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Archive for August, 2010

Sony Move Games for Exercise

It’s only a few weeks until the Playstation Move launches. So let’s say you placed your pre-order on Amazon to guarantee that you’ll get it on the first day. The next question, of course, is: what games can you get that’ll help you get a great workout?

From early press reports, these look like the best fitness games that’ll be out in the first month or so of the console.

1) Sports Champions:


Sports Champions will be the game that’s bundled when you buy Playstation Move Equipment. You’ll be able to play hi-res, photorealistic versions of Disc Golf, Gladiator Duel, Beach Volleyball, Archery, Table Tennis and Bocce. I really like the fact that Sony didn’t just copy Wii Sports, but is introducing new games to show off its technology as something that’s different and new than the Wii.


2) The Fight: Lights Out
Set to be released on October 12, The Fight: Lights Out is a street fighting simulation game that will let you use one or two PlayStation Move controllers to punch, uppercut, put opponents in headlocks, and perform head blows in a quest to be the toughest bare-knuckle street fighter.

3) Kung Fu Live:

This will be a title launching on the Playstation Network and if it works anything like the video trailer looks, it will be pretty darned cool and a totally immersive game, especially for a downloadable game. (I’ve since realized that this doesn’t use the Playstation Move controllers, just the Playstation Eye camera (that you need for Playstation Move). Will be impressive if it works. You’ll need to buy a PLAYSTATION Network Card so you can download it on PSN. Early reports confirm the price will be $14.99, much cheaper than a Kinect 🙂

4. Singstar Dance:
This one will be interesting to watch. The Wii will have Just Dance, the Kinect will have Dance Central, and Sony will have SingStar Dance starting in early November. Time will tell which one reigns supreme. Sony’s version will let you dance with up to 4 people and sing on up to 2 microphones, download songs, and upload dance videos to share with the world!

5. EA Sports Active 2 for Playstation 3

EA Sports Active 2
from EA follows on the heels of its predecessor, a top rated title for the Wii.  Expect better graphics with the PS3 version. Instead of using the Playstation Move controllers, EA decided to go with its own wireless sensors that don’t require you to hold anything. It’ll be interesting to see how well it does.
6. Dance Dance Revolution for Playstation 3
Dance Dance Revolution (PlayStation 3) from Konami finally comes to the PS3 and promises to be a “reboot” of the series, with Just Dance-like hand movements and improved graphics.
7. Zumba Fitness for Playstation 3
Zumba Fitness will be a multi-platform release from Majesco on the Wii, Xbox, and Playstation. The Playstation version is reportedly compatible with Playstation Move, but it’s too early to tell to what extent it’ll be used. Still, if you’re already into Zumba for exercise, it may be a nice addition to your collection.
8. Get Fit with Mel B
Get Fit with Mel B is a fitness title featuring Mel B (formerly known as Scary Spice). You can work out alongside Mel receiving her feedback in dance fitness, cardio, step and kickboxing.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. These games are all going to cost $40 – $60. Which ones should you buy? Buying all of them is enough to put anyone in the poorhouse.
Rest assured that I’ll try my best to review all of these games and more as they come out. If you’d like to try them for yourself, one thing I would strongly suggest is to sign up for GameFly (click through this link to get a free trial and bonus offer). I use GameFly myself, and over the years it’s really saved me from shelling out a lot of money for some clunkers.

Wii Games on the Amazon Gold Box – 8/31/10

If you haven’t been to Amazon today, check out the Gold Box:

They’ll have a couple Wii games for sale throughout the day with slashed prices, and at least a few will be games on our Top 10. As usual, they’ve used cryptic clues for most of the on-sale items, but here are my guesses for what they are:

  • All Day: Tony Hawk: Ride
  • 9:00a – 12:00p Eastern – Dance your way to fit. – Gold’s Gym Dance Workout
  • 12:00p – 3:00p Eastern – Walk This Way – Walk It Out
  • 3:00p – 4:00p Eastern – No Toy Gets Left Behind – Toy Story 3
  • 4:00p – 6:00p Eastern – 15 Ways to Have Fun on Your Wii – Possibly Wii Fit Plus
  • 6:00p – 7:00p Eastern – Bring the Broadway musical experience right into your living room. – Dance on Broadway
  • 7:00p – 9:00p Eastern – The Wii on 480p – HDMI cable for the Wii
  • 9:00p – 11:00p Eastern – Enjoy this massive fantasy epic. –
  • 11:00p – 12:00a Eastern – Transform your Wii controller into sports equipment – most likely a set of plastic add-ons for your Wii remote.

Some of these will go almost instantly, so get on while the getting’s good!

Review of Gold’s Gym Dance Workout for Wii

Gold’s Gym Dance Workout

Reviewed by Nutwiisystem on August 30, 2010.
Summary: Excellent collection of dancing, boxing, and mini-games, if a little difficult to master.

gold's gym dance workoutUbisoft’s Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout has been in this site’s Top 10 Wii Fitness Games List since it first came out a year and a half ago. Until then, Wii Fit and My Fitness Coach had pretty much been the only decent Wii workout games around. But concepts that Gold’s Gym Cardio brought helped to push the world of Wii exercise games forward.

And so I’ve been looking forward to its sequel, Gold’s Gym Dance Workout, which was just released two weeks ago. And so the question is: like its predecessor, is the sequel a game-changer? While the game is not without its flaws the answer, happily, is yes.

Gold Gym Dance Workout consists of three main types of exercises: a pure “dance workout”, a “boxing workout”, and “mini-games”.

In the “dance workout”, you perform fast-moving choreographed dance steps using your arms and feet. It’s not exactly like “Just Dance” in that the choreography doesn’t really contain any “signature moves” to the song. Rather, the dance is made up of a series of basic latin dance steps (i.e., merengue, samba, salsa, reggaeton, and cumbia). You first go through a series of tutorials to learn the steps, and then you put them together through beginner, intermediate, and advanced stages of increasing difficulty and speed. Just as you’d do in a dance class at the gym, you follow the lead of an on-screen workout instructor shouting out steps to you to the beat.

In the “boxing workout”, the game has come a long way since the “here we go…clap, clap, clap, clap” of its predecessor. Again following an on-screen instructor, you upper-cut, jab, punch, and hook to the beat of  music. And thankfully, Ubisoft decided to license a whole slew of popular songs, so you’re not stuck to boxing to “Eye of the Tiger” over and over and over. The motion controls are remarkably accurate in detecting specific boxing moves, and the workouts were  fast-moving and fun.

I admit that I absolutely loved the “mini games”. Unlike other fitness games where minigames are an afterthought, Ubisoft seems to have put a lot of thought into these, and I love the touches of humor in the games. The games are:

  • Matador: In this game, you’re on the streets of a city that looks a lot like Pamplona and you need to dodge bulls that are charging through the street. In an interesting twist the game doesn’t use the balance board, but rather has you hold two Wii remotes in your hand and detects when you “duck” out of the way. This was the right move–I find sometimes that the balance board’s response is too slow and not always accurate for games like Wii Fit’s snowball fight and soccer heading. On the other hand, using the two Wii remotes, you can time your ducking from the bulls precisely (the closer the bull is to you when you duck out of the way, the more points you get.
  • Bull Ride: This is an old-fashioned bull riding game where you stand on the balance board and try to maintain your balance as your on-screen character tries desperately to stay seated on a bucking bull.
  • Canoe: This is somewhat like kayaking on Wii Sports Resort, but they’ve improved it. You’re paddling with two Wii remotes (which you hold together horizontally to simulate a double-plated paddle), and as you’re paddling you’re also shifting weight on your butt while sitting on the Balance Board. The result is remarkably like real canoeing (where you work out both your arms and your glutes). There are cute little touches, such as when an alligator charges you and you need to paddle faster to get out of its way.
  • Sword Fight: This is more or less a rip-off of Wii-Fit’s sword game where you slice and dice different objects by wielding your Wii remote like a sword. It adds a nice touch where a ninja will throw stars at you from time to time that you have to duck. But overall, it’s not as strong as Wii Fit’s version; you’ll find that no matter how you slice the Wii remote it’ll always register.

  • Marathon: Somewhat of a misnomer, this is more of a sprinting game where you flail your arms to make your character run through a desert. It took me a bit of getting used to, but I found that if I moved my arms in a fast boxing motion, it’d make my character run (to a maximum speed of 24.8). There are some cute touches where you have to outrun lions and the occasional football players who are chasing you (how a football player got to the desert is beyond me).
  • Jump Rope: This version of jump rope is not as strong as Active Life Outdoor Challenge’s version, but it holds its own. You stand on the balance board and squat and lift your body to make your on-screen character jump, first by himself and then with an increasing number of people jumping along with him. Of course, you can’t jump on the Wii Balance Board, so you’re basically shifting weight.
  • Boxing: In this game, you’re punching and dodging punches from, of all things, a creepy-looking kangaroo. I’m not sure why Wii game designers love to put creepy animals in their games (the panda heads in Wii Fit come to mind), but I guess it makes it easier to punch the guy out than if it were a cute, less-annoying kangaroo. In any case, this boxing is definitely weaker than the original Wii Sports boxing.
  • Karate: In karate, you’ll break boards, dishes, and pottery with a karate chop. The quicker you punch, the more force is applied to the object you’re breaking. Overall, not a bad game, definitely a little bit more of a workout than the Wii Fit version.

When you start up Gold’s Gym Dance Workout, you see a couple of options.
Quick Workout is where you can jump right into playing different dance, boxing or workout activities, or special groups of activities ranging in difficulty from Practice to Beginner to Intermediate to Advanced to Expert to Challenge. You can also select activities to target a specific body part (arms, legs, upper body, lower body, torso and whole body).

You can also choose My Workout, where your virtual personal trainer (complete with Gold’s Gym badge and standing at a Gold’s Gym front desk) will ask you a few questions (such as your workout goals and your level of commitment) and then using artificial intelligence the system will tailor a full daily workout schedule for you consisting of up to 7 different activities per day each listing out the time it’ll take and the calories burned (if you’re new, say “yes” when she asks if you’d like to try a 3-day introductory course).

If you’d like to work out with a friend, Two Player mode lets both of you hold one Wii remote and dance together. Both players have to do the same dance next to each other, and you can compete with each other to see who has the best score.

I’m impressed by the number of options you can configure. You can turn the rumble of the Wii remote on or off; adjust the volume of the music, sound efforts, or instructor; choose which of the on-screen indicators to show or hide. And finally they’ve fixed a pet peeve of mine in all these games–there’s an option that actually lets you turn off the video tutorials that pop up before each exercise.

One thing I also liked about Gold’s Gym Dance is that right off the bat, it asks you if you want to use two Wii remote controllers. As much as I love the Wii nunchuk, game after game has proven that the nunchuk is simply too inaccurate for fast-moving rhythm games. That Ubisoft eschews the use of the nunchuk is a good sign that they’ve taken accuracy in motion controls more seriously than they have in the past.

The one major thing I wasn’t crazy about at first was how very difficult it was to follow and learn the dance steps. The first few times you play the dance workout games, even at the tutorial level it’s very easy to get very overwhelmed. You have to basically follow the on-screen trainer and mirror the moves she’s making. The problem is, she’s moving so fast that it’s incredibly difficult to follow, and the fact that you’re trying to do it in a mirror image makes it even more difficult, as it’s sometimes difficult to tell where her feet are.

The game does try to give you visual and audio clues to help you. For example, the trainer’s foot will glow yellow when it’s time for you to move it. There’ll be a silhouetted image telling you which arm movement is coming up next. And the trainer will yell instructions like “BACK, FRONT, SIDE, TOUCH, AND BACK, FRONT, SIDE, TOUCH”. Problem is, all these things are happening so quickly that you can follow them, much less move your feet to them. And it takes a LOT of practice to coordinate the foot movements with the arm movements.

I actually don’t see this as a bad thing. Too many Wii fitness games have been “watered down” to the point where they’re too easy to learn and master and you get bored of them quickly. With this game, if you practice, and practice, and practice, you’ll eventually get it. The game does, in fact, offer a “practice” mode where you can view the instructor from three different camera angles (looking at the instructor from the front, from the top, and from the side), and also view the routine (or individual segments of the routine) in slow-motion. I’d definitely recommend practicing and perfecting the routine this way before moving on to your daily workouts. The one thing I would have liked to have seen is a view where you could see the instructor facing forward  doing the moves as you’re supposed to do them (as opposed to a mirror image).

Another quirk of the game, which I guess you could call either a flaw or a bonus, is that the motion controller is very, very forgiving for the dance workout. The game, of course, can’t detect that your feet are following the dance moves (I’m hoping beyond hope that Konami’s upcoming Dance Dance Revolution will finally do this), so as long as you move your arms remotely closely to the on-screen trainer’s arm movements you’ll get a “great!” rating for your move. So in a sense, you’re on the “honor system” to perform the moves correctly. You could rack up points by keeping still and flailing your arms, but the true prize is losing weight and getting in shape, which you’ll need to put your whole body into. Like I said the controls for the boxing games are much more accurate.

The game does have a lot of the things which we’ve all come to expect in Wii exercise games: the ability to weigh in using your Balance Board, the ability to choose a trainer and an avatar, the ability to see calories burned, and the ability to change backgrounds (you can choose between the US, India, Japan, Egypt, and Australia). I like little touches they added, such as showing you not just the calories you burned, but a picture of the food that consists of that many calories.

In short, I’d call this game a great new entrant into the world of Wii Fitness games. I’ll give it 4 1/2 stars, but having said that it’s not for everyone. The boxing and minigames you can pick up pretty easily, but the dancing will take a lot of work and patience to get the most out of it. Still, Gold’s Gym Dance Workout is good enough to bump Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout out of the Top 10 list, the first time the list has changed in a very long time.

4.5 of 5

Playstation Move and Xbox Kinect for Fitness

As most of you have heard by now, Sony and Microsoft have both been working feverishly to jump on the motion control bandwagon. On September 17, 2010, Playstation will be releasing the PlayStation Move to the Playstation 3, while on November 4, 2010, Microsoft will be releasing Kinect for the Xbox 360. Neither are new video game systems: both are just add-ons to existing systems.

For those of you who haven’t heard, here’s a brief description of each:

The Playstation Move is, to put it bluntly, works almost exactly like the Wii. It has the “Playstation Move Controller” (like a Wii-mote), the optional “Playstation Move Navigation Controller” (like a nunchuk). There are of course areas where it’s different than the Wii. First of all, it uses an actual camera (Playstation Eye) mounted on top of your TV instead of a sensor bar, which theoretically will give it much more precision. Also, the graphics of Playstation 3 games are much higher resolution than the Wii (meaning that you may be able to play photo-realistic games as opposed to just with cartoon characters).

The Xbox Kinect will attempt to take it a step further. It will also have a camera mounted on top of the TV, but will not use controllers at all. Instead, it will detect where your body is at all times and essentially use your body as the controller. Like the Playstation 3, its graphics are much higher resolution than the Wii.

Since I have a Playstation 3 already, I’ll be getting the Playstation Move. I’ve even started up a sister blog to this one in which I’ll share my thoughts about the best fitness games for Playstation Move. As for the Xbox Kinect, I’ll admit I’m a bit skeptical as to how well it’ll work, especially after my experience with Your Shape.  Still, Microsoft has a lot of smart people working for it and they’ve poured a lot of money into it, so I can be convinced (I’m not nearly rich enough to own three video game systems, but if someone from Microsoft is reading this, I’ll be happy to start a blog for you if you send me a review unit :P).

Anyway, don’t worry–this is the first time and the last time you’ll hear about Sony and Microsoft on Nutwiisystem. My first love and loyalty will always be to the Wii, and so as always this blog will continue to be solely dedicated to new Wii Fitness games. And there are a lot coming down the pike in time for Christmas 2010, so stay tuned!

In fact, I see the new competition as an opportunity for Nintendo, not a threat. As you’ve seen from this blog, the quality of Wii games (and particularly Wii exercise games) has gone way downhill for the past few months, and we’re seeing more copycat games than real innovation on the platform. I’m convinced that this is because Nintendo has had a virtual monopoly on motion control games, so whatever awful games publishers put out, people will buy them. But now that there’s competition, we should see the quality improve if the game publishers and Nintendo want to stay relevant.

Anyway, it should be an exciting few months! Hold on to your seats!

Get Playstation Move on its Release Date – September 17, 2010!

If you’re like me, when the Wii and the Wii Fit came out a few years ago, you waited a few days, and then found out that no retailer in the world had it in stock for weeks. So the coolest families on the block were raving about how much fun they were having with Wii Tennis and Wii Bowling, you had to sit there and take it.

Not this time! 🙂 Amazon.com has an option where, for a shipping fee of $7.97, you’re guaranteed to receive PlayStation Move Starter Bundle on the very day of its release, September 17, 2010. But you have to pre-order it now (and something tells me the earlier the better).

I’ve signed up for this, and as long as Amazon holds up to its end of the deal I’ll be posting my thoughts that night! 🙂 Stay tuned!

Review of Gold’s Gym Dance Workout for Wii…Coming Soon!

I know a lot of you have been asking about Ubisoft’s new title Gold’s Gym Dance Workout. It was released a few days ago on August 16, and if early reviews are to be believed, it’s going to be a pretty good one (Ubisoft has been pretty sneaky about getting fake reviews for their products in the past, but the Amazon reviews look pretty  authentic, so either this game rocks or they’ve gotten really good at it).

Just wanted to let you know that I’ve ordered my copy and it’s on the way. As always, you can expect a thorough, complete, and unbiased review here.  (I would have had it earlier, but Ubisoft is too cheap to send me a review copy, despite repeated begging and grovelling :P).

Anyway, watch this space, and I’ll let you know the skinny, no pun intended 🙂

Review of 10 Minute Solution for Wii

10 Minute Solution

Reviewed by Nutwiisystem on August 16, 2010.
Summary: While not bearing as much resemblance to the popular DVD series of the same name as I would have liked, this a title that stands on its own as a solid and very affordable Wii fitness game.

I’ve had a copy of 10 Minute Solution for Wii for quite a while now. I noticed a lot of people on Amazon leaving less-than-stellar reviews, but their reviews mostly seemed to reflect their initial reactions to the game. So I thought I’d play it myself for a few weeks to make sure I gave it a fair shake. Here’s what I found.

As most people know, 10 Minute Solution is a highly popular set of DVDs where you can start and finish a complete exercise routine in 10 minutes. The DVDs each feature a fit and attractive fitness expert on a mat demonstrating different aerobic workouts to you, shouting out instructions and encouragement each step of the way. The way the series works, you can do one 10-minute routine each day, or you can string together multiple routines to make a more rigorous workout. There’s an astounding variety of aerobic exercises across the different DVDs.

This, of course, seems like a great concept to convert to a video game. And so when I heard they were coming out with 10 Minute Solution for the Wii, I was wondering if they could capture the magic of the video series.

Unfortunately, the answer is…not really. Aside from the name and the fact that exercises are broken into convenient 5-minute chunks, the routines bear little resemblance to the ones that made 10 Minute Solution videos so popular.

To show you what I mean, here’s an excerpt from one of the DVDs:

I think what made these videos work is their simplicity–one workout trainer standing in front of a video class on a mat and giving instructions on how to do a variety of interesting exercises, step-by-step.

On the other hand, 10 Minute Solution for Wii seemed to eschew the simplicity and the formula that made the DVDs so popular. Instead of the feeling an intimate one-on-one training session with an instructor, it feels like the standard kind of Wii fitness game we’ve seen before, like Gold’s Gym Cardio workout, where you just perform a series of repetitious actions with your balance board or Wii remotes to on-screen cues.

You can choose to have “an instructor”, but instead of an instructor with lots of personality shouting out specific unique moves for you to do, you get an amorphous, faceless on-screen animated character that’s typical of these kinds of games.

You do have the option to choose the instructor’s voice (“male or female” and “helpful or bossy”). But even so, the voices really don’t have any personalities themselves. The ‘nice’ woman’s voice is just a bit too sweet and bubbly, complete with the meaningless and repetitious “Yeah! Way to go! Have you done this before?” kinds of encouragement that are typical of Wii games. On the other hand the “bossy” woman’s voice sounds just plain sarcastic, like a cranky middle-aged person who’s smoked a few too many cigarettes in her lifetime–after two minutes of listening to her, I just wanted to jump out the window. The men’s voices are a little better, but similar.

When compared to the instructors on the 10 Minute Solution video series, who are all very pleasant and encouraging, the voiceover actors they used left a little to be desired. Thankfully, there is an option to turn them off altogether.

I suspect that most negative reviews are from fans of the 10 Minute Workout series who were expecting more of the “personality” of the DVD series comes to through in the game, but perhaps didn’t find it.

But having said that, I’ll be focusing my review of the game strictly on its merits as a fitness and exercise game. And in this area, it is a very solid title.

Much like My Fitness Coach, you can select a male or female trainer, music from a set list of generic tunes, and the environment you’ll be working out in (you can choose from a Chinese courtyard, Venice, a Japanese tea garden, a beach, a middle eastern palance, and a gym). The graphics are very well done, and I appreciate the subtle details that help keep the exercise interesting (such as a plane flying outside the window of your gym).

There are basically two different varieties of exercises you can do with your virtual trainer: cardio boxing or step aerobics. For each, you can choose from six different workouts ranging from simple (one star) to advanced (three stars). You’ll find the one-star exercises are far too easy; you hardly break a sweat. On the other hand, you will get your money’s worth with the three-star exercises. When I filmed these videos of the three-star exercises in the game, I got a great aerobic workout, complete with sweating, increased heartrate, and a great feeling afterwards.

There is also a category called “mixed games” which allows you to control your on-screen character in one of four sports simulations: volleyball, badminton, catching a frisbee, or fighting with pugil sticks. As with games like EA Sports Active and The Biggest Loser, you’re not really playing the sport itself–you’re performing a series of cardio boxing or step aerobic moves, and if you hit the moves precisely your on-screen character performs the sports task. So while the “sports exercises are pretty much the same as the standard exercises, it does add a nice bit of variety.

Each exercise is precisely 5 minutes each, so you basically put together your own 10 minute workout each day by choosing two exercises from the sixteen choices.

As far as comparisons go, there are going to be two obvious ones: How do the step aerobics compare with Wii Fit, and how does the boxing compare with Gold’s Gym Cardio?

Until now, there’s really only been one decent title with step aerobics that uses the balance board: Wii Fit (you know, the game where your Mii steps on the balance board to the “plink, plink, plunk” sound). This is one area where this game shines. The three-star step aerobics has you doing lunges, squats, and fast-moving splits that are far more complex than in Wii Fit, and all clearly demonstrated with animated footprints on a small image of the balance board. And the pace is more “plinketyplinketyplinkety”. So I’d say it’s a step above Wii Fit (no pun intended).

As far as the boxing, the game has you doing crosses, hooks, jabs, and uppercuts at a really quick pace. As with Gold’s Gym Cardio, a series of icons will scroll upwards, and you need to perform the boxing move when the icon hits a little square. But in many ways it surpasses Gold’s Gym Cardio. For one thing, the beat of the music actually matches your punches (what a concept!). I also love the fact that you can use two Wii remotes instead of a nunchuk–this makes your movements much, much more accurate. The only thing I had trouble with was the “bob”, but a little practice helped (you basically need to lunge down AND up all while the icon is in the green square).

As with all these kinds of games, you get out of it what you put into it. For example, in the boxing, if you shuffle your feet around while punching, you’ll get a great aerobic workout. Similarly, with the aerobics, if you have a pair of hand weights and move your arms, you’ll enjoy a complete workout.

One of the things I like most about this game is its simplicity. A lot of other Wii fitness games try to stuff in a bunch of fillers and nonsense, such as recipes (who in the world has a Wii set up in their kitchen?) and dressing up the on-screen characters, all to justify a higher price tag. With 10 Minute Solutions for Wii you have three choices from the startup screen: an instant workout (which picks a 5-minute workout for you randomly), a custom workout (where you can pick and choose two 5-minute workouts to make one 10-minute workout), and a fitness plan (where you can mix and match activities for each day of the week for anywhere from a 5-minute to a 30-minute workout each day). I applaud Activision for not being tempted to stuff gimmicks in, and for making the list price a very affordable $19.99.

I also like the fact that each exercise routine is exactly 5 minutes long, no more, no less. As with the video series, there’s something nice about having that kind of consistency.

The game is not perfect, of course. There are little glitches here and there. One example is if the Balance Board shuts off, which is always does, the game tells you to change the batteries. But overall, I’d say it’s a solid exercise game. It doesn’t really add anything new to the genre, but it does a nice job of executing the basics and correcting some of the flaws that its predecessors have.

Again, be sure to go in with the right expectations. It’s not the video series, and it’s not a $59.99 game, so as long as you don’t compare it to either of those, you have a pretty solid and very affordable Wii fitness game to add some variety to your workout routines.

And so, I’ll give the title a solid four stars. I almost see it as the last entry into the “first generation” of video games that started with My Fitness Coach, and continued with games like Wii Fit, EA Sports Active, The Biggest Loser, Gold’s Gym Cardio, Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum, and Your Shape. I like that Activision brought accurate controller response (as long-time readers of my reviews will know, this is my biggest pet peeve), and simplicity to the genre.

I see this Fall’s introduction of Microsoft’s Kinect and Sony’s Move, along with the new wireless EA Sports Active II for the Wii, as the beginning of the “second generation” of Wii fitness games. In many ways, Wii fitness games are starting to all look like each other, and I see the new innovations and competition being a very good thing for the genre. And of course, I’ll be keeping you up to date here!


Note that since writing this review, it’s been pointed out to me that 10 Minute Solutions for Wii has its own YouTube Channel here:


For me, this is exactly what was missing. Activision did a very smart thing and filmed their cover model Jessica Smith (who in all respects fits the description of a 10 Minute Solutions instructor I described above) demonstrating the proper form for some of the basic moves that need to be performed in the Wii game, including switches, lunges, squats, and boxing moves.

When the videos on this YouTube channel are used in conjunction with  the game, it obviates some of the initial concerns I had with the game. Here are the videos for your reference:

Simple Switches:


Boxing Tips:


4 of 5

Blockbuster Video Game Rental vs. GameFly – Which to Choose?

It’s no secret that Blockbuster has been struggling mightily financially. Chances are there’s an empty storefront in your area that was once a Blockbuster store bustling with activity. After Netflix, Redbox, and cable company video-on-demand, it seems that Blockbuster is getting a little stale.

Today, Blockbuster announced that they were starting to offer video game rentals as part of their Blockbuster Online service. Even more surprisingly, the price won’t increase: it’s still $8.99 a month for unlimited numbers of rentals (assuming you get one at a time).

Now, as someone who reviews video games, this was welcome news. While most very nice publishers will send me copies for review, there are others (ahem, do you hear me Ubisoft?) who ignore my pleas for review copies.  So I end up having to shell out money to buy a game. And when the game ends up sucking being overpriced and sucky (ahem, Your Shape at $60), it hurts.

No doubt you’ve experienced the same thing. You’ll head to Amazon, see a bunch of fake five-star reviews, buy the game, and feel like those Bugs Bunny Cartoons where your head transforms into a big donkey or lollipop.

The problem, of course, is that up to now there’s been only one game in town (no pun intended)–GameFly. I’ve always felt the $15.95 monthly charge was a bit excessive–after all, there are a lot of games out there you can outright buy for only a few dollars more. So I was happy to see Blockbuster provide a little competition.

Question is, which should you choose, Blockbuster or GameFly? I signed up for both services and I’ll give you my honest assessment of each:

1) Title Availability

Rather than pontificate, I’ll go through the Top 10 Wii Fitness Games list, as well as five titles on the Upcoming Wii Fitness Games list, and see which is available on each site.

  • EA Sports Active: GameFly-Not in Catalog, Blockbuster-Not in Catalog
  • Wii Fit Plus: GameFly-YES, available now, Blockbuster-Not in Catalog
  • DDR Hottest Party 3: GameFly-Not in Catalog, Blockbuster-Not in Catalog
  • Walk It Out: GameFly-YES, available now, Blockbuster-Not in Catalog
  • The Biggest Loser: GameFly-YES, available now, Blockbuster-Not in Catalog
  • Just Dance: GameFly-YES, available now, Blockbuster-Not in Catalog
  • We Cheer 2: GameFly-YES, medium availability, Blockbuster-Not in Catalog
  • Active Life Outdoor Challenge: GameFly-Not in Catalog, Blockbuster-Not in Catalog
  • Gold’s Gym Cardio: GameFly-YES, medium availability, BlockbusterAvailable Now
  • The Cages: GameFly-YES, available now, Blockbuster-Not in Catalog
  • 10 Minute Solution: GameFly-YES, available now, Blockbuster-Available 10/21/2010
  • Nickelodeon Fit: GameFly-Available 11/30/10, Blockbuster-Available 03/01/2011
  • Active Life Explorer: GameFly-Not in Catalog, Blockbuster-Available 1/25/2011
  • Family Party: Fitness Fun Game: GameFly- Available 9/30/10, Blockbuster-Available 01/12/2011

Looks like there’s no competition here. As far as Wii fitness games are concerned, GameFly puts Blockbuster in the dust.

2) Website Speed: GameFly very obviously copied NetFlix on a lot of things. Their search results come up lightning-fast, and they use AJAX technology to ensure a very fast site experience (this is a fancy way of saying that when you click a button, the Web page reacts instantly instead of making you wait for the page to reload). The result is a quick, very easy-to-use site.

Blockbuster’s Web site is  painfully slow. In fact, when putting up the list above, I literally finished all 15 of the GameFly searches in the time it took for one search to be completed on Blockbuster. It is a hair-pulling experience.

3) Website Navigation: This is another area where GameFly’s advanced Web design (similar to NetFlix’s interface) was a very smart move.

  • Log in.
  • Search for your game in the search box.
  • Instantly see all the games that match.

gamefly video game search results

  • Click “RENT” to add to your queue. You’ll instantly see a window overlaid that says the game has been added to your queue. From here, there are very clear links letting you know what you can do next: continue browsing, go to your queue, or select options they recommend for you.

gamefly screen after adding to queue

  • If you go to your queue, you can remove games or change the order you’d like to receive them with drag-and-drop efficiency. Everything is quick and pleasant.

gamefly video game queue

I’m not sure why it’s so difficult for Blockbuster to just duplicate the same thing. Here’s what I experienced with them:

  • I log in and search for my game in the search box.
  • I wait, and wait, and WAIT for the search to complete, cursing all the while at the hourglass icon.
  • The search results are often amazingly poor, just a mess of seemlingly random movies and games, often which don’t match what I typed in at all. I have to search through the whole list to find if what I want is in there. Worse, the buttons and icons are terribly non-intuitive.

Blockbuster video game search results

  • When I do add to the queue, I have to put up with the hourglass icon yet more. Then, I see a nondescript blue popup.  While GameFly’s pop-up was fast, clear, and well-designed, it’s clear that Blockbuster’s pop-up was designed by people who don’t understand user experience interaction. There are two “close window” buttons and an almost apologetic message that says you can turn off the pop-up. Having worked on big company Web sites before, I can guess that their Web team was forced to put this in by some higher-up who read in a magazine somewhere that pop-ups are bad. Here’s a news flash for that person: if a pop-up is done as well as GameFly did it, they’re not bad.

screen after adding video game to blockbuster queue

  • When you visit your queue (which is almost impossible to find), it just seems like a very, very poor imitation of GameFly’s. Trying to adjust the order of your items or remove items is more a chore than a pleasure.

blockbuster's queue

4) Community: GameFly is much stronger than Blockbuster at soliciting reviews from its members, on their Web pages and in their emails. As a result, you get an extremely unbiased reviews from a large enough sampling of people that you know that A) the ratings can’t be manipulated like Amazon reviews, and B) it’s a pretty good consensus on whether a title is good or bad.

5) Price: Blockbuster is the winner here. At $8.99 a month for one-game-at-a-time, it’s almost half of GameFly’s $15.95.

6) Flexibility: Blockbuster is unique in that it offers both video and games. It’d be nice if NetFlix and GameFly were to merge one day and offer the best of both worlds, but until then Blockbuster’s the only game in town.

The verdict? Sign up for Blockbuster if you are willing to put up with poor choice of titles and an extremely subpar Web site. Sign up for GameFly if you don’t mind paying a little more for great quality in a Web site and selection.

In a few days, I’ll share with you my experience of receiving the games.

8/11/10 Update

Today I logged back into the Blockbuster site. The problems with site slowness seemed to go away, which leads me to believe that their site was just inundated with traffic on 8/10 when they announced that they were starting to support online video game rental.

That’s the good news. The bad news? Take a look at this screen:

list of new releases on blockbuster and their available dates
This is Blockbuster’s list of “New Wii Releases”. Notice a problem? The date is 8/11/2010, and the earliest available date for most of these is either October, or the game is not available yet! This applies for games that have already been out for a while, including 10 Minute Solution and Lego Harry Potter!

I’m hoping these issues with site speed and product availability are just growing pains on Blockbuster’s part and not an indication of how their service will be run, or it may be a very short run indeed.

8/30/10 Update

After a few weeks of experience with Blockbuster Online, I’ve found their selection has gotten a bit better. In all fairness to them, they probably got pummeled with a huge amount of demand, more than they could keep in stock.

I’d still say they’re probably not the ideal choice if you want to have the exact title you want immediately. On the other hand, they are the ideal choice if you rent DVDs by mail and ever find yourself out of movies to rent. Chances are you can put a video game you’ve never played into your queue and enjoy that while you’re waiting for the next batch of movies to come around.