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Shape Up - Xbox One
Shape Up - Xbox One
Offered by Purple Hydrant Games
Price: $43.95
41 used & new from $36.99

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best exergames to date, providing an intense aerobic workout but being so fun you don't really notice nor mind., December 13, 2014
This review is from: Shape Up - Xbox One (Video Game)
Ubisoft has been one of the leaders in games with ancillary fitness benefits with its Just Dance series, but they've often fallen short when it comes up traditional exercise games. I remember in particular the abysmal Your Shape for the Wii; the Wii rendering of Jenny McCarthy still haunts me in my dreams.

So I admittedly wasn't expecting too much with Shape Up. But boy, was I pleasantly surprised.

Right away you can see that Shape Up makes good use of the advanced capabilities of the Xbox One and the Kinect 2.0. Granted they use a bizarre "8-bit" looking font throughout that gives the game a sort of cheapish "retro" look. But once you look behind the curtain there's some impressive technology.

You're greeted by two full-motion video instructors who'll be your teachers (and your competition) through the game. Speaking of full motion video, not only does the Kinect camera detect you, it also takes live video of you and places *you* within the game. This kind of technology was first used in games like Kung Fu High Impact, but with the Xbox One your video image is clearer than ever, and there's absolutely no lag.

Where Shape Up shines are in its mini-games, called "Challenges". They consist of different activities of about 2-4 minutes each that work out different parts of your body. In each game, you have a different challenge to meet, and you're pitted against an opponent whose video image you see to your right on the screen. Ingeniously, this opponent could be the system (which is technically a pre-recorded performance by the video trainer), an online opponent (who needs to be one of your Xbox Live friends), or even your own past performances or the past performance of someone who shares your Xbox with you. It's ingenious because as fun as the games are to play, it's even more fun when you're playing against someone else or even your own best performance.

Here's a synopsis of each game.

Arctic Punch - In this game, you're smashing ice blocks by punching, cross punching, and kneeing them. The ice blocks will show up in every direction around you, and there are certain times they'll rain down from above and you need to punch frantically. It's a great workout for your arms, legs, and abs. I give this one a workout value of 5 and a fun value of 4.

Knee Up Splash - This is like a cross between Fruit Ninja and the old game Simon. You need to memorize the patterns of red, green, and blue melons, and then grab the melons in the right order and smash them over your knee. At certain times a bunch of melons will come rolling toward you which you need to stomp with your feet. I give this a workout value of 4 and a fun value of 5.

Piano Step - This one is sort of a cross between Tom Hanks playing the piano in FAO Schwartz in "Big", Dance Dance Revolution, and Guitar Hero. Your task is to stomp your feet on one of four giant piano keys as the music plays and colored notes come speeding up toward you. There are a couple variations of this game to different songs (I Was Made for Lovin' You, Eye of the Tiger, Maniac, Lemonade Rush). Workout value of 5 and fun value of 5.

Abs Zapper - This one is sort of like Space Invaders or Galaxian. You lie on the ground, hold your hands together, and direct a laser beam to shoot oncoming aliens. Because of the position you're in, you end up getting a great core workout. Workout value of 5 and fun value of 4.

Squat Me to the Moon - Here, you just squat and stand, squat and stand. Do squats that are deep and quick, and you end up shooting yourself into outer space. You get a little break after a while of squatting when you can spread your arms out and shoot lasers at aliens. Workout value of 5 and fun value of 4.

Waterfall Jump - Another Guitar Hero-type game, this is basically a jump rope simulation, but to make it interesting you need to jump along to patterns that come racing at you. You get rewarded for accuracy as well as how well you jump. In between you hop on a surfboard and "surf" by leaning back and forth, trying to avoid mines. Workout value of 4 and fun value of 4.

Push Em Up - This is a game where you simply do push-ups. This is the one game where you Kinect definitely needs a very clear view of your floor. As you do pushups, your image on screen will have more and more things loaded onto its back from barrels to treasure cheese to arcade games to jeeps to elephants to killer whales. Workout value of 5 and fun value of 4 (thanks to the humor and entertainment value of what's happening on the screen). By the way, I haven't done a pushup in 15 years, which explains my abysmal performance.

Stunt Run - This is largely a duplicate of the "Runaway Train" game on Active Life: Explorer on the Wii, but of course greatly updated with more precise tracking and realistic graphics. Like Daniel Craig in Skyfall, you're running (in real life running in place) on the top of a speeding train and ducking and weaving to avoid obstacles, all while racing with the person to your right. This one has a workout value of 5 and fun value of 4.

To the Core - In this game you're "twisting" back and forth as you "drill" your way down to the depths of the ocean. You need to vary the speed and extent of your swiveling in order to navigate the depths, and from time to time you'll be able to "ride a vortex". Workout value of 4 and fun value of 3.

Volcano Skate - - In this game you simulate a speed skater to build up speed as you skate up a roller coaster track, and then once you're on top you simulate a downhill skier trying to avoid obstacles by lifting either foot or jumping. Workout value of 5 and fun value of 4.

What's great about all these games is that the "fun value" shoots up to 5 whenever you play against an opponent, whether that opponent is the computer, an online opponent, or your own past performance. You'll even be able to record a short video clip of yourself hamming it up to the cameras which will be displayed each time your performance is used by someone or yourself to compete against.

The game also supports local 2-person multiplayer, although bear in mind you're going to need a LOT of space between you and your opponent for most of the games, or you may end up knocking each other out. For single player, happily I was able to play most games with my Kinect only about 5 feet away from me (with the exception of Push 'Em Up, which required a full view of the floor).

Other than "Challenges", there's a section of the game called "Workouts" where your online instructors will take you through more traditional calisthenics and aerobic exercises of varying degrees of intensity. There's no gaming element to these, but you are rated based on how well you perform the exercise, and that all gets recorded in your overall stats.

There's also a story mode that'll take you through a 4 week regimen where each week you'll face off against a "champion". Three days a week for 15 minutes you'll need to complete a certain number of pre-selected workouts and challenges, with the goal of defeating your main challenger by the fourth week. It's a clever way to get you to play a number of the challenges and workouts together to maximize your fitness benefit, all while feeling like a video game "quest".

One of the nearest features of the game is its Statistics section, which shows you the number of "Bolts" (the game's point system) you've earned, as well as weekly statistics of the number of minutes you've worked out, the calories you've burned, and a percentage breakdown of which part of your body you've worked on (upper body, core, or lower body). There's also the ability to integrate with the "Shape Up Battle Run" app for iOS or Android to track your running or jogging statistics.

The one part I wasn't completely enthused about was the downloadable content. There's DLC called "Shape Up Coach" where you can create a customized workout program, choose one of 100 pre-made Training Quests, look up diet plans, and track your caloric intake to sync up with the game. At $24.99 a year, I personally don't think this is worth it, but for someone who perhaps loves this game to the point where he or she wants to build a diet and exercise plan around it, it might be.

Similarly, they're selling downloadable content called a "Shape Up Season Pass" that allows access to other Workouts and Challenges. My general attitude towards DLC is, it's fine to sell add-ons like new music tracks for the piano game or new exercises under Workouts, but when they're holding back core things like new Challenges from their packaged game and nickel-and-diming us to buy it as DLC, that admittedly rubs me the wrong way.

I'm happy to say I didn't experience any of the crashing or lagging that earlier reviewers had, so I'm assuming that they've since fixed these issues. I was able to play through all the Challenges with no problems at all.

Overall, I have to say that I was really impressed by this game. It truly is innovative in the way that it makes exercise fun. I won't go so far as to say this is the "killer app" that'll make the masses embrace the Kinect. But for those who still believe the Kinect has potential greater than just a curiosity or those of us in the niche of people who like to use video games for fitness and exercise, this is a truly innovative game that pushes the genre forward.

Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved - Xbox One
Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved - Xbox One
Price: $29.99
57 used & new from $23.00

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not without its flaws, but still a fun game that's true to the original Fantasia in letting you experience music in a new way, December 6, 2014
The concept of Fantasia: Music Evolved is fantastic. This game is loosely based on the original Fantasia short where Mickey Mouse is "conducting" the stars and the heavens as the Sorcerer's Apprentice. Your goal throughout the game is to match patterns on-screen with your arm and hand movements. It's more like Dance Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero than "real dancing games" like Just Dance or Dance Central in that it's really more about pattern matching than dancing.

On the positive side, the use of the Kinect 2.0 is excellent. The game detects your hand movements more precisely than any other game I've played on any other platform. Before you start the game, you'll go through some clapping exercises to make sure the sound and picture are perfectly synchronized.

The graphics are beautiful as well. From the opening screen, there's a silhouetted version of you on an orchestral podium, similar to the opening scenes of Fantasia where Leopold Stokowski is introduced. Your silhouette will continue to appear at the bottom of the screen throughout as you "conduct" in different "Realms". While I wouldn't go so far as say that the graphics match what you'd find in Disney's traditional or computer generation animation titles, they did produce graphics that seem to take good advantage of the Xbox One's advanced capabilities--and managed to avoid the sluggishness that plagued games like Dance Central on the Xbox 360.

The song selection is also very eclectic. I love the fact that they included some classical pieces in a nod to the original Fantasia, but also included modern pieces as well. When you start the program the entire song library is locked, but you can turn "Party Mode" on to view and play all the songs in a group setting. Here's a list of all the artists and songs that come as part of the physical game.

Lady Gaga - Applause - Difficulty 4/5
New Order - Blue Monday - Difficulty 4/5
Queen - Bohemian Melody - Difficulty 1/5
Mozart - Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (Allegro) - Difficulty 1/5
Depeche Mode - Enjoy the Silence - Difficulty 3/5
Gorrilaz - Feel Good Inc - Difficulty 3/5
Jimi Hendrix - Fire - Difficulty 5/5
Cee Lo Green - Forget You - Difficulty 2/5
Vivaldi - The Four Seasons: Winter, 1. Allegro Non Molto - Difficulty 4/5
M.I.A. - Galang - Difficulty 2/5
Missy Elliott - Get Ur Freak On - Difficulty 3/5
Liszt - Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 - Difficulty 2/5
Peter Gabriel - In Your Eyes - Difficulty 3/5
Avicii - Levels - Difficulty 3/5
Bruno Mars - Locked out of Heaven - Difficulty 3/5
The Police - Message in a Bottle - Difficulty 1/5
Mussorgsky - Night on Bald Mountain - Difficulty 2/5
Tchaikovsky - Selections from The Nutcracker (Medley) - Difficulty 3/5
Imagine Dragons - Radioactive - Difficulty 2/5
The Who - The Real Me - Difficulty 5/5
Elton John - Rocket Man - Difficulty 1/5
Lorde - Royals - Difficulty 3/5
Kimbra - Settle Down - Difficulty 3/5
The White Stripes - Seven Nation Army - Difficulty 3/5
Fun. - Some Nights - Difficulty 2/5
Nicki Minaj - Super Bass - Difficulty 3/5
Dvorak - Symphony No. 9, from the New WOrld, IV. Allegro Con Fuoco - Difficulty 3/5
Drake - Take Care (ft. Rhianna) - Difficulty 2/5
J.S. Bach - Toccata and Fugue in D Minor - Difficulty 3/5
The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots - Difficulty 2/5
David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust - Difficulty 4/5

There are also two songs by video game musician Inon Zur (Main Theme and Scout's Song) that need to be unlocked in Story Mode.

Of course, there's plenty of downloadable content as well. But the mix that comes with your original purchase price is a pretty good one that should keep you satisfied for many hours. .

As I mentioned, there are two ways to play the game: Story Mode and Party Mode. Story Mode is required to unlock all the songs and features of the game.

Once you start "Story Mode" you're brought to the workshop of Yen Sid, the Sorcerer in the original deluxe short, whom most Fantasia enthusiasts will recognize as an alter-ego of Walt Disney (try spelling his name backwards). They quickly get Yen Sid out of the way but then replace him with an impish young girl with a Fantasia-looking cap named "Scout" who, like Mickey, was a washed-up former apprentice and serves as your tour guide through the rest of the story. For some reason she grated on me as much as the impish, obnoxious dancers in Dance Central. I don't know what it is about Xbox game developers, but developing likable character doesn't seem to be one of their strong suits.

"Story Mode" itself is pretty contrived, as if the developers focused mostly on the actual gameplay and threw together the story as an afterthought. The "Story" is mainly a way to get you to play through all the songs.

To play the game itself, you select a song and then you'll stand up and "conducting" it by following on-screen cues. You start out learning the basic motions of the game. There are "push cues" where you punch your screen forward with either or both hands as a "sphere" hits the screen. There's a "sweep cues" where you sweep your hands in the direction of an on-screen arrow. There are "hold cues" where you keep your hands raised in a certain place. And then there are combinations where you "sweep" then "hold". There are "path cues" where you push forward and trace the path of the cue. And you'll encounter "switch cues" that you hit in the direction of silhouettes of instruments on screen to select or change instrumentation or song styles in the middle of a performance. While the names sound kind of complicated, all the motions are pretty intuitive, similar to the motions a conductor will make on a podium. Hit a cue correctly and the music plays loud, miss one and the music is muted. I have to admit, the first time I played I really felt like Leopold or Mickey on the podium, even if I didn't quite look like it in real life.

The story continues as you help Scout "unlock" the "Magic" throughout the world of Fantasia. You're introduced to "The Muse", a ball (really a cursor) that you can use to explore the different "Realms" (including The Capsule, The Press, The Shoal, The Nation, The Hollow, and The Shadows). Using "The Muse" to navigate within the different realms is itself an exercise in frustration, something that seems to be endemic to all Kinect games.

You're suddenly bombarded with confusing phrases like "Magic Fragments", "Composition Spells", "Hot Spot Recordings", "The Noise", and "Mixes". This is where I started to have issues with the game. I know they chose these exotic names to try to make the game sound "cool" and "mysterious", but what they really did is just create confusion. I felt like I had to learn a foreign language here just to play the game.

But after some trial and error you'll start to figure out what's going on. In a "Realm", you need to unlock a certain number of "Magic Fragments", by completing tasks such as finding one of 11 hidden "Hot Spots", by unlocking "Mixes", by unlocking and using "Composition Spells, or by otherwise completing song goals. Collect enough "Magic Fragments" and you clear each realm of "The Noise" (which is evidently something bad).

"Composition Spells" are basically ways you can create audio samples visually--all with your arms and hands. For example, a Composition Spell called "Sound Sketcher" allows you to move your arms and hands up and down to play a series of notes on a sphere, which you "save" by putting your arms to your side. You don't have the precise control that a real composer would have, but even by randomly moving your arms and hands you can create some pretty interesting and totally original mixes which will show up as samples throughout songs later in the game.

"Hot Spots" are a little less interesting. You basically need to hunt and peck through screens to find "hidden" objects which you can wave your hand over to play notes and create a "Hot Spot Recording". This seemed kind of pointless; it's as if the game developers asked themselves "What can I do to artificially prolong Story Mode so users don't finish it right away".

In addition, each song also has three "Mixes" that you'll unlock through the game. For example, you can hear Antonin Dvorak's New World Symphony performed by a Big Band, or Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody set to heavy metal.

What makes thing interesting is that these different things that will let you customize your sound and literally make the music unique to you. In fact, after particularly good "performances" you'll probably want to save the performance for posterity, and what you save will be a creation that's uniquely your own.

I have to say that the more you play this game, the more it grows on you. Again, I won't say there aren't frustrations. The Story itself is tedious, and there is a learning curve for figuring out how to execute the "cues" in a way that the Kinect recognizes you. For example, I found after trial and error that I actually have to make Sweep motions a split second before I *think* I should, and I also realized after a while that rather than always making broad sweeping motions I'd be better of making a mix of long and short motions in a way that flows with the music (sort of like a conductor would make small movements for pianissimo and grand movements for fortissimo).

After a while, as the motions start becoming more intuitive and natural, you can start literally "feeling" the music, and that's when it becomes really enjoyable. It took me about 2 days of playing to finally start scoring in the 80-90% range, and I'll admit that my enjoyment of the game increased as that happened, not because I cared about the score but because I started to really "experience" the music. In that sense, this Kinect game starts to realize the vision that Walt Disney had with the original Fantasia--of letting you experience music in a brand new way.

As for fitness and exercise value of the game, I can't say there's much of that. I do find that when I play for extended periods of time, I do build up a sweat and my heart rate is elevated, particularly on higher difficulty levels where your arms are moving frantically. I'd be kidding myself if I said it was anything close to an aerobic workout. That said, add some wrist weights and move your feet while you play, and suddenly you will have a game that is a lot of fun and can help you tone your arms.

The game also has a two player mode. As long as you're playing with someone who's had the same level of practice you've had, this can be a ton of fun. It involves cooperation; you each need to hit your own colored cues properly for the song to play, and the choices both of you make with Switch Cues and Composition Spells can influence what the final song sounds like. But it involves competition as well--you're both judged on how well you performed and it can get pretty competitive. And because the Kinect 2.0 is so precise, unlike with games like Just Dance you can't blame a loss on anything except yourself.

Overall, I'd give Fantasia: Music Evolved a solid 4 out of 5. The story mode seems a bit sloppy and lazy at times, but the core game play, graphics, music selection, and motion controls are a decent, if not revolutionary demonstration of what the Xbox One with Kinect 2.0 is capable of.

Just Dance 2015 - Wii
Just Dance 2015 - Wii
Price: $34.10
98 used & new from $24.48

99 of 106 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still one of the best video games for groups or workouts, improved by a great song list and vastly improved online capabilities, October 22, 2014
This review is from: Just Dance 2015 - Wii (Video Game)
While motion gaming for the Wii seems to have gone the way of the dodo, one sure thing in life is that Ubisoft will release a new version of Just Dance every year. Just Dance 2015 (which is technically "Just Dance 6") is the latest.

I'll start off by saying that other than 45 new songs and improvements in online play, there's not a whole lot new here. But I gave it four stars ("I like it") because it's still one of the most fun games you can play at a party or a family gathering, and one of the only options left for the Wii or Wii U in terms of playing a video game for fitness and exercise.

Here's what I like about the game:

1) The Song List - Once again, the song list is great and has something for just about all members of the family. It has plenty of selections from the current Billboard Top 20, including "Bang Bang" by Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj; "Black Window" by Iggy Azalea; "Maps" by Maroon 5; and "Break Free" by Ariana Grande. There are recent hits like Pharrell Williams' "Happy", Rihanna's "Diamonds', and Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance". And there are oldies like Run DMC and Aerosmith in "Walk This Way", Los Del Rio's "Macarena" (complete with authentic moves) and Marvin Gaye's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough". For the kids there's the song none of us can get out of our head: Disney's "Let It Go" from Frozen. In a strange move, they even have the original theme song for the video game "Tetris". Katy Perry's "Dark Horse" (which isn't listed in the official track list) IS included.

(UPDATE: Judy asked a question in the comments that I think warrants my updating this review. If you're a parent or grandparent of a young child, as with previous versions of Just Dance you're probably going to want to take a good look at the song list and make a decision of whether it's appropriate for your household. While there are plenty of kid-friendly songs like "Let It Go" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", there are also suggestive songs such as "Birthday", "Bang Bang" and "4x4" that some parents will likely find too suggestive. Ubisoft did attempt to censor the most glaring words but in my opinion, not only is that likely to NOT going to be enough for most parents' comfort, it also detracts from players who aren't parents who want to listen to the uncensored lyrics. The lack of parental controls and the "E for Everyone 10+" rating have been controversial in the past, and unfortunately it doesn't look like Ubisoft has quite come up with a great solution for this yet with this version.)

2) Choreography - The choreography, once again, is fantastic. As they usually do, the dance moves did a great job of capturing the spirit of the songs, and in some cases use dance moves from the original artists' videos. While 1-4 players can dance to any song, certain songs are specially choreographed for 2, 3 and 4 players and the moves can get pretty intricate and interactive (making it as much fun for people watching as it is for the people dancing).

Overall, the steps are simple enough that novices can play along, but complex enough that they'll look impressive on a real dance floor if you master them. As a bonus, as you play you'll be able to unlock alternate choreography for many of the songs. For example, "Happy" has a "Sing Along" mode and "Diamonds" has a "Seated Dance" mode.

3) Motion Controls - I'll preface by saying that motion controls are never going to be 100% precise on the Wii. But when compared to how poor the controls were in the first few versions, I think they've made it as good as it's going to get. I used my nephew, who's a Just Dance expert, to test it. He dances every step (including arm, wrist, and spin movements) precisely, and he manages to routinely get 5 of 5 stars. As for me, I *think* I'm dancing correctly, but I typically score 2-4 stars. The key to success is to learn the moves and then dance them naturally to the music, instead of focusing on mimicking the on-screen dancer.

4) Artwork - Again, Ubisoft stuck to the formula of using simple cartoon drawings and backgrounds instead of trying to get too "realistic", and it still works. Some of the artwork is beautiful, others are hilarious, and the animations that fill up the screen as you dance keep you from being bored during the song.

5) Workout - Contrary to what others have reported, Just Dance 2015 didn't remove "Just Sweat Mode" except in name only. You can still turn on "calorie tracking", and it'll track for any song as you play the game (not just by going into a given mode). The system will keep track of the total calories you've burned over the life of the game. Also, similar to "Just Sweat Mode" in past games, there's a Playlist mode that lets you select songs to dance to for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 40 minutes, or non-stop for the purpose of working out (Unfortunately, you still don't have the capability to save playlists).

6) Community Remix - While this is listed as a "feature" on the Amazon product page, it's technically only available on the Xbox and Playstation version, where players can use those consoles' camera to record their dances and get them rated by the community. A team in Ubisoft will take the best videos and create a video mix of different people around the world performing the moves. While Wii users can't record themselves on video, they can view and play along to these. The first of these is a version of Pharrel's "Happy" that's a lot of fun, and there are sure to be more.

7) Singalong - As usual, as songs play the lyrics will also appear for those who'd like to sing along. Something else you can do now is attach any USB microphone to your Wii, and like a karaoke machine, your voice will come through the TV for everyone to enjoy. It's a great way to get more people involved in a party setting.

If that were it, I'd probably still give this game just 3 stars--it's a solid game, but up to this point there wasn't much new. But what upped my rating to "I like it" were the vast improvements in online play.

You might recall that Ubisoft tried their hand at online play with Just Dance 2014 and did a pretty bad job of it. Just to participate in online play, you had to sign in with your Nintendo ID, then sign in again (or create) something else called a "Uplay ID", agreeing to a bunch of disclaimers on the way. And even after going through all that, chances are their server would kick you out or crash on you.

It's a world of difference with Just Dance 2015. First of all, there's no setup nor "Uplay account" necessary. You can just jump right into online play in two ways:

1) World Dance Floor - On the lower right-hand corner of the main Just Dance 2015 screen, you'll see the words "World Dance Floor", along with the number of dancers around the world currently dancing and the song everyone is dancing to. Click on it and within seconds you'll see a single button that says "DANCE NOW", along with the avatars of everyone who's online at the moment and what country they're from.

Once you click on it, you'll be placed into a "Party" of about eight dancers. You can compete against each individually, and also choose a "side" (Dog vs. Cat, Sun vs. Moon, etc.).

As you dance to the song, you'll see how well you're doing vs. the others in your party. As you successfully hit moves and improve our score, you'll see your avatar's position rise against other players in real-time. I have to admit, it's addictive trying to beat your fellow dancers and get that #1 spot. And even if you can't keep up with the top players, the better you do the more you'll be helping your "side".

Once you finish dancing, you'll see whether your "side" won. You'll also be able to compare your score not just to members of your own group but to everyone around the world dancing at that moment. In some cases you'll be able to vote on the next song to dance to, and you can keep dancing indefinitely. Whenever you decide to stop, you'll see your current "online level", how many minutes you danced, and how many different dancers you were dancing with from how many different countries in the time you were playing. I appreciate how they simplified not just the process of joining in the World Dance Floor but the gameplay as well.

2) Dance Challenger Mode - With typical Just Dance songs you can dance with up to four players holding four Wii remotes. For the first time, you'll also be able to activate "Dance Challenger Mode" which will fill up any empty slots with online players OR against your best performance from the past. Unlike with World Dance Floor, you're not competing against live players, but you are competing against real people's performances.

There's only one major glitch I encountered; at a certain point when I was configuring avatars, the game crashed my system, resulting in a freeze that required me to unplug my unit and plug it in again. Hopefully that has just a one-time thing.

Yes, this game really isn't breaking huge new ground in terms of innnovation, but it still manages to be one of the most entertaining video games you can play at family gatherings or parties, as well as still one of the best ways you can get exercise while playing a video game. The publisher did a great job of carrying over the best things about previous versions of Just Dance, but it's the updated song list and the improvements in online features that make Just Dance 2015 worth buying.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 29, 2014 10:53 AM PST

Wii Sports Club - Wii U
Wii Sports Club - Wii U
Offered by VGCJ Sales
Price: $69.99
24 used & new from $48.49

41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enough improvements to make it a worthwhile purchase for the Wii U, July 25, 2014
The first thing to know about Wii Sports Club is that if you've played the original Wii Sports on the Wii, there's really nothing new in terms of the gameplay or the basic experience. You have baseball, tennis, bowling, golf, and boxing. The controls work pretty much identically to the original--you hold the Wii remote in your hand to bat, volley, bowl, tee off, and punch.

It's tough to justify paying $40 for a game that we all got for free with the original Wii. But for a couple reasons I think it's worth it. Here are the main ones:

1) Improved graphics: As Microsoft and Sony were competing to see who could get the most powerful and realistic HD graphics, I love how Nintendo went the opposite direction and created a world of ingeniously simple cartoony characters (Miis) that seemed to have their own personalities. Not only did it look great, it meant that games would be incredibly responsive, something that Xbox 360 developers never figured out how to do with their slow-as-molasses motion controls.

Now that the Wii U supports HD graphics, I'm glad to see that Nintendo kept the whole Mii universe as-is, but added a lot of background details (the texture on the playing surface, beautiful scenery, crowd animation, etc.) to enhance the experience. The graphics improvements are more subtle and aren't as dramatic as, say, the improvements they made to Mario Kart 8 over Mario Kart Wii, but they're still very good.

2) Smart (not gratuitous) use of the GamePad: The GamePad is one of the most panned features of the Wii U and not without reason--it's a piece of hardware they released before giving developers a chance to figure out how to best to exploit it. As a result, most games that supposedly support the GamePad do it in a really forced way. However, Wii Sports Club makes intelligent use of the GamePad to make gameplay a lot more fun. Specifically, in baseball, one player holds the GamePad to pitch; gone are the days when you could glance over at the player to figure out what kind of pitch they're throwing. You can also hold the GamePad in front of you to have a first-person view of catching fly balls and line drives in a way that feels surprisingly realistic. Also, in golf, you put the GamePad on the ground and literally "tee up" just like you do in real life, which is both clever and makes the experience feel all the more realistic. I actually like that they didn't try to "force" GamePad use in the other sports, simply because it wouldn't have added anything to them.

3) Improved controls: I remember playing Wii Sports together with a group of five year olds and getting destroyed when they were just bouncing around like a bunch of jumping beans and wagging their remotes. Those days are over :)

The motion control capabilities of the original Wii remote were pretty basic, but later down the road Nintendo released the Wii MotionPlus attachment (and later the Wii Remote Plus), which looked the same as the Wii remote but could capture complex motion more accurately (in addition to the original accelerometer and sensor bar capabilities that could detect basic movements, it added gyroscopes that could detect nuances like the angle you're holding the remote at and your wrist rotations). With Wii Sports Club, this greater precision is taken into account in the gameplay. It's a thrill to rotate your wrists and see the trademark on your baseball bat or the angle of your tennis racquet smoothly rotate along with it.

I also liked how when two people are boxing locally, both of them can use two Wii Remote Pluses to give really precise control with both hands. You still have the option to use one Wii remote each as well, although support for the nunchuk has been removed.

There may be times the motion controls get stuck or out of sync, which can get frustrating. But they seem to anticipate this happening and provide instructions on the screen for how to reset your controller if it does (e.g., by putting it flat on a table, pressing the directional buttons, etc.)

I should say these "improvements" are not necessarily for everyone. There was a certain fun to having the controls be ridiculously basic so that all players of all ages competing against each other were more or less on the same playing field. Now, you really need to learn how to finesse things like the angle and trajectory of your tennis shot, the position and speed of your bat, or the angle of your bowling release. It takes a lot of getting used to the new controls, and admittedly I had some challenges with a couple of the sports at first. But with practice, you'll get it.

4) New training modes: They've added more mini-games called "training mode". Bowling has a game where you try to pick up spares, a game where you have to try to throw in a straight line, and everyone's favorite, the 100-ping game. Tennis has a game where you need to hit tennis shots through rings, hit "moles" as they pop up on the court, and a fun new game where a ducky-shaped ball machine has to run after your shots. Baseball has the home run derby, of course, as well as a quick game where you have 90 seconds to smash walls and a pitching game that uses the new GamePad. Golf has a putting mini-game, a game where you can practice your short game, and a game where you have practice your driving skills. Finally, boxing (still the best workout of all of the sports) has a game where you smash plates in front of you, punch a bag, and dodge balls.

5) Online Play: This was one of the highlights for me. It's one thing to play against the computer or with your family and friends in your house (both of which you can still do), but it's great to be able to call a friend up across the street or across the world and challenge them to a game. You can also play against strangers. I like the fact that as of now, I still don't see "cheaters" who modify their systems to get unfair advantages (as there was in Mario Kart Wii where online play became unusable because of all the cheaters). Let's hope Nintendo keeps it that way.

I also like the notion of "Clubs" (ergo, the name) where you can associate yourself with your country or state, and have your great play contribute to helping your club rank better than all the others out there.

6) The physical version of the game: As much as Nintendo tried to force us to buy the download version, I'm glad I didn't bite because there are so many reasons the physical version is better. The price is pretty much the same ($39.99 for the physical version vs. $39.96 for all sports in the download version), but I like the ability to take my disc to a friend of family member's house to play with them.

Like I said, there's a part of me that bristles in paying $40 for a game that we all got for free before; plus I would have liked to see some improvements (another sport or two perhaps like football or basketball). But as with Mario Kart 8, if you loved the game I think there are enough improvements that makes this a worthwhile purchase for your Wii U.

Sony XBR55X850B 55-Inch 4K Ultra HD 120Hz 3D Smart LED TV
Sony XBR55X850B 55-Inch 4K Ultra HD 120Hz 3D Smart LED TV
Price: $1,798.00
25 used & new from $750.00

283 of 303 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent picture quality, beautiful set, amazing 4K, July 1, 2014
I remember back in the 1980's, Sony TVs were the thing to get. Those Trinitron CRT sets just seemed to have a brighter, crisper picture than anyone else out there. They suffered a little bit in the last few years as their competitors closed the gap of price and quality. This new series of 4K TVs may be just the thing Sony needs to remind everyone that they're still one of the best out there.

I had a couple things on my list: 4K, 3D, a decent-looking design, a set that wouldn't be obsolete in a year, and a set that was relatively affordable. Here's how the set did.


The first time I walked into a Best Buy and saw a TV with a 4K picture, my jaw dropped. Seeing 4K for the first time reminded me of the time I saw 1080i for the first time in a Tokyo airport. The picture improvement is that much clearer and crisper. Sure enough, the 4K rendering on this set is terrific--color fidelity is spot-on and the picture is bright.

Of course, 4K is really only good for early adopters and technophiles right now, as there isn't much 4K content out there and likely won't be for years. Cable companies aren't going to support it until there's a critical mass (heck, most are still broadcasting at 720p). The only other ways outside of the TV to get 4K content is through a PC (you'll need an upgraded video card) or a media server, which will cost extra.

That said, I was able to connect directly to NetFlix through the TV. There's a handful of 4K programs available, which as of this writing includes movies like Ghostbusters, Philadelphia, and Smurfs 2; TV shows like Breaking Bad and House of Cards; and a couple of mediocre nature films. I loaded up House of Cards and I was blown away; it was surreal, more like watching a home movie of Kevin Spacey than a TV show.

As a bonus, I started up the YouTube app on the TV, and tried playing a few 4K videos. They were also beautiful and exceptionally sharp on a 50Mbps Internet connection.


It looks like companies have all but given up trying to market 3D to a mass consumer audience, but I appreciate Sony continuing to support 3D for the niche that continues to be enthusiastic about it. I'm one of those; I bought a 3D camcorder from Sony and I actually have guests to my house asking me to show them my vacation videos :P

I also have a PS3 which plays 3D Blu-Rays, and not surprisingly, the picture is fantastic. I know in last year's model there were rumors that Sony deliberately cut down the resolution in each eye for the 55" set. I don't know if that's still the case with this set, but the picture was very clear regardless.

This set does support passive 3D, something I wanted because I didn't want to deal with the hassle of charging batteries, wearing bulky glasses, or dealing with the 'darker' picture that comes with active 3D. Surprisingly, the 3D quality was still excellent. I popped "How to Train Your Dragon" into the PS3 and the colors were vibrant, the textures detailed and crisp, and the 3D depth just like in the theater.


One thing I absolutely hated about last year's passive 3D/4K set was that they put these butt-ugly "Dumbo ears" speakers on the sides of their set. Happily, this year they got rid of it and replaced it with a simple, sleek black border. While it's a 53" set, it fits perfectly on my entertainment console which is about 50-51" end-to-end. The screen is a glossy sheen which is almost mirror-like, so if you have bright lighting in the house near where you sit you'll want to turn it off.

A set that wouldn't be obsolete in a year:

One thing I liked is that once I connected the set to the Internet, it asked me if I wanted to do a software update. That's one way of ensuring that the TV is going to be kept up-to-date. I do like that HDMI 2.0 is supported out of the box. And of course, 8K is not coming out anytime soon :)

A set that was relatively affordable:

This is the second-generation of 4K sets, and Sony is being pretty aggressive with the pricing; the 55" set retails for $3000, but street price seems to be around $2300 as of this writing, only a few weeks after launch. Considering that the equivalent first-generation set retailed for $5000, the drop in price is definitely more precipitous than typical.

Yes, in a year you'll probably be seeing sub-$2000 street prices, but I decided to jump now. It's no secret that Sony has been losing money and market share in its TVs for years, so expect them to continue to be very aggressive in their pricing.

While the photos all show the stand on the far left and right of the unit, you can also install the stand so that they're closer to the middle of the unit (just to the left and right of the LED in the center). This might be a better option if, say, you'll be placing it on a cabinet that's less than 48" wide.

The unit comes with two remotes, a more traditional remote with a ton of buttons and a smaller remote with a trackpad. It also comes with two passive 3D glasses (the ones from the movie theater will work too), and an "IR blaster" that you can use to control other devices with your remote (I have mine set up to control my TiVo). It has 4 HDMI connectors. USB ports will let you attach things like a PS3 controller (for Playstation Now, coming in the Fall) or a keyboard. There's also an MHL connector that will let you mirror photos and videos on smartphones, projectors, and other devices that support it (Nokia, Samsung, Silicon Image, Sony, and Toshiba).

The one thing I did NOT like about this set was how convoluted their on-screen display was. Using the trackpad remote was not intuitive at all, and this is exacerbated by really poor software design where it's impossible to navigate from screen to screen without getting completely lost. I think the UX people at Sony must have made the poor decision to steal ideas from Microsoft.

That aside, this was a purchase I was completely satisfied with. As another reviewer said, the brightness and color richness of the display rival a plasma set and the 4K is just stunning.
Comment Comments (15) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 26, 2015 4:00 PM PST

Mario Kart 8 - Nintendo Wii U
Mario Kart 8 - Nintendo Wii U
Offered by RushHourWholesalers
Price: $53.58
104 used & new from $42.62

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We've seen Mario save the Princess. Now can it save the Wii U?, June 8, 2014
It's no secret that the Wii U has been struggling. Nintendo needed to hit an out-of-the-park grand slam to have any chance of reviving it. With Mario Kart 8, it may have done just that.

There's not much new with Mario Kart 8. It's the same kart racing concept that's been around since Super Mario Kart for the SNES. You race against a number of other Mario characters in various tracks. As with Mario Kart Wii, you can use the Wii remote to steer (the Mario Kart wheel is just a round plastic accessory that you snap the remote into). You can also use the Wii U Pro controller, the Wii Remote or the Gamepad (you can also use the Wii remote + Classic Controller Pro or the Wii remote + Nunchuk).

The Gamepad offers additional features, of course. At its most basic, you can steer by tilting the Gamepad. The ZL button lets you throw things you've picked up, the A button accelerates, and the B button goes in reverse. In addition, you can use the ZR + A button to "drift". If you play on the Gamepad, you still look to the TV to play, but your Gamepad screen shows everyone's position in the race (and what extra they have in their possession), as well as a video of the race, a map of the track with everyone's position, and a horn in the middle like a real steering wheel.

The graphics are phenomenal and finally showcase the HD capabilities of the Wii U. The colors are bright, and there's amazing detail in all the screens, from delicate giant dandelions to giant candies that look good enough to eat. New tracks are wonderfully creative, such as one where you drive through an airport's terminal area, baggage claim area, and right onto the runway as a jumbo jet flies towards you. Classic tracks like Moo Moo Meadows have been totally redone with crisp graphics and exquisite attention to detail, from beautiful sunrises to trees and cows with detailed 3D rendering, to marks your vehicle makes when driving over sand. The tracks are a lot more nuanced, so you can either stay on the main road or take various shortcuts you'll discover over time.

Unlike the previous Mario Kart Wii, you can not only choose a Kart type (50cc, 100cc and 150cc), but also configure it with custom tires and a custom "parachute" that deploys when you're in the air--as you get more advanced in the game you'll understand how subtle choices you make here can give you an advantage on certain tracks.

Gameplay is mostly the same as always. You race around the track, pick up cubes that'll unlock extras to use in the race (including new ones like a boomerang, a sonic boom device, and a rotator that lets you use 8 of them in succession). They've kept old features in, but subtly introduced new ones, like a blue strip that turns your car into a hovercraft. You can also pick up coins throughout the game which will help you unlock things like new accessories, vehicles, and characters.

Of course, the game is best played using the Gamepad or the Wii remote to steer. The controls are much, much improved over Mario Kart Wii. You feel much tighter control and precision than I've felt in any other racing game on any platform.

There are a lot of new bells and whistles. After each race, you can view a "highlight reel" that lets you relive your greatest moments during the race. A new feature called "Mario Kart TV" archives your recent race videos.

You can play single player against the computer or multiplayer. As with Mario Kart Wii, in single player mode, you can race the Grand Prix (4 race matches), Time Trials (racing for new time records), VS Race (racing using special rules, including adjusting items, computer difficulty, number of races, etc.), and Battle Mode (where you try to pop the other team's balloons). Multiplayer mode has the same options except for Time Trials, and lets you race up to four players.

One of the worst features of Mario Kart Wii was its online play. There was simply much too much cheating going on, with cheaters racking up thousands of points and creating hacks that made the competition meaningless. I was shocked at how good online play is now. You see your Mii join in with other Miis from around the world, you all vote on which track to play, and it looks like at least for now there's no cheating--you can observe the technique the top players are using, and it's clear that it's all skill that keeps them up front. For me, I consistently placed around positions 5-7, and I was very happy with that. If you have 12 friends, you can get around the 4-player limit on a local Wii by connecting them online, forming your own Room, and competing against each other.

They did seem to do away with the "driver's license" feature of Mario Kart Wii where you could keep track of which tracks you've played, but that was no great loss. What is a bit annoying is that it's not easy to change your Mii in case someone else want to play, so unless you quit the game, select a different Mii, and restart the game, all the videos and progress will be attributed to one Mii. The exception to this is online multiplayer, where player 2 will be able to select their own Mii to play online.

Simply put, this is not just the best game on the Wii U, it's one of the best games Nintendo has ever released, and one of the best racing games on any platform. It's a shame they didn't have the foresight to bundle this with the original Wii U when it first came out, because I think this game could have boosted sales of the Wii U by millions of units, just like Wii Sports did back when the Wii was released. Still, they did a smart thing and are running a generous promotion where if you register this game, you'll get another great game for free (Pikmin 3, Super Mario Bros U, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Walker, or Wii Party U). It's a nice way for Nintendo to thank those who purchased the Wii U early on, as well as push people on the fence to get on board.

While this game is hardly original (the concept is the same as it's been for over 20 years), the graphics, gameplay, and precise controls make it a must-have for anyone who has a Wii U, and a reason to run out and buy a Wii U for those who don't.

Wii Fit U w/Wii Balance Board accessory and Fit Meter - Wii U
Wii Fit U w/Wii Balance Board accessory and Fit Meter - Wii U
Offered by ShopCell
Price: $53.99
105 used & new from $35.99

145 of 148 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent upgrade to the original Wii Fit that adds Wii U-specific enhancements and offline activity tracking, January 12, 2014
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
I wrote a rather detailed review about Wii Fit U under this product page: Wii Fit U w/Fit Meter - Wii U. The bundle you see here is identical to that one, except that it includes a Wii Balance Board.

In case you're wondering, the Balance Board included in this bundle is identical to the one bundled with the original Wii Fit in 2007--unlike the Wii Remote Plus and the Wii U itself, there haven't been any upgrades to the Balance Board's technology since then. So if you already have a Balance Board, you'll be better off buying just the Wii Fit U w/Fit Meter - Wii U.

You might want to consider whether to get this bundle or to purchase a used Balance Board separately (they go for as low as $15 at places like Gamestop or Craig's List). Better yet, chances are you have a friend or relative who has one in the basement collecting dust who's willing to give it to you. (Here's a hint: there's a common problem where old Balance Boards appear to be "dead", but there's an easy fix for it. Just Google "Broken Balance Board" and you'll find the solution, which just required a screwdriver).

Now that that's out of the way, here's a summary of my thoughts on Wii Fit U:

As with the original Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus, there are several categories of exercise activities:

- Yoga - A set of 18 Yoga poses, where you follow an on-screen trainer's instructions. It's greatly enhanced over the original Wii Fit in that you can view the trainer's body with a 360 degree view to ensure that you're matching it precisely. Furthermore, you have the option of viewing your own video image next to the trainer's using the GamePad camera (it doesn't automatically detect whether you're precisely matching the trainer, but you can eyeball whether you are easily enough). The Yoga poses are traditional ones like "half moon", "downward facing dog", etc. 15 of them are the same as in the original Wii Fit Plus, while 3 are new ones.

- Strength Training - A set of 15 activities to strengthen specific parts of your body, such as lunges, planks, extensions, and so on. Again, you follow a trainer to learn the correct technique, and as with Yoga you can view the trainer from any angle or view your own video image on screen. 12 are the same as in the original Wii Fit, 3 are new ones.

- Aerobics - These are cute games that use your Mii to do various activities to get your cardio going. 11 of the activities are the same as in the original Wii Fit, including Hula Hoop, Rhythm Boxing, and Island Cycling, although most of these activties have been enhanced with new features using the Wii Remote Plus, HD graphics, and "second screen" support on the GamePad. There are 4 new activities, including Puzzle Squash (sort of a first-person, 3D version of Breakout) and Rowing Crew (where you use both the Balance Board and the Wii Remote Plus to simulate rowing). The one gripe I have about aerobics activities is that they're far too short for you to get into a decent cardio heart rate zone, so you have to string together a lot of activities to get any kind of meaningful workout.

- Dance - This is a new category. I expected it to be something like Just Dance, but it's actually more like a step aerobics class with different kinds of music and focus on different parts of your body.

- Balance Games - These are cute games that use your Mii to work on balance and coordination. Returning are 11 old favorites like Rhythm Kung Fu and Bird's Eye Bullseye, which like the Aerobics games have been enhanced for the Wii U. There are 7 new balance games. My favorite by far is one called "Dessert Course", which ingeniously integrates the GamePad and the TV screen; you're a waiter who's trying to balance a bunch of rolling and jiggling desserts on a tray (your GamePad) while delivering it to guests in a crowded restaurant. Another one I love is "Ultimate Obstacle Course", which is an excellent upgrade to the original Obstacle Course (which is also included).

Another thing I like about Wii Fit U is the ability to play many activities on the GamePad, while freeing up the TV for others.

All of this would be an excellent upgrade alone, but the addition of the Wii Fit Meter adds a whole new dimension to the game. The Wii Fit Meter is a smooth, round device that's about 1 3/4" in diameter that you clip onto your belt and wear throughout the day. Like a FitBit or a Nike FuelBand, it tracks your daily activity outside of the game, and is able to detect not just your steps (as a pedometer does), but also your level of exertion and your altitude. The unit also gives you time and temperature, and even displays a little LCD version of your Mii's face.

Each time you start up Wii Fit U, you'll be asked to sync the data (the unit stores up to 2 weeks of data). Once you've done that, you can see some cool graphs that help you visualize the amount of activity you've done by date and hour, as well as your level of exertion and your altitude changes.

There's a feature called "Fit Meter Challenge" where you can apply your Fit Meter data to complete "challenges" from around the world. You can choose walking challenges, such as a stroll through New York City or Tokyo. Each time you open the map, you'll be given the option of getting "credit" for the miles you've put onto your Fit Meter since the last time you synced the data. You'll see your little Mii progressing along the path, with buildings being filled in to the blank map, factoids and photos of the places you're "visiting", and coins "blinging" along the way. Similarly, you can choose altitude challenges; for example, climbing the equivalent of the Statue of Liberty, Mount Fuji, or Mount Everest. It's a nice added incentive to rack up as much activity as you can outside of the game itself.

While the Wii U has been maligned in the media and by the purchasing public (and sadly not unjustified in some cases), Wii Fit U is an excellent example of why I think the future is still bright for Nintendo. Whatever missteps they might have made in their console's hardware design and relationships with third party developers, their first party software development is still second to none. Every single activity and feature in Wii Fit U is polished and substantial ingenuity, is "addictive" enough to make you want to play more (an excellent trait in an exercise game) and is just a pleasure to start up and play. Many of these components alone (the Yoga classes, the Balance Games, the Fit Meter graphs and challenges) would make excellent standalone titles on their own, but they're all bundled together in one very affordable package here. And while there's been a lot of hype about new exergaming features on other systems like Xbox One, bottom line is that the Wii U is still the only video game console that lets you take (and track) your weight, track your offline activity, and play games that are as fun as they are exercise.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 17, 2015 5:13 PM PST

Wii Fit U w/Fit Meter - Wii U
Wii Fit U w/Fit Meter - Wii U
Offered by Candle In the Wind
Price: $27.75
88 used & new from $19.49

65 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Carries on the high quality of the original while taking full advantage of the Wii U's new capabilities, January 10, 2014
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Wii Fit U is the sequel to Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus, and is playable only on the Wii U. While the game is downloadable on the Nintendo eShop, there may be reasons you want a physical version of the game; perhaps you want to save storage space on your Wii U, to not keep your Wii U constantly connected to the Internet, to be able to bring the game to play at family and friends' houses, or perhaps you just want the green version of the Fit Meter that comes with it. In these cases, you'll be able to purchase this version of the game with a physical disc and a Fit Meter (For those who don't have a balance board yet, you'll want to purchase the bundle with the Balance Board here: Wii Fit U w/Wii Balance Board accessory and Fit Meter - Wii U).

The Wii Fit U opening screen starts with same familiar logo and music from Wii fit and Wii Fit Plus. The system will let you copy over any old data from Wii Fit or Wii Fit Plus either through a full System Transfer (a long and rather painful process), or by copying your old data from your Wii onto an SD card. Once I did this I was able to see my old Mii and select it for use.

As with Wii Fit, an animated Balance Board will be your host, welcoming you back and explaining the new features of Wii Fit U. First, it explains there are new training modes that have been designed for the Wii U GamePad. Next, it explains that the Wii U GamePad can be used as a personal display, so the TV can be turned off for certain activities, such as the Body Test.

The initial Body Test works very much like it did in the original Wii Fit in terms of tracking how your weight and center of balance change over time. One clever new feature is that you have the option of taking photos of your face each time you do the Body Test using the GamePad camera. It'll store the image of your face and you can see how your face changes over time (it'll be displayed in the calendar along with your BMI and Center of Gravity). Photos are saved for three months, but the first photo you take each month is saved for five years so it's a clever way for you to visually keep track of the progression of your weight loss through your face.

You then proceed with the Body Test. You'll hold the GamePad in your hands throughout the test, but the weight of the GamePad will be subtracted from your results. As with the old Wii Fit, you test your Center of Balance by standing on the Balance Board as straight as you can. The difference this time is that you're holding the GamePad at eye level, so you have to stand up straight while keeping your face centered on the screen in a frame. As with the original Wii Fit, you'll then see a plot of how balanced you are when you stand. If you're off balance, you'll get advice on how to correct it and the benefits of doing so. They've added some new balance tests that make further use of the Wii U GamePad; in one of them you use the GamePad to "track" a moving ball as it floats in front of you, all while the system is tracking your balance.

Next you'll see your BMI (or optionally, your weight). As with the old Wii Fit, you see a colored bar telling you in you're underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese, and your Mii will grow chubbier or thinner depending (sadly, mine got a bit rounder over the last few years).

After all this is done, you get your Wii Fit Age, "stamp" your progress into the calendar, and proceed to the main menu.

The main menu is called "Wii Fit Plaza". You can select or create new profiles, play the game as a guest, or play multi-player games (unfortunately, since there's only one Balance Board, you have to take turns with these games, there's no way to play them simultaneously nor compete online). Assuming you have a Fit Meter associated with the profile, each time you select the profile you'll be asked to sync it to collect all your offline activity.

The Main Menu seems a bit busy at first, but you'll get used to it in time. It's divided into a couple areas:

1) A series of windows scrolling across the top of the page will allow you to:

- View a monthly calendar of your progress
- View graphs of your progress
- Register or read more about the Fit Meter
- View an album of "snapshots" taken of your Mii during gameplay
- View a Notice Board of events that have occured in the game, such as unlocking features, new players being added, and so on.

The main options include:

2) Body Test - this allows you to take (or re-take) the Body Test

3) The Balance Board - when there's an exclamation point over the Balance Board it means he has a message for you. The little guy is full of interesting tips (you'll learn all you ever wanted to know about METs, or Metabolic EquivalenTS, for example).

4) User Settings - clicking on your Mii will let you adjust your height, birthdate, calendar stamp design, trainer (creepy male dude or the creepy female dudette from Wii Fit who's slightly less creepy than she was before), outfit, privacy settings (whether you want pictures taken or a password to be entered to access your profile), and even when the date should change over to the next day (either 12 AM or 3 AM for those who work out after midnight).

5) Fit Meter - you can click on the Fit meter to learn more about it or to register your Fit Meter (and unlock the trial).

6) Training - this is the "meat" of the game where you can access all the training activities.

When you click on Training, the menu has these options:

A) "Select Exercise" will let you choose an individual activity to exercise to. For each exercise, you'll see the number of METs expended, as well as the number of times you've done the exercise and whether the Balance Board is required. The categories of activities are the same as in Wii Fit Plus, with addition of a new "Dance" category. The activities consist of some old exercises that have been carried over from Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus, as well as some brand new ones.

The categories are:

i) Yoga (18 activities): here, you basically follow an on-screen trainer and mimic him or her in various yoga activities. These are mostly the same Yoga exercises from the original Wii Fit, including deep breathing, half-moon, warrior, tree, sun salutation, standing knee, palm tree, chair, triangle, downward-facing dog, dance, cobra, bridge, spinal twist, and shoulder stand. In addition, there are three new activities: spine extension, gate, and grounded V.

ii) Strength Training (15 activities): As with the original Wii Fit, these exercises are meant for strengthening specific parts of your body. Again, you follow an on-screen trainer and again, these are mostly the same strength training activities from Wii Fit. They include single leg extension, push-up and side plank, torso twists, jackknife, lunge, rowing squat, single-leg twist, sideways leg lift, plank, tricep extension, arm-and-leg lift, and single-arm stand. The three new activities are balance bridge, side lunge, and single-leg reach.

iii) Aerobics (15 activities): These are exercises that promote aerobic activity. They include a number of the same games from Wii Fit, including hula hoop, super hula hoop, basic step, advanced step, free step, rhythm boxing, basic run, two-person run, free run, island cycling, and driving range. Most of these games are the same as before, but many have interesting enhancements. For example, on the Hula Hoop, you can now twirl hoops not just with your waist but with your wrists as well with the Wii Remote Plus. On Island Cycling, the graphics are much improved, and as you "bike" you can see a beautiful day turn to a beautiful sunset and then turn into a starry evening, reminiscent of Walk It Out. Many of these activities also have a new "extra" mode that provides an additional level of challenge beyond the original.

In addition, they have four brand new Aerobics activities. (BTW, I've provided descriptions of all the new activities here; if you want to read about the old activities that have been ported over, you can check out my review on Wii Fit Plus from five years ago).

- Puzzle Squash - here, you use both the Wii Remote Plus and the Balance Board. You basically have to use the Wii Remote to hit a squash ball, and "walk" on the Balance Board to get your player to move to the right position in a sort of 3D version of "Breakout". It's a simple concept and fairly easy to master, but also surprisingly addictive.

- Free Boxing - this uses the Balance Board, the Wii Remote Plus, and either the nunchuk or another Wii Remote Plus. This game is a lot like the Rhythm Boxing game except you're using both your hands and your feet to punch in certain patterns.

- Orienteering - this one is like the basic run, in that you're travelling through Wii Fit Island. The difference is that you're not using the Balance Board or the Wii Remote Plus, but you're holding the GamePad in your hands. As you walk in place, the accelerometer and gyroscope in the GamePad can detect that you're moving and if you're turning to the left or right, and your Mii will respond accordingly. It's a "hide and seek" type game where you're walking around the island looking for Miis whose photos you see on your GamePad. You need to remember your surroundings and different faces, but you can always ask a random Mii for help too.

- Rowing Crew - This one uses the Balance Board and a Wii Remote Plus. You can either site on a chair and put your feet on the Balance Board or (as I prefer), sit right on the Balance Board. You then grasp your Wii Remote with both hands, and make a rowing motion by bending your body up and down almost as if you're doing sit-ups. You need to use the right technique-row to the cadence that your coxswain is setting, match your fellow crew members, and make sure your oar is out of the water when you're not rowing by rotating the Wii remote the right way. You can see a first-person view on your GamePad and a side view on your TV. This one is hilarious-when you don't row properly to the rhythm all your fellow rowers in your boat look back at you and give you dirty looks. But once you get the hang of it it feels remarkably authentic-and gives you a great aerobic workout.

iv) Dance (8 activities): I wasn't sure what to expect with this one. The first thing to know is that this is isn't a clone of Just Dance or Zumba Fitness. Rather, it's a simplistic but still pretty clever set of step aerobics exercises that actually come close to simulating the basics of actual dance moves. You work out with the Balance Board and two Wii Remote Pluses, and basically have to move your arms and feet to match the trainer. There's a wide variety of music with unique "moves" that let you work out different parts of your body. Hula music lets you relax, jazzy music helps you work your waist and thighs, hip-hop music lets you work out your thighs, locking let you work out your upper arms, flamenco lets you work out your arms and legs, salsa lets you work out your shoulders and back, and burning beats gives you a calorie burning challenge. The first time you run through the dance the instructor will give you an explanation of the moves, but then after that you can dance all you want.

v) Balance Games (18 activities): In every version of Wii Fit, this has always been the section of the game that's the most fun, and it's true with this game as well. Returning are old favorites from the original Wii Fit like Soccer Heading, Ski Jump, Table Tilt, Rhythm Kung Fu, Ski Slalom, Perfect 10, Snowball Fight, Obstacle Course, Tilt City, Balance Bubble, Bird's Eye Bulls-Eye. But they have a number of fun new games as well. As with Wii Fit, there's a Beginner level and an Advanced level to unlock for each activity. And as before you're not necessarily going to get a very strenuous workout from these games; they're more designed to help you improve your balance and coordination vs. provide you strength or aerobic training. And they're a blast to play with friends and family.

The new Balance Games include:

- Trampoline Target - This is a fun one that uses the Balance Board where you're jumping on a trampoline. The only problem is, you still can't actually jump on the Balance Board, so you have to bend and then extend your legs at the right time, and then when you're in the air you need to shift your weight to "steer" yourself back over the target in the middle of the trampoline. The more accurate you are with your "jumps" and your targeting, the higher your next jump will be. Like a lot of the others, this activity makes great use of the GamePad by showing you a top-down view on the GamePad and a side view on the TV. This one is a whole lot of fun, and works your legs, hips and overall balance, but it takes a while to get used to not actually jumping (as with earlier versions of Wii Fit, if you do accidentally jump the game clears your progress and resets to the beginning). I give this a 4 out of 5 for fun, and a 4 out of 5 for exercise.

- Hosedown - This one uses the GamePad and the Balance Board. You hold the GamePad in front of you and point it at the TV. Miis will throw mud balls at you and you have to hose them down with water. You press one foot down on the Balance Board to spray the water, lift your foot off the Board to refill your water tank, and use the GamePad to aim and shoot at specific targets, while the TV has a wide angle view of the scene. I get the sense this one doesn't really give very much exercise (1 out of 5), but it's so fun (5 out of 5) it doesn't really matter.

- Dessert Course - This game is pure genius. You're a waiter in a crowded restaurant who has to collect desserts from the chefs situated in the corners of the room and deliver them to people standing and waving you down throughout the room. You hold your GamePad flat like a tray (balancing your desserts on it), walk in place on the Balance Board, and "steer" by rotating your tray like a horizontal steering wheel. You see a first-person view of the room on the TV-and a first-person view of the desserts on your tray on the GamePad (which look delicious)! As you advance in the game, you start getting all kinds of desserts, from jelly rolls and round cream puffs that roll off your tray to jiggling cups of pudding and have to try to deliver them without bumping into your guests. This one is probably a 3 out of 5 for exercise, but easily a 5 out of 5 for fun.

- Ultimate Obstacle Course - I think back in the day I described the Wii Fit obstacle course as sort of a "3D Super Mario Bros", and wrote that I wished it could be longer and have more variety. Happily, this game delivers on that. As with the original version of this game, you walk in place on the Balance Board and try to avoid obstacles like giant rolling balls and falling off cliffs. Something new is the ability to "turn" by turning your feet on the Balance Board while walking in place, admittedly something it took me a while to get used to, with with enough practice I finally figured it out. This one is a 4 out of 5 for exercise (mainly because you'll be playing it over and over until you get it right). As for fun, it's a bit frustrating at first as you try to figure out the "turn in place" thing, but once you do it's a ton of fun. A nice bonus is that your Wii Gamepad displays an overhead map of the course.

- Core Luge - This is another of those really cool simulations that almost feels like the real thing. You sit on the balance board and just like a real luger, you start out on the course by pushing off with your hands to get some speed, and then lean back and navigate the luge course by moving your butt. Exercise value is about a 2 (you really don't work out your core as much as you'd hope), but fun value is a 4 or a 5.

- Scuba Search - This is a treasure hunt game that uses the Balance Board and the GamePad where you're a diver searching for different kinds of fish and treasure. You can see a first-person view on the GamePad, and a map of the entire area on the TV. You basically shift the weight on your legs to make your diver swim, and you can bend and straighten your knees to make him zip forward. This one reminded me a little of Endless Ocean for the Wii. It has a lot of replay value because you're always wanting to go back and find the fish or the treasure you missed. I give it a 3 for exercise value and a 4 for fun.

- Climbing - This is a rock climbing game that uses the Balance Board and two Wii Remote Pluses. You use the Wii remotes to grab towards the rocks (pressing A to grip them), and use walk in place on the Balance Board to climb. Technique and speed are important: you need to grab onto small (red) or medium (blue) rocks with one hand, and large (green) rocks with two hands, keeping your balance the whole time just like in real life. 3 for exercise value, 5 for fun.

Other options under "Training" include the following:

B) Personal Trainer will let you input a certain goal (for example, calories you'd like to burn in a workout session, amount of exercise time, type of exercise, and activity level), and will put together a custom workout for you pulling together different activities and exercises.

C) Wii Fit U Routines are collections of routines (made up of three specially selected activities each) that are designed to help you work out specific goals, such as easing tension in your shoulders and back, relaxing, trimming your waistline, improving your posture, and even helping with your digestion and circulation.

D) My Routine allows you to put together your own custom workouts based on your favorite activities.

E) Ranking shows you statistics of how many times you've played each activity, which activities you've played most recently, and the total amount of calories burned and time spent playing each activity.

F) Finally, there's a Group option that lets you select a group to work out with. You'll be able to view the group's statistics and leaderboards as a way to further incentivize you to work out.

There are substantial improvements in the Wii U version of the game:

- For Yoga and Strength Training, unlike with previous versions of the game, you can choose either a male or female trainer. The female trainer has gotten a bit of a makeover-she has a little more color and definition than before doesn't look at pale and ghostly as she once did. They're done an amazing job with the trainer's animation so you can see exactly what the proper form is from any angle. You can use the GamePad or Wii remote's arrow buttons to get a 360 degree view of the trainer from any angle, and use the 1 and 2 buttons (or X and Y buttons) to zoom in and out to get a close-up view.

- For Yoga, Strength Training, and Dance, there's a new feature called "mirror mode" that lets you see an actual video image of yourself next to the trainer. This one is a little tricky to set up-you definitely need a GamePad stand, and you need to put it in just the right place, preferably about 5 or more feet away from you (obviously, you'll need to do the navigating with a Wii remote instead of the GamePad). Once you get it set up right, you can see a real-time video of yourself next to the Wii Fit U trainer, and you can match his or her moves precisely. The system doesn't attempt to use video to judge if you're using the right form, but you can easily eyeball whether you're doing the moves correctly or not.

- You can press the "-" button to swap the action between your Wii GamePad and the TV. This way, if you or someone wants to watch TV, you can continue your exercise unabated.

- After you finish an individual exercise you'll get a recommendation of which one to do next.

- As I've mentioned the game makes great use of the GamePad to provide a new dimension (literally) to many of the activities. It adds a lot more depth to the games to be able to view the action from multiple angles.

- Your "piggy bank" of calories and time expended in the lower right-hand corner has a personality now and will change colors and hop around as you progress in the game.

- I like how there's an option to switch players without having to restart the game, for situations at parties or family gatherings where you want to take turns playing. Speaking of taking turns playing, there's also an option on the main menu to load up certain games where users can compete against each other by taking turns. I would have liked to see them support multiple balance boards for head-to-head action, but it looks like that's just something they're going to support.

As for negatives, I have to admit there aren't many. I do have the same gripe with Wii Fit U that I had with Wii Fit, that many of the activities (even the aerobics and strength training ones) are so short they don't really get your heart pumping at an elevated rate at a vigorous or even a moderate intensity zone. But then again if you string enough activities together and do them in a rapid-fire you can certainly get close. My other gripe is about the GamePad battery-it runs out way too fast, especially when you're trying to use it as your main screen, so you basically have to keep it plugged in most of the time.

All in all, Wii Fit U gets a solid 5 out of 5 stars from me. It's that good. It takes all the best things from the original Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus, but also adds a lot of enhancements and new features that take full advantage of the Wii U. For example, graphics are faster and cleaner, and the GamePad isn't just a gimmick like it is in some other games-they did a great job of using it to really enhance the enjoyment of the game. There are enough new activities to make the game feel fresh and new, and yet they kept enough of the old to keep it familiar. And the games are easy to learn, but have great replay value as well, something great for workouts or friendly competition between family and friends.

Would I go so far as to say that if you don't have a Wii U, that this game is so good that you should run out and get one? It really depends. If you're just looking at the Wii U solely for fitness gaming, there are a growing number of alternatives out there such as the Xbox One's Xbox Fitness service (which "gamifies" old exercise videos), products such as Goji Play) which let you turn your iPhone or iPad into an exergaming system, and of course a ton of fitness trackers from the likes of FitBit, Nike, and Jawbone that let you track daily activity. Each of these has their strengths and weaknesses.

That said, if you're already considering the Wii U because you to play some of the excellent first-party games that have recently been released such as The Legend of Zelda, Pikmin 3, or Super Mario 3D World (or upcoming games like Mario Kart 8 or Super Smash Bros), I'd say Wii Fit U is definitely a title that would put me over the edge. Many of the new fitness activities are a ton of fun just to play as games, the Wii Fit Meter makes a viable alternative to the more expensive FitBit or Nike Fuel for tracking daily activity, and for all of its recent struggles, Nintendo is still the one to beat for the humor, creativity, and originality in their games.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 14, 2014 9:53 AM PST

Zumba Fitness World Party - Nintendo Wii
Zumba Fitness World Party - Nintendo Wii
Offered by NYC Electronics
Price: Click here to see our price
51 used & new from $16.55

126 of 131 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another very good Zumba title with improvements such as live action video instructors and a world travel theme, November 9, 2013
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Zumba Fitness World Party is the latest version of Zumba Fitness to hit the Wii. For those keeping score, the other versions have been Zumba Fitness, Zumba Fitness 2, and Zumba Fitness Core.

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

The options on the main menu are:

-World Tour
-Full Class
-Quick Play
-My Zumba

"World Tour" is a new "adventure mode" where you can travel virtually to different parts of the world. The areas of the world you'll be "visiting" include Brazil, the Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii, India, Los Angeles, and Puerto Rico. When you visit each part of the world, the playlist reflects the music of that region, which is pretty cool. Here are the songs in each region, along with the genres and exercise intensity:

Brazil (Afro Samba, Capoeira, Brazilian Funk, Samba, Axe, Brazillian Pop, Reggae)
Na Ponta Do Pe - Medium Intensity
Batucada Dance - High Intensity
Garota Nacional - Medium Intensity
Ruas Encantadas - High Intensity
Coisa Brasileira - Medium Intensity
Mas Que Nada - High Intensity

Caribbean (Dance Hall, Cumbia, Calypso, Reggae)
Vibes - Warm Up
Marioneta - Medium Intensity
Loco - Medium Intensity
Caribbean Dream - Medium Intensity
Pega Pega - Medium Intensity
True to Myself - Cool Down

Europe (Irish Step, EDM, Burlesque, Russian Folk, Flamenco)
Clarity - Warm Up
The Beggerman Jig - High Intensity
Una De Salao - Medium Intensity
Russian Dances - High Intensity
Put the Gun Down - High Intensity

Hawaii (Hawaiian Pop, Traditional Hula, Modern Tahitian, Hawaiian Reggae)
Maoli Girl - Low Intensity
Haleiwa Hula - Low Intensity
1865 (95 Degrees...) - Low Intensity
Jungle - High Intensity

India (Bollywood)
Mashallah - Medium Intensity
Indian Moonshine - High Intensity
Boro Boro - High Intensity
Kaim Rahe Sardari - High Intensity

Los Angeles (Pop, Hip-Hop, Swing, Blues)
Beam Me Up - Warm Up
Born This Way - Medium Intensity
Shake Your Hips - High Intensity
Next to Me - Cool Down
Exotic - Medium Intensity
Puttin' on the Ritz - High Intensity
Do You Feel Like Moving? - High Intensity
Came Here to Party - High Intensity

Puerto Rico (Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, Latin Pop, Reggaeton, Girly Funk, Bomba/Plena)
Limbo - Medium Intensity
Bailando Por Ahi - Medium Intensity
Echa Pa'lla - Medium Intensity
Corazoncito Bonito - Low Intensity
Perros Salvajes - High Intensity
Aguanile - Medium Intensity
Zumba Boricua - HIgh Intensity

For each country, you earn "Zumba Miles" for dancing to the first two songs, and then use those to unlock subsequent songs. Note that this only applies to the World Tour mode; in the Full Class and Quick Play modes, all 40 songs are already unlocked.

During the course of the "World Tour" you'll unlock "passport stamps", "souvenirs", and "postcards" as you dance. There's really not much challenge to earning these-just dance with some semblance of accuracy and you'll see these goodies awarded to you throughout your dancing.

To get started, you first put your Wii remote into your Zumba Fitness Belt, which is included with the game. There's nothing really special about this belt other than having the Zumba logo on it, it's just a piece of flimsy plastic with a pocket that your put the Wii remote in. As with prior versions of the game, the key is to put the remote "up-side up" so that the power button is closest to your face and the "A" button is facing towards the TV.

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

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

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

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

When you hit the right moves, you'll see the words "Zumba!", "Nice!" or "Hot!" appear on the screen, and the more precisely you dance, the more stars you earn. To test the motion controls, I did a little experiment where I just sat on the couch and waggled the remote--and sure enough the game was smart enough not to give me credit for doing that. That said, when I actually danced the way I was supposed to, it wasn't difficult for me to get 4 or 5 stars each time--even though my form was really, really bad. It seems that as long as you're "close", the system will reward you for trying. So you're kind of under the "honor system" to really put your all into the dancing and to try to learn the precise moves each time you play.

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

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

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

You can also view the postcards (signed by Zumba instructors standing in front of scenes from the different countries) and souvenirs (photos of cultural trinkets and knickknacks) that you've earned in your "World Scrapbook".

This section also has "Learn the Steps" where you can choose a dance style, basic step, and speed and master it. As I mentioned before, there's no training option where they break down each individual song, but by mastering the basic steps for each song you'll basically be able to tie them together when dancing the full songs.

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

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

Another nice things about the Wii version of the game is that is supports up to four simultaneous dancers, who can be dancing anywhere in the room. With the Xbox 360 (and One) versions, you're limited to two players standing within camera range.

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

There are some minor annoyances in the game, mostly having to do with really bad user interface design. To select menus, you need to be ultra precise with the Wii remote to click on menu options, and you generally can't use the arrow button to navigate. During the Tutorial mode, you can't just use the arrow button on your Wii remote to move to the next dance, you need to take out your remote from your belt each time. While you're dancing the World Tour, between songs you'll see a screen that flashes for about half a second, which doesn't give you any time to read what it says. There are many more user interface annoyances that a fourth-generation game really shouldn't have.

Also, anyone who's expecting a game that'll help your Zumba technique might be disappointed in the motion tracking, which really only measures whether you're putting in an effort.

Still, as before, if you're a Zumba enthusiast, chances are you'll be able to overlook the flaws and be very happy with this one. The live action video dancing is an excellent new feature, and the new "world travel theme" that really provides incentives for you to keep dancing.

So the 5 stars I gave it is based on the assumption that if you're on this page you're already a Zumba fans or are someone who's interested in trying Zumba. But for those just looking for a general exercise and fitness game, the user interface annoyances probably move it closer to a 4 star game, and I'd probably still give the edge to a game like Wii Fit U or Your Shape 2013.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 18, 2014 4:33 PM PST

Wii U Fit Meter
Wii U Fit Meter
Offered by Direct To Customer
Price: $9.69
80 used & new from $3.77

164 of 169 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For owners of the Wii U and a Balance Board, a great alternative to FitBit or FuelBand, November 2, 2013
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Wii U Fit Meter (Video Game)
As most people know by now, Nintendo has a special deal for anyone who's a Wii U owner and already owns a Wii Balance Board. If you download the free 31-day trial version of Wii Fit U from the Nintendo eShop, all you have to do is purchase this $19.99 Fit Meter and register it in-game to convert the trial version into the full version. Considering that the retail bundle of the physical game + Fit Meter will cost $49.99--and won't even be released until 1/10/14--you can save $30 and get the full game right away. (The deal is only good until 1/31/14).

The unit itself is about the size of an Oreo cookie. The unit is fairly light, and its edges are smooth and rounded. While marketing images of the Fit Meter showed it in a lovely green color, Fit Meters currently come just in black/grey in North America.

The Wii U logo is on top, and on the bottom there are three buttons: a left and right arrow and a round button in the middle. The unit has a 1" x 3/4" LCD screen. As light as it is, the unit seems fairly durable; I've dropped mine a few times already and it's none the worse for wear. That said, I'd still handle it with care; the unit is covered by Nintendo's 12-month warranty, but that likely won't cover dings and scratches.

There's no backlight but the LCD display is pretty readable. Happily, the battery appears to be easily replaceable. You unscrew a single Phillips screw on the back of the unit, which reveals a CR 2032 watch battery. Because of some smart battery-saving techniques, the one battery should last you many months, if not longer (the LCD screen display only turns on when you press the button, but after a few minutes the screen will go into "sleep" mode, shutting off the display but still tracking your motions throughout the day).

When you power up the unit (by removing the plastic tab covering the battery), you'll see an icon of the Fit Meter next to an icon of the Wii U GamePad on the LCD screen. I took this as my cue to start up Wii Fit U to register it. When you do so, make sure that you're signed in to the profile that you want associated with the Fit Meter. While multiple users in Wii Fit U can use a Fit Meter, each person would need to have his or her own.

To get started with the registration process, you can simply click on the bouncing Fit Meter in the game. Then, click on the "Register" button. You'll be told to point the Fit Meter to your Wii U Gamepad. It took me a few tries before I realized I had to point the *top* of my Fit Meter to the *top* of the GamePad.

You then press and hold the middle button on the Fit Meter, and then you'll see a "Transmitting Data" screen. Lo and behold, in a few seconds, you'll see your Mii's face magically appear on the LCD screen. In a way that reminded me of a Tamagotchi, your Mii's facial expressions will change from time to time, giving your device a bit of a personality.

You basically clip it on your waist, and your movements will be tracked throughout the day. The Fit Meter is a pedometer that track steps, of course, but it does a whole lot more. It also tracks your altitude, displays the current time, displays the current temperature, and shows how many calories you've burned. I was pleasantly surprised that unlike other pedometers, this one seemed to be pretty accurate at tracking actual steps and of negating false positives (other pedometers I've had would give me 10 steps just for sneezing or dropping it). Walking is based on both number of steps and stride, so brisk walking or running is differentiated from casual movement. Similarly, it's smart enough to differentiate altitude changes when you walk vs. when you go on an elevator and "credit" you the right numbers.

There are actually a lot of neat little features on the unit itself. Pressing and quickly releasing the middle button let me scroll through various tiny graphs on the unit, including a METs graph (Metabolic Equivalents, basically a measure of exertion), an altitude chart, a chart of calories burned by week, and settings for volume (of the various chirps the unit makes) and for contrast of the LCD display.

Moving forward, whenever you start up Wii Fit U and select your profile, the system will ask you first to point your Fit Meter to the GamePad and sync the data.

After you register your device some things in Wii Fit U will change as well. First, you'll notice that your Mii is now wearing the Fit Meter on his or her waist. There'll also be two new menu options:

The first is called "Fit Meter Data", where you'll be able to view data transferred from your Fit Meter, with detailed information for each day. You can see the number of METs expended each day, by the hour of the day, whether you're running, ascending, descending, walking, doing light activity, or resting. Over time, it's fascinating to look for patterns in your daily activities.

The second is called "Fit Meter Challenge" where you can use your Fit Meter data and challenge yourself to complete "courses" from around the world. You can choose walking challenges or altitude challenges. For example, if you choose a walking course in New York, you're shown a blank map of New York City with a running path from Midtown, up to Central Park, down through Times Square, and down the West Side to Battery Park for a total of 13 miles. Each time you open the map, you'll be given the option of getting "credit" for the miles you've put onto your Fit Meter since the last time you synced the data. You'll see your little Mii progressing along the path, with buildings being filled in to the blank map, and coins "blinging" along the way (which, ever since the first Mario Bros. game provides me with a Pavlovian sense of happiness). You'll also get some nice encouragement from the animated Balance Board with each milestone you hit. Similarly, you can choose altitude challenges; for example, climbing the equivalent of the Statue of Liberty, Mount Fuji, or Mount Everest. It's a nice added incentive to rack up as many miles as you can on the Fit Meter.

If you have exercise goals set up in Wii Fit U, the system will determine from the synced data if you've met those goals through your daily activity, and if not, will suggest additional activities within the game for you to complete your goals.

Overall, I'm very pleased so far with the Fit Meter. I'm not a hardcore athlete, but I do run to catch the train most mornings, and many afternoons after work I opt to take the 20 block walk back to the train station rather than taking the subway. I've been thinking about getting a FitBit or a Nike+ to track my exercise, but those have been prohibitively expensive. I've also tried using iPhone apps, but it's always hard for me to remember to turn them on and off. For me, the Fit Meter seems like a natural and hassle-free way for me to give myself "credit" for the energy I exert through the day--and to use the data to find ways to improve. It's definitely a "must buy" if you own a Wii U and a Balance Board.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 31, 2014 7:38 AM PST

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