As the weather turns colder and the days get shorter, keeping up a fitness routine can be a nearly impossible task. If you happen to live in one of the many, many places that experiences the phenomenon known as winter, then you know the last thing you want to do on a cold morning is putting on seven layers of clothing to go for a jog around the neighborhood as your snot freezes. That's where the Wii's seemingly endless parade of fitness games comes in, and one of the best of the bunch is the EA Sports Active franchise. Just in time for another chilly season, EA has released its follow-up title, EA Sports Active: More Workouts, and while this game offers considerably more than its predecessor, technical glitches and an uninspired workout routine make it tough to stick with this program.
This game, just like its predecessor, centers on simple, in-home exercises that can be performed with minimal extra equipment. Players will still need the leg strap and resistance band bundled with the original game (or an extra $20 if you don't already own them), and you can also use the Wii Balance Board for a few exercises, though it's not at all mandatory. Sadly, the lack of any upgraded equipment means that the same deficiencies from the last game are once again present here; the leg strap is prone to slipping on slick fabric, the resistance band is flimsy and doesn't really add much to the workout, and the exercises are still reliant on the sometimes spotty readings coming from the Wiimote and Nunchuk. Before you even start up the game, I'd highly recommend you find yourself a set of much sturdier bands, as well as a pair of weightlifting gloves to protect your hands from the harsh, digging straps the game provides.
The equipment is used for nearly 90 different exercises, a healthy dose of which are brand-new this time around. In addition to old classics like lunges and squats, More Workouts includes activities like waterskiing, step aerobics and a whole mess of ab workouts. One of the biggest complaints about the original EA Sports Active was that ab exercises were quizzically absent, but oh boy, that problem been solved. How much do you love doing leg lifts and crunches with punches? I hope the answer is "a lot," because you'll see them pop up in this game with a vengeance.
Some may be excited to hear that More Workouts has scrapped the original 30 Day Workout routine in favor of the new Six Week Challenge, adding a few more sessions to your fitness regiment. The game does a great job of varying your exercises from session to session and week to week, but even still, there are only so many different activities to go around. Most daily routines will find you doing a few select exercises twice, and in any given week, it's common to do at least one or two stations on three out of four workout days. While the game does a nice job of spacing out new exercises over the course of the Six Week Challenge so you're constantly running into something new and exciting, there's still a lot more repetition than one might expect from a game boasting so many different exercises.
In addition to setting up a weekly exercise schedule, the Six Week Challenge also presents players with a fitness journal used to track their diet and activities outside of EA Sports Active. While the journal is a nice start to a more total wellness picture, it's very flimsy and doesn't really add much to the experience. For one thing, it asks the same questions every day (i.e., How many vegetables did you eat? How many glasses of water did you drink? How motivated are you to exercise?) and forces you to guesstimate how intensive your workouts and activities have been. If I walk for 10 minutes at a normal pace, is that an intensity level of five or two? I've been told I'm a fast walker, so is it more like a seven? What would have made the journal really useful would have been if it analyzed your responses and gave you some personalized advice, such as recipes for dishes with more vegetables or healthy ways to flavor water so you'll drink more glasses of that and skip sugary sodas. Instead, the game merely provides generic information telling you that water is good for your cells or that vegetables are important for getting all your vitamins and minerals. Again, it's a start to something helpful, but a bit of a disappointing one.
Another good news, bad news situation is the new warm-up and cooldown stations that bookend each workout. Adding these stretches was a great idea given the dangers of exercising without proper preparation, but the exercises are rote and boring. Every day, you'll do the same four warm-up and cooldown stretches regardless of what muscles you've worked. Tell me, why do I need to do hip circles on days when I'm targeting my upper body? What purpose is there in doing shoulder rotations if I'm going to spend the time working on my legs and core? Just getting these exercises in the game was a good first step, but they fall short of being effective.
Another major shortcoming in the game is spotty motion control recognition and an extreme lack of feedback and helpful advice during exercises. The game seems to have a lot of difficulty accurately tracking the movement of the Wiimote and Nunchuk, sometimes misreading steps and rushing through exercises while other times forcing you to hold positions for extended periods that were never meant to be held. For example, when doing reverse lunges with high knee jumps, the entire motion is meant to be smooth and continuous, with your body in a constant state of movement as you complete each rep. Unfortunately, in More Workouts, you are forced to remain motionless in your lunge for a couple of seconds between every rep, ruining the flow of the exercise and causing you strain where there shouldn't be any. There are similar problems with squats, squash rallies and just about every other lower-body exercise. Running seems to be out of whack, too, and the game never could quite figure out just how fast I was pumping my arms and legs.
Things may have been slightly alleviated if the game supported MotionPlus, but even that doesn't address the lack of sensitivity in the Nunchuk so it's a bit of a lose-lose scenario. Furthermore, it's nearly impossible to tell if you have the correct form in any given exercise because the game is only reading feedback from the Wiimote and Nunchuk. You could actually be doing every exercise completely wrong and doing more harm than good, but you'd never know it so long as the controller ends up pointed in the right direction at the beginning and end of each rep.
In spite of all these shortcomings, though, EA Sports Active: More Workouts remains one of the more solid fitness games on the Wii for the simple reason that it produces results. The game tracks workout time and calories burned, and on the hard intensity level, it's not at all uncommon to work off 200-250 calories, which is not bad for anyone just trying to keep from putting on a few pounds. While the game might not turn you into a "Muscle and Fitness" magazine cover model, it provides a solid opportunity to work up a sweat and keep the pounds off as you hunker down for the winter months. This isn't a perfect fitness game by any means, but it's a viable option to get the family off the couch and keep them in at least decent shape until you can go outside again.Score: 6.7/10
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