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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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How to use DDR to work on your balance

Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2 for Playstation 2

A while back, I wrote a post about how you can get a fun and unique core workout using DDR.  This  time, we’re going to use the game as a fun little balancing exercise that you can do whenever you have a spare ten minutes, or just need to take an all-important break from sitting.

I got this idea while watching a “knee training” workout by Mark Verstegen, on the sportskool on-demand cable channel.  I’m a big fan of Verstegen’s Core Performance book series, in which the theme is that your body moves as one integrated unit.  Thus, if you’re having knee problems, it could be that your hips or other joints and muscles aren’t doing their jobs, and need to be retrained to take the load off your knees.  The many hours of sitting that people do nowadays is causing not just obesity, but also tight hips and “lazy” glutes.

One exercise in Mark’s workout consisted of hopping back and forth over a line, without letting the other leg touch the ground, and another exercise consisted of hopping from one leg to the other, pausing for a second each time to get one’s balance.  I thought, “that looks like a job for DDR!”  So I tried it out on the Wii game DDR Hottest Party 3, after shutting off the jumps in the options menu.  (This is on the main menu under Options and Individual Options.  You might also want to turn on Cut to get rid of faster steps.)

I played Lessons 1, 2 and 3 – all beginner level songs, but just by making a “rule” that only one foot could touch the floor at any time, they became quite a challenge!  Beginner songs are actually a little harder than “basic” songs when played this way, because they have fewer steps, causing you to have to balance on one leg longer.

This is a fun way to enjoy beginner-level songs (I like those “Lesson” songs) and if you have the PS2 or Xbox DDR games, you can use Edit Mode to craft a balancing workout for other songs as well.

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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DDR helps high school football team become “story of the year” in Georgia

The Butler HS football team in Augusta, GA has turned the beat around – from 41 straight losses to a 5-0 record – thanks to a benevolent school nurse and DDR!  According to an article/video from WJBF-TV, the nurse shared her DDR game (which she won in a contest) with the hapless team “as a joke”, but no one’s laughing now:

Because of Dance Dance Revolution, the Bulldogs say they have better reaction time, eye-hand coordination and footwork on the field.

“A lot of the pros use dancing as a way to improve their footwork. This is a low-cost way to improve our footwork here,” said Butler assistant coach, Ernest Tolbert.

Butler’s team and fans haven’t seen a squad with this much team chemistry in years.

“It just takes our mind off everything and helps us relax a little bit,” said Butler offensive lineman, Slyvester Hagins. “But, also, it helps us take care of business, too.”

But, really… How much has a video game carried the Bulldogs to their success this season?

“Anything that will have our guys play hard and have a certain amount of togetherness, I want to say 100% because our team is together on a lot of little things, and this is one of them,” said Coach Tolbert.

Now there’s a smart coach who knows that meeting your goals – whether you goal is to make more goals, lose weight or be healthy – depends not just on going through the motions, but togetherness and support.

(In case you’re wondering, it looks like they’re playing DDR Supernova 2, one of the better DDR games for PS2.)

A PS2 dance game + mat for under $5

If you’ve read much of this blog, you know I love a good deal, and right now a lot of those deals are on Playstation 2 console games.  The decade-old console may be going out to pasture (even though they’re still making new games for it) but it still has the best DDR games, in my opinion, and several dance game knockoffs were released for it right before the Wii stole much of the home exergaming spotlight.

One knockoff is High School Musical 3:  Senior Year Dance, a dance-mat game loosely fashioned after DDR and featuring songs from the popular Disney Channel series.  (Don’t confuse it with the Wii HSM game, which does not use a mat.)  I picked this up from Amazon at the incredible price of $4.08, and at this writing, the bundle’s price is only $3.63.  Yes, bundle – the game comes with a four-arrow dance mat that can be also be used with DDR or In The Groove.  The mat is a little thinner than the standard Konami mat, but for under $5, how can you complain?

And the game itself is actually not bad at all.  It’s based on the Disney Channel franchise of tween-aimed movies and music about a high school where kids sing and dance everywhere, like in Fame.  As in DDR, you step on a mat to cues set to the beat of a song, but here you watch for bubbles gliding out of the center of a ring of four bars, arranged like the arrows on the mat.  There are also jump and “freeze” steps, and while there’s no training mode aside from a very easy tutorial, the beginning mode is easy enough for anyone to get used to the gameplay whether you’re a DDR player or not.  Two players can play, in either versus or cooperative modes.

Many of the songs are catchy and danceable, if you can stand tween pop, and since this is Disney, no worries about inappropriate lyrics.  And there are a couple of neat features:  one is the Super Star mode, which is similar to the Star Power in Guitar Hero.  Once a meter fills up with consecutive steps, a star in the corner starts blinking, and if you jump on the X and O spots simultaneously, you get double points for a few seconds.  The other cool thing is the ability to create your own avatar, either male or female, give it any name and watch it dance in the background.

There’s no workout mode or edit mode or doubles mode (just a few “fan” extras like personality quizzes and a “yearbook”) but geez, a dance mat plus game for the price of a frappachino!  If you’re even slightly interested, jump on it with both feet.

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