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Review of ABBA: You Can Dance for Wii

ABBA: You Can Dance by
Platform: Wii
4 of 5 stars – The biggest peripheral you’ll ever buy for your Wii, and it’s worth it.
by ,
Written on February 8, 2012

Well, another day another dance game. There aren’t that many Wii fitness games getting released these days so I’ve been backtracking and looking at games that came out for Christmas 2011. As we’ve established by now, there were a LOT of them.

The next game on my review list was ABBA You Can Dance. For those who aren’t familiar with ABBA, they were a Swedish pop group from the 1970s who are one of the most successful pop music groups in history (to put things in perspective, Lady Gaga needs to sell about 170 million more albums to match them). The only thing I remember about ABBA from my childhood is looking at their name on billboards and magazines and getting confused because one “B” was backwards, something that thankfully Sesame Street set me straight on. Of course, growing up in the 1970s, songs like “Dancing Queen” and “Take a Chance on Me” were ubiquitous, as were funky disco moves.

ABBA fell into relative obscurity until 2001, when the musical “Mamma Mia” became a smash hit on Broadway (forever altering the concept of those words, which to most Americans my age were usually followed by the words “that’s one a-spicy meatball”).

This review is going to sound like a re-run of other reviews I’ve done, from Michael Jackson: The Experience to the last post of The Black Eyed Peas Experience. To cut to the chase, the conclusion is going to be the same as for both of those games–this is going to be a must-buy for people who happen to be huge fans of ABBA (i.e., knows a song other than “Dancing Queen”), but for everyone else it’s probably not going to be work shelling out money for it until you can find it in the bargain bin for under $20.

As with Just Dance, the options are very simple when you start up the game. You can click “Play” to start dancing right away. There are two options: you can just dance (no pun intended) by selecting a song, or you can perform in a “mini-musical” of six ABBA songs, a feature obviously meant to cater to those who enjoy the musical Mamma Mia.

The song list contains pretty much all of ABBA’s hits, including:

  • Angeleyes
  • As Good As New
  • Bang-A-Boomerang
  • Dancing Queen (two versions available)
  • Does Your Mother Know
  • Fernando
  • Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)
  • Head Over Heels
  • Hole In Your Soul
  • Honey, Honey
  • I’m A Marionette
  • I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do
  • If It Wasn’t For The Nights
  • Knowing Me, Knowing You
  • Lay All Your Love On Me
  • Mamma Mia
  • Money, Money, Money
  • People Need Love
  • SOS
  • Summer Night City
  • Super Trouper
  • Take A Chance On Me
  • The Winner Takes It All
  • Voulez-vous
  • Waterloo
  • When I Kissed The Teacher

As with Just Dance 3, songs are choreographed for 1, 2, or 4 dancers and the multiplayer routines in particular can be a lot of fun as you and your friends or family can dance a routine where all the dancers dance to distinct steps, just like a real Broadway routine.

Strangely, I found the motion detection to be mostly accurate but very unforgiving. This is a departure from most other Ubisoft dancing games which tended to err on the lenient side. It took me about 10 tries to muster even a 4 stars out of 5 for Dancing Queen. And yes, I got a very good workout when I did so. On the one hand, the strictness of the scoring is great motivation to try over and over again to perfect the dances and get great exercise along the way, but that’s only if you don’t get too discouraged by false negatives. You do have the option of turning off scoring altogether and just dancing to the music.

An interesting feature of this game is the addition of a “karaoke” mode. Plug in a USB microphone (I used my Rock Band microphone and it worked great), and you can sing along to the lyrics, either looking at a traditional karaoke screen with the words scrolling on the bottom of the screen, or you can even attempt to sing while you’re dancing. Ultimately this was a fun addition, but it fell short of a real karaoke experience, as you could still hear the original vocal tracks as you sing (plus, you don’t get evaluated on your singing, which could be a good thing or a bad thing).

Just as with The Black Eyed Peas Experience, many of the songs have original music videos playing in the background as you’re dancing (music videos in the 1970s basically consisted of concert footage  and people dancing). They did a pretty good job of integrating the video in the background so it wasn’t too distracting.

One of the complaints I had about the Black Eyed Peas Experience was that it wasn’t really an “experience” as the Michael Jackson Experience was as far as taking us into the “world” of the musicians. ABBA: You Can Dance does a slightly better job of it, as under the Extras from the main menu you can view biographical information and photos of the group, as well as view all the lyrics to all the songs. Still not quite the immersive experience that made the Michael Jackson Experience so good, but a nice little extra for fans of the band.

And so I’ll give ABBA: You Can Dance 4 out of 5 stars. It’s a well-made game, although as I mentioned with the other “Experiences”, I would have been just as happy to see one or two of the songs as DLC for Just Dance 3 rather than forking over $40 for a lot of songs I’ll never play. Still, for a die-hard fan of ABBA or Mamma Mia, as well as anyone looking for some good clean fun for their families (especially when compared to The Peas), you won’t go wrong with this one.

Review of The Black Eyed Peas Experience for Wii

The Black Eyed Peas Experience by
Platform: Wii
3.5 of 5 stars – Great for fans of the Peas, not so much for others.
by ,
Written on January 24, 2012

review of black eyed peas experience for wiiOn November 17, 2009, Ubisoft first released a groundbreaking game called “Just Dance”. Just Dance 2 a year later was an improvement, and Just Dance 3 a year after that pushed the franchise forward with creative innovations like workout modes and multi-person choreography.

But as usually happens when a franchise gets big, a company and its competitors will milk and milk that cash cow until way past the point where the public is saturated with it. We’ve seen dance games for summer parties and country music and Broadway. We’ve seen dance games for kids, including one with Dora and one with the Smurfs. We’ve seen specialized dance games for specific artists like Michael Jackson and ABBA and specific shows like Grease. At some point you just want to shake these game publishers and tell them to THINK OF SOMETHING ORIGINAL FOR A CHANGE. But I digress. I suppose as long as we keep buying them, they’ll keep making them.

The Black Eyed Peas Experience is the latest entry into the morass of dance games, based on the eponymous pop music group. Even if you’re not an avid follower of this group, you’re no doubt familiar with some of their most popular songs such as “Let’s Get It Started”, “I Gotta Feeling” and “Boom Boom Pow”, which have all become popular in the mainstream.

I’ll start off by saying that if you’re a die-hard fan of the group, you’re going to want to get this game and you’re going to love it, no matter what this or any review site will say about it.

For the rest of us, here’s my take on this game.

The Black Eyed Peas Experience is not a horrible game in itself. The menu navigation is among the smoothest I’ve seen in a Wii game. The motion detection is mostly spot-on; I’d say it’s a bit less forgiving than Just Dance 3, but if you practice the moves it’s not hard to get a high score. Not surprisingly, it borrows a lot of great elements from Just Dance, from the use of pictograms to show you upcoming moves, to allowing up to four players to dance at the same time. In fact, one improvement over Just Dance is that all you need to do is to pick up your controller and the game will automatically recognize you as a player.

There are, of course, a lot of “Black Eyed Peas”-specific details within the game. The four silhouettes you follow on the screen are the Peas themselves, so at any point of each song you’ll be dancing as Will.I.Am, Fergie, or…the other two. The background images are all nicely detailed in the ‘hip pop’ style of the Black Eyed Peas and in some cases you’ll see excerpts of the actual music video playing in the background. The choreography is definitely inspired by the style of the Black Eyed Peas on stage–meaning that anything with an intensity level of 2 to 3 sweat drops is going to be a great workout.

One gripe I have is that even though the game supports up to four dancers all songs are choreographed for one or at most two different dancers, so in most cases all four players will be dancing to the same steps. This is somewhat ironic given that the premise of the game is to experience a band that consists of four people. In fact, the scoring is set up to encourage four people to dance together as a team. Even more aggravating–each of the Black Eyed Peas characters will jump in and out of some songs when the came could very well have supported all four of them dancing independently.

Another gripe of the game is that while they did inject a few Black Eyed Peas elements in the game play, it really still feels a lot like Just Dance and not an “experience” of its own. Contrast this with Michael Jackson: The Experience, which I really liked because Michael Jackson’s style of dancing was so unique and so revolutionary that the dance moves in the game really did transcend the typical kinds of moves you’d see in Just Dance. Another plus in that game was seeing videos and tutorials from Jackson’s own dance coaches which really made you feel like you had an “insider’s view”.

In the case of The Black Eyed Peas Experience, there’s hardly anything in this game that couldn’t have been accomplished by just having it as downloadable content of The Black Eyed Peas to Just Dance 3. Heck, if they could get Mario as DLC they could certainly get the Peas in there. At the very least I would have liked to have seen special features such as behind-the-scenes videos from the Black Eyed Peas themselves, insights into how they design their dance routines, or even a break-down of some of the more complex dances by the Peas themselves. This game had none of that, leading me to believe that the Black Eyed Peas weren’t really involved with this game other than allowing their songs to be licensed.

Not that the game is a bad deal as far as the songs go; if you buy the game for its list price of $49.99, that comes out to about $1.66 per song (which goes down to 83 cents a song if you can find the game at the street price of $24.99). But by making this a separate game, they take away any chance of enjoying the unique features of Just Dance 3 such as its workout mode and its support of four-person independent choreography.

In terms of the songs, you can choose from 30 Black Eyed Peas songs from four of their albums:

The Beginning
Don’t Stop the Party (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 3)
Whenever (Solo, difficulty 1, intensity 1)
Someday (Solo, difficulty 1, intensity 1)
Fashion Beats (Duo, difficulty 1, intensity 1)
Everything Wonderful (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 3)
Take It Off (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 1)
The Best One Yet – The Boy (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 2)
Light Up The Night (Solo, difficulty 3, intensity 3)
The Time – Dirty Bit (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 2)
Just Can’t Get Enough (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 2)

Monkey Business
My Humps (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 1)
Disco Club (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 1)
My Style (Solo, difficulty 1, intensity 1)
Don’t Lie (Duo, difficulty 1, intensity 1)
Dum Diddly (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 3)
They Don’t Want Music (solo, difficulty 2, intensity 3)
Don’t Phunk With My Heart (Duo, difficulty 1, intensity 1)
Pump It (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 2)

The E.N.D.
I Gotta Feeling (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 2)
Imma Be (Solo, difficulty 3, intensity 2)
Meet Me Halfway (Duo, difficulty 2, intensity 1)
Boom Boom Pow (Solo, difficulty 3, intensity 2)
Rock That Body (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 2)

Hey Mama (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 2)
Let’s Get It Started – Spike Mix (Solo, difficulty 2, intensity 3)
Shut Up (Duo, difficulty 2, intensity 1)

With all respect to The Peas, I think there are only probably 5-6 songs which most people who buy this game will dance to; the rest will probably be appreciated only by their biggest fans.

One other point I should make. While this didn’t play a part in my rating, one thing that parents should be aware of is that the songs are uncensored, and are not even the “clean” radio edits. So the language can get quite explicit. Some examples (I bleeped out the cuss words here, but they’re unexpurgated in the game):

  • Boom Boom Pow: “I’m on that next s*** now”, “next level video s***”
  • Pump It: “Your girl admits that we do da s*** and When we play you shake your a**”
  • Lady Lumps: “What you gonna do with all that a**, all that a** inside yo’ jeans? What you gonna do with all that breasts, all that breasts inside yo’ shirt?”
  • Don’t Stop the Party: “Get up off my genitals”
  • Hey Mama: “Hey Mama, this that s*** that make your groove”
  • Take It Off: “a** up side-to-side, come on girl, take it off”

With Just Dance 3, even though some of the songs were suggestive, the publisher took time to at least bleep out the profanity. But with this game they didn’t. And even beyond the profanity, as anyone who follows the Black Eyed Peas knows, just about every song is suggestive and full of sexual double-entendre.

Again, I’m not making any judgments here and this is not factoring into my rating of the game–I’m sure for everyone who decries the profanity in the game, there are just as many people who are happy that the game has remained true to the artists’ original songs.

But this is just something that parents and educators may want to be aware of who may not know The Black Eyed Peas beyond the sanitized versions played on TV shows and at sporting events. I’m actually surprised that this title got a “T for Teen” rating, as I would guess many parents would probably hold off on getting this for their 13 and 14 year olds if they knew the content. I actually thought the ESRB had made a mistake in this case, but sure enough on their site they reiterate their Teen rating with the following summary:

Rating summary: This is a rhythm-and-dance simulation game in which players follow along to dance routines from the Black Eyed Peas. Players score points by accurately moving their bodies in time with the music and scrolling indicators. During the course of the game, a few background videos depict suggestive behavior (e.g., gyrating female dancers); some women are depicted in form-fitting outfits that reveal moderate amounts of cleavage. Some songs contain the words “sh*t” and “a*s”; others reference sexual material (e.g., “(Hotness) sex with clothes on . . . And I got a Trojan/Just in case we get it,” “Just wanna squeeze t*ts,” “You know my style is naughty, right/So don’t c*ck block me,” and “Maybe if you’re lucky/You’ll get a peep show”).

I’m no prude, but this seems like it should be closer to an M for Mature (aged 17 and up) than a T for Teen (aged 13 and up).

All that aside, I’d give this game 3.5 stars. It’s not a bad dance game, but for the reasons I mentioned above, it does feel like it falls short of an “experience” that’s worth paying $49.99 for. As I said, if you’re a big fan of The Peas, you’ll probably want it at any price. If you’re just a causal fan, I’d say this would only be worth it when it goes under $20. And if you’re a parent or educator, you might want to take a good look at the lyrics of the songs before bringing it home or to your school.

Review of Nickelodeon Dance for Wii

Nickelodeon Dance by
Platform: Wii
4 of 5 stars – An exercise game for the little ones.
by ,
Written on January 21, 2012

Nickelodeon Dance is one of those games where half the world wouldn’t touch it with a 39 1/2 foot pole, while the other half of the world will say it’s one of the greatest video game of the century. You can tell them apart easily: the latter group will have a house full of bouncing preschoolers.

It’s for this latter group of people that I’m writing this review. If you’re in the former group, take a break and hold on until my next review (which will involve the decidedly-more grown-up Black Eye Peas).

If your TV is turned on to Nickelodeon more than a few hours a week, chances are your kids are going to love this game (and by extension, so will you). As with its predecessor Nickelodon Fit, it features some of your favorite characters from Nickelodeon, including Dora, Diego, and the  Backyardigans. Ni-Hao Kai Lan and her buds were left out of this one for some reason, but in her place is the Fresh Beat Band.

While Nickelodeon Fit had a great variety of different kinds of activties, there’s only one activity in Nickelodeon Dance: dancing. The dance moves aren’t nearly as complex as what you’ll see on games like Just Dance or Dance Central, but many are simplified versions of familiar dance moves like the cha-cha or the twist.

The game starts out with an introduction by Dora. Throughout the opening menus, Dora will out reminders incessantly (I mean every two seconds) such as “don’t forget to press the A button to choose what you want!!!!!!” and “you can scroll through the list of things you can choose by pressing up or down on the plus control panel!!!!!!!!!” It gets annoying very quickly (even to small kids, who are really more intelligent than some of these games give them credit for).

The opening menu is pretty simple:

  • Quick Play
  • Dance
  • Workout
  • Achievements
  • Options

When you start out, you’ll be automatically sent to a tutorial. If you are familiar with Just Dance, it should all be very familiar to you:

  • Three of your favorite Nickelodeon characters will dance on the screen, and your goal is to match the moves of the character in the middle, as if you’re looking in a mirror.
  • There are icons on the bottom of the page that tell you what move you should be doing and what move is coming up. I didn’t find the icons particularly intuitive, but that didn’t matter too much because the moves themselves are very simple. Also, the character will shout out the dance move, which even small kids will quickly catch on to.
  • As you hit moves correctly, stars will fly out of the character into a “score meter”. The score meter only consists of three stars, and there isn’t a numerical score count at all. The game supports either one or two players dancing together; one player will have a blue score meter, the other’s will be purple.

There doesn’t seem to be any difference between “Quick Play”, “Dance” and “Workout”, except that with “Quick Play” you’ll see a list of all four song categories, while with “Dance” you’ll see songs from only three categories (“Starting Steps”, “Smooth Moves”, “Fancy Footwork), while with “Workout” you’ll see songs from the fourth category (“Workout Songs”).

You start by selecting a song. If a second player wants to play, they have a few seconds to press the “A” button on their controller to join in.

Each song has one of three icons to distinguish how much physical activity the song involves. There’s 1) a “walking” icon, 2) a “jogging” icon, and 3) a “running” icon. If you’re a parent that wants to wear out your kids, go for the “running”.

Here’s a complete list of the categories and songs:

Workout Songs
Down by the Bay – Dora the Explorer (3)
Great Day – The Fresh Beat band (3)
Limbo Rock – Go, Diego, Go (2)
Rhythm is Gonna Get You – Dora the Explorer (3)
The Lion Sleeps Tonight – Dora the Explorer (3)
We Did It! – Dora the Explorer (3)

Starting Steps Songs
A Friend Like You – The Fresh Beat Band (1)
Al Rescate – Go, Diego, Go (3)
The Backyardigans Theme Song (1)
The Fresh Beat Band Theme Song (3)
Get On Your Feet – Dora the Explorer (2)
Dora the Explorer Theme Song – Dora the Explorer (2)
Oye Como Va – Dora the Explorer (2-locked)
Santa Claus is Coming Aqui – Dora the Explorer (1-locked)

Smooth Moves Songs
Alouette – Dora the Explorer (1)
Go, Diego, Go Theme Song – Go, Diego, Go (2)
Joy to the World – Go, Diego, Go (1)
Locomotion – Dora the Explorer (1)
We Got the Beat – Dora the Explorer (2)
Yeti Stomp – The Backyardians (2)
Iko Iko – Dora the Explorer (1-locked)
P.U. (Stinky Swamp Song) – The Backyardigans (1-locked)

Fancy Footwork Songs
Dancing in the Street – Dora the Explorer (2)
Music (Keeps Me Movin’) – The Fresh Beat Band (3)
Here We Go – The Fresh Beat Band (3)
Rockin’ Robin – Go, Diego, Go (2)
Tuba Polka – The Backyardigans (3)
We’re Unstoppable – The Fresh Beat Band (3)
Animal Jam – Go, Diego, Go (2-locked)
Sleigh Ride – Dora the Explorer (1-locked)

The songs are all cover versions of popular songs. The singing is done by Dora, Diego, or the Fresh Beat Band, and is characteristically high pitched and energetic, just like their TV shows. From my observations, I’ve found that adults generally fall into two categories: those who hear such cover versions as fingers on a chalkboard, and those who love them (primarily because their kids’ eyes perk up and their feet involuntarily start moving whenever such a song starts playing). Play through the demonstration videos I’ve posted here and decide which camp you fall under before buying the game.

For parents who are worried that the lyrics of games like Just Dance 3 are too suggestive, there’s obviously nothing at all to worry about here. Even very, very mildly suggestive lyrics (such as the phrase “every guy, grab a girl” in Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Streets”) are rewritten to something very innocuous (in this case, “ever-y boy, and ever-y girl”). And as is often done in Dora songs, some of the lyrics are rewritten to teach kids about different hispanic and latino concepts (in the same song, places like “Philadephia, PA” and “Baltimore” are replaced with places like “Puerto Rico” and “Columbia”).

One think I always check for in dancing games is how accurate the controllers are. In this game, the controller response is very noticeably lenient. First, I tested it out by playing normally, and easily scored three stars. Second, I tested it out by just waving my arm up and down to the beat, and scored three stars again. Finally, I decided to just lay the controller on the table–and I still got one-and-a-half stars.

Of course, this would be a detriment in most dancing games, but because the audience for this game is pre-schoolers, it’s actually an advantage. If a child in your family has felt left out while everyone is playing and having fun with Just Dance, they’ll love the game that’s “made just for them”.

On the other hand, I imagine some children may realize very quickly that no matter what you do (or don’t do), you’ll get a high score. So I think the best way to approach this game is not so much to focus on the score, but just on having fun dancing with their favorite characters. Since they’re probably dancing to songs that play on the TV anyway, this game adds an additional layer of interaction with their on-screen friends that they’ll get excited about. There are also “Achievements” that you earn as you progress through the game by completing songs and earning stars.

Overall, this is a very basic dancing game that’s accessible to preschoolers. I would have liked to see more options, such as the ability for different dancers to dance at different levels (this way a parent or older sibling could dance with a child and be somewhat challenged). I also wish the game could accommodate more than two players, as sometimes the whole family would like to get involved (my guess is that they limited it to two players because they wanted to keep it consistent with the version on the Kinect, which by definition can only accommodate two players). Finally, it would have been nice to have had a little more personalization in the game, as this is something that would have brought the interactivity far beyond what kids already see on the TV–for example, making use of the child’s Wii character or allowing the child to be greeted by name (or even to store their name and their progress).

All in all, I’m giving it 4 stars out of 5 and my recommendation, but really only for a very specific group: parents of preschoolers who are fans of shows like Dora the Explorer and Go Diego Go. Parents of older kids may opt for Just Dance Kids, and families of teens and older will probably want to stick with Just Dance 3 or its many variants.

Review of Active Life Magical Carnival for Wii

Active Life Magic Carnival by
Platform: Wii
3 of 5 stars – Not nearly as good as Active Life Outdoor Adventure or Active Life Explorer.
by ,
Written on November 30, 2011

For those of you who watch Star Trek movies, you’ll recognize a phenomenon where every even-numbered movie was a huge success, while every odd-numbered movie was a dud. With the Active Life series, Namco seems to be following a similar pattern. The first Active Life game, Outdoor Adventure, was a groundbreaking title that was among the first to introduce “fun” active kid’s gaming to the Wii. The follow-up, Extreme Adventure, was by most accounts a sub-par game. The third title, Explorer, was once again a fantastic game, full of imaginative use of the mat controller.

With Active Life: Magical Carnival, it feels that the series is running out of gas a little bit again. It’s a collection of 24 mini-games. I’ve grown to become very suspicious of games that jam in as many mini-games as possible, as if the game publisher were hoping that more quantity would make up for less quality. I get that impression here.

Like the other Active Life games, this one uses a special floor mat controller from Namco that you plug into the Gamecube connectors of the top of the Wii. The mats work similar to mats used by Dance Dance Revolution, but are not compatible.

With this game, you enter a virtual theme park. Various games support 1, 2, or 4 players. Unfortunately, as with previous Active Life games, all the players have to squeeze on one controller and/or take turns playing; there’s no way to use two controllers. With small kids this isn’t a problem, but with grown-ups it starts resembling a bad game of Twister.

You can play an “adventure mode” which isn’t much of an adventure, you just play as many different activities as you can to fill up a sticker booklet which will make your park more “popular”. Or, you can play each of the mini-games individually. As with previous Active Life games, you can play as your Mii (they’ll attach a weird looking human body to it), or as one of their default creepy characters with the Little Orphan Annie lack of eyeballs.

Here are all the mini-games, broken into five different “Zones”:

Fantasy Zone:

1) Flying Carpet (up to 2 players). Here, you get on your hands and knees and press buttons to steer or accelerate a flying carpet, similar to Aladdin. This one is hard on the neck, as you need to really strain your neck to see the TV.

2) Magic Lesson (up to 4 players). This is a pattern matching game like “Simon” where you have to memorize sequences of buttons given to you by a magician.

3) Ballroom Dancing (up to 2 players). This was a game where you have to press certain buttons with your feet in time to a waltz beat in a ballroom strangely reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast. Not a bad concept, but the execution isn’t great–the music is terribly non-distinctive, which means there’ll be a lot of trial-and-error before you get it right.

4) Flying Broom (up to 2 players). Once again you’re flying through the air chasing a fairy, reminiscent of Tinkerbell. You need to have good reflects to press buttons to turn or to avoid walls.

Haunted Zone

1) Monster Panic (up to 2 players). Here’s another game where you’re kneeling on the floor and have to press buttons to flip switches.

2) Haunted House (up to 2 players). Finally, a game that uses the mat controller for walking. You need to tiptoe through a haunted house to avoid waking up ghosts, and then avoid obstacles by running or jumping. This one came closest to what the Active Life series should be all about, although some of the obstacles seemed frustratingly random.

3) Who’s the Ghost (up to 4 players). An interesting “spot the intruder” game where you have to memorize a group of Miis in the room. The screen goes blank and then you need to spot who wasn’t there before and press on the appropriate mat button.

4) Ghost Hunder (up to 2 players). This is a “Ghostbusters” type game where you use the Wii remote to snag a ghost and then press the square buttons with your feel to “reel it in”. The concept was done before and much better by Nintendo in Wii Motion Party.

Circus Zone:

1) Ball Balance (up to 2 players). Another button-stomping game where you need to match random sequences of buttons in time to stay balanced on a ball. Very similar to other games in the previous Active Life games.

2) Trampoline Tricks (up to 2 players). Another button stomping game where you need to jump and then mash the correct sequence of buttons before you land. This one has also been done, but I do appreciate the use of the mat controller in this one.

3) Rope Crossing (up to 2 players). You’re on a tightrope and need to balance yourself using the Wii remote and walk by pressing the square buttons. Again, I do like the use of the mat controller for this, but conceptually the concept was done better in Wii Fit Plus.

4) Giant Swing (up to 2 players). This is another timing/reaction game where you need to jump on the right set of two buttons with precise timing to get your player to go from swing to swing. This one was an exercise in frustration, as it took a long time to get the timing right.

5) Lion Show (up to 2 players). A game where you have spot the pattern by which a lion is charging you and crouch (by standing on the square buttons and holding the top arrow buttons) or jump accordingly. Not a great game for people with big bodies.

6) Spinning Wheels (up to 2 players). A game where you basically run in place and jump when you see clowns in your way. Another exercise in frustration, and the clowns will come out of seemingly nowhere.

7) Motorbike Challenge (up to 2 players). A game where you steer a motorbike in a cage by standing on the square buttons. The more balloons you collect, the better you’ll do.

8) Clown Show (up to 2 players). A rather incongruous activity where you can string up to three random activities under “Circus Zone” together.

Carnival Zone

1) Hammer Strike (up to 4 players). Here, you mash the blue button as much as you can, which will dictate the force by which your hammer swings to ring a bell. This was decent, although the use of the game pad seemed forced–this (as well as all the carnival games) would have been much better just using the Wii remote.

2) Frog Jump (up to 4 players). Another game where you get on your hands and knees and swing a hammer by pressing on the blue left button to try to get a frog to jump onto a moving lilypad.

3) Balloon Maker (up to 4 players). A carnival game where balloons will inflate, and you need to stop the gas flow before the balloon pops. This was was fun, but again the Wii remote would have made infinite more sense.

4) Ball Rolling challenge (up to 4 players). A well-executed game where you roll a ball onto a curved rail and try to use just enough force that it ends up in the designated spot.

Pirate Zone

1) Chase the Monkey (up to 2 players). A running game where you run in place on the mat and jump to avoid obstacles in your pursuit of a runaway monkey.

2) Bomb Panic (up to 2 players). A “hot potato” game where you press a button on the mat to pass a ticking time bomb to the next player.

3) Pirate’s Duel (up to 2 players). A game where you press the up arrow and down arrow that’s displayed on the screen with the proper timing to defect a sword wielding pirate.

4) Pirate Adventures (up to 2 players). A game that uses a lot of different controls. Run in place to climb up a mast and run, step on the square buttons to turn a wheel, and mash a bunch of random buttons to prevent skeletons from boarding the ship. This was a fun one, very similar to the “runaway train” game from Explorer, although there were times the controls weren’t as responsive as I’d have liked.

From an aesthetic perspective, the game is pretty and colorful. From a gameplay perspective, the controls are pretty responsive. And if you have multiple kids in the house, this is still one of the stronger multiplayer games out there.

The biggest beef I have with this game is that it just seems to lack the imagination that made #1 and #3 so strong. Many of the games are weak copies of other games that have been done elsewhere on the Wii. And virtually all the gameplay involves fairly and contrived generic button mashing that doesn’t feel very natural and/or is a thinly veiled imitation of what’s already been done in previous Active Life games, just in a different environment. I would have hoped that with new evolutions of the Active Life series would come new and innovative ways to use the mat and truly bring “active gaming” forward. Instead, it feels like a rehash of everything that’s been done before.

Not only are there practically no new ways of using the mat, as I pointed out multiple times above, in certain cases the use of the mat is almost superfluous–the same game would have been much stronger using the Wii remote.

I also get the strong sense that the game developers were trying more to play “catch up” with other games. The theme-park concept is being done right now in Kinect Disneyland Adventures for the Xbox and Carnival Island on the Playstation. There’s even a part of this game where you “take your picture”. Of course, the Wii doesn’t have a camera, so the “picture” that’s taken is of your avatar. There’s a clown that says “Ha Ha, You look so ridiculous”. It might as well have said “Ha Ha, our developers are trying to copy the photo-taking capabilities of the Xbox and PS3 on a system with no camera”.

This is sad in a way, because I think the mat controller that Namco introduced is a very strong one whose potential hasn’t even come close to being fully tapped and which can accomplish gameplay that the Wii remote, Balance Board and even the Kinect and Move can’t.

I will say that if you already have a mat and have enjoyed the first three games, at $29.99, this is a relatively cheap way to extend the use of your mat. But if this will be your first Active Life game, I would definitely recommending skipping this one and going with either Outdoor Life or Explorer. While I’d easily stand by my earlier ratings of both of those games of 5 out of 5 stars, with this one I can only muster a 3. It’s OK, but not earth-shattering.

Review of Zumba Fitness 2 for Wii

Zumba Fitness 2 by
Platform: Wii
4.5 of 5 stars – A much improved version of Zumba than the first version.
by ,
Written on November 23, 2011

The original Zumba Fitness for Wii was a runaway success, selling over three million copies. While I enjoyed the game, it wasn’t without its flaws. It seemed a game more suited for seasoned Zumba enthusiasts who could just jump right into playing. But for newbies, the dance moves were just too fast and the tutorials were weak. In addition, the way the game was organized was very confusing.

What a difference a year makes. I’m happy to say that the developers of this title must have been reading our reviews, because they fixed all of this and more. As a result, Zumba Fitness 2 is a game I wholeheartedly recommend.

When starting up the game, you see a catchy opening video of people doing Zumba. It definitely puts you in the mood.

The menu options are delightfully simple. They are:

Single Song
Full Class
Learn the Steps
Progress Tracker

With Single Song, you can jump right into a song. You first create a profile by entering a seven-character nickname and input your height, weight, and birthdate. The default profile is a 4’11” woman who weighs 110 pounds and was born on 01.01.1990, so I had to go through the painful process of changing it (as usual, it seems like I was pressing the “up” button forever!)

You can then select from a list of 32 songs, listed alphabetically, with their intensity level and in-game “location” listed. They are:

Activao (Cumbia) – Low Intensity – NY Nightclub
Aires Habaneros (Tango / Salsa) – High Intensity – VIP Pool Party
Bubuzela Masala (Samba / Hindu) – High Intensity – NY Nightclub
Caipirinha (Batucada) – High Intensity – NY Nightclub
Chilin Bombom Guajira – Medium Intensity – Zumba Dance Studio
Como Es Que Se Llama (Cumbia) – High Intensity – Miami Yacht Party
Dance Dance Dance (Hip-Hop) – High Intensity – LA Rooftop
Don’t Let Me Down (Swing) – High Intensity – Zumba Dance Studio
El Merengazo (Merengue) – High Intensity – Miami Yacht Party
Hundu-Cumen (Hindu / Cha Cha Cha) – Medium Intensity – VIP Pool Party
I Know You Like It (Hip-Hop) – Medium Intensity – Zumba Dance Studio
I Wanna Move (Hip-Hop) – Medium Intensity – Zumba Dance Studio
I’m Going On (R&B Ballad) – Low Intensity – Zumba Dance Studio
La Matanga (Cumbia / Warm-Up) – Low Intensity – VIP Pool Party
La Rumba De La Papaya (Flamenco) – High Intensity – LA Rooftop
Mi Vecina (Bachata / Cumbia) – Medium Intensity – LA Rooftop
New Day (Slow Swing) – Low Intensity – VIP Pool Party
Pause (Urban Latino Dance) – Medium Intensity – NY Nightclub
Poison (Electronic / Dance) – High Intensity – LA Rooftop
Que Onda (Axe) – High Intensity – Miami Yacht Party
Que Te Pasa (Cumbia / Reggaeton) – Medium Intensity – LA Rooftop
Quebra As Cadeira (Axe) – Medium Intensity – Miami Yacht Party
Quiebralo Bob (Quebradita / Ragga) – High Intensity – VIP Pool Party
Sukumbiarabe (Indian / Cumbia) – Medium Intensity – LA Rooftop
Ta Picao (Calypso) – High Intensity – Zumba Dance Studio
Tigre (Merengue / Warm Up) – Medium Intensity – Miami Yacht Party
Tu Remedio (Cha Cha Cha) – Low Intensity – VIP Pool Party
Un Corazon (Pop Ballad) – Low Intensity – VIP Pool Party
Un Solo Pueblo (Salsa) – Medium Intensity – LA Rooftop
We Speak No Americano (Swing House / Electro-Swing) – High Intensity – NY Nightclub
Zoka Zumba (Calypso) – High Intensity – VIP Pool Party
Zu Bailaito (Quebradita) – High Intensity – LA Rooftop

There aren’t that many familiar songs, but there are more licensed songs than the last version (the hip among us might recognize “Poison” by Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls or “Pause” by rapper Pitbull). But all are definitely catchy and very appropriate to Zumba dance. I would have liked to see the option for using your own music or downloadable content, but I didn’t see either.

As with the original Zumba Fitness, you put on your Zumba belt (included with the package) so that the slot for the Wii remote is at your hip. After making all your menu selections, you’ll be placing the Wii remote in the belt with the buttons facing outward, and the power button of the Wii remote on TOP (the first few times I played I put the remote in top-first, and got rewarded with a bunch of scores of zero).

In the style that games like Just Dance and Dance Central have made popular, you’ll see an animated figure of a Zumba dancer demonstrating the moves to you and your job is to mimic the moves as if viewing a mirror. There’s the added bonus of a small animated figure in a rectangle that’ll highlight upcoming moves.

Loading the player …

I don’t know if my Zumba-ing has gotten better or the choreography has gotten simpler, or the presentation has gotten better (probably a combination of all three), but the dance moves were surprisingly easy to follow. There was a healthy amount of repetition and the arms and legs of the dancer are very clearly displayed at all times. It only took me 3-4 repetitions to get to a fairly good approximation of the dances, even at high intensity level. In the background are animations of dozens of others doing the same moves, which really helps make you feel like you’re in a real Zumba session, and also helps reinforce the moves you have to make.

The motion detection is surprisingly accurate as well. As an experiment, I tried dancing to the “real” moves first, and then I tried just shaking my remote. When dancing the “real” moves I got a 91%, and when shaking the remote, I got 12%. In other words, they put a lot of effort into getting the accuracy right.

Granted, the scoring might be a little TOO generous, given that it’s not really detecting your arm movements or the precise position of your foot and torso movements. But if your goal is to get a workout first and worry about the score later, you won’t mind so much. Each song lasts for about 5-6 minutes, and each one is a pretty good workout in itself.

With “Full Class”, you have the option of choosing one of 10 Short Classes, 10 Mid-Length Classes, 10 Full-Length Classes, or 8 Custom Playsets which you can design yourself. Each class takes place in one of five virtual locations: an LA Pool Party, a Miami Yacht Party, a NY Nightclub, a VIP Pool Party, and the Zumba Dance Studio.

I tried a short class, and it consisted of 5 songs, clocking in at a total of 25 minutes! I was completely wiped out. Needless to say, I haven’t tried a mid-length or full-length class yet!

Loading the player …

“Learn the Steps” is the tutorial portion of the game. It is much, much improved over the first version of the game, which had a tendency to sweep you through the lessons without teaching you much of anything. Here, you’ll go through a tutorial of basic dance moves. The dance moves aren’t comprehensive, but at the very least you can master the basics that are used in many Zumba dances. They are:

Salsa: Sidestep, Forward and Back, Travel, Backstep
Merengue: March, Two Step, Six Count, Zumba Shuffle
Cumbia: Two Step, Forward and Back, Sleepy Leg, Sugar Cane
Reggaeton: Stomp, Knee Lift, Destroza, Bounce

You can practice the steps at slow speed and then speed it up to normal speed once you get the moves right.

Loading the player …

The “Progress Tracker” will tell you how many days you’ve played the game, how many minutes you’ve played this month, your average score for the week. Then, it’ll allow you to view graphs of your weight (no Balance Board support, so you need to manually enter it each time), time played, technique, and calories burned. It’ll also show you how many of the 26 medals you’ve earned, and allow you to collect “extras” by earning stars on each song (the first extra you unlock is a cool “behind the scenes” video of concept art for the Miami scene). Long story short, there are definitely a lot of incentives to keep you dancing.

All in all, I’m very impressed by Zumba Fitness 2. Majesco could have easily phoned in the sequel and still sold a lot of copies, but it looks like they put real time and effort into making this a genuine improvement. If you’re a Zumba fan, this is a must-have. If you’ve always been curious about Zumba, unlike the last version I can wholeheartedly recommend this one.

Review of Dance Dance Revolution II for Wii (2011 version)

Dance Dance Revolution II by
Platform: Wii
5 of 5 stars – DDR is back.
by ,
Written on October 24, 2011

DDR II for Wii

Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) admittedly seemed to be showing its age the last year or two. The last version of Dance Dance Revolution for the Wii to show any kind of real innovation was Hottest Party 2, which was released in 2008.
Hottest Party 3 was released in 2009, but didn’t add much new to the series except a few poorly-conceived attempts to try to incorporate the Wii nunchuk and the Balance Board. At the end of the day these attempts just detracted from what made DDR great to begin with.
In 2010, they released Hottest Party 4 in Europe. Perhaps taking a cue from successful movie “reboots” such as Star Trek and Batman, Konami decided to name the same game “Dance Dance Revolution” in the United States. But sadly, it was pretty much the same game as before. Many who ended up paying upwards of $70 for it were asking themselves why they wasted money for essentially the same game they could have bought in 2008.
In 2011, Dance Dance Revolution IIdance dance revolution (still being called Hottest Party 5 in Europe) is here. And the burning question is, does this new version bring anything new to the table? Or is it yet another repackaged version that will cause more buyer’s remorse?
For the few out there who don’t know, DDR requires the use of a 3′ x 3′ plastic “dance mat” you put on the floor with four directional arrows that you step on. As music plays, a combination of arrows will scroll on the screen to the beat, and your goal is to step on the arrows precisely. Sounds simple, but when the arrows are coming at you at breakneck speed, and things like eighth-notes, “hold” notes (where you keep your feet pressed down) and simultaneous arrows (requiring you to jump) are added, you’ll be moving your feet faster than Fred Astaire.
The first thing to get out of the way is any comparison to games like Just Dance 3 for the Wii, Dance Central 2 for the Xbox, and Everybody Dance for the PS3. Those are dancing games where you learn “real” dance moves. DDR is and always has been a “pattern-matching game more” than a “dance game”. You won’t “wow” anyone at weddings and bar mitzvahs with moves you learn on the DDR dance pad (and sadly, I’ve tried).
What DDR does have, and probably always will, over those other “dance games” is the best precision, not surprising as it has only four steps to detect as opposed to an infinite number of motions. So whether your score is high or low, you know you’ve earned it legitimately!
The opening menu of Dance Dance Revolution II is blissfully simple. There are four choices: Dance Mode, Workout Mode, Training Mode, and DDR School.
Dance Mode is where you can jump into playing. You start out by selecting the number of players, from 1 to 4. You’ll need a dance mat for each player and a Wii remote for each to control menu choices.
There are two modes of play when playing solo. The first is “Normal” mode, which is the DDR we all know and love, where you dance to progressive sets of challenges to rack up DDR points and unlock new songs and features.
Here’s me playing Selena Gomez and the Scene’s “A Year Without Rain” on Normal mode (set to Expert Difficulty). This is after about 10 tries and I still could only muster a “C”
The second is new to the Wii called  “Double” mode, where if you have two Dance Mats, you can dance using EIGHT arrows instead of four, jumping from mat to mat to try to achieve a high score. This is a feature that’s been available on the arcade version of DDR which has finally made it to the Wii version, and definitely is an innovation which really extends enjoyment (and workout potential) of the game. Here’s me attempting to playing Justin Bieber’s “Baby ft. Ludacris” using Double mode.

I did okay, right? So feeling my oats a little bit, I decided to try “Spice Up Your Life” at Difficult mode.

Needless to say, I was jumping and flipping around and could only muster a “D”. This is definitely something which, as you try to master it, you’ll find yourself getting into great shape!
There are three modes of play for playing with 2 or more players. “Normal” style lets users compete head-to-head. “Friendship” style will award all players with the highest score that any player achieved. “Sync” style is the opposite: if any player gets a “MISS” or “NOT QUITE”, the entire game fails.
Next, you’ll select your song and the difficulty level (Beginner, Basic, Difficult, or Expert) that you want to attempt. If you’re playing multiplayer, each player can choose their own difficulty, so stronger players can compete against weaker players on the same song, each playing at the level they’re most comfortable with.
Something else that’s been carried over from the arcade version is the “Groove Radar”. Each song has a somewhat complex graph that rates each song/difficulty on five attributes: Stream (the overall density of steps in the whole song), Chaos (how irregular the steps are), Freeze (the number of “freeze” steps where you hold on a particular arrow), Air (the number of jump steps in the song), and Voltage (the highest density of arrows that appear at once in the song). At the end of your performance, you’re given a score based on these attributes. Since this wasn’t a big hit with the arcade version, I’m not sure why they’ve ported it over to the Wii version. In any case, if you’re someone who really wants to evaluate your DDR performance, this lets you do it with unprecented precision. If you’re not, it’s something that you can easily ignore.
There are 19 licensed songs, mostly which will appeal to teen and tween players including artists such as Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, and Miley Cyrus. Here’s the complete list of licensed songs:
  • Rocket (Goldfrapp)
  • Just The Way You Are (Bruno Mars)
  • Nothin’ On You feat. Bruno Mars (B.o.B.)
  • A Year Without Rain (Selena Gomez & The Scene)
  • Don’t Go (Yaz)
  • Don’t You Want Me (The Human League)
  • In My Head (Jason Derulo)
  • Just A Dream (Nelly)
  • More Than Alive (The Ready Set)
  • Baby ft. Ludacris (Justin Bieber)
  • Strip Me (Natasha Beddingfield)
  • Somebody To Love (Justin Bieber)
  • Beautiful Monster (Ne-Yo)
  • Spice up your life (Spice Girls)
  • Candy Girl (New Edition)
  • This Time I Know It’s For Real (Donna Summer)
  • Only Girl In The World (Rihanna)
  • Can’t Be Tamed (Miley Cyrus)
  • Whip My Hair (Willow)
In addition, there are 64 other songs which consist of new original songs from Konami and songs from previous releases of DDR on other platforms and arcade machines. These are mostly in the frenetic, rapid-beat, Japanese pop music-style that DDR is known for.
Something else new to this version of DDR is the ability to choose either the short version of a song (1-3 minutes) or the long version (3-5 minutes).
There are also improvements with gameplay itself. Getting from the menu to the song takes only a few seconds, where in previous version there’d be a painfully long wait. The voice of the annoying commentator with the fake British accent (“it’s 100% AWESOME!”, “relax and FEEL THE BEAT”) is now relegated to the speaker in the Wii remote, while the TV speakers play just the song (you can also turn the voice off completely under Options). As with previous versions, for most licensed songs you can view the music video in the background; for other songs you see animated dancers.
Thankfully, they’ve completely done away with gimmicks such as hand movements and Balance Board compatibility. This is DDR back to its basics–step on the arrows correctly to get a high score. And it does this as well as it ever did.
With “Workout Mode”, you start out by typing in your height and weight. From there it’ll calculate your ideal weight and BMI (discreetly hidden from view until you click the “-” button on your Wii remote). You can then select a workout target by Play Time (for example, if you want to do 30 minutes of cardio a day) or by Calories burned (for example, if you want to burn 30 calories a workout). By the way, DDR will use the scientifically-accurate term “Kcals”, but that’s the same as what you and I call “calories” (which the average adult takes in 2000 a day of). You can also choose no goal, in which case you’ll work out to your own preference and still be able to track calories and time spent.
To make your workout simpler you can turn CUT on (which ensures there are no notes less than a quarter note) and turn JUMP off (which will turn off simultaneous step arrows). But I find leaving both on make the workout a lot more fun and strenuous.
You then go to song selection, where you have the same options as in Dance Mode. Happily, even in workout mode you can still clear “Challenge Tasks” and earn DDR points. And of course, you’ll see exactly how many calories you burned for the last dance and how many you’ve burned cumulatively. You can also keep a record over time of all the calories you’ve burned.

Here’s a workout where I set a target of 70 calories, which had me playing Rihanna’s “Only Girl (In the World)”, Miley Cyrus’s “Can’t Be Tamed”, and Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair” before I reached the goal.

Needless to say, I was quite out of breath. If you had to choose between typical step aerobics and DDR, the choice is clear–DDR is more fun, much better exercise, and much better motivation.

If you’ve got grade school kids in the house, ask them if they play DDR in their gym class (many schools are starting to do this now). If so, bringing it home is a great way not only to get them exercise, but also to give them a little bit of an “edge” in gym against the other kids 🙂

“Training Mode” lets you choose any unlocked song at any level and practice any section of it, either in Normal or Double mode. This is extremely useful at advanced levels where there’s a section of a song you just can’t master. “DDR School” is for complete newbies who need to be taught how to play from the beginning.
The verdict? I’ve admittedly been bearish on Konami the last two years, disappointed that the last two versions of DDR really did nothing to push the platform forward. But this time they’ve gone “back to basics” by getting rid of a lot of those gimmicks and focusing on what works.
I won’t say it’s a perfect game yet. I was a bit surprised at the lack of a DLC option, meaning that to get new songs we’ll probably be forced to purchase future versions. And the dance mat is still flimsy and its lack of padding is horrific for those who play on upper levels of houses or apartments.
But even so, the addition of Double mode, the improved Workout mode, and the large selection of new songs tells me that Konami is really trying again and not just resting on its laurels. Hopefully with future editions they’re continue to not just phone it in, but reinvent it in new ways that’ll continue to keep it relevant amid the competition (I know this is just a dream, but some day I’d love to see a game that teaches dance steps like the tango, foxtrot, salsa, and waltz…but I guess that would require a pretty big dance mat).
5 stars out of 5.
Now, just for Nutwiisystem readers, here’s an “insider tip”. I definitely recommend you purchase a second DDR mat, especially given the new Double mode. And unfortunately, mats from the Namco Active Life series will not work properly.
You can go to Amazon and try to buy an official Konami Dance Dance Revolution Dance Pad Controller for Wii. It retails for $29.99, and in some cases I’ve seen sellers selling it for upwards of $50.00. But my recommendation is to go to an older, less successful Konami game that bunded the dance mat like Ultimate Party Challenge with Dance Pad Bundle and look at the sellers there (I do recommend double-checking with the vendor first to make sure the mat is included). Chance are you’ll snag a dance pad for less than the $29.99 retail price, and get a bonus game to boot.

Review of Just Dance 3 for Wii

Just Dance 3 by
Platform: Wii
5 of 5 stars – The best dance franchise on the Wii gets better.
by ,
Written on October 20, 2011

In the beginning there was DDR. Video game “dancing” consisted of mashing your feet to certain patterns. It was fun, it was a great workout, but at the end of the day it wasn’t really dancing.
Then along came Just Dance, which introduced the world to dancing to popular music using “real dance moves”, the kind that you could practice at home and then wow everyone with on the dance floor. It was slightly annoying that the controller accuracy was a bit off, but the dance moves were so fun we didn’t care.
Just Dance 2 introduced much better motion control accuracy. Plus, it introduced the concept of “duets”, where people could dance cool choreographed routines together. And it was another winner.
Because of the popularity of Just Dance, this spawned a lot of “copycat” titles from Ubisoft to cash in. Dance on Broadway. Michael Jackson The Experience, Just Dance for Kids. Even Just Dance with Smurfs. They were fun, but at a certain point they started to get a bit tiring, as they were all variations of the same theme.
And so, we’ve all been waiting to see what Ubisoft would do for an encore with Just Dance 3. Could they push the genre forward, even as copycat titles like Dance Central on the Xbox and Everybody Dance on the PS3 encroached on their turf? I’m happy to say that Just Dance 3 pushes the platform even further and does it with great success.
When you start up Just Dance 3, the first thing it asks is if you’ll connect Just Dance to the Internet so that “Ubisoft can learn more about the way you play to make Just Dance even more groovy”. I wasn’t sure quite how to answer the question, but I figure since Just Dance 3 doesn’t use a video camera like those other systems, there wasn’t too much harm in it.
The opening menu, like in Just Dance 1 and 2, is delightfully simple. There are only a couple choices:
1) Dance!
As with the previous versions, you just right into the dancing. What I love about Just Dance 3 is that getting started is extremely simple. No silly things to take up your time like creating avatars. No adjusting of cameras or calibrating of equipment. You just shake your remote to see what “color” you are on the screen, and get started.
You can create a profile at any time; your name is limited to 5 characters. If you don’t create a profile you’ll be dancing by default as “Happy” (as opposed to “Sunny”).
As with previous versions, your job is to dance the “mirror image” of a colorful silhouetted on-screen figure showing you the dance moves. I’m happy to say that the motion controls are better and more accurate than ever. Granted, it still only detects the movement of one arm holding the Wii remote, so technically you could still just hurl your arm the right way and build up points. But of course the fun of the game is to get into the dance with your full body (and in fact, if you follow the choreographed moves perfectly with your whole body, your score will be better than ever). One other subtle improvement over previous versions is that the audio cues coming through the Wii remote (for example, when you hit a milestone while dancing) are much louder and clearer than before.
The choreography and backgrounds are as fun and in some cases as quirky as ever. For example, in Wilson Pickett’s “Land of 1000 Dances” you’re following a dancing alligator in a fancy suit dancing in a schoolroom. And yes, you “do the alligator” 🙂 If you dance well on some songs, you can even see the background animate and change.

As with Just Dance 1 and 2, each song has a “technical difficulty” indicator from one to three gears, and a “workout intensity” indicate from one to three drops of sweat. There are over 45 great tracks to suit everyone’s tastes, and most of the songs are popular and familiar. For example, here’s Katy Perry’s “California Girls”

Multiplayer is where this game really shines. There’s “Dance Crew Mode” which is like Duet Mode, except that up to 4 players has their own independent choreography (and a chance to shine with a solo performance). There’s also a “Dance Til Dawn” party mode where you can just start the game up and it’ll cycle through songs all night, without the need to go back through menus again.
2) Just Sweat
As someone who follows Wii exercise titles very closely, this option was the one I was most excited about. You can choose from a “Free Session” (an instant fitness session for up to 4 players) or the “7-Day Challenge” (A selection of challenges to boost your fitness during 7 days).
For “Free Session” You can choose from a variety of options for the kind of music to work out to, including:
  • Speed Shuffle
  • Non-Stop Shuffle
  • Pop! Pop!
  • Rock Party
  • R&B Vibes
  • Electro Sounds
  • Just 80’s
  • Oldies but Goodies
  • Fancy Dress Ball
  • Around the World
  • Extreme
  • Sweat Attack
There are also fantastic options for working out in a group, including:
  • Duets
  • Dance Crew
I tried Sweat Attack, and sure enough I was sweating up a storm after just one song. The songs kept going and the more points I collected (on both Dance and Just Sweat modes), the more filled it up a “Mojo” meter by collecting enough points. Once the “Mojo Meter” was filled, I unlocked a “gift (Simon Says Mode). There are 27 “gifts” to unlock, ranging from new songs to new choreography to new playing modes, so it’ll definitely motivate you to keep coming back and building up those points. The songs in my case before I collapsed of exhaustion were Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You”, The Black Eyed Peas’ “Pump It”, Anja’s “Dance all Night”, Wilson Pickett’s “Land of 1000 Dances”, and appropriately, a cover of C&C Music Factory’s Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)..all very energetic and lively (and fun) songs.

As in the Dance mode, you rack up points when you hit the right dance moves. In addition, as with Just Dance 2, they don’t count calories for some reason, but rather, they count “sweat points”. With Just Dance 2, the consensus on the Web was that 4.2 sweat points = about 1 calorie burned, and it seems about the same with Just Dance 3. In all honesty, I’m not sure why they didn’t just use calories, which would have made things a lot easier. But still, as long as you do the math in your head, you can pretty much figure out how intensive a workout you’re getting (3500 calories burned or about 25-30 vigorous songs danced do equals about 1 pound of fat lost). As you reach certain points, the system will give you an indication of how much exercise you’ve done (after completing 1000 sweat points, it told me “You’ve just walked across Central Park”; after 2000 points, it said “you’ve just run 10 rounds of the Wembley Stadium”).
For “7-Day Challenge” you’re presented with three options for the next 7 days: The Fresh Start (3500 sweat points a week, the equivalent of walking 30 minutes a day), The Healthy Choice (7000 sweat points a week, equivalent to running 30 minutes a day), and The Sweat Explosion (21000 sweat points a week, equivalent to swimming for 30 minutes a day).
Overall, I loved Just Sweat mode, but I would have liked to see the ability to chart progress over days and weeks. Still, it’s a great improvement over previous version and definitely one of the best workouts you can have on the Wii.
3) Store
This is where you can purchase downloadable content (DLC) if your Wii is connected to the Internet. As of this writing (October 8, 2011), the store contained only the following songs:
  • Baby Don’t Stop Now (Anja)
  • Jambo Mambo (Old Orquesta)
  • Soul Searchin (Groove Century)
  • Twist and Shake It (The Girly Team)
But a bunch of empty icons indicates that there are more coming soon. Each song costs 250 Wii Points, so if you buy a 2000 point card for about $20, this comes out to about $2.50 a song.
4) Extras
This is where you can adjust options, such as whether to display lyrics, display pictograms (the icons telling you what move to make), display help screens, and track usage. You can also view the medals you earned.
I think one of the questions most people will have on their mind is: is Just Dance 3 on the Wii still relevant when there are so many new “real dance move” games out for systems like the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. My answer is a resounding “yes”. Not only does Just Dance 3 hold its own in terms of fun and accuracy–it actually has an advantage over those other systems. While those systems force players to squeeze into a camera view of 6 feet across, with Just Dance, players can stand anywhere in the room, and it doesn’t even matter if there are spectators or “dancers without controllers” standing among them.
Long story short, I think Ubisoft has taken a great franchise and moved it even further. Just Dance 3 for the Wii is another winner.
5 of 5 stars.
Here’s a complete song list:
  • Apache (Jump On It) – The Sugarhill Gang (difficulty=3, intensity=2, dancers=1)
  • Are You Gonna Go My Way – Lenny Kravitz (difficulty=1, intensity=3, dancers=1)
  • Baby One More Time – Britney Spears (difficulty=2, intensity=2, dancers=4)
  • Baby Zouk – Dr. Creole (difficulty=2, intensity=3, dancers=2)
  • Barbra Streisand – Duck Sauce (difficulty=2, intensity=2, dancers=1)
  • Beautiful Liar – Beyoncé and Shakira 3 (difficulty=1, intensity=2, dancers=2)
  • Boogie Wonderland – Earth, Wind & Fire (difficulty=2, intensity=2, dancers=4)
  • Boom Reggaeton Explosion (difficulty=2, intensity=2, dancers=1)
  • California Gurls Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg (difficulty=2, intensity=2, dancers=1)
  • Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen (difficulty=3, intensity=2, dancers=2)
  • Da Funk – Daft Punk (difficulty=2, intensity=2, dancers=2)
  • Dance All Nite – Anja (difficulty=3, intensity=1, dancers=1)
  • Dynamite – Taio Cruz (difficulty=1, intensity=2, dancers=4)
  • Forget You – Cee Lo Green (difficulty=2, intensity=2, dancers=1)
  • Giddy On Up – Laura Bell Bundy (difficulty=2, intensity=1, dancers=1)
  • Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)*  – C+C Music Factory (difficulty=2, intensity=3, dancers=1)
  • Hey Boy Hey Girl – The Chemical Brothers (difficulty=3, intensity=3, dancers=1)
  • Hungarian Dance No. 5 (U) – Johannes Brahms (difficulty=2, intensity=2, dancers=2)
  • I Feel Love – Donna Summer (difficulty=2, intensity=1, dancers=1)
  • I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’ – Scissor Sisters (difficulty=3, intensity=3, dancers=1)
  • I’m So Excited – The Pointer Sisters (difficulty=1, intensity=3, dancers=1)
  • I Was Made for Lovin’ You – KISS (difficulty=1, intensity=2, dancers=4)
  • Jamaican Dance – Konshens (difficulty=1, intensity=2, dancers=2)
  • Jump (for My Love) – Girls Aloud (difficulty=3, intensity=3, dancers=2)
  • Kurio ko uddah le jana – Bollywood Rainbow (difficulty=3, intensity=2, dancers=2)
  • Land of 1000 Dances  – Wilson Pickett (difficulty=1, intensity=3, dancers=1)
  • Let’s Go to the Mall – Robin Sparkles (difficulty=3, intensity=2, dancers=1)
  • Lollipop – Mika (difficulty=2, intensity=2, dancers=1)
  • Mamasita (U) – Latino Sunset (difficulty=3, intensity=2, dancers=2)
  • Marcia Baila – Rita Mitsouko (difficulty=2, intensity=2, dancers=1)
  • Night Boat to Cairo – Madness (difficulty=1, intensity=3, dancers=4)
  • No Limit – 2 Unlimited (difficulty=2, intensity=3, dancers=2)
  • Party Rock Anthem – LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett and Goon Rock (difficulty=3, intensity=2, dancers=1)
  • Pata Pata – Miriam Makeba (difficulty=1, intensity=2, dancers=2)
  • Price Tag – Jessie Jfeaturing B.o.B (difficulty=2, intensity=1, dancers=1)
  • Promiscuous – Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland (difficulty=2, intensity=2, dancers=2)
  • Pump It – The Black Eyed Peas (difficulty=3, intensity=3, dancers=1)
  • Satellite – Lena (difficulty=1, intensity=2, dancers=1)
  • She’s Got Me Dancing – Tommy Sparks (difficulty=3, intensity=2, dancers=1)
  • Somethin’ Stupid – Robbie Williams featuring Nicole Kidman – (difficulty=1, intensity=1, dancers=2)
  • Spectronizer Sentai Express (difficulty=2, intensity=2, dancers=4)
  • Take On Me – A-ha (difficulty=1, intensity=3, dancers=1)
  • The Master Blaster (U) – Inspector Marceau (difficulty=3, intensity=1, dancers=2)
  • Think – Aretha Franklin (difficulty=2, intensity=2, dancers=1)
  • This Is Halloween – Danny Elfman (difficulty=2, intensity=2, dancers=4)
  • Tightrope – Janelle Monáe (difficulty=3, intensity=2, dancers=1)
  • Venus – Bananarama (difficulty=1, intensity=2, dancers=1)
  • Video Killed the Radio Star – The Buggles (difficulty=2, intensity=1, dancers=1)
  • What You Waiting For? – Gwen Stefani (difficulty=2, intensity=1, dancers=1)
If you purchase at Best Buy you’ll get these additional songs:
  • Teenage Dream – Katy Perry (difficulty=2, intensity=1, dancers=1)
  • E.T. – Katy Perry (difficulty=1, intensity=2, dancers=1)
If you purchase at Target, you’ll get these additional songs:
  • Airplanes – B.o.B featuring Hayley Williams (difficulty=1, intensity=3, dancers=1)
  • Only Girl (In the World) – Rihanna

Review of Get Fit with Mel B for Wii

Cyberbike by
Platform: Wii
4 of 5 stars – Decent aerobic fitness game led by none other than Scary Spice.
by ,
Written on October 4, 2011

Get Fit with Mel B was a game originally released for the Playstation Move back in October 2010. When I reviewed it for our sister site PS3Fitness.Com, I found it to be a great and innovative fitness title for the PS3.

In a bit of a reversal from the norm, the PS3 version was ported to the Wii. The Wii version was released last week. Personally, I think this is a brilliant move by the publisher, as there is definitely a shortage of Wii fitness games right now (only Ubisoft is making a push into active gaming with the upcoming Just Dance 3). So if Get Fit with Mel B is worth its salt, it may be a huge hit for Christmas 2011.

For those who don’t know, Mel B. is better known to us old-timers as “Scary Spice”. You know, the only Spice Girl who you felt could (and would) beat you up after spicing up your life.

Starting up the game, it asks you to verify that the time and date on the clock are correct. You’re treated to a video introduction from Mel B, which is of surprisingly good quality for the Wii. You start out by entering your name on an on-screen keyboard, telling her if you’re male or female, entering your birthdate, and entering your height. You then choose your “build” from three icons (a lot more pleasant than entering your weight), and then tell her if there are any foods you don’t eat (by choosing from icons representing pork, beef, fish, etc.).

You can then choose a “workout location” from the following choices: Central Park, The Maldives, Infinity Pool, Forest Meadow, Apartment, or Luxury Yacht. I chose Central Park (which incidentally doesn’t look a thing like Central Park).

You then select a goal. You first choose a goal category from one of the following:

  • General Health
  • Lifestyle (fitness to make you feel better in everyday life)
  • Special Occasions (exercises to get you ready for a big event coming up in your life like a wedding)
  • Sports and Activities (exercises that help boost your performance in specific sports)
  • Shape (working out different parts of your body).

Choosing a category will show you goals within the category. For example, under General Health you have the choices of Weight Loss, Detox, Lower Cholestrol, or Healthy Heart.

Depending on whether you’re male or female you may see different choices for each category (for example, men will see “Six Pack for Summer” or “Slim Down for a Suit” under “Special Occasions”, while women will see “Bikini Fit”, “Drop a Dress Size”, “Red Carpet Ready”, “New Mom”, “Get Fit for an Active Holiday”). Other categories are the same for men and women (for example, under “Lifestyle”, you can choose “All Day Energy”, “De-Stress”, or “Keep up with the Kids”; under “Sports” you can choose general sports, golf, tennis, skiing, or dance).

You can choose up to two goals. I chose “weight loss”, and as a secondary goal I chose “De-Stress”. You then choose whether you want to work on both goals equally or one more than the other (I chose 80-20).

Choosing goals will customize the types of workouts you get later on in the game. In all honesty, I think this is more smoke-and-mirrors than anything else…there seem to be a pretty finite set of exercises, so there is going to be a lot of overlap from one workout to another.

Next, you can choose optional equipment to use, something we haven’t seen on a Wii exercise game since the original My Fitness Coach. You can choose to include a Fitball, a Resistance Band, Wrist Weights, or Ankle Weights in your workout. I went with the Resistance Band.

The next step is calibrating the Balance Board. Once this is done you’ll see a message:

I’ll schedule a different workout for you each day. You can just choose “Today’s workout” each day if you want to stick to the schedule, or you can use “Choose workout” to pick one of the types.

The next screen is a menu selector that’s reminiscent of “My Fitness Coach 2”. This is no accident, as that game had been developed by Lightning Fish games and had been called “NewU Fitness First: Personal Trainer” in the UK. However, when the game was brought to the United States, the publisher, Ubisoft, foolishly chose to change the name to try to “cash in” on the success of My Fitness Coach. But because the new game was completely different, fans of the original were disappointed and felt they’d been misled (which, in fact, they had been). They never gave NewU a chance. Happily, Deep Silver, the new publisher of Get Fit with Mel B in the US, was smart enough to keep the original name.

Ironically, Get Fit with Mel B feels in many ways like the true sequel to My Fitness Coach that we’ve been waiting so many years for. As with that game, you can choose your workout environment (which is a photorealistic setting, not a cartoon), you can choose your own equipment to work with, you can watch your trainer make the exact moves (again, as a video instead of a cartoon), and your workouts consist of reps of many different activities strung together. You really feel like Mel B is your own “personal trainer”. I’d go so far as to say that if you were a fan of My Fitness Coach and have been disappointed by wannabes (no pun intended) like Jillian Michaels, 10 Minute Solution, or Zumba Fitness, you’ll feel like you’ve come home with Get Fit with Mel B.

The Menu options are extremely simple. They are:

1) Today’s Workout: This takes you right into each day’s scheduled workout, which is a different workout each day based on the goals that you selected.

2) Choose Workout: This gives you a couple more options:

–        Workout. You choose between standardized “Fitness” and “Aerobics” workouts, customizing the length of the workout.

If you choose “Fitness”, a standard workout comprised of fitness activities is customized to your goals and put together. You’ll see a breakdown of each of the individual fitness activities (mine consisted of 15-20 reps of push ups, see saws, crunches, jumping jacks, hip swings, squats, chest presses, tricep kick backs, and bent rows).

If you choose “Aerobics”, you can choose from step, dance, combat, cardio, or advanced cardio aerobics. Again, you’re shown a breakdown of the different aerobic moves (Advanced Cardio has you doing pulldown knees, shuffles, jumping jacks, ice skaters, swinging star jumps, toe touch jump squats, side jumps and drop squats, spring hops, twisting tuck jumps, rotating hamstring curls, jumping jacks and drop squats, jumping single leg lunges, high knee runs, and side ski jumps). And happily, all the aerobics exercises use the balance board, and use it well–if you bought a Balance Board for step aerobics but were always disappointed by Wii Fit’s weak “plink, plink, plink” step aerobics, you’ll love how they use the Balance Board here.

You can choose the length of the workout, and then just start working out.

–        Custom Workout: With custom workout, you can literally build your own workouts, choosing the fitness or aerobic move, and then choosing how many reps of each move you wish to make. It takes a while to set up, but the resulting workout is yours alone, which you can play over and over again.

There is a staggering number of individual moves which you can choose from. Here’s a list of Fitness Moves:

  1. Rotation push-ups
  2. Lateral Step-ups
  3. Drop Lunges
  4. Three point push-ups
  5. Push-ups
  6. Push-ups on knees
  7. Staggered Push-ups
  8. Cat crawl push-ups
  9. See Saws
  10. Mountain Climbers
  11. Long arm crunches
  12. Roll up crunches
  13. Squats
  14. Wide squats
  15. Lunges
  16. Side lunges
  17. Squats with kickbacks
  18. Reverse lunges
  19. Jumping jacks
  20. Lunges with running arms
  21. Ice skaters
  22. jumping lunges
  23. Canoe
  24. Twist crunches
  25. Diagonal lunges
  26. Hip swings
  27. Split Squats
  28. Prisoner Squats
  29. Cobra
  30. Flys
  31. Chest presses
  32. Bicep Curls
  33. Hammer Curls
  34. Tricep kick backs
  35. Tricep extensions
  36. Shoulder presses
  37. Shoulder scaptions
  38. Upright rows
  39. Bent rows
  40. Side raises
  41. Front raises
  42. Reverse flys
  43. Seated rows
  44. Single shoulder presses
  45. Front/side raises

…and a list of Step Aerobic Moves:

  1. Step on, step off
  2. kicks
  3. side kicks
  4. steps with turns
  5. diagonal knee raises
  6. hamstring curls
  7. Front knee raises
  8. Side steps
  9. Kicks and leg raises
  10. Hamstring curls and presses
  11. Turns with arm circles
  12. Heel digs and bicep curls
  13. Sideways high knees
  14. Front kicks with scissor arms

There’s a similar list of moves for dance, combat, cardio, and advanced cardio aerobics.

– Practice: Here, you can choose any single exercise and practice it as many times as you like. This becomes handy with some of the more complex moves.

– Challenges: If you’re up for a challenge, these are intensive groups of exercises where you’re pushed to complete a set of themed exercise routines (Dance, Abs Attack, Legs of Steel, Fighting Fit, or Cardio Test) within a certain period of time. I would have liked to see this section be a little more “fun” and interactive, but it’s really not much different than the standard workouts, just a bunch of tougher ones strung together.

3) Nutrition: Here, you’re presented with six meal plans and 140 heathy recipes. I do like the sentiment–any successful workout routine will be coupled with healthy eating. If you have your Wii hooked up to a printer or set up in the kitchen, this section will be useful to you. In other words, this section is pretty worthless. But on a positive note, the recipes do look delicious and they are all relatively short, so it might be worth you copying down by hand.

Whether you select Today’s Workout, a standard Workout, or a custom Workout, they’re all similar. You’ll see a video image of Mel B in the milieu you selected, and she’ll call out the moves you need to make and demonstrate on-screen how to do them. Unlike the Playstation or the upcoming Xbox version, there is NO support for a video camera image of yourself next to Mel B.

Having said that, I didn’t really miss having a video image all that much. The on-screen rendition of Mel B is pretty clear, and the vocal instructions she shouts are very understandable and easy to follow (unlike games like Jillian Michaels, where the on-screen Jillian would shout mundane and irrelevant platitudes).

As for the accuracy of the controls, the game does use the Balance Board for certain exercises, and for most exercises it uses the Wii MotionPlus. But by now we all know that because it’s a Wii, the controls are not the most precise in the world. Most exercises will err on the side of being generous in “awarding” you accuracy points, and of course, it’s easy to “cheat” by moving your hands but not the rest of your body. Of course, if you want to get the most out of the workout, accuracy points aren’t the most important thing–the most important thing is doing the exercise.

Long story short, if you’re looking for a simulation of a real personal trainer working out with you at a gym, in many ways Get Fit with Mel B comes closer than any other game since the original My Fitness Coach. Given the paucity of new fitness titles for Fall 2011, Get Fit with Mel B is a great choice if you’re looking for something a little new and different, especially if you enjoy cardio and aerobic sessions at the gym. 4 of 5 stars.

Review of UFC Personal Trainer for Wii

UFC Personal Trainer by
Platform: Wii
3 of 5 stars – Decent workout games that fans of UFC will appreciate, albeit marred by some bugs
by ,
Written on August 29, 2011

ufc personal trainer review for wiiWe’ve posted reviews of UFC Personal Trainer for the Xbox and the PS3. On both sites the game got a solid 4 out of 5 stars. The game was essentially identical across both platforms, both positive and negative. And I’m happy to say that with the Wii version, you’re pretty much getting the same game that’s available on the other platforms.

On the positive side, UFC Personal Trainer is easily the most intense workout you can get for the Wii. Note that intense isn’t necessarily for everyone. There were workouts at “beginner” level which were extremely challenging for me. Still, if you’re a UFC or MMA fan, you know that the sport is all about pushing and challenging yourself, so that’s great motivation to try the exercises over and over until you do them right.

I guess the main negative about the game is that it’s not all that much “fun”. I would have hoped that given that this is a UFC title, there would be at least some fighting simulation or more creative activities (as you’ll see below, the “fun” activities they do have aren’t all that fun). Still if you’re committed to working out and especially if you’re a UFC fan who’s familiar with these personalities, you’ll be plenty entertained just by the concept of having “personal training sessions” with real UFC fighters.

As with the PS3 and Xbox versions, you start out by creating a profile. Unlike those two versions, you can optionally use the Balance Board to measure your weight. For controls, you have the choice of using two Wii remotes, or a Wii remote and a nunchuk. For many of the exercises that require leg movement, the game comes with a leg strap that you can simply drop your Wii remote into.

The first thing you’ll do is a “fitness test”. As with the other systems, this test alone is a pretty intense workout in itself. You start by doing as many sit-ups as you can in a minute, holding a Wii remote in your hand and crossing your hands over your chest. I was pleasantly surprised that the system picked up my motions perfectly–even better than the Xbox or PS3 versions (which have the limitation of requiring you to be in camera view). The next test was a push-up test, where I had to put the Wii remote in the leg strap. Again, surprisingly, my push-ups were detected perfectly (granted, it’s easy to “cheat” by not doing a full rep or even just by flailing your Wii remote around, but why would anyone want to do that?). The next test was a test to detect your active heart rate. You do jumping jacks for a minute, and then count your pulse rate as the Wii counts down 15 seconds. From there, it’ll calculate your active heartrate. When the test is over, the system will assign you a level–beginner. intermediate, or advanced. On all three systems, I was diagnosed as a beginner, I’m guessing mainly because of my complete inability to do push ups.

From there, you’re brought to the main menu. Your menu choices are:

Workouts – There are essentially three sets of 20 workouts (each about 15-20 minutes long) that are given by UFC personalities Mark Delagrotte, Greg Jackson, and Javier Mendez. Before you start the workouts, there’s a video introduction to each UFC Fighter, followed by a menu where you can select workouts that focus on Core, Upper Body, Legs, Cardio, Strength, and more. The trainer (in cartoon form) will demonstrate each exercise, offering very detailed verbal instructions and advice. In some cases, the exercises as basic cardio and calisthenics exercises, but in some cases you’re actually learning real MMA techniques. There is supposedly Balance Board support for some of the exercises, but for the life of my I couldn’t find one that used the Balance Board.

Quick Workouts – Here, you can jump straight into exercises intended to meet a specific goal, such as weight loss, building strength, or building endurance.

The biggest pet peeve I have with the workouts is that far too much time is spent on stretching and warm-up/cool-down. I understand the importance of proper stretching, but in some cases the warm-up and cool-down take even longer than the workouts themselves, and in some cases aren’t even relevant to the particular exercises you’re doing. The good news is, you can customize workouts yourself and/or use the remote to skip the repetitive stretching exercises, but I just found it very annoying.

Activities – These are “fun” activities which provide quick, focused simulations of using real equipment to work out. You can choose from a virtual heavy bag, a virtual speed back, a heavy tire to flip, or hitting mitts held by a UFC personality. I wouldn’t say these are particularly challenging nor very fun, although they are decent simulations of the real thing.

Multiplayer Games – Here, you can play Tire Flip or Speed Bag against someone side-by-side, or take turns with someone to see who can score the highest on Hit the Mitts, Tire Flip, or Speed Bag. This would probably be more interesting if the activities themselves were more interesting.

Programs – Here, you can choose from different programs to meet certain goals. There’s a strength building program, a weight loss program, and an endurance building program for 30 days or 60 days, similar to the 60- and 90- day challenges in EA Sports Active 2 and NFL Training Camp. When you select a program, you’ll be brought to a calendar where you can see which specific workouts you’ll do on each day during that time.

Overall, as with the Xbox and PS3 versions, UFC Personal Trainer provides some of the best workouts you can get on the Wii. The videos, graphics, audio, options are all identical across all versions, and of course you’ll pay about $10 less for the game on the Wii than those systems. I found the motion controls very accurate for a Wii fitness game, and I appreciated that you could play it without forcing yourself to fit in a camera view, and that you could use the Balance Board. I’d say it’s a must-have in you’re a UFC fan looking to lose weight, or if you don’t mind pushing yourself. All other things being equal, I’d give the Wii version the same 4 stars that I gave the other versions.

However, there is one thing on the Wii version that forces me to drop it a star to 3 stars. The game constantly crashed on me. This is a problem that has been reported on a very widespread basis, even on THQ’s own discussion forums. But disappointingly, THQ has been silent on the issue.

What happens is, you’ll be in the middle of a workout and suddenly this will happen:

What makes it even more annoying is that your entire Wii freezes up. You can’t press buttons on the controller to reset, or even press the power button on the Wii to shut down. You actually have to unplug the power from the unit. It’s the first time I’ve seen anything like this on the Wii, and it really shows some lax quality control on THQ’s part. Worse, on the discussion forums, the THQ customer support people are telling people to clean their discs, which obviously is the wrong information given that this is happening to so many people.

The scuttlebutt on the boards is that the solution to this is to disconnect the Wii from the Internet. I tried this and it seems to work. But until THQ acknowledges the issue and releases a patch to make the game work for everyone, I can’t quite recommend the title just yet.

Review of Just Dance Summer Party for the Wii

Just Dance 2 by
Platform: Wii
4 of 5 stars – Fun as all Just Dance games are, but nothing really new.
by ,
Written on August 1, 2012

First there was Just Dance. And it was pretty good.

Then there was Just Dance 2. And it was very good.

Then there was Just Dance Broadway (Dance on Broadway). Then Just Dance Michael Jackson (Michael Jackson: The Experience). Then Just Dance Kids. Then, uh, Just Dance Smurfs (I kid you not…see The Smurfs Dance Party).

And now, Just Dance Summer Party. And it’s at this point that we all start to wonder…is this just a wee bit too much?

Well, I’m happy to say no, you can’t have enough Just Dance. Because the songs are new and the steps are new, you never really get the sense of having “been there and done that”. With Just Dance Summer Party there are 23 new songs that are perfect for, well, summer parties.

As with all other variations of Just Dance, you only need a single Wii remote to play, and up to four players can play together (either in competition or in dancing choreographed routines together). As with Just Dance 2, the motion detection is excellent. Not perfect, but good enough that as you practice and learn the dance moves, you’ll see your score rise. And yes, after playing through just a few songs I felt my arms strengthen and my cardio go up, so it’s still a great way to get some exercise.

The songs are all very catchy and make great dance tunes, and of course they’re all choreographed excellently. Here’s Katy Perry’s “Firework” where you can show off moves like Katy herself does:

They actually have a gospel tune by The Reverend Horatio Duncan & Amos Sweets:  “Down by the Riverside”, with some rather inspirational choreography:

Perhaps my all-time favorite choreography: Carl Douglas’s classic “Kung Fu Fighting”, with dance moves paying homage not just to the classic funky tune, but also to classic video game fighting:

So as you can see, Just Dance Summer Party follows in the footsteps of previous Just Dance titles. As with Just Dance 2, there are icons that tell you the workout intensity (one of three icons shaped like a drop of sweat) and the technical complexity (one of three icons shaped like a gear) above each song. There’s also a “Duet” icon which lets you know if the song is choreographed as a routine for two people.

Also as with Just Dance 2, there’s a “Just Sweat” mode where you don’t worry about your score and just burn those calories away. There are also Dance Battles and Dance Party, perfect for those summer parties.

I give Just Dance Summer Party a 4 of 5 stars, not so much for the game play, which is as excellent as Just Dance 2, but more so because it really doesn’t add much new;  there are only 20 songs on this volume, which makes the list price of $30 a little suspect (Just Dance 2 had 44 tracks and is going for about the same price). Also, most of the songs have been available on the Wii store as downloadable content already.

Here are all the songs included on the disc:

  1. A Band of Bees – Chicken Payback
  2. A R Rahman, Pussycat Dolls featuring Nicole Scherzinger – Jai Ho! (You are my destiny)
  3. Blur – Song 2
  4. Carl Douglas – Kung Fu Fighting (Dave Ruffy / Mark Wallis remix)
  5. Estelle feat Kanye West – American Boy
  6. Katy Perry – Firework
  7. M/A/R/R/S – Pump Up The Volume
  8. Panic At The Disco – Nine in the Afternoon
  9. Rihanna – Pon De Replay
  10. Steppenwolf – Born To Be Wild
  11. The Supremes – You Can’t Hurry Love
  12. V V Brown – Crying Blood
  13. Countdown Dee’s Hit Explosion – Barbie Girl
  14. Love Letter – Why oh why
  15. Nick Phoenix and Thomas Bergersen – Professeur Pumplestickle
  16. Studio Allstars – Maniac
  17. Sweat Invaders – Funkytown’
  18. Sweat Invaders – Skin-to-Skin
  19. The Hit Crew – Here Comes The Hotstepper
  20. The Lemon Cubes – Mambo NO. 5 (A Little Bit Of Monica)
  21. The Lemon Cubes – Moving On Up
  22. The Reverend Horatio Duncan & Amos Sweets – Down By The Riverside
  23. The World Cup Girls – Futebol Crazy

I do suspect this will be the last title of the “current series” before Ubisoft releases Just Dance 3 in October. Just Dance 3 promises to be amazing, with features such as letting you interact with the in-game world, Dance Crew mode, Flash Mob mode, and Just Sweat More, a training program with calculated Cardio Training and on-going assessment to help you stay fit. It will be interesting to see if Ubisoft can compete with the likes of Dance Central 2 on Kinect and Everybody Dance for Playstation by sticking to simplicity and fun.