The original EA Sports Active is a pretty good fitness game for the Wii; my only complaint was it didn’t have too many core exercises. Not only has that issue been corrected, but they also improved the sensor system with a standalone leg sensor, and a heart rate tracker. Gone are the days of attaching the nunchuck to your leg. A green resistance band is also included. The Wii balance board is supported, but not required.
When you fire up the game for the first time it will show you videos on how to connect these peripherals, and it will prompt you to set up your fitness profile. This is where you can choose your male or female trainer, as well as set your current weight, and any goals you wish to accomplish. The goals consist of the calories you want to burn, and how many hours and workouts you wish to complete. I highly recommend starting off with the 9 week challenge.
The 9 week challenge is in a journal format. There are a couple of quick surveys where you can log how many meals and drinks you consumed, how many hours of sleep you got, and how much effort you put into your workouts. You can also record other activities you have done and get credit for them. It's in this journal area that you launch your preset workout for that day. Each week will have four workout days and three rest days; you can choose which days are your workout and off days. The program has three difficulty levels; I went with the middle one since I haven’t seriously worked out in a while. Needless to say, this program was much more challenging than walking my dog.
The 9 week program is broken down into three phases which get progressively harder and longer. Before you begin each workout, you will see what exercises are in store for you and how many calories it anticipates you’ll burn. I typically burned more than it assumed. You can remove exercises, and while I found it temping, I stuck with the program. The workouts usually go between thirty and forty minutes long. There are pre-made workouts that you can do in 10 minutes to an hour, and they are available in low, medium, and high intensity. Alternatively, you can create your own workout with the activities you enjoy doing, and you can set the intensity and see the estimated calories it will burn for you.
The workouts themselves have a lot of variety, and there's only so much sugar coating they can do before you realize it's just really hard work. Although there are some fun sports activities, the meat and potatoes are the exercises that help tone your muscles. These exercises will not be fun to do, but at least the music is pleasant to listen to and they put you in a very relaxing and colorful environment. The exercises focus on cardio, core, upper, and lower body workouts.
The sports related activities include soccer (head butting, juggling and goal keeping), basketball (shooting and passing), boxing, and mountain biking where you have to crouch and jump while your bike speeds over ramps. The Wii balance board can be used in mountain boarding (think skateboarding), but I found it very inaccurate at tracking my movements and lunges properly. The aerobics is fun and it can utilize the balance board as a step board. Most cardio exercises involve running laps and doing high knees and kickbacks along the way. While the running isn’t fun, they do change the scenery a bit and offer a challenge of passing other runners in a racing format.
Upper body workouts will consist of tricep and bicep curls, lateral raises, and upright/bent over rows. The lower body workouts will have you doing numerous squats, lunges and jumps. I found the planks and mountain climbers to be the most intensive, especially in phases 2 and 3 where you have to do more reps. The core exercises include leg lifts, reverse sit ups, and crunches with punches.
Graphically this game does a nice job and is on par with the original EA Sports Active. The scenery is very colorful and relaxing. When setting up your profile, you can customize the appearance of your character. There are different hair styles, face shapes, clothes, and accessories that can be applied. There are many helpful tutorial videos that show you how to do the exercises, and you can always watch these videos again if you need a refresher.
The background music variety is pretty good; I liked the techno and dance music. There's Indian and Latin music thrown in too. If you don't like a song that is playing, you can skip to the next song using the Wii remote. The boxing activity has speicifc songs where your punches are in sync with the music's beat, the rest of the songs seem to be random. The music is mostly instrumental, so there are no unwanted lyrics here.
Appropriateness wise there is nothing to worry about here, this game is safe for people of all ages who want to live a healthier lifestyle. Unlike Wii Fit and My Fitness Coach, there is no yoga to be found. The trainers wear tight clothes but they are not sexualized in any way (there is no jiggling going on). The trainers can encourage you and if you fall behind they'll tell you to catch up or that you can do better.
Although DDR is the most fun way to burn calories in my opinion, EA Sports Active is by far my favorite fitness franchise. The journal system will help keep you accountable to your eating and daily habits. Like many games these days, there are many achievements you can unlock by blocking X number of balls, burning X number of calories, workouts, etc. Sadly, I missed the achievement for completing every day consecutively in my 9 week program as I went on vacation and did not want to bring my Wii with me. I was bummed that I was not able to complete my last two missed workouts after the 9 week program’s end date. If you miss a workout before then, you can make it up though. I plan on doing another 9 week challenge, and perhaps tightening my resistance band this time around. Maybe I’ll lose another three pounds.