It has now been over a year since Wii Fit launched on the Wii, and in that time, a new genre has been created: the exercise game. Eager to jump on the bandwagon, third-party publishers for the Wii and DS starting pumping out workout programs, but none of them were really able to match the variety and intensity of a gym workout with a personal trainer. Even Wii Fit, which I have been a very vocal fan of, had some serious shortcomings, and I was hoping that EA Sports Active could take the exercise game to the next level. I have now spent one week with Sports Active, and I must say that I am really pleased with how far EA has taken the workout on the Wii.
Like other games in the genre, EA Sports Active requires you to make a personal profile before you get started. You can create a character, and while the design options are limited, this has no effect on the actual workout. After getting set up, you can either start a workout and give yourself some goals, or choose the 30-day challenge and have the game set up a workout playlist and list of accomplishments for you. The 30-day challenge is a fantastic option for those serious about sticking to an exercise regimen. The game will present you with three goals, which you can modify: calories burned, hours spent exercising, and number of pre-selected workouts completed. You will be able to see how you are progressing after every workout, with the game keeping track of your calories and time for you.
My two biggest complaints about Wii Fit were the lack of serious aerobic exercises, and the fact that you had to keep choosing a new activity after each one was finished, instead of designating a list of workouts for you. EA Sports Active fixes both of these issues, making it the top workout game on the Wii in my book. The game will give you what is essentially a playlist of short exercises, one after another, based on the difficulty level you choose. As you progress, the workouts get harder, with more reps added. Also, there are instructional videos featuring an actual human (your trainer) doing each activity, which really helps you see whether or not you are doing it correctly. The fact that EA Sports Active throws one activity after another at you keeps you from slowing down or losing motivation, and before you know it, 20 or 30 minutes will have passed and you will be drenched in sweat.
If you are wondering whether or not EA Sports Active will actually be able to physically challenge you, I can tell you that it had me sore all week. I thought that I was fit enough to handle the most challenging workout level, but I struggled to do so that first day. In addition to track exercises, Active includes things like boxing, squats, and various strength training for the arms, among many other activities. The variety is fantastic, though you will often repeat some actions multiple times in the same workout; this is to raise your endurance and push you further.
EA Sports Active introduces two new peripherals to the Wii: a leg strap for the nunchuk, and a rubber resistance band. While I personally didn’t have a problem with the resistance band, I have heard stories of the bands snapping for other people, and I could imagine it being a problem for taller, stronger gamers (I’m only 5’3 without shoes). Though it does seem like the band could have been higher quality, I must say that it got the job done. The resistance band helped to work out my arms in a way I had never done before, and since I really need to work on my upper body strength, this was fantastic. The leg strap is a simple but effective tool used mostly for running, but also for several other exercises. Additionally, EA Sports Active is compatible with the Wii Fit balance board, but doesn’t require it. The balance board enhances some already-existing activities, adding even more variety, but if you don’t have it, you honestly won’t feel like you are missing anything.
In addition to providing you with effective and varied workout programs, EA Sports Active also includes a journal used to track your eating habits, physical activities outside of the game, and other health attributes. While it’s not completely representative of your health outlook (the question about how much time I spend in front of a computer seems unfair, since I work on the internet), it is a good indicator of your general lifestyle. It also goes even further towards making EA Sports Active feel like a complete package, and not just another workout game thrown together to cash in on a new trend.
Though EA Sports Active does a lot of things right, it still has some flaws. The biggest problem is motions not registering properly at times even though you are replicating the trainer’s movements perfectly. This can be frustrating, and really breaks up the flow of your workout. Also, no matter how good this game is, it still doesn’t take the place of a personal trainer making sure that you are doing everything correctly. There is one more important thing to keep in mind: EA Sports Active is still not going to do the job for you. If you want to lose weight, get fit, or just be healthier all around, it is up to you to put in the effort. If you loathe exercise, this isn’t going to change your mind. It’s called a game, but EA Sports Active is still physically challenging, moreso than any exercise program on the Wii before it.
Despite the few issues I had, overall I am extremely impressed with EA’s first foray into Wii workout games. EA Sports Active has not jumped on any bandwagons; instead, it has set a new bar for what exercise games should be. After one week, I can already see and feel results, and I have every intention of finishing out my 30-day challenge, as well as sticking with it beyond the initial 30-day period. Whether you have gotten bored with every activity in Wii Fit or you are looking for your first Wii exercise game, EA Sports Active will make you sweat, and for all of its benefits, it is totally worth the $60 price.