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Up with doubles, down with diabetes: DDR II for Wii is out today

DanceDanceRevolution (one long word) II, with Stop Diabetes logo at lower left

DanceDanceRevolution II, which is actually the 6th game in the DDR series for Wii, hits the streets today.  Rather than compete with the Just Dance juggernaut, DDR II is turning to their old-school fans in several ways:  two-mat doubles mode is back (YAY!! :)), you can buy the game separately rather than in a mat bundle (another YAY!), and there is a “Stop Diabetes” logo on the box.

DDR and diabetes go back quite a ways.  The American Diabetes Association (who is behind the Stop Diabetes logo) printed an article way back in 2004 that called active video games like DDR “an effective means to reverse obesity and prevent diabetes.”  More recently, a study was announced that will directly compare DDR-playing with treadmill exercise in blood sugar control.

Get outside and play…DDR

A popular stereotype of gamers is that they’re antisocial creatures who never emerge from the basement.  But video games began as a face-to-face social activity – those of us between about 35-60 remember well when arcades full of coin-op machines were the social hubs of America’s youth, much like the drive-ins of “American Graffiti”.

Most of the arcades have gone the way of drive-ins, but a few are still hanging on, and DDR is one of the things keeping them in business.  A lot of “serious” DDR players practice at home, but consider the hulking DDR arcade machines with their metal-slab pads to be the only venue where their skills really count.  (In case you’re wondering, the steps for the songs are the same on both home games and machines.)  They hold tournaments on them and have casual meetups with their pals around the machine, and even help to clean and maintain the pads.  Customer-savvy arcade owners respond by setting up fans, letting players bring drinks as long as they don’t make a mess, and keeping the volume turned up.

I do most of my playing at home, but sometimes I treat myself to a few arcade games.  It’s easier to play doubles on a machine, with no shifting and separating of pads.  And for some reason, I feel like I burn more calories on a machine; at least my perceived exertion is higher.

Machines can be a little hard to figure out since a lot of them are in Japanese.  And you only get about a minute to pick a song, so don’t hem and haw too long.  (Here’s a hint: on the song wheel screen, press both arrow buttons at the same time to rearrange the songs into alphabetical order.)

The longtime DDR fan site DDR Freak has a list of machine locations that’s kept pretty much up to date.  So if you’re out shopping and have a pocketful of loose change, go burn it up on a mini-workout!

5 fun family exergames that won’t break the bank

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!  While you’re digesting turkey and pumpkin pie, you don’t want to get heartburn thinking about either all the money you’ll be spending on kids’ gifts, or all the tedious exercise it’ll take to burn off the holiday feasts.  Why not kill two birds with one stone:  pick up a bargain-priced exergame that will have the whole family both sweating and smiling.  Here are some of my favorites:

Hyper Dash

Wild Planet Hyper Dash. This exergame doesn’t even require a TV screen, and you can play it indoors or outdoors.  See my review here.  There is a newer version out, Hyper Dash Extreme, which picks up targets with each “hit”.

Track & Field Challenge

Track & Field Challenge. I found this mat game at Five Below for only $5.  Based on the classic arcade game Track & Field, T&FC is plug-and-play, no console needed – just add batteries and plug it into your TV.  It contains 10 different minigames that involve running and jumping on the mat, can be played by 2 players simultaneously (some games allow 4 players taking turns) and even counts calories based on your weight.

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Zumba, DDR, Just Dance Kids, EAS Active 2 and Jillian get game this week

This week may be your best chance to actually run into other exergamers and dancers among the Call of Duty fans in the video game section, as no fewer than five fitness/dancing franchises have new games competing for your console budget.

First, of course, DDR!  The latest Wii DDR game, DanceDanceRevolution (one word), is out, along with the first-ever DDR game for the PS3.  The PS3 game has a cool-looking mat and a new 8-button mode that uses the corners.  It also makes use of the new Wii-like Move controllers and the Eye camera.  No word on any new DDR for Xbox360 or (sniff) PS2.

Also heating up the dance floor are the new Zumba game for Wii, and Just Dance Kids.  Zumba Wii, which comes out a couple weeks ahead of the Zumba games for PS3 Move and Xbox360 Kinect, includes a waist or hip belt in which you store your Wiimote so it can properly gauge your booty-shaking.  Just Dance Kids is another entry in the sleeper-hit Wii series, for parents who’d rather have their six-year-olds dance to Wheels On The Bus than Rump Shaker or Baby Got Back.

Meanwhile in the virtual gym, EA Sports Active 2, EA Sports Active NFL Training Camp and Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2011 are elbowing for room.  EASA2 is available on Wii, PS3 and Xbox360 Kinect and looks a lot like its predecessor, with the addition of a forearm heart rate monitor and online support.  On Wii only, there’s also a more testosterone version of the game, NFL Training Camp, which features the same HRM and training drills like the pros.  (No indication of whether the Wii football can be incorporated.)  Finally, Jillian Michaels is back with her third Wii game, Fitness Ultimatum 2011, which includes a new “mission mode” in which you save the world from high fructose corn syrup.  Okay, let’s put some sweat on those controllers!

Lifetime TV features a video of DDR’s new choreography mode

The upcoming fourth DDR game for Wii, called simply DanceDanceRevolution, was featured on Lifetime’s morning show The Balancing Act.  In the video, the host demonstrates the game’s choreography mode.  It’s similar to the Hands feature of the previous DDR games for Wii, in which you held your Wiimote and nunchuck while dancing, and shook one or the other whenever a special symbol rose up to the top of the screen.  But in the new mode, instead of simply shaking the controllers, you have to make actual motions with them, such as stir-the-pot or even freezing one arm up in the air.  It reminds me of the underrated bargain-bin gem Boogie SuperStar.

Talk about a balancing act!

I would imagine that playing Boogie SuperStar and DDR simultaneously is hard enough, but I’m really impressed that the host can play AND chat with the Konami rep at the same time, while hardly missing a beat!

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