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Archive for October, 2010

Buy 2 Get 1 Free Video Game Deals at Amazon until 11/6

It’s beginning to look at lot like Christmas…shopping season, that is. I had to do a double-take when I saw a Macy’s commercial today that was playing Christmas music!

With the economy still not looking great, expect a lot of deals this holiday season as retailers try to get a share of your wallet. And expect the smarter retailers to promote great deals early on, so you spend your money with them first before you look at spending it anywhere else.

Amazon is always one of those smart ones. And if you’re looking for the perfect holiday present for a family, they’ve got a great deal for you. From now until November 6, buy two games from a selected list of Wii games, and they’ll throw in a third one for free. Here’s the information:

Amazon’s Buy 2 Get 1 Free Deal

There are a lot of great games here, some of them which I’ve given stellar reviews to on this site. These include Just Dance 2, Active Life Explorer, Gold’s Gym Dance Workout, Wii Sports Resort, Wii Fit Plus, Dance on Broadway, EA Sports Active, and Active Life Outdoor Challenge. Buy two as holiday gifts (there are less than 55 days till Xmas, after all), and then keep one for yourself! The Buy 2 Get 1 deals are usually the best that they offer all season long, so pounce on this while you get a chance.

Review of Get Fit with Mel B for the Playstation Move

Get Fit with Mel B
Reviewed by PS3Fitness.com on October 30, 2010Β .
Summary: A decent workout title that introduces some innovations such as use of the Playstation Eye to let you see yourself working out on screen and more accurate motion controls with the Playstation Move.

ps3 fitness game - get fit with mel b

Get Fit With Mel B is the first “pure fitness game” to come out for the Playstation Move. If the screens for Get Fit with Mel B look familiar, there’s a good reason. The game was developed by a company called Lightning Fish, which also happened to develop a game for the Wii called “New U Fitness” in the UK, where it was pretty well received.

In what turned out to be a disastrous move, the game was re-released in the United States by Ubisoft. In their wisdom, they decided to rename the game “My Fitness Coach 2”. The game had nothing to do with the original “My Fitness Coach” (a groundbreaking game developed by Respondesign), but evidently the Ubisoft marketing folks wanted to cash in on the brand name. The results were almost as bad as “New Coke” vs “Old Coke”. People who loved the first My Fitness Coach were up in arms that the “sequel” was nothing like the original. Reviews on Amazon were abysmal.

Marketing department snafu notwithstanding, New U Fitness was not as bad as the reviews would indicate. It had a snazzy, three-dimensional opening menu, and you could choose on-screen instructors to lead you through a variety of basic calisthenics exercises (sit-ups, lunges, etc.). You could choose either individual exercises or have the system prepare a daily workout that combined different exercises over time based on your fitness goals. It had the typical bells and whistles of a Wii workout game such as allowing you to change your background scenery.

It suffered from the two things that most Wii games suffer from: lower resolution graphics, and spotty motion controls. But if you were committed to to working out, it was a decent title which was more or less an exercise DVD which let you “mix and match” exercises, nothing more and nothing less. Sort of like eating your vegetables, it wasn’t “fun”, but it did the job.

My initial impression of Get Fit with Mel B is pretty much the same. The premise of the game is more or less identical to My Fitness Coach 2 and in fact, so are the menu options.

The opening menu options are:

Today’s Workout: When you set up your profile, you can identify up to two fitness goals falling under the categories of General Health (weight loss, detox, lower cholesterol), Lifestyle (e.g. “Destress”), Special Occasions (e.g., new mom/dad, getting ready for the holidays), Sports and Activity training, and working on specific parts of your body. The system will automatically put together a daily 30-minute regimen of exercises that will target these goals.

Choose Workout: Here, you can drill down to the specific exercises that you want. Exercises are broken into two categories: Fitness and Aerobics. Fitness exercises include things like crunches, squats, lunges, etc. You typically do them in reps of 10-20 before going onto the next exercise. Aerobics is where this title is at its best. You can choose from a series of dance moves, boxing moves, or cardio moves. There’s also a “custom workout” option which lets you put together your own string of exercises (selecting exercises and defining the number of reps for each), a “practice” option which lets you practice certain exercises as many times as you like (anywhere from 4 to 96 reps), and a neat “challenges” option where you’re pushed to complete a series of themed exercises (dance exercises, abs exercises, leg exercises, boxing exercises, and cardio exercises) within a certain amount of time.

Your Progress: This section allows you to track your workout progress. One thing the Wii has that the PS3 doesn’t is a balance board which will automatically chart your weight. So it’s time to dust off that bathroom scale. Nutrition: I never quite understood the concept of having recipes on a video game. I get that they want to provide a “holistic workout regimen” that involves proper diet, but on the other hand, not many people have their TVs set up in their kitchen or a printer hooked up to their video game console.

Here’s a video of me doing the “cardio” exercises under the “Challenge” section.

I look gargantuan compared to Mel B because of two things. First, the furthest I could get my Playstation Move camera was about 5 feet away. Secondly, because I’m a little bashful–the last thing I need is to be recognized on the street and told how bad my form was on the video!

After seeing myself on TV, I wonder if I could have been the sixth Spice Girl: “Freakishly Huge Headless Spice”.

There were a couple things I really liked about Get Fit with Mel B:

  1. The game makes excellent use of video. You first get a hint of this when you seeing a video image of yourself under “Your Progress” in the opening menu options. After you select your scenery and start your exericses you see two exercise mats, one with a video image of Mel B (it’s really her, not a creepy cartoon rendering), and the other with–you! As Mel B does the exercises, you can match her movements and timing exactly, step by step, arm movement by arm movement. It’s a vast improvement over the “do the mirror image of my movements” inherent in Wii exercise games.
  2. The scenery is breathtaking. Granted, when compared to other PS3 games it’s probably not that impressive, and it’s really just a backdrop (there’s no interaction with the scenery), but for someone used to choosing background scenery on a low-resolution Wii, I was impressed. The first scene I chose was the “City Apartment”, which was a window overlooking a city skyline. You can also choose from a park, a dock (in the Maldives, no less), a poolside, a forest meadow, and a luxury yacht.
  3. The array of individual exercises is impressive. There are 22 basic fitness exercises, but 15 dance exercises, 20 boxing exercises, 14 cardio exercises, and 14 advanced cardio exercises. Put them together in different orders with different amounts of reps, and you’ll have a pretty good variety of workouts.
  4. You can choose to work out using your own equipment, including an aerobics step, a fitball, a resistance band, wrist weights, and ankle weights.
  5. I like little details they put in. When it’s time for a water break, Mel B takes out a bottle of water and drinks it with you. The game is intelligent enough to give different “fitness goals” based on your profile information (e.g. whether you’re male or female). And so on.

Having said that, there were a number of things I found annoying about the game:

  1. While other games say that you need to be at least 8 feet from the camera, most of the time you can get away with being 5-6 feet away. Not so with this game. Anything less than 8 feet and your video image will not appear on the screen properly.
  2. For a lot of exercises, it simply doesn’t make sense to have the Move controller tracking your moves. For standing exercises like squats, lunges, and jumping jacks it’s great. But for exercises like push-ups and crunches it just doesn’t make sense.
  3. It doesn’t use the Playstation Move XMB navigation for menus. I’ll chalk this up to the developers not knowing about it, being an early release title. Still, it gets annoying having to point a cursor and click on every button when every other Move game lets you hold down the trigger button and move the controller to navigate. Worse, you can’t even use a Dualshock or Sixaxis controller to control menu options.
  4. This is an annoyance I don’t think the game developers could have done anything about, but when performing exercises that require you to be on the floor, it’s very tough on the neck to look up at the TV screen to follow the moves. Perhaps a little more vocal guidance from Mel B during these exercises would help.
  5. In general, while the motion controls were a step above what you could find on the Wii, I didn’t get the sense that they made full use of the Move’s capabilities (generally, as long as there was ANY motion, it registered on the screen).
  6. Tiny annoyance, but it seems the game developers forgot to convert certain screens for an American audience. When you first input your birthday, it took me a while to figure out that it was in “day-month-year” format versus “month-day-year”. And what the heck is a “gram” or “milliliter” in the recipes section? πŸ™‚

This has all the bearings of a game which is pretty well made for a first-generation title, but probably won’t stand the test of time as newer and more innovative games come out.

Still, for someone looking for a “pure” exercise game, this is not a bad choice. It provides an impressive amount of different cardio fitness and aerobics exercises. The ability to see your own actual video image next to Mel B is not just cool–there’s no better way to help you visualize and time the exercise. And the scenery is definitely beautiful and head-and-shoulders improved over what you’d see on a Wii.

That, plus the fact that this is the first attempt at a fitness game for the PS3, gets it a solid 4 stars from me. Having said that, I hope as game developers produce more fitness titles for the PS3, that they can introduce more “gaming” elements to make workouts a lot more immersive and fun.

4 of 5

Review of Active Life Explorer

Active Life Explorer

Reviewed by Nutwiisystem on October 27, 2010.
Summary: Active Life Explorer is, quite simply, the best family fitness game for the Wii out there.

Back in 2008, Namco Bandai released Active Life Outdoor Challenge. The game was a collection of 15 fun activities, and the game came with its own proprietary mat which had a clever layout of four buttons in blue and four buttons in orange, which could be used by one player or by two players standing next to each other. It was a very well-designed game which made my Top 10 Best Wii Fitness Games list, and has remained on there ever since.
In 2009, they followed it up with the forgettable Active Life Extreme Challenge. This was not a great follow-up. The graphics were subpar to the original, and the activities seemed uninspired. So the question became: after a sophomore slump, would Namco return the series to its former glory with its third installment Active Life Explorer?
The answer is a resounding YES. So much so that it is now near the top of the Top 10 list.
Active Life Explorer is a game which captures the fun and whimsy of the original, while also introducing enough improvements and innovations to breathe fresh new life into the series. In the last few months, we’ve seen a wasteland of games purporting to be “family fitness” titles. There was the mediocre Jumpstart Get Moving Family Fitness and the absolutely horrible Family Party: Fitness Fun. Parents would buy these titles simply because it had the word “family fitness” in it, only to be disappointed that the games were barely playable. I’m happy to say that Namco Bandai got it right. For now, this is the single best choice for families looking for a fitness game to play together (or for individuals who want to add a ton of fun into their daily workouts).
The game has an “Indiana Jones” theme about it. All of the activites center around an adventurer as he goes around the world looking for treasure. And the theme of “adventurer” isn’t just a gimmick–the game developers put a ton of thought into tying each of the games into this theme.
Here are some of the things I like most about this game:
  1. There are 24 different games on the disc. On the Wii this is ordinarily a warning sign, as many Wii game publishers who do this end up pushing poorly conceived “shovelware” to the public. Not so with Active Life Explorer. What is impressive about this title is that every single one of the games seems well thought-out and well-designed. Even with games where the actual controls are the same (such as running on the mat), the on-screen action is so unique and fun that it feels like a completely different game. There is not a dud in the bunch.
  2. The controls are all extremely intuitive from game to game. A clear tutorial is provided for you before you start each game, but in most cases you’ll pick up on what you need to do quickly. This is critical for a game that kids will be playing.
  3. Overall, I found the accuracy of the controls to be improved over previous editions of Active Life. And when it says “jump”, you can really jump on the mat! (This is a pet peeve of mine with the Wii Balance Board, where jumping means just bending your legs).
  4. This is a fantastic family game where multiple people can play together. Some of the games have “co-op” mode where two players have to work together to accomplish a goal. In other games, anywhere from 2 to 4 players can compete head-to-head (they each take a different side or corner of the mat).
  5. It really is great exercise. After I played through all 24 games I was out of breath. I can only imagine when families and friends play together and the competition gets intense, that families will get great exercise without even realizing it. Of course, going biking or walking outside with the family is the best kind of exercise, but on a rainy or snowy day, this is a great way to get the kids moving as opposed to slouched in front of a TV.
  6. The graphics are beautiful. It’s still a Wii, so the graphics are still cartoony. But the game developers did a great job of design, from the bright red molten metal in Mine Cart Mayhem to the beautiful colors of the coral reef you scuba dive through in Pirate’s Treasure.
  7. Most importantly, the activities are FUN. Clearly a lot of thought was put into designing these games. If you enjoyed the “Obstacle Course” in Wii Fit but found it much too short or too easy, you should find many of the activities in this game rival the fun of that game. There’s not only running and jumping, but also challenges that make it fun and competitive.
  8. There’s a “Treasure Adventure” feature which combines all the various activities together in the form of a story. As you play through this game you experience increasingly challenging activities and earn different “treasures”. It makes for a great workout regimen for individuals who want to use this as part of their daily exercise. Once you master the adventure, you can try “treasure trials” which let you compete to get the highest scores and unlock new challenges.
All activities start with the “easy” and “normal” modes unlocked. You need to play through the games to unlock the “hard” modes. You can also collect different outfits as you complete the activities.
Here’s a complete list of the activities:
  1. Falling Bridge: This is a simple game where you run in place on the mat. On the screen, a bridge is collapsing behind you, and you need to run as fast as you can to stay in front of it. You’d be shocked at how great a motivator running in front of a collapsing bridge is! You can compete against three other people. Fun 5 of 5, Exercise 5 of 5.
  2. Canyon Leaper: In the game, you run as fast as you can and leap off a cliff. To run, you move your feet as fast as you can. To jump, you can actually jump (unlike those annoying Wii Balance Board games that don’t let you jump). While you’re flying thorugh the air you can fly further by moving your feet even more. Four players can compete against each other on one mat. Fun 5 of 5, Exercise 5 of 5.
  3. Gem Catcher: A monkey throws gold and jewels off a cliff, and you navigate the mat with your feet to move left and right to catch them in a bucket while avoiding the occasionally thrown boulder. This one is a little hard to navigate at first, but once you get used to how where to place your feet on the mat it gets more fun. Supports up to two players in co-op mode. Fun 3 of 5, Exercise 4 of 5.
  4. Shark Attack: You’re hanging by a rope over shark-infested waters, andcircling sharks periodically jump out of the water to attack you. You need to jump off the mat in time to avoid the shark. Sounds simple, but it becomes challenging with sharks coming from all directions and “decoy” sharks throwing you off. It’s a lot of fun, and a blast to compete against up to three other players. Fun 5 of 5, Exercise 3 of 5.
  5. Crocodile Stomper: This one is like a game of whack-a-mole, except you’re stomping on crocs. Controls are accurate and up to two players can play (each sharing half of the Active life mat). Fun 5 of 5, Exercise 4 of 5.
  6. Kraken Battle: A Kraken is evidently a giant octopus. In this game, you need to move your feet to match the same color and shape buttons that appear on the screen. If you miss the button, the Kracken will attack you, in which case you’ll need to run as fast as you can. During “Panic Mode” the buttons come flying at rapid pace. Up to two players can play in co-op mode. Fun 5 of 5. Exercise 5 of 5.
  7. Jungle Vine Ruins: Remember that old arcade game “Jungle Hunt” where your character would have to swing from vine to vine like Tarzan? This is the same idea, except you’re now seeing things from the character’s point of view! Run as fast as you can by alternating your feet, jump off a cliff to reach a vine, and then time it so that you jump to the next vine. This one is a blast. You can play up to two players in versus mode. Fun 5 of 5, Exercise 5 of 5.
  8. Cycle Glider: Even though the controls are pretty much the same motions as the running game in #1, it feels like a completely different game because of the excellent graphics an execution. Instead of running to escape a falling bridge, you’re running to try to keep a bicycle-powered glider up in the air as much as possible. As you see the glider falling, you can’t help but run at breakneck speed to try to keep it up. Fun 5 of 5. Exercise 5 of 5.
  9. Rapid Rappelling: This one is another jumping game, but you need to time your jumps to control your character rappelling (making his way down a cliff on a rope by timing jumps against the cliff surface). Fun 3 of 5. Exercise 3 of 5.
  10. Door Smasher: This is another running game, but again, it feels different than #1 and #8 because the objective here is to run through rooms, accelerating as fast as you can into a series of doors to break them down. Another great one to play against others, as the race involves not just speed but strategy and timing as well. Fun 5 of 5. Exercise 5 of 5.
  11. Ice Cave Slider: This game is played kneeling in back of the mat and putting your hands on the buttons. You accelerate by pressing both buttons together firmly, and press and hold the left or right button to steer. There are giant ice blocks to avoid, and you can do “half pipe jumps”. It’s a lot like “Pipe Slider” in the original Active Life Outdoor Challenge. It’s a little tricky to see the screen while you’re kneeling and staring down at the mat, but if you put the mat far away enough from the TV it’s not too bad. Fun 3 of 5. Exercise 3 of 5.
  12. Runaway Train: This one is a load of fun. Your mission is to stop a runaway train. You start by running as fast as you can on top of the train (running in place on the mat) , ducking (bending down and putting your hands on the mat) as the train goes under obstacles, and jumping to get from car to car. When you get to the front car, you need to move your feet as fast as you can to pull the brake lever and shut the train down. It gets pretty intence as the frantic music plays in the background and you almost feel the wind of the speeding train on the tracks heading towards its doom!
  13. Mummy’s Tomb: This is one of the more intricate games that incorporates both running and video game skill. Your mission is to run away from mummies while lugging all your treasure out of the tomb. After running a while you’ll encounter some gates, which you’ll need to close (by alternating your feet) and lock (by pressing the correct button sequence shown on the screen). While all this is going on, the mummies encroach. You then come to a locked gate, which you’ll need to unlock by pressing the correct buttons in a spinning roulette. I made the mistake of getting it wrong three times, at which I had to run to escape a giant rolling boulder! This game can be played solo or in co-op mode.
  14. Balloon Landing: This game is sort of like the old game “Lunar Lander” (now I’m really dating myself). You alternate your left and right feet to light a hot air balloon. The goal is to land it as quickly as possible, but if the balloon lands too fast, it’ll be destroyed. Again, a great game to play against up to three other people, as it relies not just on physical movement but on strategy as well. Fun 5 of 5. Exercise 3 of 5.
  15. Horseback Chase: This is a game where you hop up and down on the mat to make your horse gallop. The goal is to catch a runaway bandit. But hop too fast, and your horse will get too tired (as you’ll see by the exhausted cartoon horse icon in the corner). Play solo or against someone else to see who can catch the bandit first without tiring their horse out. Fun 4 of 5, Exercise 5 of 5.
  16. Deep-Sea Diving: This game uses both the exercise mat and the Wii remote. You jump to dive off your boat, alternatively step on both buttons to move your flippers and swim down. When you reach a hatch, you have to spin the Wii remote to open it and get to your treasure. All this needs to be done before your air gauge is empty. You can play solo or co-op with up to three other players. Fun 5 of 5, Exercise 4 of 5.
  17. Dungeon Escape: In this game, you need to press a series of three buttons simultaneously (meaning you have to use two feet and a hand) to try to open a dungeon door. Once the door is open, you need to jump to escape before the walls close around you. It’s sort of like a one-person game of twister! Fun 5 of 5, Exercise 5 of 5.
  18. Mine Cart Mayhem: Mine Cart Adventure was one of the highlights of the original Active Life Outdoor Challenge. This one captures the fun of that game and takes it a step further. The controls are the same–pump the Wii remote up and down to accelerate, lift your left or right legs to navigate turns, and jump to avoid breaks in the track. The graphics are nothing short of beautiful as you go through the mine, the controls are much improved over the first version, and there’s a nice surprise ending. Play solo or in co-op mode. Fun 5 of 5. Exercise 4 of 5.
  19. Pirate’s Treasure: This is another impressive game where you’re scuba diving through beautiful coral reef. You move your feet to swim, and you steer using your Wii remote to avoid stinging jellyfish and other obstacles. Fun 4 of 5, Exercise 4 of 5.
  20. Dog Sled Ride: Another game which uses the Wii remote, in this game you swing the Wii remote like cracking a whip to accelerate your dog sled team. You need to pace your swings to avoid your dogs getting too tired, and you steer by lifting your leg (no dog jokes, please). Fun 4 of 5, Exercise 4 of 5.
  21. Stop and Go: This is a fun game where you’re running through a dark corridor and have to “freeze” when the corridor lights up or you encounter search lights. Make a move and you’ll get a shock. Sort of like a game of “red light green light”. Again, it’s lots of fun against up to four players. Fun 5 of 5. Exercise 4 of 5.
  22. Fire Frenzy: In this game, you’re jumping over giant flame throwers as they roll under your feet. It gets challenging as the flame throwers start to form criss-cross patterns. It’s pretty much the same as “Log Jumper” of the first version. Fun 5 of 5. Exercise 4 of 5.
  23. Airplane Panic: This is another game where you have to move your feet to press buttons to match the on-screen symbols in order to save a runaway plane. Fun 5 of 5. Exercise 4 of 5.
  24. Three-Legged Run: This is a game for two players where they need to stand next to each other on the mat and run as if their legs were tied together (step on opposing buttons simultaneously). If one person’s timing is off, the players will stumble, leaving them susceptible to the pursuers (if the pursuers get close, both have to run as fast as they can). Once the players reach a river, they have to jump together onto a raft to escape. A great co-op game.
I honestly don’t have many negative things to say. The only things I would think to improve are:
  1. The game only supports use of one mat. With four players sharing one mat it becomes pretty crowded. It would have been nice for them to support at least two mats.
  2. Some of the activities are quite short. This is perfect for competing against each other, but I would also have liked to see some “extended” versions of the activities to prolong the aerobic benefit.
  3. After each event you earn “Exercise Points”. It might have been better just to communicate calories burned.
  4. It would be nice to have an online mode which lets you play against friends or others around the world, or to compare high scores.
Overall, I am very impressed with Active Life Explorer. As far as fun and active games which a family can play together, this is hands down the best title out there. And if you’re a grown up who uses the Wii to exercise, it’s a great way to break up the routine by having a ton of fun. Overall, this is a winner.

5 of 5

Red Wii release date is November 7, 2010!

We interrupt our Video Game reviews to let you know that Nintendo will be releasing a limited edition Red Wii, complete with Red Wii console, Red Wiimotes (with red MotionPlus and red plastic Wiimote holder), two games (Super Mario Brothers and Wii Sports), and a red nunchuk.

The release is to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Bros, which was released for the NES in 1985. Of course, those of us who follow video game trivia know that Mario himself was born 29 years ago in a little game called “Donkey Kong”. He’s changed his looks over the years, but that red hat always remains the same.

If you’ve been holding off on buying a new Wii, now’s a great time to jump (no pun intended). This red edition of the Wii is not going to last long, and is sure to be a collector’s item.

Here’s some late breaking news about the Red Wii.

Kmart has announced that between November 7 and November 13, members of its Shop Your Way reward program will receive a whopping 50,000 bonus points if they purchase the Red Wii. That’s a $50 value.

Sign up for the rewards program here, and then visit Kmart’s Red Wii page to order. But hurry–these things will be flying off the shelves for this one week!

Review of Just Dance 2

Just Dance 2

Reviewed by Nutwiisystem on October 12, 2010.
Summary: A worthy successor to the original.

just dance 2 review

Just Dance 2 is the long-awaited sequel to Just Dance. The original Just Dance was the first dance video game to feature “real moves” to popular music. Before it, dance games were basically exercises in timing–stomping your feet on a mat or moving your hands to match an on-screen pattern.
But with Just Dance, you weren’t just playing a video game: you were learning real dance moves that you could take anywhere. And as you played the game over and over, you got a great workout without even knowing it.
The game was a smash success, selling over 4 million copies worldwide. The game wasn’t without its faults though, the biggest of which was the accuracy of the motion control. Even if you did the moves perfectly, sometimes the system wouldn’t register them.
When you start out the game, the starting menu is refreshingly simple. There are three options: Dance!, Store, Extras. When you click “Dance!”, you see three options: Just Dance, Dance Battle, and Just Sweat.
“Just Dance” gets you right to dancing to individual songs, just like in the original. Up to four players can play, each holding their own Wii remote. As in the original, you try to follow a mirror image of a silhouetted figure on the screen. Stick figures scrolling along the bottom of the screen will help you prepare for the next move, an indicator on the screen will tell you how well you hit your moves (X, ok, good, perfect, and “on fire”), and a “score gauge” will fill up with each correct move you make. There’s a new “gold mode” where if the dancer turns gold and you hit all the moves, you get even more points.
There’s a great selection of 44 new songs, with something for everyone. Whether you want to dance to Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas” or Outkast’s “Hey Ya”. I like Ubisoft’s approach; while other music games tend to focus on just one genre, Ubisoft included something for all ages and tastes. You can also select songs based on technical complexity or workout intensity, each of which are rated above the song title in the menu.
Some of the songs feature “Duet Mode”. These songs are identified by circle icon with two figures standing with their back to each other. This is a neat new feature that allows two players to dance alongside each other with each doing different choreographed moves, so you end up dancing a neat little routine together. For example, in Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend”, the dancers start by pointing to each other. Then, one makes air guitar-like moves for a while while the other swings her arms. Then, the two go back to synchronized motions. It makes for a cute dance routine.
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The “Dance Battle” section of the game takes players through five rounds of competition. Up to four players can compete against each other, and the winner of each round gets a point. The player with the most points at the end of rounds is the winner. You can mix and match from these modes to create different competitions:
  • Classic: In this mode, players “just dance”. The player with the highest overall score gets a point.
  • Duet: This mode consists of all the “Duet Mode” songs. The player in the pair who scores the highest gets a point.
  • Simon Says: In this game, while dancing an icon will appear randomly for each play while dancing (Stop, spin around, clap). The player must perform the action accurately to score points.
  • Medley: In this mode, each player has to dance to five song samples.
  • Race: This is a frenetic mode where each player has to fill their score gauge to win the round.
“Team Battle” is the same as “Dance Battle”, except that it allows up to 8 players to play in two teams (they don’t all play at the same time, the system will separate the players in the teams and display the players’ names when it’s their turn). This is great to have at parties where you have can get lots of people playing together and rooting their own team on.
My favorite new feature, of course, is “Just Sweat” mode. In it, you set an objective of calories you want to burn, and then you just dance away until they’re burned off. 30 minutes dancing sure beats 30 minutes on a boring treadmill or exercise bike, as you not only burn calories away, you get practice learning the choreographed dance moves. And after dancing to the fast part of “Proud Mary”, let’s say I have newfound admiration for Tina Turner!
The new “Store” option allows you to buy downloadable content, which will even further expand the playability of this title.
And now the answer to the burning question you’ve been waiting for: did they really fix the poor motion tracking?
The answer is, happily, yes! Even though the game still uses only one Wii remote, and still doesn’t even need MotionPlus, I’m happy to say that the motion tracking picked up my motions almost perfectly. It was even accurate not just to my timing, but also my arm movements and angles. The game developers made a vast improvement over the original in this department.
Overall, Just Dance 2 is a worthy successor to the original. The improved motion tracking is just what the doctor ordered, and they made the game even more fun for people playing together. Highly recommended.

Here’s the complete song list included on the disc:

1. Avril Lavigne – “Girlfriend”
2. Bangles – “Walk Like An Egyptian”
3. Beastie Boys – “Body Movin’ (Fatboy Slim Remix)”
4. Benny Benassi presents “The Biz” – “Satisfaction”
5. Blondie – “Call Me”
6. Bollywood – “Katti Kalandal”
7. Boney M. – “Rasputin”
8. Charleston – “Mugsy Baloney”
9. Cher – “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss)”
10. Digitalism – “Idealistic”
11. Donna Summer– “Hot Stuff”
12. Elvis Presley – “Viva Las Vegas”
13. Fatboy Slim – “Rockafeller Skank”
14. Franz Ferdinand – “Take Me Out”
15. Harry Belafonte – “Jump In The Line”
16. Ike & Tina Turner – “Proud Mary”
17. James Brown– “I Got You (I Feel Good)”
18. Jamiroquai – “Cosmic Girl
19. Junior Senior – “Move Your Feet”
20. Justice – “D.A.N.C.E.”
21. Ke$ha – “TiKToK”
22. Mardi Gras – “Iko Iko”
23. Marine Band – “Sway (Quien Sera)”
24. MIKA – “Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)”
25. Outkast – “Hey Ya!”
26. Quincy Jones & His Orchestra – “Soul Bossa Nova”
27. Reggaeton – “Baby Girl”
28. Rihanna – “S.O.S.”
29. Snap! – “The Power”
30. Sorcerer – “Dagomba”
31. Studio Allstars – “Jump”
32. Studio Musicians – “Crazy In Love”
33. Studio Musicians – “Jungle Boogie”
34. Supergrass – “Alright”
35. The Frighteners – “Monster Mash”
36. The Hit Crew – “Holiday”
37. The Hit Crew – “Toxic”
38. The Jackson 5 – “I Want You Back”
39. The Pussycat Dolls – “When I Grow Up”
40. The Rolling Stones – “Sympathy For The Devil (Fatboy Slim Remix)”
41. The Ting Tings – “That’s Not My Name”
42. The Weather Girls – “It’s Raining Men”
43. Vampire Weekend – “A-Punk”
44. Wham! – “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”
5 of 5

EA Sports Active 2 and EA Sports Active NFL Training Camp: Early Impressions

Now available: Review of EA Sports Active 2 for the Wii.

As those of you who follow the Top 10 Wii Fitness Games list know, EA Sports Active shot up to #1 on the list as the best Wii fitness game the day it was first released. It was bumped by Wii Fit for a short while, but quickly regained its position when the follow-up EA Sports Active More Workouts was released.

It’s been there ever since. I’m not sure if it’s so much that EA Sports Active was that timeless a title as it is that other Wii game publishers just started to phone it in. Titles like Your Shape and Jillian Michaels had a good opportunity to leapfrog EA Sports Active as the top exercise game, but they ultimately failed because their technology didn’t work. For all the slick celebrities and music and other bells and whistles the publishers stuff in, the bottom line is: does it work? Do I spend more time thinking about actual exercise and less time thinking about why the Wii isn’t registering my moves?
When you’re #1, it’s sometimes tough to improve. But I’m happy to say that from all early indications, EA Sports has done just that with its upcoming new titles EA Sports Active 2 (available for Wii, PS3, and Xbox) and EA Sports Active NFL Training Camp (available only on Wii).
I had the pleasure of getting a “sneak peek” look at both these titles yesterday. I’ll give you the skinny (that pun never gets old, does it? :P)
EA Sports Active 2:
One of the biggest frustrations about the first EA Sports Active came down to the Wii controls. The leg strap for the Wii nunchuk was frustrating in that it always seemed to come undone, the nunchuk would always fall out, or you’d always get tangled up in the wires.
EA took matters into its own hands by introducing brand new controllers. Now, I was a bit skeptical at first. After all, when Ubisoft added its “motion control camera” to Your Shape, turns out if was a just a cheap Webcam that didn’t work. So I wondered: are these “new controllers” just a gimmick from EA?
After seeing it in action, I’m convinced it’s for real. There are actually two new controllers that come bundled with the new EA Sports. The first is an arm strap with a small plastic box that monitors your heart rate (your pulse will be displayed continually at the top of the screen). The second is a leg strap with a small plastic box with an internal accelerometer, just like the Wii remote. That’s right, no more Wii nunchuk, no more wires needed.
EA Sports Active 2 new controllers
As I observed the demo, I was impressed. The controls immediately seemed much crisper and more responsive than the previous version. The activities also looked like a ton more fun. For a lot of the games, it’s not just doing reps but there’s real challenge. For example, in the basketball game, you’re jumping to hit jump shots, but you also need to time your release against a meter on the screen to score.
ea sports active 2 gameplay
There are also a great selection of 70 new exercises. The demos of Mountain Biking and Mountain Boarding looked like a ton of fun and a great workout. Looking forward to this one.
mountain boarding in ea sports active 2
EA Sports Active NFL Training Camp:
I got my first look at this yesterday and I have to say, this is officially the title I’m most looking forward to. It uses the same new controllers as EA Sports Active, but the whole game is centered around an NFL theme. It takes you through actual workouts designed by NFL strength and conditioning coaches. There are running drills, blocking drills, passing drills, and lots more. And while there are some exercises that are just repetitions of motions, there are others that do combine some really fun skills Β (in the game below, you need to timing the pass of your football perfectly to the on-screen cues, and you need to constantly move your feet to avoid getting “sacked”).
ea sports nfl training came passes
Another very cool feature of NFL Training Camp is that EA Sports took the assets of the Madden Football game they developed and incorporated it into this game. So you can choose your favorite NFL player to virtually work out alongside you. And exercise becomes a blast with two players, as they can compete with each other (EA mentioned to me that they asked NFL trainers what motivated their players in their training, and by far the #1 motivation was competition).
My thanks to Matt and Justin at EA for the sneak peekΒ (I think that was their names–my Blackberry crashed, so I wrote this all from memory). I am definitely looking forward to both. Both EA Sports Active 2 and EA Sports Active NFL Training Camp ship in November. These are going to be hot, so order yours early!

Just Dance 2 is Coming Next Week!

HOT OFF THE PRESSES: I just posted my review of Just Dance 2. Β Hint: it’s good!

Just Dance 2 is Just Dance 2the long-awaited sequel to Just Dance,Β the game that introduced “real dance moves” to video games is coming next week.

Amazon has a pretty neat set of specials that come when you order the game. Order now and you’ll get:

  • Delivery on October 12 (the day of release) for a nominal fee.
  • $10 to spend on a future video game purchase
  • Just Dance 2 sunglasses. Yeah, they’re chintzy, but that’s how you have to dress when you play this game

The first line in their marketing claims that they’ve improved motion tracking accuracy, which of course was my biggest beef with the first version. Of course, I’ll be trying it out and I’ll let you know exactly what I think of it.

Amazon Gift Cards on Sale

For a limited time, Amazon is holding a special for people with an Amazon Visa Card. Buy any Amazon Gift Certificate (up to a total of $2000), and Amazon will give you 5% back. This is in addition to the 3 points (3%) you get from using the Visa card!

Details can be found at this link: Amazon Gift Card Special

You can buy them to give away, but personally, I’m going to buy some for myself–you can think of it as getting an instant 8% discount off anything you buy at Amazon–a great deal considering that you’ll be hard pressed in the next few weeks to find any sales for the Playstation Move given how new it is.

If you look at the right side of the page, you’ll see all the upcoming games for the Playstation Move which you’ll be able to use for a workout. If the past is any indication, Amazon’s sure to have some special promotions for the Playstation Move and its new games as the holidays approach, all of which will be good with the gift cards you buy now.

Great Deal on Amazon Gift Certificates for people with an Amazon Visa

If you happen to have an Amazon Visa Card, here’s a deal that you might want to jump on. Buy any Amazon Gift Certificate (up to a total of $2000), and Amazon will give you 5% back. This is in addition to the 3 points (3%) you get from using the Visa card!

Details can be found at this link: Amazon Gift Card Special

You can buy them as gifts, but of course you can also buy them for yourself–it’s like getting an instant 8% discount off anything you buy at Amazon. Plus, Amazon’s sure to have some special promotions as the holidays approach which of course you’ll be able to pay for with your gift cards.

With all the upcoming Wii Fitness games set to arrive in the next few weeks, it’ll be good to be prepared. Interestingly, almost every title on the Top 10 list will be getting a remake of some kind. Given their past success, my early money is on EA Sports Active 2, The Biggest Loser Challenge, Active Life: Explorer with Mat, Dance Dance Revolution, and Just Dance 2 as being possible new entrants into the coveted list.Β But of course check back here for fair and accurate reviews as the games are released!