Wii Review

EA Sports Active: More Workouts

Things workout in the end

Between spring and autumn, I generally stave off the inescapable onslaught of physical decline by walking my tireless Siberian husky twice daily, running 10 kms every other day, and playing tennis twice a week. However, these outdoor pursuits and their required get up and go tend to have gotten up and gone once the lousy winter weather sets in. So with Christmas looming and my middle in danger of become as soft as the creamy-centred chocolates I will soon be sucking down despite the festive guilt, I turn my hopes for salvation from a sedentary relapse towards EA Sports Active: More Workouts.

In the most basic of terms, EA's latest interactive sports exercise package is what Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus would (or could) have been had Nintendo focused them as authentic health and lifestyle-boosting accompaniments rather than fairly shallow 'family fun' distractions that lack any lasting appeal for those truly serious about leading and/or maintaining a fitter, healthier lifestyle.

The core point of attraction with More Workouts lies firmly with its new 6 Week Challenge mode, which demands a fair return of solid commitment from the user and features all-new exercise and fitness activities not included in the original EA Sports Active Personal Trainer. Once armed with a personal Fitness Profile, user progress is tracked through an ongoing Weekly Journal that relays evolving stats and achievements such as collective calorie burn, weight loss (gain!), and the total amount of time spent working out.

The Journal also doles out mundane medals awarded for how many activity and performance checklist boxes are ticked at the end of each daily session. But, to be honest, if you're sweating along to More Workouts for an otherwise useless collection of virtual gold, silver and bronze medals, you're probably slogging through the experience for all the wrong reasons.

Faced with having to use More Workouts in conjunction with the Wii Remote, Nunchuk, Nunchuk Leg Strap, (stinky) Resistance Band, and the Wii Balance Board (none of which are included), future weight-loss superstars may feel somewhat intimidated with what appears to be a fiddly setup. Thankfully, however, that isn't the case, and each peripheral combination is integrated with a simplicity that allows the user to focus on the most important facet of EA's overall package: flailing around like an inebriated chimp.

For example, the step aerobic classes (which offer varying levels of difficulty and duration) use the Balance Board as the basic step, while the Wii Remote remains in one hand and the tethered Nunchuk is secured in a snug sculpted pocket on the Nunchuk Leg Strap. Once ready to go, the three elements work together to accurately track movements such as step/music synchronicity on the board, and the intensity of arms swings, knee lifts and kicks. More Workouts then immediately processes the information gleaned from the accessories and converts it into statistics such as calorie burn and movement intensity. Similarly, the surprisingly tiring skipping exercise sees the pocketed Nunchuk translating the user's vertical jump movements onto their on-screen character, while the Wii Remote must be swung tightly in a rhythmic skipping gesture to send the rope successfully beneath the avatar's feet and back over their head.

Not just connected to the 6 Week Challenge, facts and figures collected by the Journal also follow progress through the Preset & Custom workout mode, which is clearly something of an 'easy out' for those semi-serious or casual users who'd prefer a relaxed association with More Workouts. While Preset & Custom mode features a ton of varied but preset workouts perfect for a no-strings concentrated burst of exercise, it also enables users to select and stack individual activities into layered personal workouts tailored for specific needs or tastes. Essentially, when assessing the two central modes in More Workouts, the 'game' seems to ably cater for both the more dedicated fitness fan looking to secure another layer of fat-burning commitment, and also those with a similar inclination but with perhaps less time to spare.

And, for the most part, the fitness and exercise cogs making up EA's More Workouts machine will certainly inspire gradually more intensive outpourings of perspiration in those prepared to immerse themselves fully and remain dedicated to their preferred mode. However, and just like any other interactive exercise package, not all the fitness events in More Workouts are likely to find favour with those holding the Wii Remote or other related Wii Sports Active accessories. This is mainly due to fairly uninspired aesthetic design and presentation - not a shortfall readily connected to EA products - and for the simple reason that some activities tend to be somewhat heavy-handed in their execution.

For example, while the tropical island setting that exists as the backdrop for More Workouts is pretty enough without diverting attention from the foreground activities, its supposedly athletic residents are largely generic afterthoughts that lumber around without much grace. Also, endurance action on the squash court can be clunky and unresponsive, as is the balance event that involves switching feet while leaping from platform to platform. However, the majority of island activities work well, with the sparring and combo boxing station a notable standout, along with frantic bouts of paddle surfing, demanding water skiing, and any of the long distance or sprint-based runs. Of course, the more contained events, such as weight work or tonal exercises (with the Resistance Band) and warmup and warm-down stretches are all fine and provide a decent spread of coverage. Every More Workouts event also comes with an explanatory live-action video walkthrough, which helps when looking to correctly implement the different accessories and nail integral movements.

Given that many of us have no affinity for the financial wastage and self-obsessed machismo associated with gym membership - and the very notion of publicly displaying our hideous muffin tops fills us with dread - the initial paranoid discomfort of More Workouts is certainly worth suffering when gauging the eventual benefits. Granted, burning calories before the TV while waving the Wii Remote, wearing a Nunchuk garter, and prancing about with a giant red elastic band is something best pursued away from both prying eyes and reflective surfaces, but it doesn't change the fact that the overall package successfully creates and sustains a sweat-worthy momentum.

While both the aesthetic presentation and range of activities within More Workouts need to be pushed yet further across future iterations, if you can check your preconceptions and embarrassment at the door then EA's latest offering should definitely be considered as a genuinely worthwhile addition to any sensible and regular exercise plan. Delivering an effective blend of physical interaction and scalable challenge, More Workouts is an improvement over its predecessor, a vastly superior option to the onrushing crop of perennial celebrity workout DVDs, and easily the most convincing gaming exercise package on the market.

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