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Archive for May, 2010

Review of My Fitness Coach 2 for Wii

3 out of 5 stars

Disappointing follow-up to a Wii fitness game classic.

Reviewer: Nutwiisystem
May 30, 2010

I’ve actually had Ubisoft’s My Fitness Coach 2: Exercise and Nutrition since it was released back in January. But after seeing the awful reviews on Amazon, I was admittedly not in any particular rush to pop it in the Wii.

my fitness coach 2 reviewThe original My Fitness Coach was a pioneer in Wii exergaming which enjoyed a very long stay on my Top 10 list. Wii Fit had been around for a few months, but for all the hype around it, people just weren’t getting fit from it. It seemed more like a fun set of games than a serious exercise program. With My Fitness Coach, which was actually a port of an old Playstation 2 game called Yourself!Fitness developed by Respondesign, you had your own personal trainer who customized workouts based on your needs, you had over 500 calisthenics exercises to choose from, and you could even customize your music and your workout environment, all things which you could never do before. The exercises didn’t really make use of the Wii’s capabilities, but it didn’t matter much because with the calisthenics, you could get a very good cardio workout. One thing I liked the most about the title was the running bar at the bottom which told you which exercise you were working on and which one was coming next.

All told, My Fitness Coach sold over 1.89 million copies and no doubt raised the eyebrows of people in boardrooms from EA to Nintendo. And so, like most fans of My Fitness Coach, I was looking forward to seeing what Ubisoft would do with the sequel. I figured they’d take all the best parts of My Fitness Coach and make some improvements.

Well, what happened next was really a series of flubs by Ubisoft’s marketing department.

The first mistake was that they decided to take a completely different game developed by Lightning Fish in the UK called NewU Fitness First Personal Trainer and to hastily release it in the U.S. as “My Fitness Coach 2: Exercise and Nutrition”, obviously hoping to cash in on the name. The problem is this new game bore absolutely no resemblance to the original My Fitness Coach. This terrible decision led to a number of problems.

First, fans of the original game and its in-game trainer Maya were completely disappointed. The expectation with any sequel is that the best parts of the first game are retained, and improvements are added on to the experience. But instead, My Fitness Coach fans were subjected to a completely different and foreign experience (literally, as you’ll see below). Simply put, Ubisoft didn’t respect the intelligence of My Fitness Coach fans—assuming they’d purchase any fitness game thrown in front of them without question. The fans responded by rejecting it flat out. Case in point: The average review of NewU Fitness First Personal Trainer on Amazon.co.uk is 4/5 stars (with an average critics’ review of 7.8/10). The average review of My Fitness Coach 2 on Amazon.com is 2/5 stars. Exact same game, but Black Bean did their own marketing in the UK, while Ubisoft did the marketing in the US.

Another flub made by Ubisoft was how they pushed Respondesign, the developer of the original My Fitness Coach, to develop the game Your Shape. It would have been a worthy successor to My Fitness Coach except for two things—two things which all but ruined both it and possibly the Yourself!Fitness and My Fitness Coach legacy along with it. Respondesign had to use a Ubisoft-developed USB camera to track movements (something Microsoft spent years and millions of dollars trying to perfect with Project Natal, why Ubisoft felt they could do it faster and a lot cheaper is beyond me—it certainly didn’t work), and they forced the loud and annoyingly perky Jenny McCarthy to replace Maya, the virtual personal trainer everyone loved, as the on-screen personality.

The third negative consequence is that people who may have been new fans of the NewU series in the United States never got a chance to embrace the new brand. Lightning Fish Games has since launched a well-received sequel to NewU Fitness First focusing on Yoga and Pilates, which Black Bean has released in the UK. But Ubisoft has painted themselves into a corner. If it takes off in the UK, should they bring it to the US as My Fitness Coach 3? Your Shape 2?

Anyway, now that my ranting is out of the way, I figured that I should provide an unbiased review of the game that should have been called NewU Fitness First Personal Trainer, but was released in the US as My Fitness Coach 2.

The first thing I did when starting up this game was to forget everything I knew and liked about the original My Fitness Coach. Forget Maya, forget that I could use exercise equipment in my workout, forget the gauge which told me my progress, forget that I could choose from 500 different exercises, forget fitness tests.

Having said that, the game on its merits is really not as bad as the poor reviews on Amazon indicate.

When you first start up the game, you’re brought to a colorful startup screen with five options: My Plan, Express Workout, Challenges, Profiles, and Options.

My Plan focuses on a personal fitness plan that you can create for yourself. It has four sections: Fitness, Nutrition, My Progress, and Lifestyle Tips.

When you select Fitness, you can either do today’s workout, preview tomorrow’s workout, show your progress, change your workout scenery (you can choose between a beach, a green meadow, a snow-covered mountain, or a gym), or change your trainer (you can choose between two men or two women—they’ll do the workouts on-screen with you as you do them and make faces and gestures in response to your progress). The daily workouts are extremely short. This could be a good thing if you’re in a hurry (in fact, there a new game called “10 Minute Solution” from Activision that will target this market). But it’s frustrating if you were expecting the kind of 20-to-30 minute continuous cardio workout you get from the original My Fitness Coach.

When you select Nutrition, you’ll see a handy collection of recipes of healthy food you can cook. While this is very well and good, I have the same complaint I have about this as I do when I saw it in other games like The Biggest Loser. Who in the world has their TV and their Wii set up in the kitchen? You can’t even connect a printer to the Wii to print out these recipes. And so as good as the recipes look, they’re not very useful if you need to copy them on a piece of paper (as with the grocery list they provide for this week’s meals). Worse, while Ubisoft evidently re-programmed some parts of the game to suit an American audience (I presume the voices of the trainers were British at one point, but they overdubbed them with American accents—I personally wouldn’t have minded if the voices stayed British), they forgot to change these pages. As a Yankee, I have no idea how many 14oz of potatoes are or how hot the oven should be if I set it to 200C/Gas Mark 6. I could have done without this section.

Lifestyle Tips are basically 2-3 sentence tips, mostly nutritional trivial about different foods. Interesting reading, but I question how many people are going to sit through to read on the Wii. As with similar sections on Jillian Michaels and The Biggest Loser, these games would do much better if they used the interactive capabilities of the Wii rather than just plopping a book for someone to page through. For example, how cool would it be to incorporate elements from a simple cooking game to teach about nutrition and healthy cooking?

The Express Workout section lets you choose from four quick workouts: a Quick Workout, a morning workout for Before Work, a midday Lunch Break workout, and an Evening workout for before bed. The exercises consist ofroutines such as marching, stepping on the balance board, hip swings, punching and dodging, and similar exercises that use the Wii remote and the balance board to check your progress (more on that below). All the workouts are short, around 10 minutes.

The Challenges section is, in my opinion, the best part of the game. There are five options: Dance, Cardio Test, Army, Boxing, and Baseball. It’s a little misleading at first, because I was expecting to do dance movements under Dance, baseball simulation under Baseball, etc. But what it really means is that it’ll do basic workout routines to exercise the muscles and build the stamina that a dancer, a trainer doing cardio work, someone in the Army, a boxer, or a baseball player would need. And unlike the short and simplistic exercises in the rest of the game, these challenges really make your heart pump and last a good long time for meaningful toning, muscle gain, and weight loss.

Of course, the most important question in an exercise is, how do the controllers respond? The quick answer is, they’re okay. They’re not as super-responsive as Wii Fit Plus is; on the other hand, unlike My Fitness Coach, it does use both the Wii remote and the balance board to track movements. And the responsiveness is a ton better than Your Shape or Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum, two games which woefully fall short in that department. I’ve pretty much come to accept that outside of EA Sports and Nintendo, game developers simply don’t have the expertise nor the inclination to make the Wii remote, nunchuk, and balance board very responsive.

So what’s my verdict? Well, I think the two stars that the US Amazon customers gave it may be a little harsh, but again, it’s understandable why they’d rate it that low. But on the merits of the game itself, I’ll give it three stars. Certainly not up to par with games like Wii Fit Plus or EA Sports Active or even The Biggest Loser, but definitely an improvement over games like Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2010 and Ubisoft’s own Your Shape. If you see it on sale or in the bargain bin, it’s worth getting, but otherwise there’s nothing too special here.

Active Life Explorer for Wii Announced

Namco-Bandai just announced that this Fall they’ll be releasing the third in the Active Life series: Active Life Explorer.

Active Life Outdoor Challenge, of course, has been a mainstay in the Top 10 Wii Fitness Games list with its innovative use of a mat controller. Active Life Extreme Challenge was a bit of a disappointment. But let’s hope Explorer redeems the series and drives it forward.

The early screenshots look pretty promising:

Active Life Explorer for the Wii Screen Shots
Active Life Explorer for the Wii Screen Shots 2

Active Life Outdoor Challenge Sequel for the Wii Screen Shots

Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed they didn’t bring back the “cutsie” characters of the first series nor allow use of Miis, opting instead for the gangly awkward looking cartoony characters from the second series. But if these screens are any indication, it looks like they may be bringing some new innovation to the gameplay, which the first had in droves and the second lacked.

Here’s the text of the press release:

NAMCO BANDAI GAMES ANNOUNCES

ACTIVE LIFE EXPLORER™ FOR Wii™

Exploration, Discovery and Thrilling Adventures for the Whole Family Abound in Newest Addition to Pulse-Pounding ACTIVE LIFE® Game Series

SANTA CLARA, Calif., (May 25, 2010) – NAMCO BANDAI Games America Inc., today announced ACTIVE LIFE EXPLORER™ exclusively for Wii™, the newest installment in the popular ACTIVE LIFE® series. ACTIVE LIFE EXPLORER takes players on a fun-filled, heart-pumping adventure as they use the Wii Remote™ and ACTIVE LIFE Mat Controller to explore exotic locales and complete a variety of energetic activities with modes for one to eight players. ACTIVE LIFE EXPLORER is scheduled to be released throughout North America this fall.

Jump into action as a fearless adventurer searching for treasure the world over. Explore an array of intriguing themed locales including dense twilight jungles, ancient ruins, lava-flooded caves, frozen ice packs and more each with their own traps, hazards and challenges. A veritable thrill-ride of activities will keep the whole family moving as they run across falling bridges, dodge perilous booby traps, escape from savage beasts, chase down bandits, and much more as they ride off into the sunset with a bounty of loot and rewards.

ACTIVE LIFE EXPLORER includes dozens of action-packed adventures with support for up to eight players in fun cooperative or competitive challenges with multiple difficulty options to cater to all skill levels. In the multiplayer Party Mode, up to eight players can play in a series of activities that gives everyone a chance to get in on the action. One to four players can play through a Treasure Adventure Mode filled with dozens of missions as they uncover new uncharted lands on a world map. A versatile Free Play Mode offers easy access to individual challenges, while gamers looking for a challenge can put their skills to the test in the Treasure Trials Mode with a variety of objectives to complete. With plenty of rewards such as medals, different outfits for their in-game characters and high score rankings, players will want to play again and again.

ACTIVE LIFE EXPLORER takes the ACTIVE LIFE series’ signature full-body motion gameplay to new frontiers,” said Todd Thorson, director of marketing and public relations at NAMCO BANDAI Games America Inc. “With a fresh set of challenges based on exhilarating treasure hunting quests, great escapes and thrill-seeking crusades, the game keeps pulses pounding and offers a fun way to get everyone active.”

ACTIVE LIFE EXPLORER for Wii will be available as a bundle including the game and one ACTIVE LIFE Mat Controller, or as a stand-alone game by itself for Active Life fans that already have the Mat Controller. For more information, please visit www.namcobandaigames.com.

Before there was the Wii there was…XaviX

Xavix video game systemBefore there was Mickey Mouse there was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Before there was Charlie Brown and Snoopy there were Li’l Folks. Before there was the Apple Macintosh there was the Apple Lisa. And before there was the Nintendo Wii, there was XaviX.

In 2004, Sony had its PlayStation 2 and Nintendo had its GameCube. That same year, a company called XaviX introduced a system that actually used your body, instead of game controllers you hold in your hand, to control games. They had a baseball game, a tennis game, a bowling game, a golf game, and a boxing game, all sold separately. Sound familiar? That’s right, it’s everything we call Wii Sports Today.

They also sold a floor mat controller called “J-Mat” with a running-in-place game for fitness, as well as a separate glass scale to measure weight. That’s right–it was the Wii Fit before the Wii Fit was a twinkle in Nintendo’s eye.

The graphics and sound were years behind the times (the quality of video games of the 1990s), but the motion sensing was years ahead of its time. Specifically, two years ahead–the Nintendo Wii would be released in November 2006.

When the Wii pretty much outclassed the Xavix in every way except for the controllers. Each game even came with game controllers that were in the shape of the actual sports equipment (including a very real set of boxing gloves).

SSD, Co. (the manufacturer of XaviX) essentially had a two-year head start on Wii, but at the end of the day poor marketing and the outdated graphics did it in.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing about all this is because I will be putting my entire XaviX collection on eBay shortly, and I guess I’m a little nostalgic. XaviX was an early pioneer in exergaming and motion controls, which has taken off with the Wii and will no doubt take on even more once Microsoft releases Natal and Sony releases Playstation Move.

Complete collection of XaviX games

Dance on Broadway Wii

NEW! This game is available now! Read my review of Dance on Broadway for Wii to see if it’s worth buying. Or, read the newest Just Dance 2 review.

just dance 2
One of the weird childhood memories I have is watching the sitcom “Gimme a Break” and watching an episode where the late, great Nell Carter strutting down Broadway while belting out “On Broadway”. At the end of her song, she looks around at the bright lights and declares, “my momma always told me I’d sing on Broadway”. Not a particularly funny line, but like I said, for some reason it stuck. Nowadays when I’m walking in the theater district, I sometimes do the same thing, to the chagrin of those walking with me. But here’s a game which will let me explore my inner Nell Carter, all from the privacy of my home.

As promised in my last post about the Just Dance Sequel by Ubisoft, here are some additional details. Still no official press release, but here’s what I could gather from around the Web.

  • The release date for the US appears to be June 22, 2010. You can pre-order Dance on Broadway for Wii from Amazon here, and if the price goes down between now and June 22, you’ll get the lower price. After selling over 2 million units of Just Dance (and counting), I expect this to be a phenomenal hit for Ubisoft, so reserve yours early (I’m reserving mine).
  • The cover art is pictured here. From the positions of the people on the box, it looks like it’ll probably work pretty much the same way as Just Dance. I expect it to be very much the same as the original: poor motion controls made up for by a ton of fun.
  • It looks like they’ve got a fantastic toe-tapping array of songs. Kudos to the Ubisoft team for spending the money to get licensing for real songs and not relying on generic or public domain tracks. There will be 20 songs in total. So far, here are the confirmed ones:
    • Fame (Fame)
    • My Favorite Things (The Sound of Music)
    • Cabaret (Cabaret)
    • All That Jazz (All That Jazz)
    • Aquarius (Hair)
    • You Can’t Stop the Beat (Hairspray)
    • Time Warp (Rocky Horror Show)
    • Dreamgirls (Dreamgirls)
    • Roxie (Chicago)
    • Lullaby of Broadway (42nd Street)
    • Luck Be a Lady (Guys and Dolls)
  • As with the original, you can challenge up to four friends.
  • The promotional material says this version will include singing as well, but I’m guessing this just means that like the original version there’ll be on-page lyrics. But for aspiring Broadway stars, it’ll be a great way to see if you have what it takes for the stage!
  • I’m curious as to why Ubisoft doesn’t call it “Just Dance 2” or “Just Dance: The Sequel” to capitalize on the runaway popularity of the original. But then again, Ubisoft marketing has not always been known to make the best choices with naming their products (case in point: the naming fiasco that was My Fitness Coach 2, a game I’ll be reviewing very shortly)

This should be a good one.

Jazz hands! 🙂

Dance Dance Revolution for Wii on Amazon’s Gold Box Today

Every once in a blue moon, Amazon has an all-Wii, all-day sale in the Amazon Gold Box.

For today and today only, Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party 3 is both the Gold Box item and the Amazon Video Game Deal of the Day. It’s available at the unheard-of price of $34.99.

Dance Dance Revolution is, of course, one of the perennial top 5 in our list of top Wii Fitness Games. Even with other companies putting out lots of new fitness games nowadays, there are still few Wii workouts as effective as jumping up and down on that dance mat.

Keep an eye for other Gold Box items throughout the day!

Nutwiisystem is on Facebook

Well, just a few months after getting on Twitter, I’ve caved in and got a page on Facebook.  You can visit it here:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nutwiisystem/289330586187

Haven’t quite decided what I want to do with this page, but as with the Web site, the blog and the Twitter account, it’ll be another place where I share the latest Wii fitness game reviews, news, and deals.

In addition, I may occasionally be giving out some Wii fitness games out to random fans of the page. So visit and Like it today! 🙂

The Black Wii is here!

black wiiIn case you haven’t heard, in the next few days, Nintendo will be releasing the Black Wii. This is just a Wii, but the difference is for the same price as the current white Wii it’ll come with a Wii-mote with MotionPlus and Wii Sports Resort, in addition to the Wii Sports and nunchuk that comes with the regular one.

Other than the color change, there’s no difference in how the black Wii works than the white Wii. Except, of course, that it looks stunningly sleek.  If you’ve got a fancy big-screen plasma or LCD TV and a home entertainment system, this Wii will be right at home.

If you’ve been thinking of getting a second Wii for the house, there’s never been a better time. How many times have you wanted to work out, while the kids wanted to play Mario Kart? Now, you can put the black Wii  in the family room, and move the white Wii to your home gym or exercise room.

On a related note, if you’ve been looking for a good deal on a Wii, chances are if you search for Wii on eBay in the next couple of weeks, you should see a lot of people selling their white ones at rock-bottom prices!