Games that push you physically are not so common. Mentally, sure, but not physically. EA are out to change that with the follow up to EA Active. The first thing you'll notice is that the game has a bunch of peripherals. Motion sensors, a heartbeat monitor, a resistance band and a USB receiver. They all work together to create an intense and precise workout plan, tailored to your needs.
The game starts with you choosing a trainer, from either the hard working, fun loving Devon, or the focused and motivated Nikki. They use some different workouts, but the difference between the two trainers is not huge. After you have picked, you are asked to input height, weight, age and gender information. Finally, you create a character to represent yourself. The options are very limited, but this isn't The Sims, so it's not a big problem.
The game has nine and three week workout plans, which both give you a few rest days, so for someone new to exercise, it's not too intensive. If you don't want to commit to something long term, you can complete a quick exercise, which chooses random workouts which last for around 15 minutes. This is probably better to start with as it eases you in slowly. Jumping straight in to a nine week plan could be a little overwhelming.
The activities themselves are fun, and can be exhausting. They each last from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes, so the variety in even a 15 minutes workout is enough to keep you interested. They vary from running on the spot, doing press ups, squats, skipping, jumping. Some activities incorporate two or three other activities, to really push you. A particularly fun and intense workout is cycling. On downhills, you must squat to increase speed. The lower your body, the faster your character goes. To go over ramps, squat and jump, and a jump at the perfect time triggers a stunt. Finally, to cycle up steep hills, run on the spot. This is one of the most varied and fun workouts to complete, and finishing the course is really satisfying. Whilst working out, your chosen trainer gives tips and words of encouragement, which is at times awesome, and at times a tad annoying. Some of the phrases are overused and it is often tempting to mute the game and use your own music.
The heartbeat monitor is a great feature, showing you how each of the activities affect your body. The motion sensors also work really well, especially when used with the Wii Remote. Your character does not follow your movement 1:1, not by any means, but it does follow the workout motions as you do them, giving great visual feedback. These all work together to give you, at the end of each workout, the amount of calories burned, your heart rate across the various activities and how well your performance was. This information is great in helping to decide which sort of workout is best for you, be it cardio, upper body, lower body, etc.
EA Active 2 is a great workout game. With lots of feedback and great tutorials, it is easy to get into and enjoy. The price obviously may put some people off, and it's not for casual gamers. This game demands a lot of attention and time, and whilst it will definitely be worth it, some gamers may underestimate the effort that needs to be put into this game. If you are looking to get fit, can afford the game and have strong willpower, this game is for you.
by Louis Gardner