” she explained to the TV, “I don’t twerk”), but otherwise was fine sticking with the ones where she most enjoyed the dance steps and/or the music.
Zumba: Burn it Up does monitor your progress and reward you for hitting various goals, but it’s not tracking your health records; no heart rate measurements or calculations of calories burned. There are also no warm-up or cool-down periods. It’s more concerned that you’re up and moving and that you’re having a good time, as evidenced by the constant smiles of the filmed trainers (who are actual Zumba instructors, for what it’s worth). They tend to come across like high school cheerleaders in a national tournament, but I appreciate that they don’t bark out empty encouragement. There’s music and there are dance moves, and the instructors are content to let you follow their example to put the two together. And if their constant smiles start to creep you out, the lively and colorful background animations do give you something else on which to focus.
As for the effectiveness of the Zumba routines, you’re going to feel the burn even if you’re just doing the quick 15-minute routine. That’s something to consider if you’re going into the party mode with others; you’re basically asking them to work out with you, not dance to Baby Shark, or whatever. It’s also something to consider when you’re not at home. Although the small Switch screen isn’t best for following along with dance steps, the quickness of the routines and the ability to jump right into and out of them makes this a great option for getting in some exercise when you’re traveling.
Review: Zumba® Burn it Up! (Nintendo Switch)
Those who are familiar with or already participate in Zumba classes are going to love the familiarity of Zumba: Burn it Up and the distraction-free access to the routines. Those who aren’t, however, will have to get past an initial period of ineptitude while you figure out the moves. I’d personally rather do that at home than at an actual Zumba class, but with nothing here beyond the energetic exercises to keep you motivated, actual classes will serve you better if you’re in it for the long haul.