Publisher: Namco Bandai Games America
Developer: Namco Bandai Games
Release Date: September 9, 2008
Active Life: Outdoor Challenge is the first Wii game that attempts to cash in on the fitness craze begun by Nintendo's own Wii Fit device. Active Life seems to skew a bit toward the younger crowd, keeping the majority of the exercises fun and intended for kids, while at the same time being enough of a workout to keep the adults busy.
Active Life doesn't make use of the Wii Fit board, but instead comes bundled with its own thin mat, something similar to the Dance Dance Revolution style of mat, with a series of 12 buttons that are mapped to buttons on the Wiimote. You use the mat in tandem with the Wiimote to perform certain movements in line with the game or exercise in which you're trying to compete. For older gamers, this reminds me a lot of one of Nintendo's earliest accessories, the old Power Pad for the NES. The idea is pretty much the same, with the two center spots in place for your feet, where you can run in place at a steady pace to build up speed in most events, jump off the pad to make your Mii (or generically created in game character) clear a hurdle, or stand up on one leg to navigate a turn in the Mine Cart event.
The pad itself is light, but it feels pretty durable and is definitely responsive. My only complaint is that if you're playing a two-player event on the single pad, it can get a bit crowded, and it's easy to accidentally hit one of the top buttons (the plus symbol) and pause the game, screwing up the rhythm of whatever you were trying to do.
When you begin the game, you can choose to use one of your pre-existing Miis on your Wii, or you can opt for the generic male/female variations on the adult or child characters. They're kind of Mii-like, but they lack the variation on what you'd be able to create yourself. Assuming you're going the single-player route, you can then pick from Exercise Training, Outdoor Challenge or Free Play.
In Exercise Training mode, you can select a series of training types, such as Full Body, 5 Minute Easy or Hard, Relaxed Exercise, Upper Body, Lower Body and so on. After you select your workout, you'll be able to see the various games that have been chosen for the workout, and you complete them one after another to finish the entire exercise regimen. Every day that you participate in this mode will be tracked, and each exercise grants you a certain amount of points that are used to track your progress each time you play, so you can easily compare the amount of work you put into one day compared to the next. However, this isn't as much of an exact science as Wii Fit, in that you're not figuring out weight, height and BMI to calculate the amount of weight being lost. Instead, you're just comparing the amount of activity you did today against whatever you did the day before, and so on.
Outdoor Challenge presents you with various sets of three challenges each, starting with a beginner set and moving your way up into more difficult goals and challenges. You can even opt to create your own course setup, changing the difficulty, goals to end the course, and a few other small options, which is nice if you feel like you need to change things up or make the selected courses a bit harder for your skill level.
Free Play mode works exactly as it sounds: You pick any activity that you've unlocked so far and play it out until the end. This is perfect if you're just looking to play a game or jump into a quick two-player game. It's the same type of stuff you'll see in just about any title that revolves around a series of mini-game activities, with the only real drawback being that you'll need to play more of the Exercise Training and Outdoor Challenge modes to unlock everything in Free Play mode.
For multiplayer, with two players and local only, you can play together in Outdoor Adventure, compete against each other in Friend Battle, or try and work together on various games in Teamwork mode. Everything more or less plays out the same as in single-player mode, with no exclusive multiplayer games or anything that differs greatly from the single-player experience.
There are at least 17 different events that you can participate in across all the various modes. Each one obviously involves some form of exercise, but they play out like a game or a race, which is why I definitely feel like Active Life is geared toward the younger crowd, giving them a reason to participate in a more active experience than what you'll get with Wii Fit.
The activities include games like Timber Trail, which is a hurdle event and Mole Stomper, which uses all of the buttons on the pad as mole locations where you need to stomp with your feet. Then there's Kayak Attack, which uses both the Wiimote to simulate the paddle function and the left or right buttons on the map to control your direction down the river. There's also Mine Cart Adventure, Mountain Boarder, Pipe Slider and a few more that I won't completely ruin here.
I really feel that Active Life: Outdoor Challenge provides a nice alternative to Nintendo's Wii Fit, offering up easy-to-understand and legitimately fun games that the entire family can enjoy. If you've found yourself getting bored by Wii Fit's offerings, it might be worth the time to check out Active Life, since all of the activities are definitely exercise, and I found them to be far more engaging than the activities in Wii Fit.
However, if you're looking at the game as an alternative to Wii Fit's exercise, then keep in mind that it doesn't offer all of the same bells and whistles. There's no reliable way to track your weight and BMI, and your progress tracking is limited only to the points that you gain after each event. You're given a daily chart for these points, but there's no real way to translate that into calories or fat burned, so Active Life is much more of a "video game" than Wii Fit.
With that said, it's still a fun way to get some use out of your Wii, and since the mat accessory comes with the game, there's not a high price barrier involved when it comes to trying it out. Keep in mind it is priced a bit higher than your standard Wii title, but it's not near the Wii Fit's $90 mark.
I'd definitely suggest checking out Active Life: Outdoor Challenge, especially if you've got a house full of young ones that you'd like to see be a bit more active when it comes to their gaming time. It's a decent enough workout for adults, but the gaming aspect of it stands at the forefront, and as far as mini-game collections go, it's easily one of the better ones on the system today.
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