EA Sports Active Review (Wii)
There was a time when working out meant going to a gym, or at the very least, venturing outside. To be honest, I wasn’t very good at doing either consistently. Thankfully, fitness games have made "in-home" training possible.
To varying degrees of success, a number of games have made getting in shape comparable to playing games and earning achievements. In some cases, like Wii Fit, fitness is about having fun in a relaxed workout environment. But EA Sports Active, EA’s first foray into the fitness game market, is about a more intense workout experience.
Instead of mini-games that promote fitness, Active is more of a virtual trainer. It replaces mini-games and yoga with actual workout activities. Some come close to what we’ve seen before (inline skating, aerobic boxing), but many are mundane by comparison: biceps curls, lunges and even jogging.
That’s right, you’ll spend some of your virtual workout time running in place. This is made possible by one of two included accessories: a pocketed leg strap -- it makes for an innovative use of the Wii remote. By slipping your controller into the leg strap, the Wii remote is able to track leg movements, such as high stepping or the aforementioned lunges. The strap itself is easy to use and seems to be of high quality.
The same can't be said for the other packed in item, a resistance band. While I had no trouble using it, I had a lingering feeling that it could snap at any moment. It didn’t, and perhaps it won’t, break, but the band feels very cheap. Also, it didn’t give me much much resistance at first -- I followed the game’s advice and folded the band over under my feet to shorten its total length. Even though I did what the game said, folding the band over seems like a short-term solution for a lasting problem. In other words, you might be better off purchasing a higher quality band.
Gym Class Is in Session
So with these two packed-in items in place, I began a 30-day workout regimen. If you do not want to worry about a 30-day regimen, you can also simply do a quick workout, made up of either a preplanned routine or a selection of your favorite activities.
However, before you hop into a workout, you can customize your in-game avatar. The customization tool you use looks like the Wii Tiger Woods creation tool, but with far less options. But, obviously, the minimal amount of avatar customization is not crucial to the success of the game -- for the record, my boyish good looks were adequately represented by my virtual self.
Next, you enter some personal information and pick your trainer, either male or female. Your in-game trainer gives you advice, encouragement and instructions for the various exercises you’ll participate in. You can also set the intensity of the workout.
The workouts themselves seemed to be very effective. The day after my first workout, I was pretty sore; I consider myself to be in decent shape, and I also play sports often. Still, this game made me sweat and was a pretty intense experience. My soreness disappeared as I continued the program, but each workout definitely pushed my endurance.
I was pleasantly surprised by a few aspects of Active. First, there are trophies for various achievements, not unlike those you earn on the Xbox 360 or PS3 (there are even little trophy icons that differ for each achievement).
Next, this "game" has some data tracking that’s a little more in-depth than Wii Sports. You can complete daily surveys that assess your level of activity, nutrition, sleep, stress, etc. It’s not exactly a comprehensive exam, but it does a good job of giving you a constant evaluation of these external fitness aspects. I also like that it takes into account outside activity, such as recreational sports or yard work.
Finally, like most EA products, this game is a slick and polished package. It’s got a pleasant front end and is very user friendly.
What Could Have Been Better
That said, I encountered a few flaws. First off, you are stuck with the generic music EA provided. As much as EA touts licensed music in all of its sports games, it’s missing quality tracks in a game where familiar music might have been more appreciated.
Also, while the controls usually work seamlessly, within certain activities the game did not always recognize my exact motions. And while the trainer can provide good instructions, he/she was not that great at figuring out what I was doing wrong. Thus, my frustration level rose more quickly than my heart rate during some activities.
Still, many of the activities were very fun, and even jogging was surprisingly rewarding. However, I do wish there were more activities, as a few became repetitive -- they also seemed to be the ones I found least fun to begin with.
My only other complaint is the length of the workouts. Active isn't something that you can jump in and out of like Wii Sports. You need to dedicate a good 30 minutes or more -- just like going to the gym -- if you want a full and meaningful experience. This time includes the actual workouts and taking the surveys. I do think I would have been more faithful to the game if the workouts could have been broken down into two shorter sessions.
Either way, this game is a serious workout tool. Perhaps not as effective as a real trainer at a real gym, but more "down to business" than Wii Sports or Wii Fit. My results were pleasing, but I must admit that I missed a day or two during the whole process.
Note: it is possible to use the Wii Fit board with this game, but I did not use one for this review.
In the Gym: Fun activities that really make you sweat. A few are repetitive, and the total number could have been higher, but these are serious exercises that seem as effective as they are fun.
Graphics: Not really important here, but pleasant and slick. A very uniform and polished appearance.
Sound: Bland music doesn’t help. You’ll probably end up using your iPod or stereo.
Entertainment Value: Decidedly less of a game than a tool for getting in shape. It’s not necessarily meant to be entertaining, but it does a good job holding your interest and keeping its users coming back. The included apparatuses are of varying quality, though, it’s nice not to have to buy additional attachments to play the game.
Learning Curve: Very friendly interface that holds your hand throughout most of the workouts.
Score: 8.5 (Excellent)