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Archive for May, 2011

Review of Fit in Six for Wii

Fit In Six by
Platform: Wii
Rated:E
2 of 5 stars – Comprehensive set of exercises, but otherwise not a stellar offering from Ubisoft mainly due to lack of motion tracking.
by ,
Written on May 23, 2011

Ubisoft has had an interesting history with exercise video games.

The first exercise game they released, My Fitness Coach, was a true pioneer in exergaming. Many of its features, while considered rudimentary today, were ground breaking things that had never been done before. It was a best-seller, for good reason. In many ways it set the foundation for the introduction of Wii Fit and the huge interest in exergaming to follow.

After this, Ubisoft came out with a long list of duds. My Fitness Coach 2 was a decent title, but horribly marketed. Your Shape with Jenny McCarthy was a disaster (Ubisoft somewhat redeemed itself by developing Your Shape: Fitness Evolved for the Xbox Kinect, which more or less realizes the dream begun with the original Your Shape). Ironically, Ubisoft’s greatest success in exergaming was not an exercise game at all. It was Just Dance, which got people shaking their booties and doing the mashed potato all over the country.

Fit in Six is Ubisoft’s newest entry into the “pure exercise gaming” world.

You start out the game by inputting your name, height, weight, and sex. There doesn’t seem to be an option for a balance board to measure your weight. One thing I found very, very annoying was that in order to input my age and weight I had to click…and click…and click…and click the arrow buttons (the default age is 25 and the default weight is 132, let’s just say I’m not close to either of those). Not a happy start.

The next screen says “Find Your Balance” and then shows a green bar, a blue bar, a lot of numbers, and five colored icons on the bottom of the screen. What I found ridiculous about this is that there is no kind of explanation or even a help screen about what this means. The icons and colors are hardly intuitive. It would have helped if they’d simply put a hover-over to explain what this all means and how I’d be using this in the game. Again, not a promising start.

On the next screen, I can choose my goal. They are:

  • Healthy Back (8 mins)
  • Better Foot Stability (7 mins)
  • Core Centering (7 mins)
  • Core Conditioning (5 mins)
  • Flat Belly (5 mins)
  • Easy Lifting (9 mins)
  • As Quick as a Flash (9 mins)
  • Pure Power Kicking (9 mins)
  • Rocking Abs (8 mins)
  • Slim Waist (8 mins)
  • Stretch Your Back (9 mins)
  • Superset Workout (9 mins)
You start the workout, and it basically consists of a string of standard exercise routines (such as stretches, crunches, and so on).
The on-screen trainer is a drawn figure that’s more cartoony than photorealistic, something I’ve grown used to with the Wii’s limited graphics. The trainer shows you the move to do on-screen. While the animation of the trainer is pretty accurate in demonstrating the technique to you, bottom line, it takes a lot of time to figure out how to do the “mirror” version. I would have liked to see the ability to examine and rotate the character’s motions more carefully (which existed even on last-generation Jillian Michaels games).
Interestingly, Ubisoft does let you hook up a USB Webcam (such as the one that came with Your Shape) to the Wii. But all this does is show a video of yourself in the corner of the screen. I didn’t find this useful in the least, in fact I found it distracting (if they wanted to make it more useful, they would have at least made it a split screen and made your video image the exact same size as the on-screen trainer’s).  There is no attempt at doing any kind of motion tracking with the camera, probably a good decision after horrific attempts to do so with games like Your Shape and Racquet Sports.
Not only is there no motion tracking with the camera, the game doesn’t even attempt to use the Wii controls at all to check accuracy or progress. This makes it just like an exercise video. To be honest, I’m torn as to whether this was a good idea. On the one hand, it’s nice not to have to deal with the kinds of inaccuracies from Ubisoft’s previous exercise games (which were fraught with false positives and the on-screen trainer shouting platitudes to you even when you don’t do the exercise right). It seems like they’ve given up trying to figure out motion controls, which is a shame.
As with all video games, it’s tough to do exercises on the floor and watch the screen at the same time. To some extent, you need to do the exercises over and over until you memorize them. The voice prompts of the on-screen trainer are pretty good, telling you when to move, when to breathe, when to relax, and what parts should be moving.
At the end of each workout, you can rate them. There’s no online integration or anything–rating an exercise just lets you keep track of which exercises you like.
One thing that Fit In Six does very comprehensively is offer “Classes”. Again, these are basically basic exercise routines strung together to form a “fitness class” the kind you might find in a gym. Here’s a list of all the classes you can choose from:
Upper Body
  • Sculpted Back (20 mins)
  • Flexible Upper Back (13 mins)
  • Open Chest (15 mins)
  • Sexy Shoulders (9 mins)
  • Sexy Shoulders Pro (14 mins)
  • Strong Triceps (9 mins)
  • Strong Triceps Pro (12 mins)
Core Body
  • Healthy Back (8 mins)
  • Healthy Back Pro (22 mins)
  • Flat Belly (5 mins)
  • Six Pack Starter (10 mins)
  • Six Pack Pro (19 mins)
  • Slim Waist (8 mins)
  • Slim Waist Pro (13 mins)
  • Strong Back (10 mins)
  • Strong Back Pro (21 mins)
Lower Body
  • Beach Workout (21 mins)
  • Beach Workout Pro (26 mins)
  • Shapely Hips (17 mins)
  • Head to Toe Sculpting (30 mins)
  • Glutes Lifting (12 mins)
  • No Muscle Untouched (29 mins)
  • Toned Waist (15 mins)
  • Tight Tush (6 mins)
  • Tight Tush Pro (15 mins)
Fit For Life
  • Baby Carriage (13 mins)
  • Better Foot Stability (7 mins)
  • Carry Heavy Tote Bags (11 mins)
  • Climb Stairs Like a Teen (10 mins)
  • Easy Sit Up and Down (13 mins)
  • Easy Lifting (9 mins)
  • As Quick as a Flash (9 mins)
  • Standing Office Workout (13 mins)
  • Stiletto Workout (10 mins)
Cardio
  • Cardio Warm-up 1 (3 mins)
  • Cardio Warm up 2 (4 mins)
  • Cardio Warm up 3 (5 mins)
  • Fat Burning (11 mins)
  • Fat Burning Pro (20 mins)
  • Fit for Soccer (5 mins)
  • Fit for Soccer Pro (15 mins)
  • Marathon Master (7 mins)
  • Marathon Master Pro (13 mins)

Boot Camp
  • Boot Camp Warm Up 1 (4 mins)
  • Boot Camp Warm Up 2 (4 mins)
  • Boot Camp Warm up 3 (3 mins)
  • Core Conditioning (5 mins)
  • Core Conditioning Pro (12 mins)
  • Intense Arm Workout (12 mins)
  • Power Pushup (11 mins)
  • Powerful Torso Pro (12 mins)
  • Rocking Abs (8 mins)
Kick Boxing
  • Action Circuit (12 mins)
  • Fight and Defend (9 mins)
  • Burning Rist (10 mins)
  • Kickboxing Basics (9 mins)
  • Kickboxing Warm Up 1 (3 mins)
  • Kickboxing Warm Up 2 (5 mins)
  • Kickboxing Warm up 3 (6 mins)
  • Pure Power Kicking (9 mins)
  • Pure Power Punching (9 mins)
Cardio Dance
  • Challenge Your Heart Rate (14 mins)
  • Cardio Dance Basics (11 mins)
  • Energy Empowerment (18 mins)
  • Energy Burner (15 mins)
  • Cardio Dance Challenge (16 mins)
  • Cardio Dance Warm Up 1 (2 mins)
  • Cardio Dance Warm Up 2 (3 mins)
  • Cardio Dance Warm Up 3 (3 mins)
  • Lust for Life (12 mins)
  • Willpower Activator (14 mins)
Pilates
  • Balanced Body (26 mins)
  • Core Centering (7 mins)
  • Energy Flow (12 mins)
  • Improved Flexibility (10 mins)
  • Pilates Complete (35 mins)
  • Pilates Power (25 mins)
  • Strong Core Pro (19 mins)
  • Stretch Your Back (9 mins)
Latin Dance
  • Back to Holiday (12 mins)
  • Caribbean Device (9 mins)
  • Hot Summer (16 mins)
  • Latin Dance Party (20 mins)
  • Latin Dance Warm Up 1 (3 mins)
  • Latin Dance Warm Up 2 (3 mins)
  • Latin Dance Warm Up 3 (5 mins)
  • Latin Love (13 mins)
  • Mambo Night (12 mins)
  • Rhythm ‘N’ Dance (10 mins)

Dance Moves
  • Session 1: Skate (7 mins)
  • Session 2: Stop (5 mins)
  • Session 3: Side ‘N’ Cross Jump (6 mins)
  • Session 4: Two-Step (6 mins)
  • Session 5: Cross Walk (5 mins)
  • Session 6: Set Up ‘N’ Wiper (7 mins)
  • Session 7: Skate ‘N’ Stomp (8 mins)
  • Session 8: Jumping Steps (7 mins)
  • Session 9: Flying Steps (7 mins)
  • Session 10: Compilation (13 mins)

There’s also a section called “Challenges”, which lets you choose from balance, cardio, core body, flexibility, lower body, upper body (it took me a while to realize that these are the “In Six” referred to in the game’s title).
Again, without motion tracking, the Challenges were a bit weak. The game presents a challenge to you, and it’s up to you to do it and to tell the system whether you did it or not. So you’re basically on the “honor system”.

Overall Fit In Six has an impressive, almost staggering number of workout routines. They’re demonstrated pretty effectively by the on-screen trainer. If you’re just looking for a glorified exercise video that has a comprehensive set of workouts for you to try, this is not a bad choice for you.
The problem is that Fit In Six adds absolutely nothing new to the world of Wii exercise games. In fact, it seems to borrow liberally from other games. The Latin dance exercises seems a lot like Zumba Fitness. The fact that individual exercises that can be put together are around 7-13 minutes seems to borrow from 10 Minute Solutions. Even the dance routines seem reminiscent of Ubisoft’s own Gold’s Gym Dance Workout.
The worst thing Ubisoft did, of course, is remove motion tracking altogether from a Wii game. Companies like EA Sports have successfully proven that effective motion tracking can be done, but Ubisoft almost seems to have given up. I do believe that there will be more Wii games that push the platform forward in fitness gaming. This is not one of them.
Rating: 2 of 5 stars.

Review of Top Spin 4 for Wii

In fairness to 2K Sports, Top Spin 4 for the Wii isn’t an “exercise game” per se, so it’s a little hard to compare it to workout games like EA Sports Active or The Biggest Loser.
One thing the things I’ve been looking for a very long time is a tennis game that really starts to simulate what it’s like to play real tennis. Early games like Wii Sports Tennis and Virtua Tennis were just a wag-fests, of course. When EA Sports Grand Slam Tennis came out, that was a much more realistic simulation, and it came a little closer to simulating real tennis moves. I played that game so much that I ended up getting tendonitis (which thankfully cleared up after a few weeks).
Top Spin 4 can be considered in the class of “third generation tennis game”. The graphics are the most realistic they’ve ever been on the Wii, and the simulations of tennis shots are very realistic.
As far as its value as an “exercise game”, it seems that 2K Sports has opted to focus less on that, and more on just building something between realistic tennis game and an old controller-based tennis game.
Running on the court is done through use of the Wii nunchuk joystick. And aiming your shot is not done by angling your arm, but rather by quickly moving the nunchuk joystick with your thumb.
Specialized shots like drop shots and lobs are done with buttons. There are only three strokes which are done by making sweeping motions with the Wii remote–and even those are not terribly reliable.
One extremely bizarre thing you’re asked to do is to “hold your remote like a real tennis racket”, with the buttons to the side. Not only does this make pressing the buttons awkward, it doesn’t seem to help the accuracy of the shot. You can have some fun with the beginner or intermediate levels, but the advanced level becomes an exercise in frustration.
There are some nice touches for tennis fans. All of the major tennis stars have licensed their name and images to 2K Sports, and their distinctive shots and skills are clear. You can hire coaches and buy tennis gear with points you earn. And you can play on some of the world’s greatest clay, grass, and hard courts. You can define the number of sets and matches to play, or even start the game on a tiebreak.
If you’re an avid tennis fan and love the simulation aspect of the game, you can get some decent exercise by adding on Riiflex Weights. But otherwise, this is one you can pass on.
3 of 5 stars.

Review of Michael Jackson: The Experience for the Wii

Back in November 2010, Ubisoft released a game called Michael Jackson The Experience for the Wii. I bought my copy back then, but since I’ve been so engrossed in my EA Sports Active-ing, I let this one kind of sit on the shelf. Since then, it’s gotten an impressive 457 (and counting) reviews on Amazon. And unlike with previous Ubisoft games like Your Shape, where Ubisoft shills left laughably obvious fake glowing reviews for that disaster of a game, this time most of the reviews actually seem legitimate. Hopefully Ubisoft is finally getting the message that it’s a lot more efficient to actually give people good quality stuff rather than fooling them into buying junk.

Whatever you think of Michael Jackson’s life and death and the tabloid nonsense that surrounded him all his life, one thing was very clear. The man had a lot of talent, from his childhood to his last days on earth. And his impact on music and the music business was tremendous.

The simplest way to describe Michael Jackson The Experience is that it’s like Just Dance 2, but made up completely of Michael Jackson’s songs. When I heard that Ubisoft was coming out with this game, I rolled my eyes. Was this another attempt at just taking the wildly successful Just Dance series and beating it into the ground by flooding the market with imitation after imitation.

After playing the game a few times, I realize that this is much, much more than simply another variation of Just Dance. Yes, it works like Just Dance in that you hold a single Wii remote in your right hand and mimic the moves of a dancer on-screen. And thankfully, the accuracy is on par with Just Dance 2 (as I wrote in my review of that game, while the accuracy is still not perfect, if you practice the moves enough you’ll find your score gets better).

But this title adds a few more things that Just Dance 2 nor any of its other sequels did not have.

1) There’s a menu option called “Dance School”. These are videos of actual choreographers and dance instructors who have actually work withed Michael Jackson himself. They have an in-depth knowledge of Michael Jackson’s signature moves, and they do an excellent job of breaking them down for you. Plus, they even give advice on proper conditioning and stretching to make those moves. You start out with simple tutorial videos, but as you dance more and more, different lessons are “unlocked” for you. The more advanced lessons actually go through some of Michael Jackson’s actual dance routines in his videos and tell you exactly how to do them.

2) Of course, the bulk of the game is to, no pun intended, “Just Dance”. Unlike the Dance on Broadway title, the dance moves you see here aren’t dumbed down interpretations of Michael Jackson songs–they’re the actual choreographed moves from the music videos. You can get a decent score just by matching the movements of your right hand, but for the full experience (and the best score), you need to learn the actual choreographed routine. The best way to do this is to play the game over and over again and each time focus on a different body part (for example, focusing on arm movements first, leg movements second, and putting them all together). Or, like I said, most of the most popular routines are broken down in the Dance School videos.

Trying out a few of these gave me a newfound appreciation for how athleticly conditioned Michael Jackson must have been. Even when I matched the movements only 50-70%, I was still out of breath. Each dance is categorized by difficulty (easy, medium, hard). One very cool feature of the game is that for some songs, you can play as Michael Jackson or as a backup dancer, each with varying degrees of difficulty. The game also supports multiplayer, so on some songs multiple people can dance at once to simulate your own Michael Jackson video!

Here are a list of the tracks on the game:

  • Working’ Day And Night (Off The Wall – 1979)
  • Beat It (Thriller – 1982)
  • Billie Jean (Thriller – 1982)
  • The Girl Is Mine (Thriller – 1982)
  • Thriller (Thriller – 1982)
  • Wanna Be Startin’ Something (Thriller – 1982)
  • Bad (Bad – 1987)
  • Dirty Diana (Bad – 1987)
  • Leave Me Alone (Bad – 1987)
  • Smooth Criminal (Bad – 1987)
  • Speed Demon (Bad – 1987)
  • Street Walker (Bad Special Edition – 2001)
  • The Way You Make Me Feel (Bad – 1987)
  • Black Or White (Dangerous – 1991)
    Heal the World (Dangerous – 1991)
  • In the Closet (Dangerous – 1991)
  • Remember The Time (Dangerous – 1991)
  • Who is It (Dangerous – 1991)
  • Will You Be There (Dangerous – 1991)
  • Earth Song (History – 1995)
  • They Don’t Care About Us (History – 1995)
  • Ghosts (Blood on the Dance Floor – 1997)
  • Money (Blood on the Dance Floor – 1997)
  • Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough (Off the Wall – 1979)
  • Rock With You (Off The Wall – 1979)
  • Sunset Driver (Ultimate Collection – 2004)

Overall, Michael Jackson The Experience is a great game which you can add to your workout regimen–if you’ve always wanted to dance like Michael did in his music videos, now’s your chance! And the great thing about it, after you’ve learned all the moves, they’re yours to keep.

4.5 of 5 stars.

And we’re back!

Hey everyone,

To my shock, it’s been over a month since I last posted. Where I last left off, I had a small number of exercise dates to go with EA Sports Active 2, and then I got the flu, followed by a nasty cough. I eventually recovered from that, but then things got busy at work. And then spring came, and I started riding my bike. And then I rode into a pothole and flipped over, getting bumps and bruises and lots of soreness and two skinned knees (thanks Queens, NY) which meant weeks before I could exercise again.

I guess in some ironic way, it’s fitting that I write a diet and exercise blog and fell off the wagon. Well, here I am climbing on again. In the coming weeks I’ll be finishing what I started with EA Sports Active 2 (albeit a month and change late), and I’ll be figuring out what Wii workout game to tackle for the next round.

In addition, I’ll be resuming my review of Wii exercise games. There haven’t been much of late, but I have been sitting on EA Sports NFL Training Camp and Michael Jackson: The Experience for a while, so I’ll have my usual in-depth reviews of those. In addition, the games Fit in Six and ExerBeat have been or will shortly be released, so I’ll be reviewing those as well.

I haven’t logged in to our group’s EA Sports Active account in a while, I hope the rest of the team has been a bit more active than I have been? I start again now 🙂

Addendum as of 5/16/11: wouldn’t you know it, but days after I typed this, my scraped knee got infected and turned into bursitis. Thank God, I’m okay. But it was a painful time when even bending my knee was excruciatingly painful. After some antibiotics the swelling has gone down, but it pushed back my exercise routine yet a few more weeks 🙁