I really wanted to write a scathing post about how I bought EA Sports Active 2 and that while conceptually the game is leaps and bounds ahead of the original, it just doesn’t work half the time. The thing is, when I did my weekly weigh in on Wii Fit Plus, I was down 4 pounds, finally hitting my BMI goal for the first time in the three years I’ve owned Wii Fit and only 1 pound away from my personal goal of weighing 160 pounds.
It’s kind of hard to write about something being a not so hot product when you see results from it anyway. Sure, a seemingly endless amount of yard work over the weekend coupled with my daily routine of lifting up my two 20 pound human weights every five seconds (my twin girls) and healthier eating choices helped reach this goal, but Active 2 gave me JUST the right amount of push to trim off those final few pounds.
I really like the idea of Exergaming, the gaming and exercising mash up that was introduced in the 80s but never really capitalized on until Nintendo blew minds with Wii Fit. While I’ve mainly stuck with just Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus along with EA Active 1 and 2 (why bother with the others?) they still aren’t perfect as far as I’m concerned. EA Active 2 (which I’m playing on PS3 BTW) is pretty darn close to being perfect. On the first EA Active I was getting nothing out of using the tension band and decided to switch to weights. The trouble is that it’s impossible to do those exercises while holding a Wii remote AND weights, so what I’d do is the set of reps and then tell the game to skip the exercise and move onto the next one. I wasn’t getting any credit for my work with those exercises, but I knew I was doing them and at the time that’s what mattered.
EA Sport Active 2 goes completely hands free so I could finally use weights and get credit for my work. Well, in theory anyway. The fact is, the sensors that are included to attach to your body work like shit. They mostly get the job done, but I’d say I end up having to skip by 2 or 3 of the activities per session. It’s kind of bullshit when all you want the thing to do is work and keep track of those lost calories and give you credit for that work you’re doing. Nothing is worse than doing a painful squat and having to smack the sensor on your leg in order to jolt it to make the game think you’re doing the exercise. I’ve already been giving up and just went back to my ways of how I treated the first one on Wii, so if my exercises aren’t registering, I just roll on with the set and skip it. If I had paid the original 100 dollar asking price for this package, I would be completely furious. That said, I paid 25 for it new on Amazon a few weeks ago, so I can’t complain too much really.
Wii Fit on the other hand, which I did pay 90 dollars for upon release, doesn’t have all the cool features EA Active does, but I never had a time where I didn’t feel like it wasn’t working. Wii Fit always works. It always registers what you’re doing, and in a lot of cases shows you crazy accurate stats to allow you to see how in control of your body you are. Nintendo knows how to make the thing feel more like a game than just an interactive exercise DVD, which EA Active tends to feel like. I love how Wii Fit, especially Wii Fit Plus with its new Balance Board Games feels like something you can get good at. Sure, maybe the player can do a full set of reps for a particular exercise, but how well did that person do them? Wii Fit is great for making someone want to achieve more with their workout while Active is just fine with those sensors being jolted. It’s a bummer that Active 2 pretty much falls in line with that, but I didn’t expect it to. EA attempts to hide gaming like activities in the game by including stuff like mountain biking, but again, it’s not really something you get improve upon or get good at nor does it feel a thing like actual mountain biking.
There was a point in time, maybe close to two years ago, where I was mixing it up between the first EA Active or Wii Fit, and to cool down, Punch Out!! Wii. Punch Out got a lot of flack for being unplayable with the balance board, and I suppose if you went into it blind it would be. However when you know the fights well enough it’s actually quite fun and challenging and it’s a good way to keep your body going for a few more minutes while having some fun playing a game. What would be really cool is if there was a exergaming title that had the challenge of Punch Out!! Wii (I’m not saying a boxing game, but a full fledged game mode), the perfect control of Wii Fit, and the huge amount of depth and content offered in EA Active. Wii Fit Plus was pretty close, with its fun mini games (skateboarding was particularly awesome) but it still lacked the depth, flexibility of Active, and with EA Active 2 that depth is even further beyond what Plus offers. Including something like a 90 day work out program where all you need to do is attend on certain days is pretty cool, as opposed to Nintendo’s approach where you’re pretty much just dropped into a situation with no real guidance.
I had told myself a few years ago I was out of the exergaming thing until there was a product worth looking at. I thought that product would be EA Active 2, and while it’s a solid improvement over the first, it’s still not exactly what I was hoping for. That said, the now cheap price point makes it worth looking into, but I’m glad I didn’t day one it like I had actually thought about doing. I doubt Nintendo will ever knock it out of the park like I’d like them too, so I get the feeling exergaming is pretty much where it will remain until the end of time. With stuff like the Zumba games taking off, it means my ideal exergaming title is even further out of reach. The fact of the matter is that this stuff is aimed mostly at middle aged women, and no offense to them, but they probably don’t mind the more Exercise DVD approach that these games offer. Considering that, there is no reason for publishers to think they need to push the actual game mechanics further than just having a sensor recognize a movement, and that’s the real bummer here.
So I’ll continue to play EA Active 2 for the foreseeable future, but I’m not sure when I’ll bite on the next exergaming title. There is still lots of work to be done with this genre, though I doubt anyone will ever truly push the genre past the point it could be.