Category Archives: Game reviews

Consumer Reports compares home fitness games

Consumer Reports has just posted a comparison of console exergames Nike+ Kinect Training, Zumba Fitness Core (on Xbox Kinect), Just Dance 4 (on PS3 Move), Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 for WiiU, and UFC Personal Trainer (on Kinect).

Their impressions: Nike gets high marks for being advanced and offering an extensive library, Zumba is praised for being a cardio challenge as well as fun, Just Dance is mainly fun, Your Shape is good for beginners and UFC is…mainly for UFC fans.


Just Dance Disney Party for Wii: for kids of all ages

The Just Dance franchise, after producing two “Kids” games that lean more toward preschoolers with Wiggles and “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, finally has a “family” game that the whole family can enjoy. Just Dance Disney Party, available on both Wii and Xbox 360 Kinect (I tried the Wii version), combines both tween Disney Channel hits with classic tunes their parents and grandparents love.

Just like all the other Just Dance games, basic gameplay consists of picking a song and mirroring the dancing avatar. The dancers are films of real people superimposed on colorful backgrounds. You score points by holding your Wii remote as you dance. Some songs are “duets” with two dancers doing different moves, and if you’re playing alone, you have to select a dancer before the song begins. Multiplayer modes include “freeze and shake” where at points in the song, you either have to freeze or shake your remote as hard as you can. (We tried it, and prefer conventional dancing.)

There’s no real workout mode, but you can create playlists or play nonstop random songs for a certain period of time. In addition, a parents’ dashboard lets you see how long the game was played on what days and how many calories were burned, and there are even some health tips.

On the down side, there are only 25 songs, which is rather stingy for a dance game, especially at more than a dollar per song. (And some of them could be considered filler, like 2 songs from Tangled – why not 2 songs from Mary Poppins instead?) That said, they treat them really well; instead of soundalikes and generic backgrounds, they use the actual soundtracks (as far as I can tell) and iconic Disney art. On the movie-soundtrack songs, they have animations of scenes from the movie – e.g. “Everybody Wants To Be a Cat” from The Aristocats shows the jazz cat band in the background – and scrolling lyrics are especially enjoyable with songs like “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Be Our Guest.” There’s no Pixar, but they more than make up for that with the Muppet Show theme which has become the most-played song in our house. (Too bad this came out before Disney acquired Star Wars; it would’ve been fun to dance to the cantina song.)

Just Dance Disney Party should please Disney fans both old and young, and there’s plenty of material left for sequels!

(I received a free review copy of this game through the Amazon Vine program.)

Just Dance Kids 2: Exercise-in-disguise for the purple dinosaur set

I received a free copy of Just Dance Kids 2 for Kinect through the Amazon Vine program, so the following is a copy of the review I wrote for the game.

Vine reviewers with kids between the ages of 3 and 8 were asked to review this game, and I think that’s a good age range for Just Dance Kids 2. My 7-year-old enjoys this game, while my 10-year-old prefers the “big” Just Dance 3 Kinect game.

This game is structured slightly differently from JD3. When players jump in front of the camera to play, it takes a picture of your face, and with gestures you can select a cartoon avatar that’s either boyish or girlish. (That’s an important distinction for young kids!) The videos show actual kids dancing against colorful backdrops, and the steps themselves are much simpler and more repetitive than the regular Just Dance dances. The songlist is more kid-oriented than JD (“Lollipop” here is the “lollipop, lollipop, oh lolly lolly lolly” song, NOT the “sucking too hard on your lollipop” song in JD3) although not as large, and so far there’s no downloadable songs. It’s very easy for players to jump in and out mid-song, but make sure there’s plenty of room for them to jump around – it can get pretty chaotic! The “create your own dance” feature is also included and a lot of fun.

This would probably have the most appeal to the Barney and Yo Gabba Gabba set. The controls are easy to use even for the youngest gamers, provided the camera can see them. If they’re older and already listen to a lot of pop songs, Just Dance 3 may be a better buy.

Here is the song list, from the description on Amazon:

Hot Pop Songs for Older Kids!

  • Alright
  • Burnin’ up
  • Dumb Love
  • Feeling Good
  • On Our Way
  • I’m Gonna Catch You
  • Intuition
  • Just The Way You Are
  • Love Me
  • Positivity
  • Rocketeer
  • Whip My Hair
  • Song 2
  • Start All Over

Songs from kids’ favorite movies and TV shows

  • Accidentally in Love
  • Despicable Me
  • Hold Still – Yo Gabba Gabba
  • I Am A Gummy Bear (The Gummy Bear Song)
  • Jump Up!
  • The Robot Song – Yo Gabba Gabba
  • Follow The Leader – The Wiggles
  • The Shimmie Shake! – The Wiggles
  • The Lion Sleeps Tonight
  • Something That I Want

Fun Songs for Younger Kids

  • Party Goes Down
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Five Little Monkeys
  • Mah Nà Mah Nà
  • Girls Can Too
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  • Summer School
  • Hand in Hand

Classic Kid favorites!

  • Barbara Ann
  • Crocodile Rock
  • Istanbul
  • Jingle Bells
  • Lollipop
  • Shake Your Groove Thing
  • Hand in Hand

Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012: Results you can see

Jump rope minigame in Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012

Most of my favorite exergames emphasize the “-game” over the “exer-“, which is why I never really got into Wii Fit or other games that were built around workout programs.  But as luck would have it, I received a free copy of the Xbox Kinect game Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2012 through Amazon’s Vine program, so I’m going to make it part of my exercise regimen, for as long as it takes to write a decent review.

YSFE reminds me a lot of Exerbeat for Wii, in that it has a mind-boggling collection of activities, many of which have to be unlocked as you go along.  One group of activities is called “Activities”: these meta-activities are minigames that you can play by yourself or with up to 3 other people.

I tried an activity called Stomp It, which is like a cross between DDR and Simon.  As rhythmic music plays, lights scroll towards you on the floor in one of four directions, and you have to stomp the lights to the beat of the music.  Each time you stomp correctly, a brick is added to a huge circular wall around you, so when time is up, you can see gaps in the wall where you missed a stomp.

I found myself playing this game again and again, just to make a complete wall. Then it occurred to me what a brilliant idea this was. You could SEE the result of your work, and the visual, instant “reward” made me want to keep trying to improve it.

It’s like building a wall in real life, or completing a race, or moving an object from one place to another.  You feel more of a sense of accomplishment than if you just did two sets of jumping jacks.  And the results that most people want, like six-pack abs or bikini-ready buns, are so slow in coming (if they come at all, given the way most of us eat) that people often get discouraged and give up.

People like getting a pat on the back, and it looks like YSFE is full of visual pats. I’m on my second day of playing this game, and I’ll be blogging about it little by little.  Hopefully I’ll get results I can see in the mirror, but that’s a long way off, and I’m having fun building virtual walls in the meantime.

Party in the USA: In The Groove for PS2

In The Groove was a dance-pad arcade game that was inspired by DDR, so much so that it sparked a lawsuit by Konami that pretty much shut it down.  But before it disappeared, a PS2 version was made, and you can pick it up very cheap, new or used, at Amazon or Gamestop.

ITG was developed in the US to be sort of the American answer to DDR. Gameplay is essentially the same: step on a four-arrow mat in time with a row of scrolling arrows.  (Maybe if they’d rearranged the arrows like Dance Factory, they could’ve escaped Konami’s wrath.)  But instead of chirpy j-pop singers and anime-looking dancers, ITG has more instrumentals, more club-ish music and more streamlined graphics and sound effects for an overall more “Westernized” feel.  New features are also added: you can alter the arrows to make them wavy, dancy or twisty, add “mines” (round symbols that deduct points if you step on them) and “hands” (extra arrows forcing you to bend and hit the mat with your hand).

ITG with one of the many arrow variations

ITG also has a workout mode, and they were a couple years ahead of DDR in adding a doubles option to workout mode.  Like on DDR’s PS2 workout modes, you enter your weight and a goal (either time played or calories burned) and select individual songs, preprogrammed courses or Random Endless – play songs continuously for the time you selected.  I like to do Random Endless, because it shuffles all the songs on one difficulty you select.  20-30 minutes of songs on a difficulty level of 5 or 6, on a scale of 1-12, makes for a great steady-state cardio workout.

In The Groove fitness mode screen, courtesy of Gamefaqs

(It should also be noted that unlike DDR, ITG’s calorie counter is really screwed up, almost as badly as We Cheer’s.  I just ignore the calorie counter and select a time goal only.)

If you enjoy playing DDR on Endless mode for cardio, In The Groove is worth searching the bargain bins for.

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