Reviewed by Nutwiisystem on December 6, 2010 .
Summary: The best gets better.
The box for EA Sports Active 2 is more compact than its predecessor, yet contains a lot more. When I opened the box, I noticed a lot of goodies. There was a USB dongle, two new motion controllers, one green resistance band (still a giant rubber band) and two straps, the EA Sports Active 2 disc, four AAA batteries, and an instruction sheet.
When you start EA Sports Active 2, you hear the familiar old “do do dodododo do do” music. You’ll see a short video showing beautiful images of the “desert oasis” where you’ll be exercising (still drawn in the same old cartoony style), and teasers of new activities like “mountain biking” and “fitness trail running”. You’ll also be introduced to the most dramatic new feature: the new motion controllers that are included in the box.
By far, the thing that frustrated me the most about the first EA Sports Active was its use of the Wii’s Nunchuk controller. Aside from being spotty in its accuracy, I would constantly get tangled in the wires. EA Sports did something very smart and did away with the nunchuk altoether. Instead, it included its own wireless controller which straps right on to your leg (it communicates with a wireless USB receiver you plug into the top of the Wii). So now, you have full range of motion. The system does an excellent job of tracking your leg movements.
EA Sports has also included a Built-in Heart Rate Monitor, which also communicates wirelessly with the game. So throughout your workout you can track your heart rate (displayed on top of the screen along with your calories burned). The Heart Rate Monitor also doubles as a controller that detects your arm motions for many exercises. For certain exercises you still need the Wii remote, and you can optionally use the Balance Board for a handful of exercises as well.
The resistance band is slightly less flimsy than the previous version. Strangely, there were no instructions whatsoever in the documentation of how to put it together, but if you follow the same instructions I gave with the original version, they will still work for these.
You start out by confirming that your Wii has the correct time and date. This will be especially important if you’ll be tracking your progress online (more on this later). The game will then look for previous profiles from EA Sports Active or EA Sports Active: More Workouts.
The next step is choosing a trainer: “Devon” (who is a strength and conditioning coach who will push you) or “Niki” (a fitness, nutrition and power yoga instruction who stresses “discipline, focus, and motivation”). I ended up choosing Devon.
You then enter personal information about yourself (if you imported a profile, it’ll use that data as the default). This includes your gender, age, height, and weight (which can be measured with the Balance Board). It’s very important to be accurate here, as this will be used to estimate things like your ideal heart rate, your calorie burn rate, and more.
You then customize your avatar, selecting body type, skin tone, hair type, outfit, shoes, socks, hat, and sunglasses. You can probably find some combination that’ll approximate what you look like (or if you don’t want to bother, you can just select “randomize”).
In the next step, you enter your name and whether you want to use the Wii Balance Board in certain exercises.
Your trainer starts by setting three weekly goals for you: number of workouts in a week, amount of time exercising, and amount of calories burned. As you get familiar with the game, you can start setting your own goals as well.
In the next step, you can set up your online account. You’ll need an Internet connection to your Wii for this one. You first need to read and accept the online terms and conditions. Then, you need to set up your “EA Online Account”. More on this below.
You then see another video with more details on what you need to do to get started: make sure you’re wearing good workout clothes and make sure you have plenty of room to work out. It’ll then introduce your new sensors and show you clearly how to put batteries in your motion controllers and how exactly to put them on your arm and leg. The heartrate sensor is placed directly on your arm just below your elbow so the front of the sensor faces away from you when your arm is to the side (like a wristwatch). The leg sensor is placed high on the front of your upper right thigh. You then push a button on both sensors to allow them to communicate with the Wii console.
You’re finally ready to get started. You can choose the workout you wish: a 9 Week Program for total fitness (you can choose light, medium or hard intensity) or an introductory 21-day Program of moderate intensity that focuses on cardio. I chose the 9 Week program. You can also enter track your progress in a journal, create or join a workout group, see your workouts, and read up on different fitness and nutritional advice.
I do like the innovation EA Sports put into the activities. There are over 70 to choose from, ranging from basic exercises like stretching and running in place, to more advanced activities. As in the original version, most sporting events basically consist of you doing repetitions of exercise movements that approximate the movement that your on-screen character does. Most exercises will use your arm and leg sensors and in some cases the Wii remote or the Balance Board to check to make sure you’re doing the exercises (there are some which are on the “honor system”, where no controller is used at all).
What I really like about EA Sports Active 2 is that they’ve incorporated some more interactivity and “video gaming elements” into some of the sporting activities. For example, in the skateboarding and mountain biking activities, you need to leap at just the right moment to avoid obstacles or perform jumps. In the Basketball event, a cursor will move over the basket, and you need to time your jump correctly to score.
When your workout is done, you’ll see in-depth graphs and data on all kinds of information from your workout, from the time you spent, to the calories burned, to your heartrate. The system will keep track of your progress each day so you’ll be able to compare today’s workout with all your previous ones.
The 9-week regimen isn’t just a random assortment of exercises each day, it was clearly put together by a real fitness expert. You choose four days of the week to exercise (leaving three days to rest). You work progressively on different fitness goals as each day and week goes by. Each day starts with warm-up stretches and ends with cool-down activities, and there’s a good variety of activities throughout to keep the workouts interesting.
Another great improvement is the ability to work out with (and compete against) someone else, if you purchase a second set of controllers. There’s something about competition that makes exercise go by so much faster.
One annoyance, as other reviewers have noted, is that because many of the exercises don’t use the Balance Board or the Wii remote, both will time out throughout the game, which interrupts the flow of the exercises. I understand that their intent is to save battery power, but at the very least it would have been good to have an option to prevent the controllers from shutting off (for example, those who use rechargeable batteries don’t care as much).
Your Online Account
I moved my description of the the Online Account to the bottom of this review because signup is probably the weakest and most convoluted part of the game right now, but to be fair, they do clearly say that it’s in “Beta”.
When I got to this part in the setup process, I was abruptly told “there is no EA Online account associated with this email address”–before I even had a chance to enter an email address! On the next screen, there was a place to enter an email address and password, but they didn’t seem to differentiate between “sign up” and “sign in”. So I tried an email address I thought I’d set up on EA Online before (for Grand Slam Tennis, I believe). Turns out I typed it wrong, but it set up a new account for me anyway, which I didn’t realize until after I’d done my first exercise. So now, I had two EA Online accounts that couldn’t be merged together.
Adding to the confusion, you’re next asked to enter a “Persona Name” which will be your online identity. They let me enter a name with hyphens using the keyboard, but when I tried to continue I was told “only letters and numbers are allowed” (why, pray tell, did they let me enter them in the first place). It would have been nice if they just took the name you entered a few steps earlier and checked to see if it was available. One good thing they do do is that if the Persona you entered is not available, they’ll give you alternate suggestions (basically the name you entered followed by a random number).
You then get an email to the Inbox on your PC with a link to http://www.easportsactive.com. When you come to the site, it just looks like an advertising site for the game. But when you sign in (on the top of the page which is easy to miss) with your email address and password, you’ll get brought to a personalized page where you can view graphs of your latest workouts; a calendar showing completed workouts, missed workouts, and when your next workout is; your goals; your milestones; a newsfeed; a place to review your progress (including graphs of your number of workouts, workout duration, calories burned, heartrate, and distance “run” over time); and a place to set up groups where you can invite up to 30 friends to exercise together (you’ll see aggregate data of everyone in the group).
The usability of the online portal does leave a little something to be desired. Only group names 10 character long or under are allowed (probably so it could fit on the Wii screen, but you gotta think they could have worked around this). When I tried to change my password it told me–I kid you not–that “This Password appears to be profane. Please try another entry to continue.” No, the password I chose was not “profane”!
So the best advice I can give to ensure a smooth signup process is to first think of any EA Sports game you might have played online on the Wii, PS3, or Xbox (e.g., Grand Slam Tennis, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, etc.) and to make sure you use your same username and password. If you’re sure you don’t have one yet, rather than attempting to register on the Wii, I would strongly recommend first going to http://www.easportsactive.com on your PC and clicking the “Register” button in the upper right-hand corner to sign up for your EA Online Account. Then, go back to the Wii and use that to sign in.
Slight annoyances with the controllers timing out and the poor usability of the online portal signup process notwithstanding, overall, I’d say that EA Sports has maintained their position as the king of the hill as far as Wii workout games go.
It comes at a price–there are definitely other good-quality workout games that aren’t $100. Then again, when you compare the $100 you pay for this game to the $1000s you’d otherwise pay for gym memberships, exercise equipment, and personal trainers, it’s definitely a great deal–and by getting family members involved or getting together with friends in workout group, you can encourage each other to work out. In fact, if you’re interested in joining a Nutwiisystem workout group, let me know and I’ll be happy to set one up (I’ll be using EA Sports Active 2 myself to attempt to shed at least 20 pounds :)).
This one is highly recommended, and EA Sports Active retains its position as #1 on the top of our best Wii Fitness Games list.Rating: of 5