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Archive for June, 2010

Early Reviews of Sony Move

Some good news for Sony in the Playstation Move / Xbox Kinect wars. Among members of the media who have already tried both, many are declaring Sony’s controller more precise and offering a more satisfying and integrated experience. According to PC World, Sony “seems to have the lag-free precision-tracking parts down pat, arguably better than either of its competitors“. USA Today says “Overall, Move feels responsive, and the PlayStation Eye camera seems to track movements well”. While CNET says “the PlayStation Move is currently our favorite entry in the motion control competition. Kinect works well enough, but it’s not always as responsive as you’d want, or at least that’s how some of the games we tried felt”.

That’s three very strong reviews from three of the most trusted names in video game reviews. Of course Sony shouldn’t rest on its laurels: all it needs to do is think of the lesson of Betamax vs. VHS (or even motion control-less Playstation 3 vs. Wii) to remember that the best technology doesn’t always translate into the winner. But it’s a good start for them.

Details are still sketchy about Playstation games specifically geared towards fitness and exercise, but I’ll pass that on as soon as I hear anything.

In other news, Sony Move pre-order links are now live on Amazon. If the experiences we’ve had buying the Wii Fit are any indication, it’s never too early to order yours!

Review of Dance on Broadway for Wii

Dance on Broadway

Reviewed by Nutwiisystem on June 17, 2010.
Summary: A great follow-up to Just Dance featuring dance steps and showtunes from Broadway.

just dance sequel on broadway
Just Dance was a revolution in dancing games. Before it, most dance games just consisted of moving your hands or stomping your feet to an on-screen cue. Just Dance was the first game to incorporate real dance moves to choreographed steps.

Dance on Broadway plays pretty much the same as Just Dance. It retains most of its features, both positive and negative.

  • You follow one of four silhouetted on-screen characters, mirroring their moves as they dance.
  • There are also icons that scroll across the bottom of the screen that tell you what moves are coming up (basically, what “pose” you should be hitting when the icon hits the arrow). Honestly, I didn’t find this as useful as simply mimicking the on-screen characters themseves, but I’m guessing over time once you memorize what the icons mean it’ll help you perfect your performance.
  • Up to four players can play at the same time. Like Just Dance, this makes for a ton of fun with friends or family.
  • Each player holds one Wii remote. No nunchuk, no second remote, no MotionPlus is used. This is good in that it simplifies things and there are no cables to get tangled up in. It’s not-so-good, as Dance on Broadway still suffers from a lack of precision in motion tracking.

In addition, Dance on Broadway adds a few neat enhancements that its predecessor did not have.

  • The casting of the four characters matches the song. For example, for “One Night Only”, there are four African American women which allows you to live out your dream of being one of the “Dreamgirls”. For “Aquarius”, there’s a nice mix of hippy guys and girls.
  • The choreography is more detailed. For some of the songs, each of the characters has their own individual dance steps resulting in a pretty cool and fully choreographed Broadway routine when four people are playing together.
  • The precision of the motion tracking is a little better than before, but still leaves a lot to be desired. Still, as before it’s so fun learning the dance steps that you don’t really care (I was thrilled with my “70%” accuracy, even though I knew it was really closer to 90%). They do give the advice to hold the remote firmly in your right hand, which I found helped.
  • The songs are decidedly less “intense” than the ones in Just Dance. The songs are rated by “difficulty” and “effort”, but in all honesty, even the most difficult songs were pretty simple. So it’s not as good a workout game as its predecessor, but more suited for those of us who have always dreamed of being on Broadway.
  • There’s the option to turn vocals off, meaning you can not only dance, but you can also sing along with the words.

Here’s a complete list of songs, the shows they’re from, and their rating of Difficult / Effort in parentheses:

  • All That Jazz from All That Jazz (1/2)
  • Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In from Hair (1/1)
  • Bend and Snap from Legally Blond (2/3)
  • Cabaret from Cabaret (3/2)
  • Dreamgirls from Dreamgirls (1/2)
  • Fame from Fame-The Musical (1/3)
  • Good Morning Baltimore from Hairspray (1/1)
  • I Just Can’t Wait to Be King from The Lion King (2/2)
  • Luck Be a Lady from Guys and Dolls (3/2)
  • Little Shop of Horrors from Little Shop of Horrors (2/3)
  • Lullaby of Broadway from 42nd Street (2/2)
  • Money, Money from Cabaret (3/3)
  • My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music (1/2)
  • One Night Only from Dreamgirls (3/3)
  • Roxie from Chicago (1/2)
  • Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins (2/3)
  • Thoroughly Modern Millie from Thoroughly Modern Millie (3/3)
  • Time Warp from The Rocky Horror Show (3/3)
  • We’re in the Money from 42nd Street (2/3)
  • You Can’t Stop the Beat from Hairspray (2/2)

In short, while I gave Just Dance 5 out of 5 stars, I’ll give this one 4 out of 5 mainly because I would have liked to see Ubisoft improve the motion tracking more than they did, as well as include more cardio-intensive choreography. Still, it’s a solid title which I definitely recommend.

There are a lot of titles coming in the next few months like Ubisoft’s Gold’s Gym Dance Workout, Majesco’s Zumba for Wii, and Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution which will also focus on real dance moves. I definitely commend Ubisoft for starting this trend, and hope between these companies they can really perfect the motion controls and get the world dancing 🙂

4 of 5

More New Wii Fitness Games

It’s been a big week for announcements of new games for Wii fitness, most likely due to the big E3 conference out in Los Angeles (this is the big conference where video game companies show off their new stuff for the next year).

The biggest news came out of Microsoft and Sony. It took them a few years to figure out that Wii motion control is the wave of the future with video games. So they introduced two different approaches to copying the Wii.

Microsoft introduced “Kinect” (Kintec? Kinetic? Kentic? Kinnect?) for the Xbox. From the same marketing geniuses that brought you names like “Zune” and “Kin”). This is a system that uses only a camera to sense your body position and movements. It’s a bold experiment, and time will tell if Microsoft pulled it off.

Sony introduced “Playstation Move” for the PS3. This is a system that pretty much mimics the Wii–it has a “Wand” which acts like a Wii remote and a “Analog Controller” that acts like a nunchuk. It also uses a camera to interact with a bright ball of light on top of the wand.

I see this competition as a good thing for the Wii. Wii game makers have been getting decidedly lax in making great games. While games like Wii Fit and EA Sports Active pushed the genre ahead, lately all we’ve been seeing are copycat games with substandard motion controls, which the public would eat up simply because there wasn’t anything better out there. Maybe this will be a wake-up call for Wii game manufacturers and Nintendo to improve.

Perhaps not coincidentally, several game manufacturers announced upcoming Wii fitness games too, most of them arriving in the Fall in time for the holiday shopping season.

Majesco announced a while ago that they’re developing Zumba for the Wii.

Ubisoft will be coming out with Just Dance 2 and Gold’s Gym Dance Workout.

2KPlay is launching Nickelodeon Fit, a promising game targeted at young children.

I’ll keep the list of upcoming Wii fitness games updated as I hear more. But it’s looking like we should be set for another influx of games to try out.

Sony Move to Arrive September 19, 2010

At the E3 conference in Los Angeles, Sony announced some more details about the Sony Move.

The new motion-sensing controllers will hit stores in North America on September 19, 2010. On the day of launch there will be 15-20 games which support it.

There will be several parts that make up the Sony Move experience.

  1. A PlayStation Eye camera. This is the same as is currently available, and will probably sell for the same price as it does today, about $34.99. I’ve always been impressed by the Playstation Eye’s technology but not the anemic amount of games designed around it, so it’s nice to see it’s finally getting a second chance at life by making it an integral part of the Move.
  2. The PlayStation Move Controller. This is the picture you’ve  seen floating around, which looks like a black ice cream cone with a colorful ball on top. This is the equivalent of the Wii remote, and will sell for $49.99 each.

  1. The PlayStation Move Navigation Controller. This is the equivalent of the Wii nunchuk, in that it’s used in conjunction with the wand controller for things like moving characters around. This will sell for $29.99 each.

Sony will be selling the Playstation Eye, the Move controller, and a game called “Sports Champions” in the PlayStation Move Starter Bundle for $99.99. Sports Champions will include archery, frisbee golf, bocce, ping pong, sword fighting, and beach volleyball. The concept is a lot like Wii Sports Resort, but of course with more photorealistic graphics.

It’ll also sell this bundle with the PS3 console in the PlayStation Move Console Bundle for $399.99

When Playstation Move officially launches, about 10-15 games will launch with it was well. Time will tell if Sony takes the lead with Playstation Move, if Microsoft takes the lead with Kinect (not sure about the technology yet, but as usual Microsoft marketing has outdone itself with the name…I’ll bet you’ll see people spelling it Kintec, Kinetic, Kinnect, etc), or if Nintendo will hold the lead with its Wii.

The winner among the three should be the company that has the most consistent and accurate motion sensors, combined with the highest quality games. The good news is, regardless of how it turns out, we the consumer should be the real winner.

UPDATE: all the links above are live links to pre-order on Amazon. Click them to become one of the first to experience the new controls–and if history is any indication, these will be hard to come by when they’re released. As usual, Amazon has a policy where if the price decreases between now and the launch date, it’ll give you the lower price.

New Dance Dance Revolution for Wii (with real dance moves) Coming in the Fall

Konami announced today that there will be a brand new version of Dance Dance Revolution for the Wii coming in the Fall of 2010 to replace their solid yet admittedly aging Dance Dance Revolution series.

The new version of DDR features a new “Choreography Mode” which will feature actual dance moves from choreographers. If this sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve seen this already in the wildly successful Just Dance from Ubisoft.

This is where competition can be a great thing. As fun as Just Dance is, the most frustrating thing about it is its imprecise motion tracking, and given Ubisoft’s track record with motion and exercise games, they haven’t seemed to have the expertise nor the will to improve it. Konami has always done a great job with precise motion tracking due to its dance mat controller–but after 11 years, jumping on squares is admittedly getting stale. Can they extend their technology to track real dance moves?

And so the race is on. Who will come up with the best game featuring real dance moves for Fall of 2010? And will it be one of these two companies or a dark horse who will produce the best game for the PS3 Move or the Xbox Kinect? I’ll be reviewing both games when they come out in a few months. Stay tuned!

Here’s the full press release from Konami:

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – June 15, 2010 – Konami Digital Entertainment Inc. today announced DanceDanceRevolution for Wii™. Featuring an all-new Choreography Mode, a wide variety of hit music, and enhanced multiplayer capabilities, DanceDanceRevolution makes its triumphant return to the family-friendly platform with over 11 years of dance history.

“DanceDanceRevolution is back and better than ever, combining entertaining and physically engaging gameplay with all of Nintendo Wii’s interactive capabilities,” said Shinji Hirano, President of Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. “The newest addition to the DanceDanceRevolution family will offer fans the complete DanceDanceRevolution package full of movement, fitness and fun.”

DanceDanceRevolution will have players back on the mat with the introduction of the all-new Choreograph Style mode, allowing gamers to move with the model dancer on screen utilizing their body, mat controller, Wii Remote and Nunchuk, simultaneously. Completing the traditional style Wii gameplay, DanceDanceRevolution will also bring back the use of the Wii Balance Board™, taking the dance party to the next level with both beginner and expert dancers. As an added bonus, everyone can join in on the fun with a new multiplayer mode that allows up to four players to become the ultimate dancers using their upper body to follow the on-screen dance moves.

Review of Jumpstart Get Moving Family Fitness for Wii

Jumpstart Get Moving Family Fitness

Reviewed by Nutwiisystem on June 13, 2010.
Summary: A not-too-stellar collection of sports oriented mini-games which provide little fitness value.

I had high hopes for Jumpstart Get Moving Family Fitness Wii. This was the first Wii fitness title released by Knowledge Adventure, a leader in educational software. I figured with the higher price point ($29.99), maybe we’d see a fitness game of the caliber of EA Sports Active or Wii Fit rather than the shovelware that so permeates the landscape.

The game is a combination of eight different sports categories: basketball, volleyball, football, baseball, race (running, speedskating, flying, and bicycle), boxing, step aerobics, balance games (including dodgeball and “pinball”). You can play each activity individually, or you can go through circuits.

There are a few kid-friendly gimmicks. You can choose different workout locations, including Atlantis, Beach, Bug View, Castle, Egypt, Farm, Jungle, Jurassic, Ruins, Space, Volcano. But all this does is display a generic animated background–you don’t really interact with the environment.

Unfortunately, this game is a big disappointment in many other ways.

First of all, the vast majority of games are blatant copies of activities already found in EA Sports Active, Wii Sports Resort, and Wii Fit. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing in itself if they improved upon the originals. But in most cases the games here They did not–to the contrary, in most cases they took a big step backward.

Secondly, the activities really aren’t that strenuous. Given its title and its price, I would have thought this game would allow entire families to work out together. But with the exception of one or two activites, the workout really isn’t much better than any other Wii game.

Here’s my take on all the activites:

  1. Balance Games. There are two activities under this heading. The first is Dodgeball, which is just a complete and utter ripoff of “Soccer Heading” game on Wii Fit Plus. Because it uses the Wii remote held sideways instead of a balance board, there’s really not much workout or balance benefit here. Plus, the controls are extremely inaccurate. The other is called “Pinball”, where you tilt the Wii remote to control a ball on a pinball machine. Again, not sure how this could be considered “fitness”.
  2. Baseball. There are two activities under Baseball–fielding and batting. Both are very obvious imitations of the same activites in EA Sports Active, with much less sharp graphics and much less accurate controls. At the end of the day neither are as good as the original baseball game in Wii sports, even though that was released years ago.

  3. Basketball. Again, there’s a passing game and a three-point shooting game. The passing game, again, looks like it was ripped from the “lunge right, lunge left” exercises in EA Sports Active. The three-point shooting game looks like a complete copy of the same game in Wii Sports Resort. I did like how they improved it to add support for the balance board so you could simulate a jump shot, though.

  4. Boxing. This is the typical punching and ducking game that has already been done well on the Wii, most notably with games like Wii Sports and Gold’s Gym Cardio. This is another low-quality imitation. The controls are woefully sluggish–you’ll often throw punches that are not at all registered.

  5. Football. This was the one bright spot of this game, maybe because it’s the only game which is truly original. You wave the Wii remote to throw the football short or long, and all the time you’re moving left and right with the nunchuk joystick to avoid tacklers. Again, you don’t get much of a workout and the controls can be inaccurate, but at least it’s original and fun.

  6. Race. You can choose from Bicycling, Skating, Flying, or Running. Bicycling is a copy of the same title in Wii Sports Resort, where you alternate moving the remote and nunchuk with your left hand and right hand or step lively the balance board. The steering is pretty much automatic, which younger players may appreciate (you can move left and right with the nunchuk joystick, but it’s mainly to avoid obstacles). Skating is basically a timing game. You alternate moving the remote and the nunchuk in sync with an on-screen prompt which simulates the skater pushing off. Crouch to duck below yellow barriers as they come. Again, not a very “fitness” intense workout, but it’s fun enough.

    Flying is a game where you swing your remote and nunchuk up and down to flap your wings and tilt to steer through the course. It’s not bad, but not great either–the same idea was executed much better on Wii Fit Plus.

    Running is much like the same game in Wii Fit. You alternate the Wii remote and nunchuk to run, and press “B” to jump over the occasional hurdle.

  7. Step Aerobics. Once again, a complete ripoff of Wii Fit. Aggravatingly, it tell you to “Dance along with Brooke to the music”, but the “music” is actually a frenetic tune that has nothing to do with the beat and actually throws you off your steps. This one is a major disappointment.
  8. Volleyball – A poor imitation of EA Sports Active’s volleyball game, where you can practice setting, bumping, and serving. You use the nunchuk joystick to control your direction, and swing the remote upwards when bumping the ball.

It probably should have been a warning sign that Jumpstart signed on Brooke Burke to be the B-list celebrity featured in this game. As with Daisy Fuentes’s disastrous Pilates title or Jenny McCarthy’s disappointing Your Shape, it seems that having a celebrity endorsement for a Wii exercise game is the kiss of death.

There are some bright spots of the game. One thing I did like was the ability in many activities to compete head-to-head against someone else in a split-screen. There’s also the ability to choose from three difficulty levels, a good way to have parents and children competing against each other.

In short, I would not recommend this one as a serious “fitness” game, but if the price goes down it might be a decent collection of mini games to play with your family that’s a step above shovelware games. That said, you can find much more polished “family fun” games in Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit Plus and much better “family fitness” with games like DDR and Just Dance. As for Jumpstart, I hope the next time they try this, they spend more time creating original ideas like their football game and the improvements they made to the basketball game, instead of focusing all their energy on copying others who have already done it better.

3 of 5

Gold’s Gym Dance Workout for Wii

wii dance workout
Here’s an upcoming title from Ubisoft, set to be released in the Fall. Gold’s Gym Dance Workout looks like a really promising game.

For a long time, Dance Dance Revolution was the king of the hill as far as dance games go. But of course, hopping on a plastic mat isn’t really dancing. I found this out the hard way at a wedding when I tried to participate in a dance-off using DDR moves. There were a lot of copycat games like High School Musical and Dancing with the Stars that were variations of matching movements with arms and legs. Great exercise, great challenge, not really dancing.

Just Dance proved that people want to has enjoyed a resurgence in recent months. Perhaps buoyed by popular TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With the Stars, suddenly, people wanted to exercise but also learn real dance moves and choreography.

Gold’s Gym Cardio has had a long-time place on our list of top 10 Wii Fitness games because it taught “real” boxing moves. If all goes well, Gold’s Gym Dance Workout should do the same (it was developed in collaboration with fitness and dance experts). There’s still no official song list, but hopefully there’ll be plenty of popular songs.

Here are some other highlights:

  • The game will include mini-games such as rodeo bull riding, karate, rowing, kangaroo boxing, and sword fighting.
  • Support for creation of circuit program, which are continuous dancing or mini-game sessions lasting up to 30 minutes.
  • Tracking of  your exercise history, including play time, calories burned, and BMI.
  • Support for two players, so you can workout with a friend or loved one.

While Ubisoft’s recent history of exercise games has been a little spotty, this one should be another good one.

Wii Weights – Using Riiflex to Breathe New Life into Old Games

One of the biggest problems with Wii fitness games like Jillian Michaels and The Biggest Loser is that you’re flailing your arms around, but there’s just no resistance. As a result, you get a pretty good lower body workout (because your legs are carrying the weight of your body), but after the workout you really don’t feel like you’ve gotten a very good upper body workout. As a result, games like this usually get played a few times and then go back on the shelf.

There’s also another possible problem that arises because of this. Early on in my Wii exercising days, I experienced a somewhat frightening phenomenon. After a few days straight of playing a Wii game (I think it was EA Sports Grand Slam Tennis), my shoulder started to get really sore, even to the point where it was uncomfortable moving it. I looked online, and I realized I had rotator cuff tendonitis. The phenomenon of Wii-related injuries due to lack of resistance has become so widespread that there’s even a name for it: Wii-itis.

Yes, most Wii games manufacturers (no doubt at the request of their lawyers) put in screen to tell you to take time to rest, but when you’re having fun with a game it’s easy to ignore those.

The cause of shoulder tendonitis is when you simulate sports movements, but you don’t have the natural resistance that comes with a tennis racket hitting a ball, a baseball bat hitting a ball, or boxing gloves hitting a bag (or a person :)). When your body hits those kinds of resistances, it eventually tells you to slow down. But with the Wii, your body never stops, which can result in joint and muscle pain (and if left unchecked, even damage).

Happily, my tendonitis cleared up after a few weeks. But I’m a lot more careful nowadays about playing long sessions at once.

One of the best ways to give your arms resistance is the use of hand weights in your exercise. I received a pair of Riiflex hand weights, and they have breathed new life into my Wii workouts.

Weights that attach to Wii remote

Riiflex weights are 2 pound weights that snap onto your Wii remote and nunchuk. While 2 pounds may not seem like a lot, it’s just about the perfect amount of resistance, especially as you’re playing reflex and rhythm games, which essentially are like doing reps.

The weights are bright green in color, fitting well with the whole millieu of Wii Fit and the bright happy colors of those games.

Attaching the Nunchuk to the Riiflex WeightsInserting the Nunchuk into the Riiflex

They’re really well built. The weights themselves are solid 2-pound weights, and yet they’re pleasant to hold because the entire surface is made of rubber which is very smooth in your hands. How they work is ingenious. You literally slip your Wii remote and nunchuk into the weights so that the weights and the controllers become unified–they will snap in place into the perfectly-shaped molds and remain there securely. Once they’re in place, you can use your Wii remote and nunchuk as normal. But instead of swinging and flailing your arms wildly, you get a good amount of resistance–and in the process you’re building up and toning the muscles in your upper and lower arms.

RiiFlex weights with the Wii remote and the nunchuk inserted

Just the other day, I gave my review of My Fitness Coach 2. If you can’t tell from my review, I was not very pleased with it. But with the Riiflex, it breathed new life into the game. Suddenly, those all-too-short exercise routines were much more challenging not just for my lower body but for my upper body too.

The game that really got new life was Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout. While this game did make the Top 10 list, it always struck me that somehow this game was missing something. At the end of a 20-minute session, I really didn’t feel too much “cardio”. That all changed when I slipped on the Riiflex weights. After just one round of the punching bag, my heart was racing, my muscles were toned, and I felt great. So a game that was collecting dust on the shelf is now part of my daily exercise routine again, something that would never have happened without the Riiflex weights.

There are a few drawbacks to the Riiflex weights, more a function of how the Wii was designed than any design flaws on the part of the manufacturer.

First, you have to take the Wii remote out of the protective plastic sleeve to put it in the Riiflex weight. It’s a minor inconvenience, but a necessary one to keep the Riiflex weight’s design streamlined. Luckily for me I have an extra Wii remote that I can dedicate just for this purpose, so I don’t have to keep switching it from the weights to the sleeve.

One good piece of news is, unlike other companies who make Wii dumbbells, the makers of Riiflex were forward-thinking enough to allow theirs to accomodate the MotionPlus (the Wii remote will just stick out of the end a little).

The other thing I would have liked to see is the ability to use two Wii remotes instead of a Wii remote and a nunchuk. Many game designers are realizing that the nunchuk is not as precise a controller for fast movement as the Wii remote (plus, it’s easy to get tangled up in the nunchuk cable), so they’re designing their games to accomodate two remotes. But since most of these games (such as Gold’s Gym Cardio) will allow you to switch between two Wii remotes and a Wii remote and a nunchuk, it’s not the end of the world.

Overall, the Riiflex gets a 5 out of 5 stars from me. It’s a bargain when you consider that it will breathe new life into a bunch of games you have sitting on the shelf, not just traditional fitness games, but even games like Wii Sports (if you’re a grown-up finding yourself easily outplaying the kids in your life with some games, using a Riiflex weight is a great way to equalize the playing field while giving yourself more of a challenge).

Riiflex 2lb. Dumbbells for Wii are available at at Amazon for a pretty reasonable price. It’s not a bad investment to breathe new life into old Wii games.