EA Sports Active Wii
Published by: EA Sports
Developed by: EA Sports
I don't think anyone can doubt that Wii Fit has been a phenomenon. It's taken months for supply to meet demand and the game has been at the top of the sales charts for an absurd amount of time. How good was it though? I was one of the many that bought it on launch day and I have to say that I whilst I'm impressed with the Wii Balance Board, I think Wii Fit could have been much better. Sure the mini-games were fun and some of the exercises were useful but there is plenty of room for improvement, particularly in the structure of the game, if you wanted to use it in a serious way to help keep yourself fit. EA Sports Active, whilst not perfect, is definitely going to please those who are looking for a more serious exercise program with exercises that are more suited to a western audience.
EA Sports Active comes with a nunchuk holding strap, which you'll fasten to your right leg (it allows for the detection of lower body movements), and a resistance band. It's also worth mentioning that several of the exercises support the Wii Balance Board and whilst it's not essential to have one, you're going to need one if you're to get the most out of the EA Sports Active experience. Whilst the Wii Balance Board definitely adds to the experience however, it's the leg strap and resistance band which allow the game to be a more involving and satisfying experience than Wii Fit.
Your first task will be to create a fitness profile (up to five can be created and there's also a guest pass option to allow any visitors to have a go at the game). You'll get to create an avatar that's used to represent you in the game and disappointingly the options are extremely limited. Once you're done you'll have access to your Journal, the 30 Day Challenge and preset and custom workout options. The Journal allows you to access workouts and take surveys that are supposed to make you aware of your healthy (or unhealthy) habits. You can also set goals for how many calories you want to burn, how many hours you want to work out for and how many workouts you want to complete.
The heart of the game is the 30 Day Challenge and on the first day you're given a choice of doing a low, medium or high intensity workout. You'll also get to choose whether or not you want to use the Wii Balance Board during the course of your exercises. Rather than simply dishing out the same exercises to you day after day, the 30 Day Challenge gives a different program each day to make sure you work different muscle groups and avoid becoming fatigued. This is a useful feature, as I've found in the past that I tend to suffer from muscle strain when attempting a program of exercise that isn't varied and it really does deter you from persevering. Of course you can opt to simply pick a preset workout or create your own custom workout if you wish (and you can even play against a friend via split-screen although the Wii Balance Board isn't supported in this mode and you'll need to purchase an additional leg strap and resistance band) but if you're as hopeless at exercising as I am, you'll certainly appreciate the way the 30 Day Challenge handles things in an effective manner. Once you're through with the 30 Day Challenge you can start a new one and increase the intensity if you wish. All of your progress is tracked on the calendar making it easy to see how you are getting on over a long period of time.
What you'll find in EA Sports Active is that there is a greater focus on providing you with a structured exercise regime rather than simply being a collection of exercises and fun mini-games as was the case in Wii Fit. It also feels more suited to a western (European and US) audience than Wii Fit in regards to the nature of the exercises that have been included. Exercises include running, walking, lunges, shoulder presses, squats and bicep curls to name a few. Some are sports-themed with tennis, boxing, inline skating and basketball exercises being included. These sports-themed exercises are more involving when the Wii Balance Board is used however. On the whole I found the exercises to be very enjoyable and they definitely get the muscles working but the resistance band doesn't seem to offer me a lot of resistance with some of the exercises (such as the bicep curls). It also seems as though it might eventually wear out and snap, although after a few weeks use it seems absolutely fine so maybe it's durability won't be a problem.
Graphically EA Sports Active looks OK. You won't find Mii avatars here and in some respects this helps to give it a more serious look than Wii Fit. During the exercises you'll see your avatar, whose movements correspond with your own, facing towards you. You'll also see a trainer avatar (placed in a picture-in-picture) carry out the exercises. This makes it easy to see what you should be doing and thus making it easier to keep in time with your movements. The information is well presented and the menus are clean and uncluttered making everything easy to read at a glance. Load times are quite short and the game has no graphical or frame rate issues to speak of.
For the most part, deaf gamers shouldn't have any serious problems with EA Sports Active. Perhaps the biggest hindrance is that the 'How to' video clips, that are provided for each exercise, are not subtitled. These video clips are not a waste of time however because you do get to see someone carrying out the exercises so even though you're missing out on the verbal instructions, you do get to see how the exercise should be carried out. The video that introduces the 30 Day Challenge mode isn't subtitled but this isn't much of a problem. During the exercises you'll receive words of encouragement and these are not subtitled. Whilst this is disappointing, it's far from being problematic particularly as words such as "Too Slow" or "Perfect" will appear on screen to let you know how well you are doing the exercises. All important information such as the amount of calories you've burned, the amount of repetitions you've done and the time taken are displayed. Surveys and trainer feedback information is all given in text. There are plenty of awards to earn for your efforts and you are notified in text when you have earned one.
Having used both EA Sports Active and Wii Fit I would have to choose EA Sports Active as the 'game' I would choose if I wanted to make a concerted effort to get myself into shape. The exercises are both effective and entertaining and I would definitely say this is the best fitness software so far on the Wii (and any other format for that matter). I did find that the resistance band did not offer as much resistance as I would have liked and I do have some doubts about the durability of it but despite my reservations, it's still intact after prolonged use so maybe it just appears to be more fragile than it is. For those of us who can't afford gym subscriptions and the motivational expertise of personal trainers (such as the inspirational Tony Little) EA Sports Active is a fun and affordable way to keep in shape and when you play a lot of games you're definitely in need of a game that's going to pep you up and help you lose that "couch potato" tag.