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Review of Gold’s Gym Dance Workout for Wii

Gold’s Gym Dance Workout

Reviewed by Nutwiisystem on August 30, 2010.
Summary: Excellent collection of dancing, boxing, and mini-games, if a little difficult to master.

gold's gym dance workoutUbisoft’s Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout has been in this site’s Top 10 Wii Fitness Games List since it first came out a year and a half ago. Until then, Wii Fit and My Fitness Coach had pretty much been the only decent Wii workout games around. But concepts that Gold’s Gym Cardio brought helped to push the world of Wii exercise games forward.

And so I’ve been looking forward to its sequel, Gold’s Gym Dance Workout, which was just released two weeks ago. And so the question is: like its predecessor, is the sequel a game-changer? While the game is not without its flaws the answer, happily, is yes.

Gold Gym Dance Workout consists of three main types of exercises: a pure “dance workout”, a “boxing workout”, and “mini-games”.

In the “dance workout”, you perform fast-moving choreographed dance steps using your arms and feet. It’s not exactly like “Just Dance” in that the choreography doesn’t really contain any “signature moves” to the song. Rather, the dance is made up of a series of basic latin dance steps (i.e., merengue, samba, salsa, reggaeton, and cumbia). You first go through a series of tutorials to learn the steps, and then you put them together through beginner, intermediate, and advanced stages of increasing difficulty and speed. Just as you’d do in a dance class at the gym, you follow the lead of an on-screen workout instructor shouting out steps to you to the beat.

In the “boxing workout”, the game has come a long way since the “here we go…clap, clap, clap, clap” of its predecessor. Again following an on-screen instructor, you upper-cut, jab, punch, and hook to the beat of  music. And thankfully, Ubisoft decided to license a whole slew of popular songs, so you’re not stuck to boxing to “Eye of the Tiger” over and over and over. The motion controls are remarkably accurate in detecting specific boxing moves, and the workouts were  fast-moving and fun.

I admit that I absolutely loved the “mini games”. Unlike other fitness games where minigames are an afterthought, Ubisoft seems to have put a lot of thought into these, and I love the touches of humor in the games. The games are:

  • Matador: In this game, you’re on the streets of a city that looks a lot like Pamplona and you need to dodge bulls that are charging through the street. In an interesting twist the game doesn’t use the balance board, but rather has you hold two Wii remotes in your hand and detects when you “duck” out of the way. This was the right move–I find sometimes that the balance board’s response is too slow and not always accurate for games like Wii Fit’s snowball fight and soccer heading. On the other hand, using the two Wii remotes, you can time your ducking from the bulls precisely (the closer the bull is to you when you duck out of the way, the more points you get.
  • Bull Ride: This is an old-fashioned bull riding game where you stand on the balance board and try to maintain your balance as your on-screen character tries desperately to stay seated on a bucking bull.
  • Canoe: This is somewhat like kayaking on Wii Sports Resort, but they’ve improved it. You’re paddling with two Wii remotes (which you hold together horizontally to simulate a double-plated paddle), and as you’re paddling you’re also shifting weight on your butt while sitting on the Balance Board. The result is remarkably like real canoeing (where you work out both your arms and your glutes). There are cute little touches, such as when an alligator charges you and you need to paddle faster to get out of its way.
  • Sword Fight: This is more or less a rip-off of Wii-Fit’s sword game where you slice and dice different objects by wielding your Wii remote like a sword. It adds a nice touch where a ninja will throw stars at you from time to time that you have to duck. But overall, it’s not as strong as Wii Fit’s version; you’ll find that no matter how you slice the Wii remote it’ll always register.

  • Marathon: Somewhat of a misnomer, this is more of a sprinting game where you flail your arms to make your character run through a desert. It took me a bit of getting used to, but I found that if I moved my arms in a fast boxing motion, it’d make my character run (to a maximum speed of 24.8). There are some cute touches where you have to outrun lions and the occasional football players who are chasing you (how a football player got to the desert is beyond me).
  • Jump Rope: This version of jump rope is not as strong as Active Life Outdoor Challenge’s version, but it holds its own. You stand on the balance board and squat and lift your body to make your on-screen character jump, first by himself and then with an increasing number of people jumping along with him. Of course, you can’t jump on the Wii Balance Board, so you’re basically shifting weight.
  • Boxing: In this game, you’re punching and dodging punches from, of all things, a creepy-looking kangaroo. I’m not sure why Wii game designers love to put creepy animals in their games (the panda heads in Wii Fit come to mind), but I guess it makes it easier to punch the guy out than if it were a cute, less-annoying kangaroo. In any case, this boxing is definitely weaker than the original Wii Sports boxing.
  • Karate: In karate, you’ll break boards, dishes, and pottery with a karate chop. The quicker you punch, the more force is applied to the object you’re breaking. Overall, not a bad game, definitely a little bit more of a workout than the Wii Fit version.

When you start up Gold’s Gym Dance Workout, you see a couple of options.
Quick Workout is where you can jump right into playing different dance, boxing or workout activities, or special groups of activities ranging in difficulty from Practice to Beginner to Intermediate to Advanced to Expert to Challenge. You can also select activities to target a specific body part (arms, legs, upper body, lower body, torso and whole body).

You can also choose My Workout, where your virtual personal trainer (complete with Gold’s Gym badge and standing at a Gold’s Gym front desk) will ask you a few questions (such as your workout goals and your level of commitment) and then using artificial intelligence the system will tailor a full daily workout schedule for you consisting of up to 7 different activities per day each listing out the time it’ll take and the calories burned (if you’re new, say “yes” when she asks if you’d like to try a 3-day introductory course).

If you’d like to work out with a friend, Two Player mode lets both of you hold one Wii remote and dance together. Both players have to do the same dance next to each other, and you can compete with each other to see who has the best score.

I’m impressed by the number of options you can configure. You can turn the rumble of the Wii remote on or off; adjust the volume of the music, sound efforts, or instructor; choose which of the on-screen indicators to show or hide. And finally they’ve fixed a pet peeve of mine in all these games–there’s an option that actually lets you turn off the video tutorials that pop up before each exercise.

One thing I also liked about Gold’s Gym Dance is that right off the bat, it asks you if you want to use two Wii remote controllers. As much as I love the Wii nunchuk, game after game has proven that the nunchuk is simply too inaccurate for fast-moving rhythm games. That Ubisoft eschews the use of the nunchuk is a good sign that they’ve taken accuracy in motion controls more seriously than they have in the past.

The one major thing I wasn’t crazy about at first was how very difficult it was to follow and learn the dance steps. The first few times you play the dance workout games, even at the tutorial level it’s very easy to get very overwhelmed. You have to basically follow the on-screen trainer and mirror the moves she’s making. The problem is, she’s moving so fast that it’s incredibly difficult to follow, and the fact that you’re trying to do it in a mirror image makes it even more difficult, as it’s sometimes difficult to tell where her feet are.

The game does try to give you visual and audio clues to help you. For example, the trainer’s foot will glow yellow when it’s time for you to move it. There’ll be a silhouetted image telling you which arm movement is coming up next. And the trainer will yell instructions like “BACK, FRONT, SIDE, TOUCH, AND BACK, FRONT, SIDE, TOUCH”. Problem is, all these things are happening so quickly that you can follow them, much less move your feet to them. And it takes a LOT of practice to coordinate the foot movements with the arm movements.

I actually don’t see this as a bad thing. Too many Wii fitness games have been “watered down” to the point where they’re too easy to learn and master and you get bored of them quickly. With this game, if you practice, and practice, and practice, you’ll eventually get it. The game does, in fact, offer a “practice” mode where you can view the instructor from three different camera angles (looking at the instructor from the front, from the top, and from the side), and also view the routine (or individual segments of the routine) in slow-motion. I’d definitely recommend practicing and perfecting the routine this way before moving on to your daily workouts. The one thing I would have liked to have seen is a view where you could see the instructor facing forward  doing the moves as you’re supposed to do them (as opposed to a mirror image).

Another quirk of the game, which I guess you could call either a flaw or a bonus, is that the motion controller is very, very forgiving for the dance workout. The game, of course, can’t detect that your feet are following the dance moves (I’m hoping beyond hope that Konami’s upcoming Dance Dance Revolution will finally do this), so as long as you move your arms remotely closely to the on-screen trainer’s arm movements you’ll get a “great!” rating for your move. So in a sense, you’re on the “honor system” to perform the moves correctly. You could rack up points by keeping still and flailing your arms, but the true prize is losing weight and getting in shape, which you’ll need to put your whole body into. Like I said the controls for the boxing games are much more accurate.

The game does have a lot of the things which we’ve all come to expect in Wii exercise games: the ability to weigh in using your Balance Board, the ability to choose a trainer and an avatar, the ability to see calories burned, and the ability to change backgrounds (you can choose between the US, India, Japan, Egypt, and Australia). I like little touches they added, such as showing you not just the calories you burned, but a picture of the food that consists of that many calories.

In short, I’d call this game a great new entrant into the world of Wii Fitness games. I’ll give it 4 1/2 stars, but having said that it’s not for everyone. The boxing and minigames you can pick up pretty easily, but the dancing will take a lot of work and patience to get the most out of it. Still, Gold’s Gym Dance Workout is good enough to bump Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout out of the Top 10 list, the first time the list has changed in a very long time.

4.5 of 5

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