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ESPN Sports Connection - Nintendo Wii U
ESPN Sports Connection - Nintendo Wii U
Offered by FRONTIER HOBBY SHOP
Price: $15.55
41 used & new from $8.94

50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some innovative use of the GamePad controller, but overall not the most polished game, November 21, 2012
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
It was interesting for Nintendo not to launch a sports title to coincide with the Wii U launch, especially given the overwhelming success of Wii Sports with the original Wii. Ubisoft has stepped in with ESPN Sports Connection, which includes some of the sports from Wii Sports (Tennis, Golf, Baseball) and adds a few new ones (Football, Kart Racing, Soccer). I found this game a bit difficult to give a rating to, because there are some part of it that are spectacular, while others don't even rise to the quality of the original Wii Sports.

I'll go through each sport and rate each one.

Tennis:

There are two options here: "Match" or "Cannon Ball". Match works pretty much like WIi Sports tennis, in that you swing your Wii remote to hit the ball, and running is done automatically for you. You also have the option to use the GamePad, in which case you use to touchscreen and stylus to play, similar to tennis games on the DS. I was immediately disappointed by the graphics and the responsiveness, which both seemed to pale in comparison to even Wii Sports. It seemed that the designers couldn't decide whether to be "cartoony" or "realistic", so they ended up creating a world that as a poor combination of both, with gaudy colors and unnecessary background animation. Perhaps for that reason, despite the support of the MotionPlus, hitting the ball felt a little sluggish.

"Cannon Ball" was an interesting concept. It's a 2-player game where one player holds the GamePad and controls where a ball machine serves, while the other player holds the Wii remote and tries to return the serve to a certain part of the court. I'm not sure how much replay value this has, but it was an interesting first look into the possibilities of two-player action using both the GamePad and the TV screens. I'd give the overall tennis experience 2 of 5 stars.

Golf:

The two options in golf are "Stroke Play" and "Caddie". Stroke play lets up to 4 players play up to 18 holes on a generic golf course. I was impressed that the MotionPlus capabilities of the Wii remote seemed to be used well; when you prepare your swing, the on-screen "swing meter" gives a smooth and accurate representation of your swing angle. But as with most Wii golf games, don't expect this to improve your golf swing.

While the portion of the game you see on the TV was nothing earth-shatteringly new, the use of GamePad was a different story, and really showed the potential of the GamePad. While the main TV shows the court from a golfer's eye view, the GamePad lets you view the course from a birds-eye view, and even zoom in and use the GamePad screen as almost a virtual set of binoculars to have a 360 degree view of any part of the course. In fact, in the "Caddie" option, you can have two players, one setting up the shots and suggesting clubs and angles (something in traditional golf games the system does for you), and the other to execute the golf shots. I found some parts of the GamePad interface confusing, but I did appreciate the innovation here. Overall, I'd give the golf experience about 3.5 of 5 stars.

Baseball:

Baseball is where the game really started to shine for me. You use the GamePad when you're playing defense, and the TV screen and Wii remote when you're playing offense. To pitch, you draw a line from the pitcher's mound to a strike zone at home plate. At first your instinct is to just flick the stylus, but after a while you'll learn to finesse different types of pitches by drawing lines; your catcher will give you "signals" that tell you what kind of line to draw. If the batter makes contact, you'll see the ball coming at you on the GamePad screen, and you'll need to move the GamePad like a virtual glove to catch it. It takes a lot of getting used to (oddly, you're not really moving your glove to catch the ball, but you're moving the entire scene to align your glove with the ball), but I give them an A for effort.

As the batter, you're standing in the batters box and swinging at pitches. Again, I found the use of the MotionPlus capabilities to be impressive. Everything from your bat angle to your bat speed is taken into account, making this a very realistic batting experience. And while it's not exactly like batting against a real pitcher, it is challenging and has a very realistic feel to it. In fact, it may be a bit too realistic--young ones may be a little frustrated that the batting isn't as easy as in Wii Sports.

Overall, I'd give the baseball experience a solid 4 of 5 stars. Again, graphics are not as polished as they could be, but having two screens, one for the pitcher and one for the batter, is an innovation that really shows the potential of the GamePad.

Soccer:

With Soccer, you can have up to 5 players, 4 using Wii remotes and 1 using the GamePad. In this case, motion controls are not used (except to control the goalie's jump); every player holds his or her controller sideways and uses the arrow keys or joystick and buttons to move around. For all I said about subpar graphics on the other sports, I was pretty impressed by the graphics in the game; the main view is an overhead view of the soccer field (like on TV), and if you have five soccer fans in the house it's a pretty realistic experience as each person controls a different player.

The second activity in Soccer is called Penalty Shootout. Again, it uses both screens as one player on offense uses the GamePad and stylus to draw the trajectory of their kick into the goal, while the other player on offense has to anticipate the kick and flick their Wii remote to block the shot. Perhaps this takes a little more getting used to, but I found the Wii remote to be a little sluggish again; even when I was drawing my own kicks and blocking them, my goalie would often be too late or not jumping with the right range. Great idea, spotty execution. Overall the soccer experience seemed like a 3 of 5 stars.

Kart Racing:

This one is basically a cheap remake of Mario Kart Wii, where up to 5 players can play using the GamePad or Wii remotes. In all cases, as with Mario Kart, you hold your controller like a steering wheel and press a button to accelerate. On the Wii remote, you do have the option to change the steering to use the arrow buttons.

Overall, this didn't even rise to the level of Mario Kart in terms of graphics, responsiveness, or innovation. I'd give it 2 of 5 stars.

Football:

Strangely, when I first started up football, my entire WIi U console froze, requiring me to literally unplug the console. Not sure if this is a Ubisoft thing or a Nintendo thing, but it wasn't a great first impression.

As with Baseball, the player on defense holds the GamePad, while the player on offense looks at the TV. On defense, the player chooses a play on the GamePad (you only have three options: short coverage, medium coverage, or long coverage), while the offensive player does the same on the TV using the Wii remote (again, you only have three options: a short pass, a medium pass, or a long pass).

Once the ball is snapped, the defensive player sees the field on the GamePad from a birds-eye view, as if looking down on an animated playbook diagram, complete with Xs and Os. While the play is unfolding, this player has to frantically draw lines to direct his linebackers in covering the receivers.

On the offense, the player with the Wii remote receives the snap by pointing the Wii remote at the screen, and then bends his elbow to the point where he's holding the Wii remote like a football. He can turn to the left or right to find an open receiver, and make a throwing motion to pass the ball.

Overall, I found football to be fun, although because there are so many new concepts here, different players may experience different levels of frustration in trying to get used to them. Overall, football gets a 4 of 5 from me.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I give Ubisoft an "A" for effort. It's not easy to break new ground, and their innovations with using the "second screen", while not always perfect, do demonstrate the vast potential of this technology. Just the fact that two players can play the same game but see completely different views is a great innovation. I also liked their use of the MotionPlus in making many sports a lot more precise than just flicking the Wii remote.

But looking at the game on its own merits most of the sports seemed limited, as if they were more demonstrations of the technology than attempts to really capture the essence of the sport. I wasn't a fan of the graphics, which had more of a cheap cartoony "shovelware" feel about them than really taking advantage of the Wii U's improved resolution. I see myself taking this off the shelf once in a while to show people what can be done with the GamePad, but not necessarily playing it over and over again. Averaging all the different sports, I'd give it an overall score of a 3. But that said, I still think it's a great start and hope to see Ubisoft and other publishers continuing to innovate and make full use of the Wii U's potential.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 11, 2012 1:41 PM PST


Nintendo Wii U Console 8GB Basic Set - White
Nintendo Wii U Console 8GB Basic Set - White
Offered by CANMOBILITY
Price: $300.00
77 used & new from $196.26

182 of 210 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great hardware but software and setup need a little improvement, November 20, 2012
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Plenty of people have given lengthy reviews on everything you want to know about the Wii U, so I won't rehash the basics here. I'll just share my initial reactions after unboxing my Wii U Basic last night.

The box for the Wii U contains an owners manual and "Quick Start" guides in English, French, and Spanish. There's also a card advertising Club Nintendo; you'll get a hefty 160 points for linking your Wii U to your Club Nintendo account, which is more than halfway to Gold Status (you'll get a calendar or some other crappy gift if you hit 300 points in a year). Nintendo giveth and taketh away; unlike previous systems there's no warranty extension for registering a Wii U with Club Nintendo.

You'll get an AC adapter for the Wii U console, as well as a charger for the GamePad. You'll also get an HDMI cable to attach to a TV (if you prefer to use your old component (YPbPr) cable or composite (RCA) cables from your Wii, you can do that as well). Finally, you get a new Wii sensor, but no Wii remotes. The Wii sensor is the same as on the Wii, so if you it set up for your Wii already, you can just swap your old one out and swap this one in (you can save the sensor in the box in case you need a replacement or you want to resell it).

The Wii U itself is sleeker than the Wii, with rounded corners and a slightly longer body. It's still much, much lighter and more compact than either the Xbox or the PS3. The unit has four USB ports and an SD card slot. A lot of people are decrying the fact that 8GB won't hold a lot, but you can effectively expand the memory by using USB jump drives, SD cards, or even USB hard drives that you probably already have for your camera or PC. From that sense, I didn't see the memory size as as much as a downside as others.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the GamePad, but my first impressions were very good. It's comfortable to hold, and the joysticks and buttons are easily accessible by your thumbs. I was impressed by the crystal clear picture quality, and the surprisingly loud and clear sound coming out of the two stereo speakers. There's a little slider on the back of the unit where you can adjust the volume, and there's a headphone jack. Something I missed at first was the stylus at the top of the unit that pops in and out of it like on a DS. While you can use either your finger or the stylus for most touchscreen interaction, the stylus does keep the screen free of fingerprints, plus it gives better precision on certain games.

There's also a camera and a microphone built in--a clever differentiating move considering that Xbox and PS3 cameras are usually on the other side of the room. It'll be interesting to see what applications developers come up with for these. Nintendo has already released a small handful of cool applications that make use of the camera such as Video Chat and the ability to make a Mii from your real face (similar to the 3DS). One of the most anticipated features of the GamePad will be the ability to use it as a TV remote. RIght now you can turn your TV on and off, but in the future the TVii app (which will be a free download in December) promises to let you control your TV from your GamePad; if this means the end of confusing, esoteric universal remote controls, I'll welcome it.

Setting up the hardware was pretty simple, just plug in the AC adapter to the console, plug in your HDMI cable to the TV, and plug in either your existing or your new Wii sensor.

I wish I could say the software setup was as simple. Let's put it this way: I started the process at about midnight, thinking it'd take about 5 minutes. I ended up going to bed at 3 AM. It's not a terribly complex process (you actually get your first taste of "two screen action" as you use the GamePad to make your choices, while detailed instructions can be read on the TV), but it does drag on and has a few awkward moments. But it's critical to make sure the process completes without interruption; some people are reporting their units are getting bricked if they power down in the middle of the update.

You start out by syncing the GamePad to the console, which is simply a matter of pressing the red "sync" button on front of the console and the same kind of button on the back of the GamePad. Once you do this, you'll be able to control the console from the GamePad (including turning it on and off).

You start by setting the time and date, which was disappointing to me; it's the 21st century, and there's no reason they couldn't have put the Wi-Fi setup up front so the system could pull this from the Internet. You then confirm the resolution of your TV, which read a glorious 1080i. You can configure your GamePad to turn your TV on and off (I decided to hold off until TVii becomes available), and then as with the Wii you designate the position of your sensor bar. You, of course, have to accept the obligatory legal stuff, and then you get to the Wi-Fi setup.

Wi-Fi setup was a snap. The system found my Wi-Fi network right away, and unlike other devices I could walk my GamePad over to my router and key in the WEP key without running back and forth or using up Post-It notes. You do all your typing on the GamePad; the digital keyboard was a little small for my fingers, but I made do.

The next step is when the system asks you to connect to the Internet and check for updates. It took, I kid you not, a full hour for it to download the latest update and install it. So if you're giving the Wii U as a gift, you might want to open the box and set it up for your recipients first if you plan to play it with them.

The next step is setting up your user accounts. I found this part very, very confusing, but I figured it out. Basically, you have to create your personal account on your console first, including creating a new Mii with a nickname and month and date of birth. Once you're done with that, you'll have the option of linking that account to what's called a "Nintendo Network ID", which is a completely separate process where you set up a username, full date of birth, and e-mail address, and you have to confirm the account via e-mail. The Nintendo Network ID is optional and not required to play most games, but to get the most out of the online experience, as well as be able to download apps and make purchases, you'll need to sign up for it.

Now the burning question I had, which I couldn't find an answer to easily, is how can I get my Mii from my old Wii? After all, I spent a long, long time getting him perfect and I've grown quite attached to him (I tried to re-create him on the Wii U but it didn't quite look the same, and when I tried to create a Mii from my photo, it was a cool process but a little too lifelike for my taste :P). The good news is that it's possible to grab your Mii's from your old Wii, but the bad news is that it's a pretty convoluted process. You basically have to go to the "Wii menu", go to the Wii Shop Channel, download a Channel called "System Transfer", and follow some pretty complicated steps to transfer your old system data to a SD card (512K or greater) with both consoles attached to the Internet. I ended up doing this a few days later and it took yet another hour, which I wasn't thrilled with.

Which brings me to the second thing I found a little off, which was the fact that there's a "Wii U menu" and a "Wii menu". My guess is that they're trying to relegate all the gaming related stuff to the "Wii menu" and start positioning the "Wii U menu" as more of a general entertainment console (there are already pre-installed icons for NetFlix, Amazon Video, YouTube, and Hulu Plus). But I wasn't thrilled at having to deal with two menus and figuring out what goes where. Surprising, as Nintendo has usually been pretty good at user interface design.

One other annoyance is that there are times that the system will appear to hang for many seconds, even minutes at a time, particularly when going from Channels or games back to the Wii U menu. At first I thought it was something I was doing, but many others appear to be experiencing the same thing. Hopefully Nintendo is working on a fix, as this behavior can get really annoying really fast.

Since this review is on the console and not the games (which I'll post reviews for separately), I'm basing my review on my impressions of the hardware, the software, and the setup process. The hardware easily gets 5 out of 5 stars from me; you can see right away that the GamePad was an impressive feat of engineering, although there is a part of me that is disappointed that they didn't see fit to improve their motion controls (the MotionPlus is evidently the most advanced they'll take the Wiimotes for a while). My initial thoughts with the two-screen approach is that it's going to take some getting used to (I found myself fixated on the GamePad for most of the setup process and ignoring the TV), but they've proven with the DS that it can enhance gameplay.

The setup process and the user interface, on the other hand, could have been improved. Not to say that features are missing, but the interface is just a little confusing for my tastes, and since I work with user experience for a living, I think I have a higher tolerance than most. The good news is that since these flaws are in software and not in hardware, they're certainly things that Nintendo can improve over time.

A lot of people might be wondering whether to get the Basic unit, or to splurge and get the Deluxe unit for an extra $50. With the Deluxe unit, you get more built-in memory, the Nintendo Land game, and a charging stand for the GamePad. As I mentioned, you can easily expand the Wii U Basic with USB drives or SD cards at very low cost to meet or exceed 32GB, so that's not a huge deal. A lot of people are saying that New Super Mario Bros U is by far a better "showcase" game for the Wii U than Nintendo Land is, so I don't think missing that is a huge deal breaker either (especially considering that in a few months the secondary market will likely be flooded with used copies of Nintendo Land). And finally, a charging stand is a nice thing to have, but certainly not necessary. So at the end of the day for me, it came down to color: did I prefer white or black?

To sum up, I'll give the system in itself a solid four stars--it didn't give me the knock-my-socks-off experience that unboxing the original Wii gave me, but I see a ton of potential if game developers can truly use the new features that the GamePad (combined with other peripherals like the Balance Board and Wiimotes) offer. I will definitely be a fan.
Comment Comments (31) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 17, 2014 8:12 AM PDT


Zumba Fitness Core - Nintendo Wii
Zumba Fitness Core - Nintendo Wii
Offered by VideoGameAdvantage
Price: Click here to see our price
43 used & new from $19.95

553 of 564 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another nice step forward for Zumba Fitness for the Wii, November 11, 2012
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
The first thing to know about Zumba Fitness Core for 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.
Comment Comments (13) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 31, 2014 1:23 PM PDT


Zumba Fitness Core - Xbox 360
Zumba Fitness Core - Xbox 360
Offered by VideoGameAdvantage
Price: Click here to see our price
67 used & new from $15.14

324 of 328 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another step forward in the Zumba Fitness videogame franchise, November 8, 2012
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
When Majesco released Zumba Fitness for the Kinect in 2010, by most accounts it was a groaner. It was clear that the game had been rushed to market to try to cash in on the Kinect launch. The result was a sloppy and forgettable game. In 2011, they made amends by releasing Zumba Fitness Rush. This version added much better motion tracking, real Zumba personalities like Beto and Gina Grant, an improved tutorial, and much more engaging graphics.

I'm happy to say that the newest iteration, Zumba Fitness Core, builds on the improvements and makes the game even better.

When you start off the game, you see stylized videos of a number of famous Zumba personalities, including Kass (Martin), Tanya (Beardsley), Nick (Logrea), Loretta (Bates), Gina (Grant), and Beto. Their animated counterparts will be your instructors throughout the game. While in the previous version they looked more "cartoony", with this version they're starting to almost look like the real person (almost).

Some of the options in the main menu are the same as previous versions, while others are new. They are:

"Single Song": You can choose a Single Song to jump right into dancing right away. You can scroll through songs and choose them by instructor (whom you can identify either by their picture or the color of the button), or by name, intensity (low, medium, high), genre (e.g., samba, disco, cumbia, hip-hop, etc.), or workout type (warm up, core, cardio, cardio with some core, core with some cardio, and cool down). 17 of the 33 songs are licensed tracks, and 16 are Zumba originals, an impressive ratio compared to past Zumba games. Here's a full list:

Ain't Nothing Wrong (Robert Randolph and the Family Band) - Pop
Alegria Pa Zumbar (Zumba Original) - Samba
Bailamos (Enrique Iglesias) - Pop Salsa
Balans (K-liber4life) - Reggaeton
Bem Vindos (Zumba Original) - Brazilian Funk
Boogie Shoes (Juptier) - Disco
Brokenhearted (Karmin) - Jazz
Crazy Love (Mara) - Samba Techno
Cumbia Flow (Zumba Original) - Cumia Reggaeton
Dancing With Myself (The Donnas) - Pop Samba
Desert Groove (Zumba Original) - Bellydance
Drop It Low (Kat DeLuna) - Hip-Hop
Ella Me Copia (Zumba Original) - Bachata Flemenco
For You (Zumba Original) - Axe
Gati Bongo (Orchestre Baka de Gbine) - African
Ho Jayegi Balle Balle (Daler Mehndi) - Punjabi Bollywood
Hola My Friend (Zumba Original) - Polynesian Rhythm
Jamming (Bob Marley) - Reggae
Jhoom (Shankar Mahadevan) - Bollywood
Jump Jive And Wail (Charlotte Swing Band) - Swing
Kazachok in Habana (Zumba Original) - Russian Folk
La Bomba (Zumba Original) - Techno Cumbia
Las Gatitas (Zumba Original) - Hip-Hop
Lift Ya Leg Up (Spice and Company) - Soca Calypso
Magalenha (Carlinhos Brown) - Samba Capoeira
Mirage (Naked Rhythm) - Bellydance
Nyana (Tiesto) - EDM
Paris (Oh La La) (Grace Potter and the Nocturnals) - Rock Burlesque
Quiebra (Zumba Original) - Quebradita
Roll Wid Di Don (Sean Paul) - Stepping Reggaeton
Shake It (Anane featuring Mr. Vegas and Tony Touch) - Hip-Hop Reggaeton
Suave (Kiss Me) (Nayer featuring Pitbull) - Salsa
Sugar Plum Fairy (Ryan Franks) - Ballet
Surf to the World (Zumba Original) - Surf Rock
Sweet Girl (Zumba Original) - Techno Merengue
Taki Contry (Zumba Original) - Celtic Bluegrass
The Trip (Tres Mundos) - Arabian Reggaeton
Vamos Pa'La Pista (Zumba Original) - Salsa
Vem Vem (Zumba Original) - Brazilian Funk
Zumba (Don Omar) - Latin Pop

Each song has a venue associated with it, which you can change. The venues range from city nightclub scenes to open air stadiums to scenes reminiscent of Las Vegas, Niagara Falls, and Hawaii.

Dancing works pretty much the same as previous versions of the game. You have one Zumba instructor whom you'll mirror the moves of, reinforced by other dancers in the background doing the same moves. Animated visual cues will come on the screen to let you know to get ready for the next series of steps. You'll also see a little silhouette of your body in the lower left hand corner that you can match against the instructor. The one thing I thought was missing was some kind of status bar to tell you how much of the song was left.

Some reviews have complained that the choreography can be repetitive, but I think these fail to understand the nature of Zumba: repetition of certain "classic" dance steps is by design, as it helps make the class accessible to both beginners and advanced alike and helps people start burning calories quicker. In other words, it's an exercise program first and a dance program second. If you're looking for more elaborate choreography, I'd stick with a dance game like Dance Central or Just Dance.

I was very, very impressed by the motion detection in this game. For the most part I found the accuracy to be excellent, even down to detecting which arm and leg you're moving (something the Wii, for example, could never do). When I tried most songs for the first time I usually scored about a 50%, which was enough for 3 of 5 stars. But as I repeated the songs and started to memorize the moves, I found my score and my accuracy going higher. One other little detail they've added is that if you really mess up on a song, the instructor at the end of the song will let you know with a shrug or a little head shake, unlike previous versions where the instructor would jump up and down excitedly no matter how you did. I also really liked how I could play the game even though the Kinect sensor is only about 6-7 feet from me; with other games I have to rearrange my entire living room.

At the end of each dance you'll see your level, your score, the calories you burned, and the percentage of moves you got right. You'll also see a rating from 1 to 5 stars. You'll have the option of taking your picture (thankfully it doesn't randomly take pictures of you without your consent), as well as sharing your progress on Facebook.

"Full Class" lets you take virtual Zumba classes, which are basically single songs strung together. You can choose Short Classes (about 19-25 minutes), Mid-Length Class (about 44-48 minutes), or Full-Length Classes (about 57-62 minutes). You can also put together Custom Classes choosing your own duration and song lists. One major improvement they've made is the inclusion of low intensity songs that can help you properly warm up and stretch before exercises as well as cool down afterwards.

"Learn The Steps" is Zumba Fitness Core's tutorial section. You can learn four basic steps for Salsa, Merengue, Samba), Bollywood, Reggaeton, and Cumbia. After you select a style and a step, you need to match Beto dancing that step in slow motion. As with Dance Central his arms or legs will glow red if you're completely missing the target. Once you get the steps right you can try it in real time. The nice thing about perfecting the moves in the tutorial is that a lot of these basic steps are used throughout the songs.

"Progress Tracker" is a much improved section of the game that helps you see the progress you're making and helps keep you motivated to come back over and over. You can view running statistics of time played, accuracy, and calories burned by day, week, or month. You can also collect Xbox achievements for various set goals, as well a define goals for yourself, which you can share with your Xbox Live friends and tackle them as "Community goals". Strangely and disappointingly, it doesn't look like the game is supported by Kinect PlayFit at this time.

Overall, I was extremely impressed by what Majesco did with Zumba Fitness Core. They could have easily phoned it in and basically released the same game as Zumba Fitness Rush and still made boatloads of money. Instead, they effectively moved the platform forward with better graphics, more instructors, more songs, and more features to help incentivize you to come back to the game again and again.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 17, 2014 9:36 AM PDT


Harley Pasternak's Hollywood Workout - Nintendo Wii
Harley Pasternak's Hollywood Workout - Nintendo Wii
Offered by jonmusic
Price: $9.79
51 used & new from $1.22

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Your opportunity to work out like a celebrity., October 30, 2012
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
You 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. 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.

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 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 buy something they call a "signature Harley Bar".

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:

- 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!
- 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.
- 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:

- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Swimsuit Season - Never wear your favorite swimsuit anymore? Let's change that with this workout that includes Lateral Raises, Hamstring Curls, and Side Bends.
- Sports Athlete - Get a leg up on the competition with this workout that includes Push Ups, Skater Lunges, and Bicycle Crunches.
- 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.
- Beach Body - Don't be afraid to show off that beach body with this workout that includes Lying Tricep Extensions, Squats, and Crunches.
- Strut The Runway - Get ready to wear your favorite skinny clothes again with this workout that includes Shoulder Presses, Hamstring Curls, Crunches.
- Action Movie Star - Do you own movie stunts with this workout that includes Hammer Curls, Jump Squats, and Double Crunches.
- Upper Body Burner - Strengthen that torso with this workout that includes Shoulder Presses, Lying Tricep Extensions, and Chest Flys.
- Sexy Legs - You'll love showing off your legs after doing this workout that includes Lunges, Deadlifts, and Squats.
- Ab Toner - Feel that burn in your core! This ab-strengthening workout includes Bicycle Crunches, Double Crunches, and Seated Twists.

The game also provide in-game tracking capabilities and accomplishments, which are basically "badges" you can earn for hitting certain milestones.

I tried out the "Super Hero" workout. It starts with a video of the real Harley giving his "insider" explanation of how and why he designed the workout. He didn't mention the names of his clients, but 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.

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.

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.

Overall, I'd give this game somewhere between 3 and 4 stars. It doesn't quite add anything earth-shatteringly special to the genre, 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.


Nike+ Kinect Training - Xbox 360
Nike+ Kinect Training - Xbox 360
Offered by Shopville USA
Price: $23.01
51 used & new from $13.40

432 of 445 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Xbox Fitness Game to Date, October 30, 2012
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
I tend to divide fitness video games into two categories: "fun" motion games like Kinect Star Wars and Kung Fu Live where you get a workout just in the course of playing a game, and "pure" exercise games that are designed from the ground-up to be workout games. In the world of "pure" fitness games, so far there have been two contenders for being the best on the Kinect: Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and Adidas MiCoach.

I'm happy to say that from what I've seen do far, Nike+ Kinect Training powers its way to the top of the list. It has the most accurate motion detection and interface of all the workout games I've seen to date, has a truly innovative fitness test, and puts together workout routines that really feel personalized for you.

While the Adidas game had appearances by animated versions of very recognizable athletes such as Dwight Howard and Eric Berry, with Nike you have animated versions of Alex Molden or Marie Pervis, both best known as Nike certified trainers (although Molden did spend 9 years in the NFL). I found that fact that these are actual trainers lends a bit more credibility to the training, as opposed to other games which hire big name athletes or pop stars to drive sales.

The concept of the game is quite simple. You start out by selecting your goal (such as Get Strong to increase your power and build explosiveness, Get Toned to develop lean muscle and muscle definition, or Get Lean to maximize calorie and fat burn). Then, you go through a fitness assessment, after which you'll get a customized circuit training routine to do over the next four weeks. In other video games I tried, the assessment is really just smoke and mirrors--however you do on your "fitness test" those games will give you the exact same workout routine and call it a "personalized one". With Nike+ Kinect, the workouts I was given really feel customized to my exact goals.

The Fitness Challenge basically runs you through a series of exercises, using the Kinect to measure both how well your form is and how many reps of each exercise you're doing. You'll see a video image of your animated trainer and a silhouette of yourself next to him or her. One thing to keep in mind is that you need a minimum of 8 feet in front of your Kinect sensor with a clear view of the floor, and you'll also need a good 8-10 feet from left to right for certain exercises where you'll be jumping from side to side. [EDIT: some have reported that 8 feet is not even enough for certain exercises; in any case, if you get stuck with the system unable to track you, just use voice command "XBOX - TRACKING OFF" to proceed with the exercises. Thanks to Hans for the tip!]

Each exercise is similar in that you'll see your trainer to the left of the screen, and you'll see a silhouette of your body to the right. Your silhouette will be orange at first but will glow blue when you're using the correct form. The Kinect is extremely precise and did a great job of gauging whether I was doing the exercises right each time.

The first part of the assessment tests your lower body and upper body mobility by having you strike a few poses (first lying down and raising each leg, and then standing up and stretching with your arms behind your back).

The next part of the assessment has you doing a variety of exercises, from a hop and stick (this is the one that requires a ton of space from left to right), a squat jump. What's really cool about this is that not only does the system judge your performance, it'll also give you detailed data that you can try to beat each time you do the exercise; for example, the squat jump will tell you your vertical leap in inches.

There's a cool exercise that tests your speed, reaction and agility, where you have to hop and jump to various targets on the ground. You're also tested on squats, push-ups, and high knee sprints. Again, I loved how you could set a benchmark and then try to beat it with each rep you do. A bar on the bottom of the screen will show you how good your form is; the more it fills up the better you're doing. I also loved how the system displayed things like time and reps; it's stylistically integrated into the background of the scenery in a way that's easy to read and has a certain "coolness" factor.

Motion sensing was excellent, something I always try to test with these kinds of games. I tried to throw it off several times, but it seemed to do a great job of keeping up with me.

After your evaluation you're given something called a "unique fuel print" an interesting metric that tracks your "Fitness Score" on one side and your "Athleticism" on the other side. During the test you basically establish a benchmark and then every four week you're given the same test to see how much you've improved. I started with both numbers in the 30s, which I knew meant I had a LOT of room for improvement.

You're also set up with a custom 4-week workout that focuses on your goals as well as things from your fitness evaluation that need improvement. There's a cool visual representation that shows the system picking the right exercises for you. The exercises in the workout routine are along the line of what I described above: doing various exercises where you're evaluated on how well your form and your execution are. The virtual trainer does give excellent feedback of your performance.

At first, I was excited because all the marketing material pointed to this game being tightly integrated into the whole Nike+ system. It turns out the integration is not very deep at all. If you have a Nike+ Fuelband, you'll earn "NikeFuel" playing this game just like you would doing any other exercise, but other than that there's not direct connection nor interaction between the FuelBand and Kinect Training. Kinect Training will sync (in summary form) to your NikePlus.com profile, so you can view your overall Kinect Training statistics on the site next to your FuelBand statistics, but that's it.

One thing I also love about the game is that it's supported by Kinect PlayFit, so calories burned will be counted along with all your other PlayFit-compatible games.

The one thing I wish this title had was more "fun" activities where you could get exercise by simulating real sports or activities. This is something that other titles such as Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and EA Sports Active 2 both have that provide some nice variety and diversion to keep the workouts from getting too monotonous. While Nike+ Training has some of that (there's an interesting game where you need to move your body to avoid shattering a pane of glass that's coming toward you), for the most part it's still mostly like a virtual experience at a gym, so if you have a tough time getting motivated to go to the gym every day, chances are you might have a tough time keeping up with regular workouts with this game. That said, the game does "basic training and exercise" better than any game before it, and makes a great addition to your Kinect workout game collection.
Comment Comments (15) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 22, 2013 5:47 PM PST


miCoach by Adidas - Xbox 360
miCoach by Adidas - Xbox 360
Offered by RushHourWholesalers
Price: $7.49
57 used & new from $0.01

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent strength and conditioning title for athletes of any level, July 29, 2012
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
If I had to summarize Adidas MiCoach for the Kinect in one word, it'd be "ambitious". While other fitness titles aspire to simulate the gym instructor down the road, MiCoach aspires to simulate a professional-caliber strength and conditioning coach. And it pulls it off.

There are three ways to play MiCoach which I'd categorize into "hardcore", "casual fitness" and "fun".

The "hardcore" part of the game is called "Training Plans". When you start out, you choose the sport you want to be trained in. You can choose basketball, tennis, soccer, football, running. There's also a "getting started" option that gets you acclimated to the system, as well as general fitness for men and women.

Once you choose a training program you'll be paired up with a professional in that sport, each of whom is a superstar in his or her respective sport. They are:

Tennis: Ana Ivanovic, Andrea Petkovic, and Fernando Verdasco
Football: CJ Spiller, Eric Berry, Von Miller
Soccer: Jozy Altidore, Gareth Bale, Jose Mourinho, Kaka
Basketball: Josh Smith, Dwight Howard, Jrue Holiday
Track: Tyson Gay, Jessica Ennis

Computerized versions of the athletes will be your instructors throughout the training program. As in most dance and fitness games, you'll be mirroring their moves as they do them on-screen. In some cases they look uncannily realistic, and in other cases they look, well, like computerized version. All of their voices are real.

Each training plan focuses on a different strength or conditioning goal, such as building strength, increasing speed, or maintaining a level of fitness throughout a season. Within each goal you can set up workout program that focus on a particular detail. A typical program will consist of 4 sessions a week over a period of about 3 weeks. The sessions are not easy--they average about 40 to 90 minutes each.

The sessions themselves are basically the athletes taking you through sets of strength and conditioning exercises such as lunges, squats, push-ups, etc. They're specially designed to focus in on the sport and goals you chose. What's very cool is not only will the athlete talk you through the exercises, at certain points he or she will give you some information on why this exercise is important for your sport. After completing a certain number of exercises with each athlete, you can also unlock "master class" videos where they'll share additional insider tips.

I'd say training plans are for athletes of any level who want to start training the right way, but who may not have the time or the funds to hire a professional strength and conditioning coach.

The "fun" part of the game is called "Training Games". For me, this was absolutely the best part of the game. They are basically simulations of real sports. In the basketball simulation, you're shooting baskets. You bend down to pick up a ball, aim, and shoot with the same motion you'd use to shoot a real basketball. The simulation feels uncannily real. As with real basketball, it takes a little trial and error to get your aim and your motion right, but once you do there is not a game that comes closer to virtual reality than this one (your on-screen position on the court will even move as you move your body). Other Kinect developers should take note.

You also have a soccer simulation. This is where the Kinect version has an advantage over the PS3 version. In the PS3 version you're a goalie blocking shots. With the Kinect version, you're a scorer kicking a ball into the goal, either by kicking a volley or doing a chest trap and then kicking the ball. Again, while precision took a bit of getting used to, this felt more like real soccer than any other video game before it.

Finally, there's a tennis simulation. You get forehands, backhands, and smashes and have to knock down a stack of blocks on the other court a la a weird 3D version of "Pong". While the Kinect isn't precise enough to let you finesse shots, it's close enough an experience to real tennis to be very enjoyable, and of course it has you moving around.

The "casual fitness" portion of the game is called "Conditioning". This is sort of a combination of "Training Plans" and "Training Games", where you'll do a much smaller number of reps, take a rest period, and then end it off with a Training Game. This is the thing to use if you just want to do a quick 20-30 minute workout every night.

The all-important question with games like this is--how precise are the motion controls? I found them to be pretty good, but not perfect.

This is definitely a game the Kinect is perfectly suited for. The motion control was near flawless when I was doing upright exercises (and unlike the PS3, I could hold weights in both hands without having to fiddle with a controller). Motion detection did get spotty when I had to get down on the floor (even when the Kinect had a full view of me on the floor), but more often than not I realized I was the one at fault; for example, I wouldn't get low enough for a push-up or far enough for a lunge. Since your video image is projected on-screen next to your instructor, it's fairly easy to spot where you need to adjust. Happily, if the system realizes it's not tracking you properly for an extended time, it'll give you a "pass" on that particular exercise.

One major annoyance is that a few times my Kinect Sensor would lower itself without warning and force me to re-calibrate it. I'm not sure if this is a problem with the game or just something with my own Kinect, so I won't dock them any points on this review...yet. But if you've experienced this, leave a comment and we'll hopefully get 505 Games' attention.

There are a couple things that you should know about this game before considering a purchase:

1) You WILL need to purchase additional equipment. Specifically, you'll need an exercise stability ball and hand weights to do some of the exercises. While you can play the game without these (by skipping the exercises that use them), you won't get the full benefit of the game without it. The system also supports ANT+ heart rate monitors; if you have one of these your heart rate will displayed on the screen.

2) The game focuses on strength and conditioning, NOT cardio. The reason for this is that the game was built to complement MiCoach.com (a Web site from Adidas that offers "non-interactive" versions of cardio workouts and strength & conditioning workouts. This Kinect game was designed to replace the latter, but not the former (in fact, it'll direct you to the Web site for your cardio workouts).

3) MiCoach integration is seamless in some areas and terrible in others. On the positive side, once I linked my Xbox to my MiCoach.com account (a simple process), I could see the Training Plan I selected appear on my MiCoach.com profile. On the negative side, the integration is very, very spotty. When I changed my calendar on the Web site, the changes never got reflected on the Xbox. And the descriptions of the workouts on the Web site didn't match the actual workouts I did on the Xbox. Overall, integration with the Web was a great idea but one very poorly executed by the developers. And none of the hard work I did in Conditioning or Training Games were reflected at all either on the Web site or within the game. Hopefully over time they'll fix this with patches.

4) This is a minor point, but the menu navigation, like in so many other Kinect games, was just horrible. It's nearly impossible to select a menu item. I'm not sure why this is so hard for so many Kinect developers. The good news is, the game does support voice commands, which I ended up using.

5) You do need a good 7-9 feet of space in front of your Kinect sensor, about 7-10 feet from side to side, about 1-2 feet above you, and a clear view of the floor.

6) Sadly, the game is not supported by Kinect PlayFit.

7) The PS3 version is almost identical to this game (the main differences being the soccer Training Game and that the Kinect version comes on two DVDs vs. one Blu-Ray for the PS3). If you want to work out with a friend, you can connect to anyone who has either the PS3 or an Xbox version of MiCoach.

As for whether you should get this game, I'll give the same advice I did with the PS3 version. It's a must-have if a) you are already a member of MiCoach and use that site a lot to track workouts, b) you already own equipment such as a stability ball and hand weights, c) you want to experience the virtual reality sports games (which IMO alone are worth the price of the title), or d) you are a budding athlete at any level who would appreciate the more "professional" caliber advice you get from this game.

Update: I recently had a chance to review Nike + Kinect. While both titles excel in different areas, I found the Nike product to be a superior overall fitness and cardio program, while MiCoach continues to excel if you're looking for specific athletic conditioning. See my review on Nike+ Kinect Training for more details.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 18, 2014 11:04 AM PDT


miCoach by Adidas - Playstation 3
miCoach by Adidas - Playstation 3
Offered by Price For Less
Price: $12.93
31 used & new from $1.75

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the most promising new fitness titles for the PS3, a bit marred by spotty motion controls and integration, July 28, 2012
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
I've been waiting with great anticipation for the release of miCoach by Adidas. The last really excellent workout game that was developed for any system was EA Sports Active 2, but it seems that EA has all but abandoned that franchise. The Wii U will be getting Wii U Fit in the fall, and the Xbox will be getting Nike+ Kinect, which means Adidas MiCoach is really the only serious player in the fitness game market for the PS3 in the foreseeable future.

The game starts out with a video greeting from the athletes who'll be "training" you. What's very cool is that all of them are real athletes and stars in their respective sports, from Dwight Howard to Kaka to Tyson Gay, to Andrea Petrovic, to Eric Berry. The online trainers are rendered very well; with a few exceptions they look like their real selves and not some creepy computer-animated version of themselves (I'm talking to you, creepy Jenny McCarthy).

One thing that no one really bothered to tell me before I bought the game is that you do need to buy additional equipment, namely a towel, a stability exercise ball, and dumbbells. You can use the game without these, but you'll be limited in how many of the exercises you can do. The game also supports the use of any ANT+ compatible heart rate monitor; if you have this your heart rate will be displayed throughout the game.

Something else important to know before purchasing the game is that you need a LOT of space. You need a least 10-12 feet of space in front of your PS3 Eye camera, 10-12 feet from side to side, and about 1-2 feet above you for certain activities. Bottom line, the camera needs a full and unobstructed view of your whole body whether you're jumping or lying on the floor. If you don't have this the game will be terribly frustrating for you.

There are three basic options in the game: Training Plan, Training Games. and Conditioning.

TRAINING PLAN

The Training Plan portion of the game literally lives up to the name "My Coach". Training Plans seem to be intended for people who want to do some professional-caliber, in-depth training for a sport (specifically, basketball, football, running, soccer, and tennis). You can also choose from two generic options: men's training or women's training, and you can select "Getting Started" which will acclimate you to the system with some simple stretches.

The training provided can get very technical, comparable to the types of programs that strength and conditioning coaches and trainers use for professional athletes.

For each of the sports there are core exercises to 1) build strength, 2) increase speed, or 3) maintain a certain level of fitness during the season. Within each of these options are additional choices; for example, under the "build strength" option for basketball the sub-options are 1) game shape, 2) build lean mass, 3) maximize strength, and 4) sky high, each focusing on a different aspect of strength training.

Once you choose one of these sub-options, you'll get set up with a set number of workouts over a set number of weeks (for example, "sky high" consists of 12 workouts of 4 per week over a 3 week period). You'll also be told what equipment you need, and your calendar in the game will be set for you.

These are not easy workouts. Most of them last anywhere from 45 minutes to over an hour and have an intense number of exercises. As I said, the exercises get very technical, tailored towards working out parts of your body needed to excel in the sport you chose--there are floor exercises and stretches, cardio workouts, and drills. And with each sport, you'll have actual professionals who'll demonstrate the exercise to you and give "insider" tips during the training. The professionals include:

Tennis: Ana Ivanovic, Andrea Petkovic, and Fernando Verdasco
Football: CJ Spiller, Eric Berry, Jozy Altidore, Von Miller
Soccer: Gareth Bale, Jose Mourinho, Kaka
Basketball: Josh Smith, Dwight Howard, Jrue Holiday
Track: Tyson Gay, Jessica Ennis

As you progress through your workouts you can unlock video "master classes" from the athletes which give you further advice.

One thing to note is that you do NOT get intense cardio workouts with these exercises, which are aimed more at strength and flexibility training. See the "MiCoach Integration" section below for more about this.

TRAINING GAMES

This is the "lighter", "more fun" portion of the game, and it is fantastic. It consists of simulations of actual sports. Specifically, you can practice shooting baskets, which is by far the most realistic basketball simulation I've played on any video game system. You can also simulate being a soccer goalie blocking shots, again an excellent simulation that really requires you to move. Finally, there's a tennis game that has you returning serves and trying to hit blocks; not the most accurate simulation, but one that's still a lot of fun. The level of workout you get from these training games is not nearly what you'd get from playing the real thing, of course, but it's a very well executed part of the game that provides some workout, and some very good fun and much needed distraction for the shorter-attention-spanned amongst us.

CONDITIONING

This is the part of the game I'd suggest for the more casual fitness gamer. Each conditioning routine consists of a certain amount of exercises, followed by recover periods, followed by training games. The conditioning workouts seem to be around 20 minutes, making them ideal for morning or evening exercise.

MOTION CONTROL

Now for the most important question in a PS3 Fitness game: how accurate were the motion controls?

Interestingly, not all exercises use the Move controller. The game attempts to be Kinect-like by use just the Playstation Eye camera to track certain exercises. This is a welcome development for those exercises where it's just too unwieldy to try to hold a controller. As for how well it works, I'll be honest, it's hit or miss. There are times when I'd be adjusting my position to prepare myself for the exercise, and the system will have already counted my random movements as two or three reps.

For those exercises that use the Move controller, again, I found them hit or miss. I found that exercises where I had to lie on the floor were more "miss", while exercises while standing or on the stability ball were more "hit".

The biggest takeaway for me was not that the motion controls were horrible, but that your conditions and lighting need to be absolutely perfect for the system to recognize your motions correctly. It'll take some trial and error to figure out the best positioning for you (both standing up and lying down) as well as for your PS3 Eye camera. One good thing that MiCoach does is allow you to skip an exercise if it realizes it's not tracking you properly, instead of berating you mercilessly for your failure (I'm talking to you, creepy Jillian Michaels). But I would have much preferred for them to provide some better guidance on how to set up your system and your environment rather than just bail on you.

INTEGRATION WITH MICOACH

MiCoach for PS3 was designed from the ground up to integrate with MiCoach.com (and by extension with their iPhone app). MiCoach.com is Web site by Adidas that's been around for a few years, which was designed to give you the ability to set up both cardio workouts and strength/flexibility workouts for different sports, and to track your progress (using high priced MiCoach accessories, of course). What the PS3 version of MiCoach does is replace the "strength/flexibility" workouts on the Web site with interactive versions of the same workouts.

Again, you won't get major cardio from the game, so it's up to you to choose cardio workouts on the Web (most of which are interval training). For example, I'm doing the "Men's Training - Get Lean" program on the PS3, but I'm also using the iPhone app to track cardio exercise I'm doing throughout the day.

When you start up the PS3 game you're asked if you want to connect your game to your online account. I already had a MiCoach account, so all I had to do was enter my Playstation ID and a personalized six-digit code under "Settings > Sharing/Connections". If you don't have a MiCoach.com account yet, you can set up a new one for free at that point.

The integration isn't perfect. There are times I'd set up plans on the PS3, and the Web calendar wouldn't be updated (for example, when adding conditioning exercises to Training Plans). Similarly, there are times I'd make adjustments to the calendar on the Web (such as adjusting the date for a specific workout) and the PS3 version wouldn't be updated. You're very much limited in what you can do on the PS3. There also seem to be a lot of bugs with data on the PS3; according to the stats, last week I travelled 31,726 miles in one workout (in case you're wondering, the right answer is 2.12).

Overall I give their integration efforts an A for effort, but a D for execution. They have a lot of work to do here.

CONCLUSION

Overall, MiCoach for PS3 is a game that shows a lot of promise. I'd strongly recommend it to you if you fall into one of the following categories: 1) you are already an active user of MiCoach, 2) you already own (or are already planning to buy) the required equipment such as an exercise ball, hand weights, and a heart rate monitor, or 3) you are actively training for any of the supported sports and looking for professional-caliber workouts.

If you're more of a casual gamer I'd still recommend it for the training games and the conditioning exercises, but you may find yourself completely ignoring the main part of the game, the Training Plans.

I give the concept, the graphics, and the attention to detail in the individual exercises a 5 of 5, but the motion control issues and the snafus with integration are enough to push it back down to a 4 of 5. Still, I'd say the game easily surpasses games like Fit in Six, UFC Personal Trainer, and EA Sports Active 2--and is on par with Get Fit for Mel B--to jump into the echelons of the Best PS3 fitness games. Hopefully they will continue to work on these things and send updates to both the Web site and the PS3. This thing has a ton of potential, but it just falls a little bit short of perfection at the moment.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 4, 2013 10:44 AM PST


Let's Dance - Xbox 360
Let's Dance - Xbox 360
Offered by BA Sports
Price: $11.93
31 used & new from $2.16

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Won't dethrone the leaders anytime soon, but still a solid dance game with some nice innovations, July 15, 2012
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
The first question to ask is--with Dance Central 2 being the best "technical dance instruction" game out there and Just Dance 3 being the best "dance party game" out there, is there really room for a third dance game? Maximum Games seems to think so.

I admit, I had very low expectations for this game. First, a $20 price point at launch usually means the kiss of death for a game; after years of buying Wii shovelware I look very suspiciously on games that are priced this low. But then I noticed the developer was Lightning Fish games based out of the UK. They've developed games such as NewU Fitness First (an excellent workout game for the Wii which unfortunately was marketed very poorly by Ubisoft here in the US), Get Fit with Mel B (an excellent workout game for the PS3), and the upcoming Adidas MiCoach. So, I figured I'd keep an open mind.

When you start out the game you're greeted by Mel B (better known to some of us as Scary Spice), who'll be your host throughout the game. It's the real her, not a cartoon recreation of her. She'll start asking you how many dancers you have. You can choose 1, 2, or 3-8. Then you choose "Normal" mode where you can play one song at a time, or "Survival" mode, where you keep playing song after song until you get too tired you can't go any longer (the system will decide by keeping track of your performance level for you).

You can have Mel choose a song for you, or you can choose one yourself. You can choose to dance to the entire song or to a short version of about 2-3 minutes.

The track list was surprisingly strong, especially for a $20 game. The songs include the following (difficulty level is listed after each song). As with many other Kinect games, navigating the interface can get annoying, but it's passable.

Party Classics:
- Maroon 5- This Love - 1 of 5
- Gloria Gaynor - I Will Survive - 2 of 5
- Pixie Lott - Boys and Girls - 2 of 5
- Rose Royce - Carwas) - 3 of 5
- Chumbawamba - Tubthumping - 4 of 5

Pop:
- Pixie Lott - Mama Do - 1 of 5
- The Spice Girls - Wannabe - 2 of 5
- Mika - Love Today - 2 of 5
- Just Jack - Starz in their Eyes - 3 of 5
- Fergie - Quando Quando Quando - 3 of 5
- Holly Valance - Kiss Kiss - 3 of 5
- Lady Gaga - Poker Face - 5 of 5

Club:
- CeCe Peniston - Finally - 1 of 5
- Yolanda Be Cool and DCup - We No Speak Americano - 1 of 5
- Sarah Vaughan - Peter Gunn Remix - 2 of 5
- Fatboy Slim - The Rockafeller Skank - 3 of 5
- Kelly Rowland feat. Davig Guetta - Commander - 5 of 5
- Mousse T. and Suzie - All Nite Long (D.I.S.C.O.) - 5 of 5

80s:
- OMD - Enola Gay - 1 of 5
- Culture Club - Karma Chameleon - 2 of 5
- Cameo - Word Up! - 3 of 5
- Spandau Ballet - Gold - 3 of 5

Latin:
- Pauling Rubino - Y Yo Sigo Aqui - 2 of 5
- Noelia - Candela - 2 of 5

Urban:
- 50 Cent - In Da Club - 2 of 5
- A.R. Rahman and the Pussycat Dolls feat. Nicole Scherzinger - Jai Ho! (You Are My Destiny) - 4 of 5
- Pussycat Dolls - Don't Cha - 4 of 5
- Rihanna - Disturbia - 4 of 5

After you choose a song, the first thing you're asked to do is to take a picture of your face and input your name, which will be used to identify you throughout the game.

Then, you see the image of a dance floor with four dancers, and you as the fifth dancer. One thing I really liked about Let's Dance, that neither Dance Central nor Just Dance have, is that it uses your actual video image, not a silhouetted image nor a cartoon avatar (this is something I loved about Kung Fu High Impact as well). So you'll literally be dancing along with four other dancers as if you're in a girl band (I gave myself the name Chubby Spice).

The song will start and the dancers will all start dancing (you have to follow the lead dancer standing in front). As with all the other dancing games your goal is to mirror her moves exactly. The choreography is not bad at all, it's along the lines of what you'll see on music videos of boy bands and girl bands where five dancers are dancing together.

As with the other dancing games, there are also icons that represent different moves. The icons don't really help you at first, but as you play each song a few times you'll learn what series of moves goes with which icon. The more accurately you perform each series of moves, the higher your score will be for that portion of the song.

One thing I wasn't crazy about at first was that there was just too much going on. There are lights flashing and constantly moving animations and general confusion in the background that at the beginning really distracted me from following the dancer's moves.

But I have to admit, once I got used to that it was very, very cool to see my own image on screen, without the feeling of disconnectedness of Just Dance nor the lag of Dance Central. During the few times I matched the on-screen dancers' motions perfectly it was really a fun feeling, probably the closest I'll ever come to dancing with a girl band (let's hope anyway).

The one question I always try to find out when playing these dance games is--how good is the motion detection. The way I test it out is, I'll choose a song and try my hardest to match the moves. Then, I'll play the song again and just do jumping jacks through the whole song. On "I Will Survive", I got a score of 19127 (a B) doing the real moves and 10071 (an F) doing the jumping jacks. So it's safe to say the motion control accuracy and scoring are pretty good.

I wish the game had the ability to take and share videos, but you can't. The only thing it does is take three "snapshots" through the game, and Mel B will comment on how well you matched the other dancers during those three moments. It would also have been nice to have the ability to play online, but perhaps the bandwidth needs of transmitting a real video image between two Xboxes would be too much.

Of course, the obvious question is--how does this compare with Just Dance 3 and Dance Central 2? I'd say that Just Dance is still the king for "fun", and Dance Central is still the king of "authentic and accurate dance moves". But Let's Dance is a game that's much, much more original, responsive, and fun than I was expecting, with a great track list, decent motion controls, and presentation that's closer to "virtual reality" than any title before it. At only $20, I'd say it's worth trying out.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 17, 2012 1:13 PM PST


London 2012 Olympics - Playstation 3
London 2012 Olympics - Playstation 3
Offered by You Name the Game
Price: $48.99
24 used & new from $16.95

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty much a typical Olympics game, improved by a modicum of Move support and impressive graphics, July 11, 2012
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Since playing Microsoft's Olympic Decathlon and Summer Games on the Apple II I've been a sucker for video games based on the Olympics. While not all of us can be Olympic athletes, at least we can get a taste of what it's like.

The first thing I noticed when I started up London 2012 was how authentic the graphics seemed to be. One very nice thing about this game is that it's officially licensed with the International Olympic Committee, meaning that you'll see all the official logos, sights, and sounds of the real Olympics. They've recreated a number of venues in London with uncanny realism. I wouldn't say that most of the graphics are exactly photorealistic, but they're definitely nicer than any Olympic game that's preceded it. And if you're lucky enough to have a 3D display, you can view all the action in 3D.

There are a staggering number of events in London 2012. It doesn't have every sport of the Olympics, of course, but there's definitely a very good assortment of events. Here's the full list:

Track:
- Men's 100m, 110m hurdles, 200m, 400m
- Women's 400m

Field:
- Men's Discus Throw, High Jump, Long Jump, Triple Jump, Javelin Throw, Shot Put
- Women's High Jump

Swimming:
- Men's and Women's 50m Freestyle, 100m Freestyle, 100m Breaststroke, 100m Butterfly, 100m Backstroke

Diving:
- Men's and Women's 3m Springboard, 10m Platform, synchronized 3m Springboard, synchronized 10m Platform

Shooting:
- Men's 25m rapid fire pistol
- Men's and Women's skeet

Archery
- Men's and women's archery individual and team

Gymnastics
- Men's trampoline, vault
- Women's vault

Other sports
- Men's Keirin (a.k.a. cycling)
- Men's K1 Kayak single
- Men's Single Sculls
- Men's Table Tennis
- Men's Weightlifting over 105kg
- Women's Beach Volleyball

All of these events are controlled using the Dualshock Controller (see below regarding Move support). Each event lets you view a tutorial on how to play. For most events, it's mainly a game of timing. For example, in the swimming competition, you press "X" to dive, mash "X" to get your initial momentum, pull back on the "L" and "R" joysticks to do your strokes, press "O" to turn, and press "X" to lunge. Similarly, for the running activities, you press "X" to start, mash "X" with the right cadence to keep your runner going, and lunge using the "L" joystick at the end. Overall the controls were pretty intuitive and easy to learn, but I admit that rather than recreate the same Olympic games over and over again, I would have liked to have seen a little more creativity using motion controls.

There are a couple different game modes.

"Olympic Games" is more or less the "story mode" which lets you play 20 events over several days against CPU opponents at easy, medium, or hard level. You choose which country you'll be competing for, and you can even customize athletes on your team (unfortunately it looks like all the names are made up; it probably would have been cost-prohibitive to get approval for actual names and likenesses). Then, you choose two events from a short list of events on each day to compete. Your goal, of course, is to win as many medals as possible. As with the real Olympics, you need to qualify first and then if you make it, compete for the medal.

There's "Events Play" mode, where you can select a group of events to play against the CPU, against other players, or paired up with other players on the same national team.

With "Party Play", you can jump right into a number of activities that are most suitable for multiple players, including javelin, trampoline, kayak , keirin, skeet, table tennis, and 100m.

"Online Play" is a mode where you can actually compete against others on the PSN Network. You can compete in random events, a custom event, or even take place in a tournament against friends or random players. When I tried "Quick Play" the number of players to compete against were pretty sparse (it took a few minutes for the system to find someone for me to compete against), but that should change as more copies of the game are sold. What's cool about this is that because the game is sold all around the world, chances are the players are really from countries they represent.

There is Move support for this game but sadly it's really relegated to one part of the game called "Motion Play Party" mode, where you can play a subset of events. The events supported are:

- 25m rapid fire pistol
- Archery individual
- Archery blitz
- Javelin throw
- Javelin target
- Kayak slalom
- Kayak super print
- Keirin
- Keirin battle
- Skeet
- Skeet attack
- Table tennis
- 100m

There are also "challenges" where you need to compete in certain events.

The first Move event I tried was the 100m. 1-4 players can compete. You basically run in place with the Move controller in your hand and then lunge towards the finish line by throwing your arms back. This one actually felt a lot more natural than the awkward button mashing on the controller, and it acutally provided a pretty good workout. But it was admittedly tempting to cheat by just shaking the Move controller like a drumstick.

I had high hopes for the kayaking event. I assumed that you'd be able to hold your Move controller sideways and use it like a real paddle. But for some bizarre reason, the motion they have you doing is to swish the controller down and to your left to paddle left, and to swish the controller down and to the right to paddle right. It's definitely not a natural paddling motion. I got a decent workout, but mainly because I kept flailing in every direction trying to figure out the controls
Table tennis was moderately fun, but it paled in comparison to Sports Champions. The paddle handling and shot control was simply not nearly as precise.

Where the Move excelled in this game were in the "shooting" and "throwing" games. Pistol shooting, for example, was extremely realistic and precise, something the Move is head and shoulders better at than the Kinect or the Wii. Similarly, I found the archery to be comparable to Sports Champions, maybe a little bit better. The javelin throw was also quite realistic. You hold the Move controller like a javelin (with the glowing ball facing forward). You don't need to run, but you do need to time your throw perfectly; the force, angle, and straightness of your throw will determine how far it goes.

Overall I think the game deserves a 4 of 5 stars. If you're a fan of the Olympics, you'll definitely appreciate the attention to detail they put in recreating the venues and arenas. The graphics are very good, and the action on the screen is fast and smooth. The controls with the Dualshock controller feels kind of old and dated, but it can still be a ton of fun if you're a fan of the sports or if you're competing with friends and family.

As for the Move portion of the game, I found it to be hit or miss; some of the events really showcased the full potential of the Move, while other events were barely controllable. I do wish Move support was more integrated into the main game itself and not relegated to a little corner of the game. I would have loved to see support for online Move play as well.

I think the best way to approach this game is to be realistic about it. This is going to be one of those games you buy and have a ton of fun with for a short while, but then it'll quickly end up relegated to the shelf and in bargain bins. If you and your family are die-hard fans of the Olympics and want to bring a little magic home, this title is a great one to enjoy, at least for the moment.


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