Get rewarded by Xbox for Kinect-ercising this month

Celery jock from Kinect Sports add-on Calorie Challenge, courtesy Xbox.com

Celery jock from Kinect Sports add-on Calorie Challenge, courtesy Xbox.com

Now that it’s Resolution Month, the people at Xbox Live are offering an incentive to work out in front of Kinect instead of driving to the gym or jogging on icy roads.  According to this page, if you sign up for Xbox Live Rewards, you can get up to 200 points in January for working out for at least 20 hours to certain active games and buying certain fitness game add-ons.

Eligible Game Add-ons:

  • Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012
  • Zumba Fitness
  • Your Shape Fitness Evolved
  • Zumba Fitness: Rush
  • Zumba Fitness: Core
  • Jillian Michaels Fitness Adventure
  • UFC Personal Trainer
  • EA Sports Active 2
  • My Self Defense Coach
  • Harley Pasternak’s Hollywood Workout
  • Nickelodeon Dance
  • Michael Phelps: Push the Limit
  • miCoach
  • Kinect Sports
  • Kinect Sports: Season Two
  • Nike+Kinect Training
  • Rapala for Kinect
  • Dance Central 1
  • Dance Central 2
  • Dance Central 3
  • The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout

If you’re new to Xbox, you have to sign up for both Xbox Live (the basic account is free) and Xbox Live Rewards.  Also, you may want to download the free Kinect PlayFit app which automatically tracks when and how long you played certain Kinect active games, and lets you compare your calorie burn with your online friends and the Xbox world.

Wii Fit U will be released in the first half of 2013

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Joystiq reports that the Wii Fit version for the Wii U platform, Wii Fit U (clever name!) will be coming in the first half of 2013.  The game will come with a pedometer in addition to the familiar balance board, so maybe they’re waiting for weather to be nice enough for walking here in the northern hemisphere.

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.)

New Wii bundle includes Sports and Resort for $130, but you still can’t plug in a mat

Fall 2012 Wii bundle

Nintendo wants to move a few classic Wii consoles before the new Wii U comes out next month, so they’ve put together a bundle that includes Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort (both on one disc), a Motion Plus Wiimote and a nunchuck, all for a suggested retail price of $130.  It should be on store shelves in a couple of weeks.

Be aware that this is the horizontally-oriented Wii that was introduced last year, that eliminated the four controller ports of the original Wii, so don’t expect to play DDR, Active Life or Cyberbike on it.  It can still be used for many other fun games, though, like the Just Dance series, Walk It Out (using a balance board or Wiimote), the Gold’s Gym games and many more.

(Via Joystiq)

Just Wow! Microsoft Store went from zero to hero in 24 hours

When ordering something online, no vendor will ever be 100% mistake-free, so I judge them on how well they fix their mistakes when they inevitably happen.  Well, Microsoft Store made a big booboo – and then they did the best thing EVER to make up for it.

MS Store was offering a sweet deal where if you preordered one of several Xbox 360 games, you got 1600 free Xbox points and a $10-off coupon.  I don’t usually preorder games, but since I felt confident about Just Dance 4 and I needed some points, I bit.

As the release date (today) approached, I stalked my emailbox for a shipping notice.  Yesterday an email from MS arrived, but instead of saying the game had shipped, it bore the soul-shattering headline:  “Microsoft Store – Order Cancellation Notice.”  It went on to say that the order had been cancelled, no reason given.  Whaaa??

I checked the order on the site: order cancelled, no game or points for me.  I chatted with one of their online CS people, who was very polite, but couldn’t tell me anything except they would look into it and respond within 48 hours.

At least I wasn’t alone in my confusion and disappointment.  People on sites like Slickdeals and Cheap Ass Gamer were also getting mysterious cancellations, and fuming.  Not much love for MS was being shown.

Then, last night, this email arrived:

Thanks for your recent order from Microsoft online store.

Due to a system error, your order was mistakenly and temporarily cancelled, and you probably got an email from us telling you that. The good news is that we were able to fix it, and your order is now back in our system and on its way to you. The even better news is that, to apologize for the confusion, we’re going to send your order to you for free, at no charge to you.

Not only will you get your order free, you’ll still get $10 off your next order and 1600 free Xbox LIVE points that you already had coming to you.

It’s our way of letting you know how much we appreciate your business.

Thanks for shopping at Microsoft online store.

Holy customer service, Batman!

When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is, and since my order was still showing up as “cancelled”, I called MS and spoke to a rep who could barely speak English and just reiterated what the online chatter said yesterday, that I would get a response within a day.  I hung up, not knowing what to think.  About 15 minutes later, my doorbell rang.

Just Dance 4 was there, shipped Next Day Air!  WOOOOHOOOOO!!!!

This might be the first time I’ve ever had a game in my hands before noon on release day, and FREE.  Thank you, thank you, Microsoft.  I would’ve been happy just to get the original order uncancelled, but they went above and beyond.

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