Namco Bandai's fitness-based Active Life series has had two moderately successful entries on the Wii. Designed for use with a special mat controller, the games follow loose themes and provide vaguely fitness-like activities to generally solid success. At E3, I got to spend a little time with the latest entry in the series, Active Life Explorer. Its target audience won't likely be disappointed.
The pad itself is the same as the previous ones, identical to the bottom-side layout of the classic Nintendo Entertainment System Power Pad. The only difference is that the buttons are labeled, with two up arrows, two down arrows, two square buttons in the center, one left arrow and one right arrow. The idea is that two people can play at once, one per side, but in practice, this would only work for very young children. Many single-player exercises use the entire pad to its potential, but as an avid Dance Dance Revolution fan, I felt that the layout was a little awkward.
Active Life Explorer had 12 minigames on display — half of the full set for this entry — but due to time constraints, I chose to play one: a simple but efficient game of Whac-A-Mole with crocodiles. The only mechanical abnormality is the occasional blue croc, which is worth two points. Notably, the game didn't penalize incorrect taps or reward timing in any way, resulting in a child-friendly and simple movement challenge. On the Normal difficulty level, crocodiles showed up in ones and twos.
The game's graphics were functional, with the not-Miis from previous entries still out in full force and usual cartoonish models and effects. The entire game has a thin Indiana Jones theme, and the results are somewhat entertaining.
The demo build didn't have anything beyond the minigames, but the full game will include a story mode, four-player simultaneous play on multiple mats, and eight-player round-robin party play.
Interested gamers will find Active Life Explorer in stores this fall. Copies with and without the mat will be available.
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