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Review of Just Dance 2016 for Wii #justdance

just dance 2016 wiiSo, as you may have noticed it’s been a while since I’ve posted a game review here, mainly because there just haven’t been any new motion control games out in a very long time. It seems that most publishers have given up on the genre, including such stalwarts as Majesco, EA Sports, and even Nintendo. The one lone holdout is Ubisoft with their annual release of an update to the Just Dance series.

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost six years since the original Just Dance on the Wii. Back in 2010 the “exergaming” craze was just starting to peak and Just Dance was one of the titles that helped revolutionize the genre. Prior to it, motion control games mostly involved simple “pattern matching”. But with Just Dance you danced real dance moves to real hit songs. Suddenly, it was a game not only fun to play, but just as fun to watch other people playing. And you could work up a pretty good sweat doing it.

Ubisoft’s timing was impeccable. They sold over 7 million copies of Just Dance, 9 million copies of Just Dance 2, and 10 million copies of Just Dance 3.

Just Dance 2016 is essentially “Just Dance 7”. Times have changed, of course. You hardly see motion control games anymore, much less exergames. And yet Ubisoft continues to churn out new versions of Just Dance every year. The game no longer sells multiple millions of copies, but apparently it still sells enough to keep the title profitable.

Even though they release versions for every platform now, the version for the good ol’ Wii continues to outsell the next most popular version (the Wii U) by more than a 3:1 margin. Seems that a lot of us are keeping our old Wiis around, if only for the occasional exercise session or party.

You start by choosing an avatar, basically one of 239 cute little icons, most of which are initially locked. As you play the game you can unlock more to choose from. If you have previous Just Dance save data on your system you’ll get three unlocked right off the bat. You then choose your country from a list of flags and then your age and gender. That’ll create your “dancer card”, and you can go ahead and create others for everyone in the house who’ll be playing.

One topic that seems to come up in reviews for Just Dance in recent versions is whether the songs and dance moves are appropriate for children.  In letting you choose age ranges from 0-9, 10-14, 15-19, 20-29, 30-39, and 40+ (making this 40+ reviewer feel very old) and a gender of “girl” or “boy”, you’d think that this game is mainly geared towards children. But as we’ve seen in past versions of Just Dance this may not be the case, depending on your parenting preferences.

I’m no prude, but even I’d think twice about having kids play this unsupervised. While there are certainly one or two kid-friendly songs like The Little Mermaid’s “Under the Sea”, the vast majority of songs are modern pop songs that are more suited for a grown-up audience.

As we’ve seen them do in the past, Ubisoft achieved the “E for Everyone” rating for certain songs basically by bleeping out words. But many parents out there will likely still find some lyrics too suggestive. For example, in Pitbull’s “Fun” when the lyrics go “don’t take it all off, keep your heels and thong”, they decided to bleep out “heels” and “thong”, but that doesn’t really make the song any less suggestive (in fact, it probably makes it worse). Likewise, a number of the songs have what some may find overly suggestive dance moves for children. Again, none of this is really a problem for young adults who wish to play this game alone or in a party setting, but at the very least I’d be sure to screen the songs and the choreography before having children dance to them or playing this in a setting with children, despite the rating.

From there you can just jump into dancing by selecting a song. Unlike past versions of Just Dance, they did away with the “difficulty” and “intensity” ratings for each song. If you have an Internet connection you can see the top scores of the week in your country and around the world, as well as the top scores on your local machine.

As with past versions, in most cases the choreography is for a single dancer’s moves, but in some cases they came up with a dance routing for 2, 3, or 4 dancers where each dancer has his or her own independent moves that work together with the other dancers. It’s those dances that tend to be the most fun to play—and to watch others play.

Here’s a list of the songs, the artists, and the number of dancers the default routine is choreographed for. Certain songs also have alternate choreography that you can unlock.

  • All About That Bass – Meghan Trainor (1)
  • No Control – One Direction (4)
  • I Gotta Feeling – The Black Eyed Peas (1)
  • Fancy – Iggy Azalea Ft. Charli XCX (3)
  • These Boots Are Made for Walking – The Girly Team (1)
  • Animals – Martin Garrix (2)
  • Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson Ft. Bruno Mars (1)
  • Balkan Blast Remix – Angry Birds (4)
  • Heartbeat Song – Kelly Clarkson (1)
  • Hey Mama – Daid Guetta Ft. Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha & Afrojack (3)
  • Ievan Polkka – Hatsune Miku (1)
  • The Choice is Yours – Darius Dante Van Dijk (1)
  • Fun – Pitbull Ft. Chris Brown (1)
  • William Tell Overture – Rossini (2)
  • Lights – Ellie Goulding (1)
  • Chiwawa – Wanko Ni Mero Mero (1)
  • You Never Can Tell – A. Caveman & The Backseats (2)
  • Born This Way – Lady Gaga (3)
  • Kaboom Pow – Nikki Yanofsky (1)
  • When The Rain Begins To Fall – Sky Trucking (2)
  • Same Old Love – Selena Gomez (3)
  • Cool For The Summer – Demi Lovato (1)
  • Want To Want Me – Jason Derulo (1)
  • Under The Sea – Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” (1)
  • This is How We Do – Katy Perry (4)
  • Hit The Road Jack – Charles Percy (2)
  • Junto a Ti – Disney’s “Violetta” (3)
  • Blame – Calvin Harris Ft. John Newman (1)
  • Irish Meadow Dance – O’Callaghan’s Orchestra (4)
  • Rabiosa – Shakira Fr. El Cata (1)
  • Circus – Britney Spears (4)
  • You’re the One That I Want – From The Movie Grease (2)
  • Hangover (BaBaBa) – Buraka Som Sistema (2)
  • I’m An Albatroz – AronChupa (1)
  • Kool Kontact – Glorious Black Belts (2)
  • Teacher – Nick Jonas (1)
  • Stuck on a Feeling – Prince Royce (1)
  • Boys (Summertime Love) – The Lemon Cubes (3)
  • Drop the Mambo – Diva Carmina (1)
  • Gibberish – MAX (2)
  • Copacabana – Frankie Bostello (4)
  • Let’s Groove – Equinox Stars (3)
  • Stadium Flow – Imposs (1)

Gameplay is the same as every other version of Just Dance from the beginning. You hold the Wii remote in your right hand and follow the on-screen dancer’s moves as if you’re looking in a mirror. Visual cues in the form of stick figure icons will scroll across the bottom to let you know what move is coming up, but they’re not of much help until you play long enough to be able to associate the icon with the move (and by that time you’ll probably have memorized the routine anyway).

One question that invariably arises is—how accurate are the motion controls? The quick answer to that is, they’re as accurate as they’re going to be. I think it was in Just Dance 3 that Ubisoft “figured it out”, -and since then the controls have been “good enough”. Which means that you’re not going to get the precision of, say, an Xbox Kinect…but it’s accurate enough to make it fun, especially when playing in a group where everyone’s on an even playing field.

What I’ve found in past Just Dance games, and again in this one, is that most people can get 2 stars on a song just by going through the motions (literally), but to get 5 stars you really need to learn the moves and dance them accurately.

I did like the online capabilities, as for once they’re seamlessly weaved into the game as opposed to being overly obtrusive. For example, as I played a song the game asked me if I would like to activate “Dance Challenger Mode” instead of competing against computer dancers. I said yes and ended up dancing with three actual people, one from the US and two from France.

“Sweat Mode” is also back, now called “Sweat & Playlists”. As before, you can turn on a Kcal counter to track your calorie count, and you can configure a playlist for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 40 minutes, or continuous. You can’t save multiple playlists, but the system will remember the last playlist you configured, so if there’s a particular sequence and length of songs you’d like thankfully there’s no need to re-configure it each time you restart the system as you had to with previous versions.

The Wii version is pretty basic and lacks a lot of features that other consoles have. For example, with other consoles you can use your mobile device as a controller. Most other versions have more advanced graphics and additional choreography, as well as more online features and video capability. All these, of course, are highly dependent on the capabilities of the console, so I don’t blame them for not including these.

But if there is a gripe I have it’s that the $39.99 list price is kind of steep. Ubisoft clearly wants to keep milking the cash cow of Wii users, so their MO has always been to charge Wii users for full releases instead of offering individual songs in the form of DLC. In this particular case, I don’t see many improvements in the 2016 version beyond the 2015 version. I’d say it’s worth buying mainly if A) the actual price drops precipitously, or B) you happen to love more than a few of the featured songs.

Review of Zumba Kids for Wii

It’s funny how time changes things. A few years ago, it seems that every time you turned around another company was spewing out another exergaming title for the Wii, and Microsoft and Sony couldn’t wait to get in on the action. These days, it seems that interest has waned to the point where I’m only reviewing one Wii game every few months.

Sadly, I don’t think it’s because there’s a lack of interest in the genre among us enthusiasts. The bigger problem is that back in the days when exergaming was hyped up so much, so many of the titles were just lackluster “me too” titles that game publishers pushed out to cash in. Sure, there were the occasional ones that bucked the trend like EA Sports Fitness and Wii Fit, but those were the exception.

Zumba Kids was a game that was released in December 2013. You can tell from the amount of time it took me to review it that I wasn’t necessarily knocking down any doors to play it. And surely enough, after playing it, as I suspected there really wasn’t anything new.

When you start Zumba kids, you see a splash screen with three kids in colorful outfits. Most of the dancers in the videos, not surprisingly, are kids who do a pretty good job as junior Zumba instructors.

Once you press “A” to start, the game has four menu options:

– Quick Play
– Full Party
– My Zumba
– Options

Select Quick Play and you can scroll through the song choices. A preview of each song will play as you hover over it.

One interesting thing to not is that ALL songs are labeled as “medium intensity”. When they produced this game, they eliminated a lot of the most complex dance moves, as well as a lot of the more “suggestive” moves you might see in adult Zumba. That said, there are some parents who might still consider the moves here too “suggestive”. I won’t get into that discussion here, other than to say that if you’re a parent considering buying this, just watch some of the videos below and decide for yourself what is age-appropriate for your kids. The good news is that from a lyrics perspective, none of the songs seem to be as “controversial” as the playlists that Just Dance for grown-ups has.

You can choose from a different venues in the background: Los Angeles (pink), Caribbean (red), Brazil (green), Europe (blue), Hawaii (orange). As with the adult version of Zumba Fitness, the playlist is comprised of selections from each geographical location, making for a pretty diverse list.

Here’s a list of the songs, their medium intensity, their dance style, and the venue:

123 Shake – Medium Intensity – hip hop – Los Angeles
Baila Pa Emociona – Medium Intensity – Soca – Carribbean
Beauty and a Beat – Medium Intensity – Hip Hop – Los Angeles
Boogie Wonderland – Medium Intensity – Disco – Los Angeles
Barnaval, carnaval – Medium Intensity – Samba – Brazil
Beltic morning – Medium Intensity – Irish Dance – Europe
Clap, Stomp, Jump – Medium Intensity – Hip Hop – Brazil
Dance, Dance, Dance – Medium Intensity – Hip Hop – Brazil
El Batazo – Medium Intensity – Hip Hop – Brazil
Fireball – Medium Intensity – Hip Hop – Los Angeles
Fish & Poi – Medium Intensity – Hawaiian Reggae – Hawaii
Fur Elise – Medium Intensity – Ballet – Europe
I Like to Move It – Medium Intensity – Hip Hop – Hawaii
Jala Ke Jala – Medium Intensity – Latin Pop – Puerto Rico
La Cachumbalera – Medium Intensity – Cumbia – Carribbean
La Gallina – Medium Intensity – Cumbia – Caribbean
Lento – Medium Intensity – Hip Hop – Puerto Rico
maue Soca – Medium Intensity – Soca – Puerto Rico
Miss Fusion – Medium Intensity – African/Soca – Europe
Mr. Fusion – Medium Intensity – Sino/Bollywood – Europe
Otea Tahiti – Medium Intensity – Tahitian/Samoan – Hawaii
Oye Como Va – FAmily Jam – Salsa – Puerto Rico
Queibra as Cadiera – Medium Intensity – Axe – Brazil
Quiero – Medium Intensity – Rock and Roll – Puerto Rico
Say Hey (I Love You) – Family Jam – Pop/Reggae / Carribbean
Spread Love – Medium Intensity – Hip Hop – Los Angeles
Swing Thing – Medium Intensity – Swing – Europe
Tutuki – Medium Intensity – Tahitian – Hawaii
Wipe Out – Medium Intensity – Surf Rock – Hawaii
Zumbazoka – Medium Intensity – Techo Soca – Carribbean

You can choose Zumba Routines or Freestyle Mode.

Zumba Routines work just like the grown-up version, where an on-screen dancer will demonstrate choreographed moves and you need to “mirror” them. One difference between this game and Zumba Fitness is that instead of putting your Wii remote in a Zumba belt, you hold it in your right hand just like Just Dance.

As you can see “Medium Intensity” doesn’t get into very intricate footwork or arm movements. This is good in some ways—kids will just get frustrated trying to follow choreography that’s too complex. But I think it backfires in other ways. From an energy perspective, kids have so much of it to burn, so these routines might get boring for some of them. That said, if they string together a bunch of them, there’ll still be some decent cardio benefit.

As with the adult Zumba game, each time the system detects that you’ve hit a move perfectly it’ll award points and flash the word “Zumba” on the screen.

One thing I noticed is that the tracking was simply not very accurate. I danced these videos virtually perfectly, but as many times as I tried it the system would never award me more than 2 or 3 stars in most cases.

I tried everything, even to the point of getting on my knees to simulate more of the height of a kid playing the game. Taking a cue from adult Zumba fitness, I even held the remote upside-down. Believe it or not, once I did these two things I started getting much better scores.

I suspect a lot of parents won’t mind poor motion tracking, as a lot of kids are happy just to be jumping around and won’t be paying too much attention to how high their scores are. Still, given that this is something Ubisoft figured out a long time ago, I only wish that the developers of this game were as detail-oriented.

“Freestyle” mode was a weird one. You can select any song, but you won’t see dancers on the screen. Instead, as the music plays you’ll see an on-screen meter that gauges how strenuous your activity is. Fill the meter, and you’ll see paint blotches and strokes appearing on the screen. Along the way there’ll be mini-games, such as having to “freeze” completely for a period of time and “coloring in” different pictures, all controlled by waggling the Wii remote. Clearly this was made for very young players who might otherwise feel “left out” when the bigger kids are dancing to the choreography, but I personally didn’t find either the features nor the execution particularly intriguing.

The “full party” option is basically the same as a regular Zumba “class” on the adult version, where you can play a string of songs spanning a certain number of minutes. It consists of three categories of menu options.

short (20 minutes) – 10 classes
medium (45 minutes) mini games – 10 classes first 5 have mini games
full (60 minutes) – mini games all 10 classes
custom class – make your own playlist

I tried a class and *finally* scored a 5 of 5 stars with a ballet routine, of all things.

I did like that the music and choreography was more “kid friendly”. In fact, throwing in choreography like the one simulating ballet and the other simulating Irish Dance is a decent way to introduce kids to all kinds of dancing.

That said, while this wasn’t a horrible title, but it also didn’t really add much we haven’t seen a million times before. There’s no excuse for spotty motion tracking these days, and some of the “extra features” such as “freestyle mode” seemed almost thrown in without very much thought. I’d give it 3 of 5 stars; probably not worth a purchase unless you happen to be a Zumba enthusiast and your kids are interested in following in your footsteps (literally).

Rating: 3 of 5 stars.

Review of Zumba Fitness World Party for the Wii

zumba fitness world partyZumba Fitness World Party is the latest version of Zumba Fitness to hit the Wii (for those keeping score, the other versions have been Zumba Fitness, Zumba Fitness 2, and Zumba Fitness Core. This review is for the Wii version, but I’ll follow up with a separate review on the Wii U version.

When you start the game, you’ll see a video of Beto, Priscilla Satori, Gina Grant, Loretta Bates, Peter Lee, Nick Logrea, Melissa Cruz, Heidi Torres, Armando Salcedo, Kass Martin, Eric Aglia, and Dr. B and the Bhenga Bros dancing in locations around the world. It’s a great way to introduce you to both the instructors and the locales you’ll be encountering in the game.

The options on the main menu are:

  • World Tour
  • Full Class
  • Quick Play
  • My Zumba
  • Options

When you select World Tour, you first select your profile. It took me a few tries to realize that I had to click on the small round icon next to “profile” to create a new one.

For your profile, you enter your name, date of birth, gender, weight, and height in inches. Whoever designed the interface for this thing needs to go back to user experience design class. You’re limited to seven characters for your name, you need to enter your height in inches (not feet and inches), and inexplicably, to change your weight or height you can’t just hover over up and down arrow buttons and press the button nor even use the arrow keys–you need to position your cursor over a tiny area and click, click, click for every pound or inch you want to add. It would have been nice if, like on Wii Fit, it let you use the Balance Board to check your weight, and it gave you the option to hide your weight from prying eyes.

In fact, this will be a recurring theme throughout the review: navigating through all the menus can be a chore, as you need to be oh-so-precise with your Wii remote.

Once you get started, you then see another video of montages of different cities around the world. Then a Welcome message:

Welcome to the Zumba Fitness World Tour! Earn Zumba Miles to unlock new songs in each destination. Collect postcards and souvenirs from these exotic locations!

The areas of the “world” you’ll be visiting include Brazil, the Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii, India, Los Angeles, and Puerto Rico. When you visit each part of the world, the playlist reflects the music of that region, which is pretty cool. Here are the songs in each region, along with the genres and exercise intensity:

Brazil (Afro Samba, Capoeira, Brazilian Funk, Samba, Axe, Brazillian Pop, Reggae)

  • Na Ponta Do Pe – Medium Intensity
  • Batucada Dance – High Intensity
  • Garota Nacional – Medium Intensity
  • Ruas Encantadas – High Intensity
  • Coisa Brasileira – Medium Intensity
  • Mas Que Nada – High Intensity

Caribbean (Dance Hall, Cumbia, Calypso, Reggae)

  • Vibes – Warm Up
  • Marioneta – Medium Intensity
  • Loco – Medium Intensity
  • Caribbean Dream – Medium Intensity
  • Pega Pega – Medium Intensity
  • True to Myself – Cool Down

Europe (Irish Step, EDM, Burlesque, Russian Folk, Flamenco)

  • Clarity – Warm Up
  • The Beggerman Jig – High Intensity
  • Una De Salao – Medium Intensity
  • Russian Dances – High Intensity
  • Put the Gun Down – High Intensity

Hawaii (Hawaiian Pop, Traditional Hula, Modern Tahitian, Hawaiian Reggae)

  • Maoli Girl – Low Intensity
  • Haleiwa Hula – Low Intensity
  • 1865 (95 Degrees…) – Low Intensity
  • Jungle – High Intensity

India (Bollywood)

  • Mashallah – Medium Intensity
  • Indian Moonshine – High Intensity
  • Boro Boro – High Intensity
  • Kaim Rahe Sardari – High Intensity

Los Angeles (Pop, Hip-Hop, Swing, Blues)

  • Beam Me Up – Warm Up
  • Born This Way – Medium Intensity
  • Shake Your Hips – High Intensity
  • Next to Me – Cool Down
  • Exotic – Medium Intensity
  • Puttin’ on the Ritz – High Intensity
  • Do You Feel Like Moving? – High Intensity
  • Came Here to Party – High Intensity

Puerto Rico (Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, Latin Pop, Reggaeton, Girly Funk, Bomba/Plena)

  • Limbo – Medium Intensity
  • Bailando Por Ahi – Medium Intensity
  • Echa Pa’lla – Medium Intensity
  • Corazoncito Bonito – Low Intensity
  • Perros Salvajes – High Intensity
  • Aguanile – Medium Intensity
  • Zumba Boricua – HIgh Intensity

For each country, you earn “Zumba Miles” for dancing to the first two songs, and then use those to unlock subsequent songs.

During the course of the “World Tour” you’ll unlock “passport stamps”, “souvenirs”, and “postcards” as you dance. There’s really not much challenge to earning these–just dance with some semblance of accuracy and throughout your dances you’ll see these goodies awarded to you every couple of seconds.

To get started, you first put your Wii remote into your Zumba Fitness Belt, which is included with the game. There’s nothing really special about this belt other than having the Zumba logo on it, it’s just a piece of flimsy plastic with a pocket that your put the Wii remote in. If you’re playing a used or rented copy and don’t have the belt, don’t worry, all you need to do is find a way to strap the Wii remote to your right hip, for example, using an old belt, a right pocket, or even just wedging it under a tight waistband. There are also options you can buy on Amazon. The key is to put the remote “up-side up” so that the power button is closest to your face and the “A” button is facing towards the TV.

Next comes the dancing. You’ll see a street scene from the area of the world you’ve visiting, and a Zumba instructor will be in the center of the screen. As with all these kinds of games you’ll need to mimic his or her moves as if you’re looking in a mirror. You’ll also see a running count of the “Zumba Miles” you earn.

You’ll also see a number of attractive professional Zumba dancers dancing along; the better you dance, the more Zumba dancers will join in. In a clever touch of humor and realism, in some scenes you’ll also see a crowd of “amateur” Zumba dancers in the background who like you and me may not exactly be following the moves correctly (but like you and me, are trying their best).

As with other games of this ilk, you’ll also see an animated preview of the next dance move that’s coming in a postage stamp-sized window in the upper right-hand corner. I didn’t find this very helpful, as it didn’t really break down the moves for me, but as I play the game more I can see how this can be helpful in anticipating the next moves.

Unlike previous versions of Zumba Fitness, instead of an animated cartoon figure or a faceless silhouette, you’ll see the actual video image of the instructor. This makes it a whole lot easier to pick out the moves they’re doing, and is a lot more like a realistic Zumba session than ever before.

When you hit a right moves, you’ll see the words “Zumba!”, “Nice!” or “Hot!” appear on the screen, and the more precisely you dance, the more stars you earn. They did a pretty good job with motion tracking–as an experiment I just sat on the couch and waggled my remote to coincide with the music, but the system did a pretty good job of not rewarding me.

On the other hand, the scoring is pretty lenient as long as you’re “close” to the right moves. If you just go through the motions (literally), you’ll easily earn 4 or 5 out of 5 stars. So you’re kind of under the “honor system” to really put your all into the dancing and to try to really put the precise technique into practice each time you play. There isn’t an option to “break down” each song to really learn them, so you’ll need to learn them by practicing repeatedly and by mastering the basic steps in the dance tutorial (which I’ll describe below).

With the World Tour, you have to dance all the songs in your country in quick succession. In another bit of a user interface annoyance, you get only about half a second when you’re between songs to look at a screen showing how many songs you’ve played in the round, how many rewards you earned, and how many Zumba miles you’ve collected. Blink and you’ll miss it. It would have been nice for them to allow you to pause and read this screen, but perhaps they deliberately designed it so that you have to go to the next song immediately to keep your cardio going.

The “Full Class” option is more like a traditional Zumba class where you can choose one of 15 Short Classes (between 9 and 22 minutes), one of 15 Medium Classes (each about 40 minutes), one of 15 Full Length Classes (about 60 minutes each), or your own custom class. In the Full Classes, you basically dance to songs in the playlist continuously until the time is up. Your star rating will appear under each class, so if you don’t hit five stars, you’ll have incentive to go and play the class again.

With “Quick Play“, you can jump in and start dancing to any of the 40 songs.

My Zumba” lets you view your progress. You can see how many days you’ve been playing and get weekly reports on the amount of time you’ve played, the calories you’ve burned, the number of sets you’ve danced. You can also set goals for yourself and view the bonus videos, levels, and awards you’ve unlocked.

You can also view your postcards (signed by Zumba instructors standing in front of scenes from the different countries) and souvenirs (photos of cultural trinkets and knickknacks) in your “World Scrapbook”.

This section also has “Learn the Steps” where you can choose a dance style, basic step, and speed and master it. As I mentioned before, there’s no training option where they break down each individual song, but by mastering the basic steps for each song you’ll basically be able to tie them together when dancing the full songs. In yet another minor annoyance with the user interface design, you can’t use the arrow keys on the Wii remote to change steps or speed–you have to take the remote out, press the + button, point it at the screen to make your new selection, and replace it.

Here are the Dance Styles and Steps you’ll be able to practice:

  • Axe Samba – Basic Samba, Samba Box
  • Bollywood – Basic Bollywood Step, Step Together Cross Arms
  • Brazilian Funk – Booty Pop, In-Game Step
  • Burlesque – Hip Up and Down, Throw Arms
  • Capoiera – Balanco, Ginga
  • Cumbia – Front and Back, Sleepy Leg
  • Hip Hop – Cat Daddy, In-Game Step
  • Hula – Kaholo, Umi
  • Irish Step – Cross Over Leg, Knee In and Up
  • Merengue – 6 Count, Pas De Bouree
  • Pop – Booty 180, Kick Ball Change
  • Reggaeton – In-Game Step, Knee Lift
  • Salsa – In-Game Step, Side Step

My impression of Zumba World Class is pretty much the same as my reviews of past Zumba games. It’s quite literally the next best thing if you can’t make it to a real Zumba class. You get instruction from the top Zumba dancers in the world, you get 40 great songs to dance to, and you can dance any time of the day or night.

There are some minor annoyances in the game. There’s no excuse for still having such a poor user interface after so many releases. And anyone who’s a stickler for accurate and precise motion tracking in a game may be a bit disappointed.

Still, as before, if you’re a Zumba enthusiast, chances are you’ll be very happy with this one. The live action video dancing is an excellent new feature, and the new “world travel theme” that really provides incentives for you to keep dancing. Very highly recommended for Zumba fans; for those just looking for exercise and fitness I’d still give the edge to a game like Wii Fit U or Your Shape 2013.


Review of The Hip Hop Dance Experience for Wii

At first glance, The Hip Hop Dance Experience seems to be another in a series of “Hey! Let’s squeeze yet more money out of people who like Just Dance” games from Ubisoft.

Usually when there’s a successful video game franchise, you’ll see a bunch of copycat games pop up to try to capitalize on the success. The interesting thing in the case of Just Dance is that most of the “copycat” games were produced by Ubisoft, the publisher of Just Dance, themselves. We’re reviewed most of these games on this blog, from Just Dance: Summer Party to Dance on Broadway to ABBA: You Can Dance to the Black Eyed Pea Experience.

What was annoying about most of these specialized games is that the gameplay itself was in most cases identical to Just Dance; in fact these games often contained much less functionality than what you’d find in the main Just Dance games. The Michael Jackson Experience was probably the best of these games, as it at least contained some original videos from choreographers who worked with Michael Jackson himself. But for the most part, aside from some unique graphics and dance moves (both of which could have been replicated in $5 downloadable content), these games were just thinly veiled attempts to get people to shell out another $40-50 to buy a few set of songs, rather than making those songs available via downloadable content. Ubisoft hit rock bottom when they decided to re-release a number of songs from Just Dance and Just Dance 2 in a full-priced new titled called “Just Dance Greatest Hits”.

So I picked up Hip Hop Dance Experience with some pretty low expectations. But I’m happy to report that this is not just a Just Dance clone, but stands on its own as a very good game that fans of hip hop music will enjoy, and which aspiring hip hop dancers can actually learn some authentic moves from.

The soundtrack right away tells you that this isn’t a typical Just Dance game. The songs feature the hottest artists from the hip hop, dance, and R&B scene, all by the original artists. Some of the songs are even pretty new and fresh off the charts.

Each song is identified in a menu by the song title, artist, and difficulty rating out of 5. Here’s a full song list:

  • 1 Thing – Amerie – 1/5
  • Airplanes – B.o.B. feat. Hayley Williams – 3/5
  • Creep – LTC – 2/5
  • Danger (Been So Long) – Mystikal ft. Nivea – 4/5
  • Day ‘N Night – Kid Cudi – 1/5
  • Down – Jay Sean ft. Lil Wayne – 5/5
  • Drop Like It’s Hot – Snoop Dog ft. Pharrell – 2/5
  • Funkdafied – Da Brat – 1/5
  • Hard – Rihanna ft. Jeezy – 1/5
  • Hip Hop Hooray – Naughty By Nature – 4/5
  • How in Herre – Nelly – 3/5
  • If It Isn’t Love – New Edition – 3/5
  • Ignition – R. Kelly – 3/5
  • International Live – Pitbull ft. Chris Brown – 2/5
  • Lean Back – Terror Squad ft. Fat Joe Remy – 2/5
  • Lollipop – Lil Wayne ft. Static – 4/5
  • Look At Me Now – Chris Brown ft. Lil Wayne & Busta Rhymes – 3/5
  • Moment 4 Life – Nikki Minaj – 3/5
  • One Two Step (ft. Missy Elliot) – Ciara – 3/5
  • Over – Drake – 3/5
  • Replay – Iyaz – 4/5
  • Return of the Mack – Mark Morrison – 3/5
  • Run It – Chris Brown – 2/5
  • Say Aah – Trey Songz ft. Fabolous – 2/5
  • Sexy and I Know It – LMFAO – 4/5
  • She Wants to Move – N*E*R*D – 3/5
  • So Good – B.o.B. – 1/5
  • Vivrant Thing – Q-Tip – 3/5
  • Wild ONes – Flo Rida ft. Sia – 4/5
  • You’re a Jerk – New Boyz – 5/5

The main menu options are:

1) Dance Party – Just like Just Dance, this is where you just dive into the songs and start dancing. One to four players can participate. Just as with Just Dance, you copy the moves of an on-screen dancer, but unlike Just Dance you can see both a dancer facing you and a dancer with his or her back to you. It turns out that watching the dancer facing you (like you’re in a mirror) is still the better choice to follow, but for certain moves, it’s definitely helpful to watch the dancer with his or her back to you to see the full range of motion for some of the more complicated moves.

This leads me to one of the first things I noticed about this game: while in Just Dance the dance moves are “authentic”, they tend to be on the more fun and frivolous side so whole families can play together. With this game, the target audience is decidedly more niche (if you can name a song from 70% or more of the artists named above, the game was made for you). So the moves are a lot more intricate, similar to what you might see in a dance club or on a music video. Each song has a unique set of dance moves that are specific to the song (the game even gives names to distinct dance moves) and similar to what you’ll see in the music videos or live performances of the song.

As with Just Dance, you’ll get feedback of whether you’re doing the steps right; if you do it wrong you’ll see “Busted” flash on the screen. Do it right, you’ll see “Nice” and “Cool”, and hit the move spot-on and you’ll get “Hype”, along with a buzzing of your Wii remote.

Motion detection is very accurate; the game uses the MotionPlus feature of your newer Wii remote (or a MotionPlus attachment on an older Wii remote) to get a pretty precise read of your hand position, angle, and motion.

Now don’t get me wrong; this is hardly the kind of precision you’d get on an Xbox; the game at the end of the day only reads your hand gestures. There were plenty of times where I knew I wasn’t hitting the gestures, but I’d still get a “Nice”. And conversely, there were times I was sure I was hitting the moves right, but got a “Busted”. Having said that, the more I practiced the moves with my full body, the higher my score got.

As you can see, songs have a “break period” built in for you to rest (or freestyle, if you have the energy).

Graphics are pretty good. You see the dancers in the foreground along with one of several pretty detailed venues, more of which you unlock throughout the game. The original artist’s video plays in the background.

I like that players can jump in any time by grabbing a Wii remote and pressing the “A” button. All players dance to the same steps–there’s no individual choreography as in other games.

2) Dance Battle – The game’s description of this mode says, “In this multiplayer mode, 2 or more players perform dance moves to boost their own scores while attempting to take away points from others. The player with the most points wins.”

Here’s a video of me playing the dance battle with the wife, playing through Replay, International Love, and Wild Ones. We weren’t exactly sure how to “take away points from the other”, but I’m guessing it means that if you hit a move and your opponent misses, the points go from his or hers to you. In any case, it was a lot of fun to compete head-on, and it was nice that unlike on the Xbox, you can put a little separation between the two of you so you’re not bumping into each other or smacking each other in the head.

Overall, playing with someone is a lot more fun than playing alone; it’s interesting how competition can motivate you to play more and play harder.

3) Dance Marathon – The game’s description of this mode is: “Dance as long as you can! Your moves will earn a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” depending on how well you do. If you get 4 “thumbs down” ratings it’s Game Over. Opening the PAUSED screen ends the routine.”

This is one of those “survival” modes that’s perhaps a little better on paper than it is in real life. I tried Dance Marathon to Amerie’s “1 Thing” and immediately got booted off the stage. But after playing a string of other songs, I’d collected over 75 “thumbs ups” and would have kept going if I hadn’t stopped. Despite their instructions, it’s a bit awkward figuring out how to exit this mode too; they could have used some help from some user interface experts.

At the end of your marathon it’ll tell you how many dances you got thumbs-ups to and how many Kilocalories you burned.

This wasn’t the most compelling part of the game for me, as it looked like it would just go on forever. But if you’re just looking to get exercise, it’s probably the closest thing to a “Just Sweat mode, as collecting “thumbs ups” is great motivation to keep going.

4) Power Skooling – This is one of the better dance tutorials I’ve seen in dance games. It lets you choose any of the songs and watch individual dance steps within any of them. There are literally hundreds of them, and it’s a great education for those who want to learn real hip-hop steps that they can use not just for this game but to show off in a club or party. Here are a couple steps from “International Love” that I learned which helped me when I played the song in both Dance Battle and Dance Marathon modes.

5) Options lets you adjust latency; if you find that you’re making all the right moves but consistently not getting credit for it, it’s possible that your TV is taking too long to render the image on the screen. You’ll be able to perform a simple exercise of adjusting your latency by watching a vertical line zipping across your screen and pressing the “A” button when it reaches the center; once this is one the Wii will compensate for any delays your TV is encountering.

Overall, granted while coming in with lowered expectations, I was pretty impressed with The Hip Hop Experience. This didn’t seem like just another clone of a dance game, but one that was designed from the ground up with its target audience in mind. Its focus on real hip-hop dance moves, a solid soundtrack with original artists, good multi-player capability, and excellent tutorial feature makes it a great buy for anyone who wants to learn more hip-hop moves, enjoys this music, and would like to have some “cool” workouts. 4.5 of 5 stars.

Review of Nickelodeon Dance 2 for Wii

A year ago I reviewed the original Nickelodeon Dance for the Wii. Well, a year later, Dora and all her friends from Nickelodeon are back with Nickelodeon Dance 2.

As with last year’s review, I’m going to try to review this game through the eyes of its intended audience: toddlers and young children who are in the target audience of Dora and her friends at Nickelodeon and who watch them on TV every day. And for those kids, this game is a really good one. For the rest of us, I’d stick with games like Wii Fit or Just Dance.

When you start the game you’ll hear some catchy music and see a startup screen with Dora, Diego, Molly from the Bubble Gumpies, and Bot, Milli and Geo from Team Umizoomi. If you don’t press anything, Dora will nag you by saying “if you want to play, just press the “A” button on your Wii remote over…and over…and over again every three seconds until you comply.

Strangely, you don’t see a cursor on the screen so you have to use your plus control pad to make choices. This probably eliminates some frustration for younger players who can’t point and click as easily as older kids, but I can also see a lot of kids who are used to every other Wii game in the world waving their remotes looking for a cursor.

Your options are Quick Play, Dance, Workout, Freeze, Achievements, and Options. If you don’t press a selection, Dora will chime in and explain what it is, and then begin nagging you to press a button every three seconds again. I’ve listed each of the choices below, as well as Dora’s explanation of what they are.

Quick Play. “Choose this to play a random dance or workout song”. Dora’s not exactly right here. When you select this option, it’ll randomly put you in a sub-menu under the “Dance” or the “Workout” menu, where you still have to scroll through it and select a song.

Dance. “This lets you choose dance songs to play”.

There are three sub-menus under the Dance menu that correspond to different difficult levels: Starting Steps, Smooth Moves, and Fancy Footwork. Next to each song, you’ll also see icons that correspond to the intensity level of the song (there’s an icon of something walking, running, and sprinting). Certain songs are locked, and you need to earn a certain number of stars to unlock them.

Here are the songs under each.

Starting Steps Songs:

Bubble Guppies Theme Song – Bubble Guppies (2)
Butterfly Dance – Team Umizoomi (1)
Get Up and Go Go – The Fresh Beat Band (2)
Team Umizoomi Theme Song – Team Umizoomi (3)
Tonight Is a Holiday – Bubble Guppies (2)
The Travel Song – Dora the Explorer (1)
Mary Had a Little Lamb – Dora the Explorer (1)
Shapes All Over the Place – Team Umizoomi (2)

Smooth Moves Songs:

At the Zoo – Bubble Guppies (3)
Freeze Dance – The Fresh Beat Band (2)
Here Comes Santa Claus – Dora the Explorer (2)
Hurry Home – The Backyardigans (2)
Just Like a Rockstar – The Fresh Beat Band (3)
Once Upon a Time – Bubble Guppies (2)
We Totally Rock – Bubble Guppies (2)

Fancy Footwork Songs:

Anything to Help My Friends – Team Umizoomi (2)
I Wanna Be a Cowgirl – Bubble Guppies (3)
La Bamba – Dora The Explorer (2)
The Piranha Song – Go, Diego, Go (3)
Stomp the House – The Fresh Beat Band (2)
Tweedily Dee – The Backyardigans (3)
Questing, Questing – The Backyardigans (2)
Reach for the Sky – The Fresh Beat Band (3)

Gameplay is pretty much identical to Just Dance and all the other copycat games that have come since it: your child holds the Wii remote in his or her right hand and mirrors the moves of the character on screen dancing. Icons will scroll across the bottom of the screen, which most will ignore.

Scoring is much, much more lenient than with more grown-up games–there are no numerical scores, and the goal is to fill up three stars. This is great for kids  2-6 years old who may be frustrated by more difficult adult-oriented games on the Wii and even worse, the Kinect. There are plenty of accomplishments to be collected.

Many of the songs will be familiar to those kids whose eyes are glued to Nick Jr. every day. The “dance” portion of the game actually does introduce kids to real choreographed dance moves, albeit much simplified. Dora will even shout out what dance move is being done.

Workout. This will take you to the workout dance songs. These songs are

Workout Songs:
Bananas – The Fresh Beat Band (1)
Go, Go, Go – The Backyardigans (3)
Good Times – The Fresh Beat Band (3)
Sing-Along Party Mix – Dora the Explorer (3)
The Band Plays On – Bubble Guppies (1)
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star – Dora the Explorer (2)

The workout portion of the game really does focus on more aerobics-type moves rather than dance moves, and the highest difficulty songs really will get your kids to exercise and work up a sweat.

In a funny way, I actually think the way that Nickelodeon makes a very clear delineation between dance moves and aerobic exercise moves is better than even how Just Dance does it.

Freeze. “Choose this to play dance songs where you have to freeze at different times during the song”. This is a bit of a fun new feature that lets two players compete against each other.

When you choose this, you see the same menu of all the songs above. When you play the song, gameplay is also the same as usual, except at random times in the song the narrator will shout at you to “FREEZE”, at which time you have to freeze in your tracks. It’s fun for kids to compete against parents or against their siblings and have fun as they see who can freeze the best. With scoring as lenient as it is, chances are both players will end up in a tie, which perhaps is the best outcome.

Overall, I was impressed with Nickeolodeon Dance 2 as a way for toddlers and young children to get some good exercise, especially on rainy or cold days when it’s hard to go outside. Parents will appreciate the wholesomeness of the songs and the dance moves, while children will appreciate that the game was made easier for them, and that they’ll have a game of their own they can play without feeling left out or frustrated. I highly recommend it for any parent of young kids, especially those who are fans of Nickelodeon.


Review of Just Dance 4 for Wii

A few weeks ago I published my review of Just Dance 4 for the Wii U. As I know a lot of folks out there still are using the Wii as their main console (or have purchased a Wii U and are using their old Wii in their home gym exclusively for working out), I figured I’d spend a few minutes to talk about Just Dance for the Wii.

Just Dance 4 for the Wii is for all intents and purposes the same as its Wii U counterpart, with its simple opening menu with two options (Just Dance and Just Sweat), the same ability to create Dancer Cards, virtually the same song list, and the same fun 1-4 person choreography. You’ll also be able to unlock Battle Mode which is a fun two-player game putting you against another player (all 5 battles must be unlocked).

It also has the same “Dance Quests” under each song, and the same system of unlocking new features using Mojo Points. The only thing missing are a few Wii U exclusive songs, as well as some Wii U features like “Puppet Master Mode”.

Just Sweat Mode is also set up exactly the same on both systems. You start out with four sessions (Aerobics in Space, Sweat Around the World, Electro Body Combat, or Cheerleaders Boot Camp) representing 80’s Pop, World Music, Electro Music, or Punk Rock genres and Dynamic Fitness, Latin Dance, Cardio Fighting, or Extreme Training styles. You’ll also be able to unlock one more (Swinging 60s Workout) as you advance.

These aren’t just the standard choreographed songs set to music, but specially designed workouts with moves that exercise specific parts of your body and have proper warm-up and cool-down routines. Here’s a video of “Sweat Around the World” workout that features Latin dances; not surprisingly, there’s a very Zumba-esqure feel with a lot of the dancing.

Assuming you really perform the workouts to the best of your ability for a sustained period of time (at least 30 minutes a day), they are intense cardio workouts that rival or surpass the best “pure workout titles” on the Wii (and in fact have such a good balance of fun, replay value, and exercise that it still ranks #1 on our list of Best Wii Fitness Games).

Just Dance, Just Dance 2, and Just Dance 3 for the Wii were already excellent titles, but as I did with the Wii U version of the game I wholeheartedly give this one 5 of 5 stars. There are a lot of things that will make you want to take Just Dance 4 off the shelf and play it again and again, whether it’s collecting Mojo Points to unlock new game features (some songs will flash an icon telling you you can double-Mojo points), hitting a fitness goal, or mastering a particular routine with a friend.

While the Wii U features certainly do add some fun and frivolity when playing in groups, they are certainly not central to the gameplay. The meat of the game is still intact in the Wii version, and it’s still a worthwhile buy if you don’t have immediate plans to purchase a Wii U. I was a little disappointed to find that the stats I had earned while playing the Wii U version were not reflected when I played the Wii version, meaning that if you do get the Wii U version eventually, you’ll have to unlock all the bonus features from scratch.

Something else Just Dance 4 has, which I didn’t mention on the Wii U review, is an excellent in-game Store where you can purchase downloadable content. I knew exactly the first song I wanted to buy.

Okay, I know it’s this generation’s “Macarena” or “Who Let the Dogs Out”, but hey, I’ve been wanting to learn PSY’s moves since I first saw Gangham Style on YouTube, and while the Just Dance choreography isn’t an exact match to the video, all of his signature moves are there.

As you can see, the download process is amazingly simple; as long as you have Wii Points in your account the 300 points will be deducted from that, and the song will appear right in the Just Dance 4 menu once you download it. You can choose to download the song to Wii System Memory or to an SD card. Within the options menu, you can even move your downloaded content between the memory and the SD card.

Review of Zumba Fitness Core for the Wii

Zumba Fitness Core by
Platform: Wii
4.5 stars – An excellent and worthwhile upgrade to Zumba Fitness and Zumba Fitness 2 for the Wii.
by ,
Written on November 27, 2012

The first thing to know about Zumba Fitness Core for the Wii is that it’s really “Zumba Fitness 3”. Supposedly, the word “Core” in the title connotes that this version of the game focuses on your abs, but the choreography seemed to me no different than what you’ll find in earlier versions or standard Zumba classes. My impression is that the name was probably more of a marketing move than anything else; they could have called it “Zumba Fitness Cardio” and no one would have known the difference.

In any case, just as with the previous versions of Zumba Fitness for Wii, you’ll need a belt to hold your Wii remote as you dance. There is a belt that comes packaged in the box, but if you want to play with multiple players (the game supports up to 4), each player will need their own belt. You really don’t need to buy additional belts from Majesco; any belt will do as long as you can tighten it enough to securely hold your Wii remote at your waist level.

One very, very important thing to remember is that the Wii remote needs to be positioned with the buttons facing out (towards the TV) and the remote right-side up vs. upside-down (i.e., with the A button on top). If you stick your remote in the belt the intuitive way (upside down), the game won’t track you at all. There was so much confusion about this in past versions that this time they’ve included a little video on it to show the right way to do it.

The first thing you do is set up your profile. Strangely, it doesn’t let you use your balance board to detect your weight. Worse, you input your weight in the most painful way possible–by starting at about 100 pounds and pressing the button for what feel like an eternity (in my case at least) to get to your actual weight.

The first thing I tried were the tutorials, which aim to teach you some of the basic steps you’ll use throughout your workouts. One reason why Zumba in general is so popular is you’re doing what look like pretty elaborate dance routines, but at their core (no pun intended) are basic classic dance steps that you learn and find yourself using over and over. In this case, you’ll learn four basic steps for Salsa, Merengue, Samba, Bollywood, Reggaeton, and Cumbia respectively. Mastering these 24 basic steps will serve you well as you play the game. The tutorial is done very well–you start off by watching Beto break down the steps in slow motion, and once you get those steps down you can see and try them at actual speed. I like how when you view the dance steps at full speed, the animated Beto will throw in flourishes that take the dance step beyond the mechanical and show you how to put some artistry into them.

One of the key things I look for in any Wii game is how good the motion detection is. In the first version of Zumba Fitness this was not good at all. The second version improved it. I think it’s safe to say that this third version is probably as good as it’s going to get on the Wii’s technology. I tried to deliberately “fake” the system out by sitting on the couch and waving the Wii remote in my hand, but the game would have none of it. It was only when I stood up and danced with the Wii remote strapped to my waist that I started getting points.

Having said that, the game is pretty lenient with scoring. When I danced to the same song on the Xbox version and the Wii version, the Xbox version gave me 3 stars out of 5 vs. the Wii version which gave me 4s and even 5s out of the gate. As much as I’d love to think I’m a dancing machine, I think it’s more a reflection of the Wii’s not being able to detect certain kinds of movements as well as the Kinect, such as intricate foot movements or any kind of arm movements, and so none of those things are reflected in the Wii’s scoring. At the end of the day, all it can really do is judge where your hips are at any given point, and assume that if it’s in the right place the rest of your body must be too. So while it’s still pretty accurate (you still need to dance a pretty spot-on performance to get 5 stars), for a lot of things you’re pretty much on the “honor system” to do them right. Incidentally, while the Xbox excels at accurate tracking, the Wii version does have something that the Xbox version doesn’t do and probably will never do: allow for 4-person simultaneous play.

There are 33 songs to play, 17 of which are licensed tracks from artists such as Carlinhos Brown, Enrique Iglesias, Sean Paul, Kat DeLuna, and Karmin. They span a huge number of genres from African to Bollywood to Polynesian Rhythm to Reggae to the more traditional Latin dance moves such as salsa and samba. The songs range from low intensity to high intensity (where some of them will literally have you grasping for breath if you’re not in shape).

The graphics were improved with Zumba Fitness 2 and this version improves on them even more. You can choose from eight venues to dance in, such as a nightclub scene to an amphitheater to exotic locations such as Las Vegas and Hawaii. Each song is presented by a different Zumba personality, such as Kass Martin, Tanya Beardsley, Nick Logrea, Loretta Bates, Gina Grant, and Beto. As with the previous games, you mirror the moves of your onscreen trainer as precisely as you can.

You can play virtual Zumba classes, which basically string together a number of individual songs for short classes (about 20 minutes), mid-length classes (about 45 minutes) and full-length classes (about an hour). One thing new to this version is that as with real Zumba classes, you start off and end your sessions with lower intensity songs to properly warm up and cool down respectively.

There are a lot of great features of the game which inspire you to play over and over again, something you need to do in order to see your workouts result in weight loss and better health. The Progress Tracker is much improved in that you can visually see graphs of your score, time played, accuracy, and calories burned by day, week, or month; it’s definitely a good feeling and pretty good motivation to see those graphs filling up. There’s also a lot of a great unlockable video content and achievements that’ll incentivize you to keep working out.

Zumba Fitness Core doesn’t quite take the place of a real Zumba class; there’s only so much technique you can learn from a two-dimensional video game, and of course you don’t get the social component of taking classes with a real instructor and a real class. Having said that, it’s a great introduction for those new to Zumba, and it’s also great to use if circumstances (e.g., the weather, your work schedule, your wallet, etc.) don’t allow you to take as many real classes as you’d like. While Zumba exercise is not for everyone, if it’s for you, I think you’re going to enjoy this game.

Review of Harley Pasternak Hollywood Workout for Wii

Harley Pasternak Hollywood Workout by
Platform: Wii
3 of 5 stars – Your chance to work out with real trainer to some of Hollywood’s biggest celebrities.
by ,
Written on October 29, 2012

harley pasternak hollywood workout review for wiiYou may not have heard of Harley Pasternak before, but if you’re a fan of Lady Gaga, Jessica Simpson, Hillary Duff, Kanye West, Katy Perry, Megan Fox, or Robert Pattison, you’re familiar with his work. Pasternak is the personal trainer to all of those celebrities, helping to keep them in the shape they’re in.

Harley Pasternak created the “5-Factor Fitness program” for his celebrity clients, who needed to fit in their diet and workout routines in the middle of their busy work while on tour or on location away from home. His solution included eating simple meals that used 5 ingredients 5 times a day, and doing workout routines in 5-minute sets. In 2005 he published his book, 5-Factor Fitness: The Diet and Fitness Secret of Hollywood’s A-List, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Harley Pasternak’s Hollywood Workout is the video game version of his diet and exercise program for the Wii.

I admit, I groaned a little when I hear there was yet another “virtual trainer” Wii title. We’ve seen a string of pretty awful Wii exercise games with “celebrity trainers” from Jillian Michaels to Jenny McCarthy. Recent entrants such as Get Fit with Mel B, UFC Personal Trainer, and Fit in Six have gotten a little better, but overall it doesn’t seem like there’s been a lot of improvement in the genre since the first (and still one of the best titles) My Fitness Coach. They all tend to fall along the same patterns: a collection of standard calisthenics routines that are strung  together, with some virtual trainer shouting out generic and repetitive phrases like “way to go” and usually some spotty Wii remote tracking. The games usually also have a built-in “workout tracker” that tracks activity within the game itself that usually go unused.

For the most part Harley Pasternak’s Hollywood Workout tends to fall along the same lines, although there are some improvements worth noting.

When you start the game you’re greeted with a catchy beat as the game loads, followed by the voice of Harley Pasternak welcoming you to his Hollywood Workout. As with many games, you start by creating a profile; I really wish there were some centralized way to do this so you don’t have to do it over and over again for every game, but that’s less Majesco’s fault and more something that Nintendo should really be working on.

You type your name and tell the system if you have a Wii Balance Board. If you do, it can measure your weight right away. If not, you’ll enter it manually. From what I can tell, this is all that the Balance Board is used for.

You can use hand weights during the exercises, or you can further pad Harley’s pockets with cash by buying what they call a “signature Harley Bar” (alternatively, you can just use a metal pipe or something you have around the house).

You’re then brought to the main menu. You can choose from the following:

1) Complete Programs. There are basically three “Complete Programs” you can choose that correspond to beginner, intermediate, or advanced. They come in 5 or 10 week lengths. Your choices are:

  1. Light Body Toning (5 week or 10 week). Ease your way into the Hollywood Workout with this program. Don’t worry, you’ll still achieve some great body shaping and toning!
  2. Getting Red Carpet Ready (5 week or 10 week). Get that body red carpet ready with this program. This intermediate program includes the exercises contained in the previous program, plus a few more.
  3. A-List Celebrity Workout (5 week or 10 week). My most intense program! This program adds even more exercises and engages your entire body for maximum activity. Hollywood, look out!

2) Single Workouts. These are 25-minute workouts you can start right way, which have warm up exercises, cool down exercises, and typically 3 individual workout routines in the middle that each last, you guessed it, 5 minutes each. Your choices are:

  1. Surf ‘n Sand – Like to surf or paddleboard? Get that body ready to ride the waves with this workout that includes Reverse Flys, Lunges, and the Superman.
  2. Super Hero – What does it take to prime your body for a life of fighting crime? Find out with this workout that includes Hammer Curls, Jump Squats, and the Superman.
  3. Diva in Training – You’ll be able to dance the night away after mastering this workout that includes Chest Flys, Skater Lunges, and Side Bends.
  4. Swimsuit Season – Never wear your favorite swimsuit anymore? Let’s change that with this workout that includes Lateral Raises, Hamstring Curls, and Side Bends.
  5. Sports Athlete – Get a leg up on the competition with this workout that includes Push Ups, Skater Lunges, and Bicycle Crunches.
  6. Lose That Baby Weight – Get back to that body you had before the kids with this workout that includs Tricep Kick Backs, Deadlifts, and Seated Twists.
  7. Beach Body – Don’t be afraid to show off that beach body with this workout that includes Lying Tricep Extensions, Squats, and Crunches.
  8. Strut The Runway – Get ready to wear your favorite skinny clothes again with this workout that includes Shoulder Presses, Hamstring Curls, Crunches.
  9. Action Movie Star – Do you own movie stunts with this workout that includes Hammer Curls, Jump Squats, and Double Crunches.
  10. Upper Body Burner – Strengthen that torso with this workout that includes Shoulder Presses, Lying Tricep Extensions, and Chest Flys.
  11. Sexy Legs – You’ll love showing off your legs after doing this workout that includes Lunges, Deadlifts, and Squats.
  12. Ab Toner – Feel that burn in your core! This ab-strengthening workout includes Bicycle Crunches, Double Crunches, and Seated Twists.

3) Fitness Tracker – This part of the game has four options.

  1. Workout Journal tracks workout days, time spent, calories burned, “Harley Points” earned, weight loss, and average reps per session averaged over days, weeks, and months. This is a great feature if you’ll be using this game exclusively for working out, but as I’ve said on many occasions, I wish Nintendo and everyone who made Wii games could figure out a way that workouts done across different games could be counted toward a centralized tracker (similar to what Microsoft did with KinectFit).
  2. Second, you can measure your weight at any time by going to Personal Data with your Balance Board.
  3. Exercises shows a list of every individual exercise, how many reps you average, and how many total reps you’ve done in the history of playing the game.
  4. Finally, Accomplishments are the typical kind of “badges” you see in games like this where you can collect rewards for hitting certain milestones, from completing all the exercises to performing 60 minutes of cardio to jumping enough distance to leap over the Empire State Building to Climbing high enough to scale up out of the Grand Canyon.

4) Multiplayer – this option supposedly lets you create challenges against other players. It’s not immediately apparent how to use this feature–when you select “Create Challenge” it tells you  “To play this multiplayer mode, please add some Wii Friends to your Address Book”. It took me a while to figure out that my “Address Book” is a little-used feature (at least for me) in the “Wii Message Board”. Unfortunately after I added Wii Friends to my Address Book I still got the message. After wasting about 15 minutes trying to figure it out I gave up trying to figure out how to use this feature.

I thought I’d try out a Single Workout. I chose Super Hero.

The workout starts with a video of the real Harley giving his  “insider” explanation of how he designed the workout. It would have been nice if he could have named names (“Lady Gaga loves this workout…”), but of course to get the permission and the licensing for those would have made this game about ten times the cost. Instead, he provides the story behind the workout in a general way, replacing superstar names with words like “my client”.

Despite the general nature, something about Harley filming these video snippets for each of the workouts definitely made it seem more “real” and more like he’s really your own personal trainer. Of course if you play the game over and over again he’ll start repeating himself a lot, but overall I’d say it feels more personal than anything Jenny McCarthy or Mel B ever did.

As with other exercise games, you’re then sent to a screen where you see a creepy animated version of Harley. Behind him are two ladies in workout garb who’ll be doing all the exercises with you. The animation is not bad in that you can see a pretty good representation of the proper form for each exercise.

You start with warm-up exercises and then proceed to the aerobic and calisthenic exercises. Nothing you haven’t seen before in other exercise videos and games, you have jumping jacks, squat jumps, ice skaters, and so on. There are only 30 unique exercises through the game, but put together properly they are very effective. Here’s a full list of individual exercises:

  • Bicycle Crunches
  • Crunches
  • Deadlifts
  • Double Crunches
  • Hammer Curls
  • Hamstring Curls
  • Jump Squats
  • Lateral Raises
  • Lunges
  • Chest Flys
  • Lying Tricep
  • Push Ups
  • Reverse Flys
  • Seated Twists
  • Shoulder Presses
  • Side Bends
  • Skater Lunges
  • Squats
  • Superman
  • Tricep Kick Backs
  • Ice Skaters
  • Jog
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Trunk Crosses
  • Jump Rope
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Punches
  • Side Shuffles
One thing I found a little odd at first but which I grew to like is that Harley doesn’t just do the exercises with you–he’ll talk throughout the routine and at some points he’ll get up and walk around. At first it threw me off, as I was focusing on him while doing my reps. But as I thought about it, this way it felt more realistic, as if I were in a “real training session” with Harley. After all, in a real training class your trainer rare gets on the floor and does all the exercises with you as you’re doing it. There are little bits of humor, where Harley will join you for a few reps and then get winded and stop. As long as you keep focused on the two ladies behind him, who are doing the exercises continually, you’ll be fine.
While he’s walking around and talking he’s verbally providing very precise details of why you’re doing the exercise, what the proper form is, what’s happening to your body, what you’re feeling, and other helpful information similar to what a real personal trainer might tell you during exercises. In this sense, it was one of the more realistic “personal training sessions” I’ve experienced in a video game.
Granted, as with all videos and exercises it does get repetitive. And the game doesn’t quite have the “elements of fun” that I think a great video game exercise program should have. Instead, it’s a fairly dry and routine set of reps.
One all-important question is, of course, how is the motion detection? I’d say it’s decent, probably as good as you can get at this point for a Wii game. At some points in the game you’ll hold the Wii remote in your hands, at other points you’ll need to put the remote in your pocket with the buttons facing forward and down (if you have a pocket). It tended to be on the hypersensitive side; I had a number of false positives any time I twitched. But overall I’d say I wasn’t terribly disappointed with the motion detection. Granted you’re on the “honor system” to some extent in that it’s easy to “cheat” by just twitching the remote at the right times, but of course, what’s the point in doing that?
Overall, I’d give this game 3.5 stars out of 5. It’s really nothing special, but then again it does a pretty good job of capturing Harley Pasternak’s exercise philosophy and regimen in a video game. If you’re already a Harley fan, own his books, follow his diet, and enjoy his appearances on morning talk shows, I’d say this is a worthwhile purchase, especially at the low price of $30. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a game that balances fun and exercise, I’d still go to games like the Just Dance series or Exerbeat that are on our Top 10 list.

Review of Just Dance Greatest Hits for Wii

Just Dance Greatest Hits by
Platform: Wii
2.5 of 5 stars – Been there, done that.
by ,
Written on July 9, 2012

just dance greatest hits reviewIn 2009. Ubisoft revolutionized dance video games with Just Dance, selling 6.76 million copies around the world. In 2010, they released Just Dance 2, selling an astounding 9.21 million copies. In 2011, they followed it up with Just Dance 3, selling 9.13 million copies. In the interim, they’ve sold dancing games that featured Michael Jackson, ABBA, the Smurfs, kid’s songs, the Black Eye Peas, Disney songs, summer dance songs, and Broadway showtunes.

You can’t blame them for flooding the market like this, of course. As long as we keep buying them, they’ll keep cranking them out. That’s why there’s a new Spiderman reboot this year, and give how successful it’s been no doubt they’ll find a way to reboot it again in another five years.

Just Dance Greatest Hits contains songs from the original Just Dance and Just Dance 2. They are:

From Just Dance:
Anita Ward – “Ring My Bell”
Calvin Harris – “Acceptable in the 80s”
“Fame” (In the Style of Irene Cara)
Fatboy Slim – “Jin Go Lo Ba”
Gorillaz – “Dare”
Groove Century – “U Can’t Touch This”
New Kids On The Block – “Step By Step”
Reel 2 Real feat. The Mad Stuntman – “I Like to Move It (Radio Mix)”
Survivor – “Eye of the Tiger”
The Sunlight Shakers– “Who Let the Dogs Out”

From Just Dance 2:
Avril Lavigne – “Girlfriend”
Benny Benassi presents “The Biz” – “Satisfaction (Isak Original Extended)”
Beastie Boys – “Body Movin’ (Fatboy Slim Remix)”
Boney M. – “Rasputin”
Carl Douglas – “Kung Fu Fighting (Dave Ruffy / Mark Wallis Remix)”
Countdown Dee’s Hit Explosion – “Barbie Girl”
Elvis Presley – “Viva Las Vegas”
Ike & Tina Turner – “Proud Mary”
Ke$ha – “TiK ToK”
Outkast – “Hey Ya!”
Snap! – “The Power”
Sorcerer – “Dagomba”
Studio Allstars – “Jump”
Studio Musicians – “Crazy In Love”
The Sunlight Shakers – “Jump In The Line”
Supergrass – “Alright”
The Hit Crew – “Toxic”
The Weather Girls – “It’s Raining Men”

Just Dance Summer Party
A R Rahman, The Pussycat Dolls Featuring Nicole Scherzinger – “Jai Ho! (You Are My Destiny)”

Just Dance 2 Downloadable Content
Katy Perry – “Firework”
Rihanna – “Pon De Replay”

New Content
B.o.B (feat. Hayley Williams of Paramore) – “Airplanes”
Rihanna – “Only Girl (In The World)”

Just Dance 3 Downloadable Content
Anja – “Baby Don’t Stop Now”

Here’s one of the new songs by Rihanna.

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I’ll start out with the good. The opening menu is pleasantly simple and just like with all the other Just Dance games. You can choose “Dance” mode, “Just Sweat” mode, and Extras (where you can turn lyrics, pictograms, and help screens on and off). As with other Just Dance games, when you get to the song selection screen you can see the name of the song, the artist, and 1-3 “gears” (indicating technical complexity) and 1-3 “drops of sweat” (indicating workout intensity).

Just Sweat mode allows you to choose a free session where you can work out with up to 4 players, or 7-Day challenge, where you can choose one of three challenges: The Fresh Start (equivalent to walking 30 minutes a day), The Healthy Choice (equivalent to running 30 minutes a day), and The Sweat Explosion (equivalent to swimming 30 minutes a day). These options should be familiar to anyone who’s played Just Dance 2 or Just Dance 3. As with those games, as you work out you earn “sweat points”. Sine there was no “sweat mode” with the original Just Dance, this is the first time you’ll be able to work out to those 10 songs. Plus, for those 10 songs you’ll benefit from the greatly improved motion detection from Just Dance to Just Dance 2. As with sweat mode on other games, after you complete a certain number of songs you’ll be told how much energy you spent (1000 sweat points is compared to walking in Times Square, while 2000 sweat points is like running 10 laps around Wembly Stadium.

As with all variations of Just Dance, it’s fun to play by yourself, but it becomes a whole new level of fun as you try to out-dance each other. Even though the Wii’s motion controls may not be completely on target, you’re on an even playing field with your opponent which makes it fun and competitive. Here’s Lisa and me working out to Katy Perry.

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And now, here’s what I didn’t particularly like about this game. And there is a lot of things I didn’t like, so hang on.

First of all, it’s a little insulting that Ubisoft would take a handful of old songs, throw them into a single title, and charge a full $40 for them. Even though these are called the “Greatest Hits”, they don’t even have the best songs from Just Dance 1 and 2. The dance moves are pretty much identical to what they were in the original games–there wasn’t even an attempt to improve them or to provide alternate choreography. I noticed some tweaking of some animation and backgrounds, not always for the better.

Speaking of choreography, there are no songs that use 4-player choreography. There are only a handful of songs that are choreographed for 2 people. Not only that, there is no “party mode”, nor any of the other improvements that came with Just Dance 3. At the very least I would have hoped that they would have introduced some of the benefits of Just Dance 3 to these old songs, but to the contrary, they just dumbed down the experience.

Perhaps worst of all, the songs included in this game are hard-coded, meaning you can’t transfer them to play in Just Dance 3 nor the upcoming Just Dance 4. This is one gripe I have about all the various copycat games that Ubisoft puts out. It’d be ideal to be able to download or transfer songs like Michael Jackson songs or Black Eyed Peas songs to the main Just Dance 3 program, where you can record your high scores or design your workouts all in one place. Sadly, Ubisoft seems to insist on making you pay for the game and the songs all over again every time they come up with any kind of unique compilation (and with this title, even for compilations that are in no way unique).

This is a hard one to rate. On the one hand, I’ve given all the Just Dance titles 5 out of 5 stars because they’re just a lot of fun. And sure enough, in this one motion controls are still good, the Just Sweat mode really does give you a decent workout, 2-person play is still a blast, and those who happen to like the songs on this compilation (and who don’t already have Just Dance and Just Dance 2) will enjoy it.

On the other hand, the negatives around this title have to do more with the marketing and packaging than with the gameplay. And so for that reason I’d give this a 2.5-3 of 5 stars. However, Ubisoft will learn the lesson one way or another than users will only stand to get taken advantage of so far. For the sake of the future of this franchise, I hope with Just Dance 4 and beyond they focus more on how to incrementally improve the user experience and less on how to squeeze every last nickel and dime out of their users.

Review of Cyberbike Exercise Bike for the Wii

Cyberbike by
Platform: Wii
4.5 of 5 stars – The biggest peripheral you’ll ever buy for your Wii, and it’s worth it.
by ,
Written on June 16, 2012

Well, I’m a year late, but it’s come time for me to review the Cyberbike Magnetic Edition exercise bike for the Wii. This was actually introduced to the US market a year ago in June 2011 by Big Ben Interactive. It was originally released to Big Ben’s native France back in December 2009. I ordered mine several months ago and it’s been sitting in the box all this time, which kind of shows you the amount of anticipation and excitement I’ve had about it. I made the mistake of reading some of the very negative Amazon reviews, and that pretty much was a major disincentive to me even opening the box.

What makes this game unique is the accessory it comes with, probably the biggest video game accessory you’ll ever see. It’s an entire exercise bike in a box. The box itself is gigantic, measuring 24″ by 20″ by 10″ and weighing in at about 33 pounds.

wii exercise bike box

The bike retails for $199.99, but since it’s been out for a year now you should be able to find it for much less. These days you can find new and used versions on Amazon for around $100-$180, and every now and then there’ll be an Amazon Gold Box deal that drops the price to about $150. And of course, you can always find it on eBay.

Is this Wii fitness bike really worth it? Did it surpass my low expectations, or was it worse than I’d imagined? The answer may surprise you.

Opening the box revealed the bike in about a dozen different pieces.

wii fitness bike parts

At first it was a little daunting, but assembling the bike was surprisingly easy. It took all of about 15-20 minutes.

The steps are simple: you take the heavy central unit and attach the legs…

wii fitness bike legs

Then you insert the seat and use the seat post to adjust it to the right height…

seat for wii exercise bike

Attach the pedals…

wii exercise bike pedals

The one tricky part, if you can call it that, is plugging in the cable between the main central unit and the handlebars.

cyberbike cable

And voila, you have a Cyberbike.

completed wii exercise bike

Like I said, after reading some of the Amazon reviews I was preparing myself for the worst. I’m an over-200 pound fellow, and I pictured myself sitting on the bike and having it crumble into a million pieces due to my weight. But happily, the bike easily supported my weight and adjusted perfectly to my height.

The next step was to plug one end of the cable into the bike…

plug in to fitness bike

…and the other end into the GameCube connector sockets (the round plugs at the top of the Wii).

plug into wii

From this point on, you can flip a switch to put the bike into “Gamecube Mode” or “Cyberbike Mode”.

switch between gamecube and cyberbike

If you flip the switch on the bike to “Cyberbike mode”, the handlebars will simulate the joystick on the Gamecube controller and steer your vehicle. Forward and backward pedaling are the same as moving the “C” stick back and forth. I think that Big Ben Interactive hoped that millions of people would snap up the Cyberbike and that third party developers would build games for it using these controls. But unfortunately, the only game that ever was (and likely ever ever will be) developed for the Cyberbike was the game bundled with the bike called Cyberbike Cycling Sports.

Sadly, this game was painfully weak. The graphics were of horrific quality, even by Wii standards. When the game stuck to basic cycling, it was pretty good, but for reasons I’ll mention below the game developers couldn’t leave well alone.

You start by selecting an avatar; you can’t even choose your own Mii. Disappointing, considering the built-in avatars are among the ugliest characters I’ve seen in a Wii game. You have two basic modes to choose from: Story Mode and Fitness mode.

The premise of the “Story Mode” of the game was bizarre–you’re a biker and your goal is to collect “pollution” to be recycled. You start by controlling a bike, but then you control a submarine, and then a mine cart, and then a helicopter traveling the world and picking up pollution.

As I said, the bike part can be quite fun, despite the klunky animation and the sub-par graphics. You just hop on the bike and ride. It’s as easy as, well, riding a bike. When I first started my character wouldn’t go for the longest time, and I realized it was because my switch was still in Gamecube mode…switching it to Cyberbike mode fixed that right away.

The main gripe I have is that the action is just not smooth. The game is not very forgiving on tight turns, so you’ll often find yourself crashing into a wall and having to cycle in reverse to get back on track. It becomes worse when logs are introduced–you can pick up lightning bolts on the ground to use to power jumps that you can do over the logs (by pressing the L button), but the controls to jump are unreasonably sluggish.

It became much worse when controlling the mine cart, where the game became almost unplayable. There, you don’t use the handlebars to control steering, but to control where the cart tips. Problem is, the game rarely got it right. You can see what I mean in these videos.

The game became mostly unplayable when I tried controlling the helicopter (in a bizarre choice, you control the propellers by pedaling and you move forward by pressing the “A” button). And the game became completely and frustratingly unplayable when I switched to submarine mode, which as you can see in the video I never quite figured out (nor cared to).

Now, if the game had been nothing but an exact recreation of Wii Sports Resort or Wii Fit Plus’s biking, I would have been very, very happy. But despite the variety of vehicles and environments, this game just seemed to lack the creativity and fun that Nintendo made famous. I didn’t feel very immersed in the story nor compelled to play over and over.

Not to say that the game wasn’t fun at all. I actually did like “Fitness Mode” quite a lot. There are four modes for fitness corresponding to each of the vehicles. Reflex (mine cart), Exploration (submarine), Divided (helicopter), and Endurance (cycling). When you start out Fitness mode, you’re able to specify a target number of calories, time, or distance. You’ll keep playing the game until you meet your goal.

In a way, “Endurance” reminded me of “Walk It Out” where you could just explore a virtual world by cycling around it. Although one frustrating thing is that there are a lot of closed gates. Like Walk It Out, I expected to be able to unlock them, but there isn’t any way to open these gates to explore different paths, you’re pretty much stuck with the paths they give you. You only seem to be able to unlock bike accessories and clothes when you play Story Mode.

I found the calorie count to be pretty accurate. Other Wii exercise games tell you that you burned 300 calories if you so much as sneeze, but here I had to bike almost 10 minutes to burn 10 calories, which seems about right.

If this game was the extent of what the Cyberbike could do, it’d get a very big “meh” from me. But then I tried “Gamecube Mode”.

In “Gamecube Mode”, pedaling forward acts the same as you pressing the “A” button on a Gamecube controller. Pedaling backward is the same as pressing the “B” button. Turning the handlebars left and right act the same as moving the Gamecube joystick left and right. Conveniently, this is how most Gamecube racing games and Wii racing games that support the Gamecube controller work.

The one thing to bear in mind is that because the pedals simulate pressing the “A” button, it’s important to stay off the bike until you’ve made all your selections and are ready to play. Otherwise you’ll be in a world of frustration if you make even the slightest movements on the pedal.

At first I was a little skeptical as to how well this would work. But then I tried out Mario Kart Wii and was blown away. The first thing to keep in mind when playing Mario Kart Wii (or most Wii games that support the Gamecube controller) is that on the opening screen you need to press the “X” button on the Gamecube controller (or in this case, the bike) and NOT the “A” button on the Wii remote. That lets the game know you want to use a Gamecube controller.

As long as the game you’re playing supports the Gamecube controller AND uses the A button to accelerate, the B button to go in reverse, and the joystick to steer, you’re in luck. To see if a Wii title supports Gamecube controllers, look for the blue Gamecube controller icon on the back of the game box. Or, you can of course get an old Gamecube game (which will work in the Wii). And if you find a game where the controls are a little off, you can actually reprogram the buttons and the pedals on the Cyberbike to conform to that game (again, the game needs to support Gamecube, though).

I won’t mince words. It was a BLAST riding a bike to play Mario Kart Wii. Ironically, it was much, much more fluid playing Mario Kart Wii with the Cyberbike than it was to play Cyberbike’s own game. In a lot of ways it was much, much more natural feeling than even holding the Wii remote sideways as a steering wheel. As you can see in the video below, it was just as challenging as playing with the Wii remote, but certainly doable (I had to try a few times to get the first place prize, and as you can see I barely made it). And after I finished a few rounds I was covered in sweat. And the best thing about it is, I was so engrossed in trying to beat my old nemeses in Super Mario Kart that I didn’t even think about how hard I was pedaling. As I’ve said many times before, to me that’s the sign of a great fitness game.

And the cool thing about this accessory is that it turns just about any driving (or biking) game that supports Gamecube controllers into an exercise game (unfortunately the one game that would make the most sense–the biking in Wii Sports Resort–will not work with this game because it doesn’t work with GameCube controllers).

The bike allows you to increase or decrease the resistance; the newest version of the bike controls resistance using magnets, which eliminates wear-and-tear on the bike. Just turn the knob in front of the unit and your pedaling will feel looser or harder.

Here’s a video of me playing Mario Kart. Yes, it looks exactly the same as if using the Wii remote, the only difference is that I’m continually pedaling. The one minor gripe I have about the game is that no matter how fast or slow you pedal, your Kart or Bike will go at a constant speed. But in all honesty, I didn’t mind as much.


Which was the stronger experience, playing Cyberbike Cycling Sports or Mario Kart Wii? let’s put it this way: since I put together my Cyberbike a week ago, I’ve played the Cyberbike Cycling Sports game about once or twice, but I went back and played Mario Kart Wii every day, each time working up a huge sweat.

For those who want a little variety, here are some other Wii games that are compatible with the Cyberbike, i.e., they support the GameCube controller and use the same controller button configurations. I’ve listed them in order of what they’re rated on GameFly, along with the original release date. If you have a Cyberbike, I’d suggest renting the game on GameFly first to make sure it works and then buying it at Amazon if you like it. Since these are mostly older games, you’ll be able to get them at a steal!

As I get a chance to try them, I’ll update each with a comment on how good they are to use with the Cyberbike in particular:

  • Need for Speed: Undercover (7.2) – 11/19/2008
  • NASCAR The Game 2011 (6.4) – 5/23/2011 – It works with the Cyberbike as long as you change the controls to be “A” to accelerate and “B” to reverse. But because the game relies so heavily on precision steering to do “slingshots” and “drafts”, it’s practically impossible to compete with the other simulated racers while on the Cyberbike, although it was pretty neat to be able to ride the practice tracks and try to beat my own lap times. Recommended only if you’re a die-hard NASCAR fan and are willing to put in the effort to try.
  • Cars 2: The Video Game (6.3) – 6/20/2011
  • Need for Speed: Prostreet (6.2) – 11/15/2007
  • MySims Racing (6.1) – 6/ 10/2009
  • Sonic Riders Zero Gravity (6.1) – 1/9/2008
  • Need for Speed: Nitro (6.0) – 11/4/2009
  • NASCAR Kart Racing (5.6) – 2/12/2009
  • Need For Speed Hot Pursuit (5.5) – 11/15/2010 – With this game you have to remap the “R” to the “A” (or pedal) button. You should also do the reverse by remapping the “A” to the “R” button. Finally, remap the L to the hand brake. After you do this, the driving experience is quite natural (while it takes getting used to, it’s a blast to ride your bike over 100 miles per hour while trying to shake the police). Although bear in mind that the weaknesses of this game show through, namely the very poor graphics and a bit of hypersensitivity in the controls.  While this was the last NFS game to support the Gamecube controller (and thus be compatible with the Cyberbike), I’d definitely recommend any of the predeceddores (Undercover, Prostreet, or Nitro) before this one.
  • Cruis’n (5.6) – 11/28/2007

And of course, most GameCube racing games are compatible. I actually went on eBay and bought a copy of Simpsons Hit and Run; it was neat controlling the various Simpson’s vehicles on the bike, but the amount of time you spend in your vehicle is so short you don’t really get exercise. Looking to try Mario Kart: Double Dash next.

Overall, I’d rate the game a 3 out of 5, and the bike a 5 out of 5. That’s right, the bike gets my highest rating, even a year after its release. I should say that it definitely helped its rating that I went in with absolutely zero expectations. The bike itself is hardly a top-of-the-line exercise bike, but it does the job, and it’s actually the perfect size for my little apartment. The magnetic resistance is effective–I really do feel the burn when I’m into a game. And the integration with games like Mario Kart Wii is simply phenomenal. One thing the Amazon reviewers said was spot on–the seat is very, very uncomfortable and solid as a rock. I ended up putting several layers of towels on the seat, as sitting on it for prolonged periods of time really became a pain in the ***. A lot of people have reported some success when covering it with a seat cover like the Mongoose Gel Bicycle Seat Cover.

The next question you’ll probably have is–is it worth getting? One major strike against it is that the newest version of the Wii and the upcoming Wii U will NOT support GameCube connectors. What this means is that this Wii exercise bike (along with other peripherals that use the Gamecube-type connectors on the current Wii such the DDR Dance Mat and the Active Life mat) will not be able to be used with them as-is. On Cyberbike’s sporadically-updated Facebook page, they did say as of May 9 that they are “working on something” but didn’t give a timeframe.

Having said all this, do I still think it’s a worthwhile purchase? Let’s put it this way. There are no other products on the market that combine an exercise bike with a video game machine. The Xbox doesn’t do it, the PS3 doesn’t do it (BigBen has released essentially the same version of the bike for the PS3, but it appears to be available only in Europe with no plans to release it for the US). You can buy very expensive exercise bikes out there that have video panels with rudimentary displays of a track or an incline, or you can buy DVDs that simulate riding, but for right now the Cyberbike for Wii is the only game that lets you really play Gamecube and Wii racing games on the bike.

And so my recommendation is yes, this is worth buying, especially if you find it for $150 or less, and especially if you already have a treadmill or an elliptical and just want a cheap exercise bike to complete your home gym, with an interactive video display that surpasses the quality of $1000+ exercise bikes (you can, of course, ride the bike without playing the video game too). My recommendation? When Fall 2012 comes around you can buy a brand spankin’ new Wii U for the living room, and let your old Wii retire in the home gym as permanent exercise equipment (along with that old cathode ray television you have in the closet :)). You’ll be surprised at how this fitness bike can breathe new life into old driving games–and into your exercise routine.