Review of Just Dance 2014 for Playstation 3

just dance ps3 reviewWell, it’s been a fun ride, but with the recent release of Just Dance 2014 for Playstation 3, we’ve probably seen the last fitness game that’ll ever be coming out for the Playstation 3.

Sony, of course, has been turning all its attention to the PS4, and game developers in general have pretty much followed suit. And even before this, the number of games made exclusive for the Playstation Move seems to have been declining. Sony has announced an improved camera and continued support of the Move controllers for the new PS4, but time will tell if motion gaming catches on with the new system.

Just Dance has been such a hit for Ubisoft that they’ve decided to release it for every platform: the Wii, the Wii U, the Xbox 360, the Xbox One, the PS3, and the PS4. They’ve done a pretty remarkable job of porting it to every platform, so the experience is virtually the same across every one.

On the PS3 version, you start out by calibrating your Move controllers, simply by pointing it at the Playstation Eye camera and pressing the Move button, and your controller will glow blue. If a second player is playing, you can set that controller up the same way (it’ll glow red). It did take me a bit of time to figure out how to go back to 1 player, as the system would constantly force you to keep calibrating the second controller even if you tried to turn it off. After a while I realized all you have to do is put the second controller aside and eventually the system will realize no one’s using it and shut it off.

When you start the game, the opening menu is simple; in the center of the screen is a recommended song you can start dancing to right away. You can also scroll continuously to the right to select specific songs. One nice thing about Just Dance 2014 is that none of the songs themselves are locked–every song is playable from the beginning. Instead, what’s locked are different variations of the choreography that’s available on certain songs. Here are all the different variations:

  • Classic – The standard, default choreography, all of which are unlocked from the beginning.
  • On Stage – Multiple dancers interacting with each other in a “dance performance”, which are a lot of fun not only for the dancers but also for onlookers.
  • Extreme – These are more advanced dance routines, not for beginners.
  • Battle – This is a mode where you compete against another player in a “Street Fighter” like battle–the better you dance, the more you’ll increase your life line and decrease your opponent’s.
  • Mash-Up – Here, different dance moves (and the original dancers) from other songs and from past versions of Just Dance are pieced together to form a unique dance.
  • Sweat – Songs are choreographed with maximum exercise, fitness, and aerobic activity in mind.
  • Sweat Mash-Up – A combination of Mash-Up and Sweat modes, these are 5 points to unlock.
  • Others – Several songs have very unique choreography. Gwen Stefani’s Rich Girl has a “Chair” dance. Far East Movement’s Turn up the Love has something called “Sumo”. And Nicki Minaj’s “Starships” lets you dance to the Charleston. Each of these are 50 points to unlock.

Dancer Card – You can click the upper right-hand corner to create a “dancer card”. This will allow you to provide your nickname, an avatar (you choose from a set of cute cartoon faces all blinking at you), your country, your gender, and your age. The choices are 0-9, 10-14, 15-19, 20-29, 30-39, and 40+. Once you set up your dancer card, when you click on it you’ll see at-a-glance your style (how accurate you are), your kCals burned in Sweat Mode, your favorite songs, your average star rating, and your online level.

The Dancing: The dancing itself works pretty much the same as all other Just Dance games. Each song’s choreography is designed for 1-4 different players. If you’re playing with 2 or more players, each player will use his or her Move controller to select a character to follow, and can also choose his or her dancer card so that statistics will be properly tallied.

Each player then holds the Move controller in his or her right hand and follows the on-screen dancer’s moves as if looking in a mirror. What’s nice about playing on a PS3 is that the motion controls are much more precise than on a Wii, but unlike on an Xbox 360 you don’t need to all squeeze into a certain area. When you hit a special move correctly, the Move controller will vibrate in your hands to let you know.

The animation on screen, as usual, is usually done with tongue firmly planted in cheek. For example, here’s a zombie dancing to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”.

I’ve played this game on the Xbox 360 and the Wii U, and for some reason my scores on the PS3 version were much higher than on those  two systems; even my first time through a song I’d easily get 4 or 5 stars. This means that either the motion controls are much more forgiving on this version or that my dancing had improved to the point where I’m infallible. I’ll let you guess which one is the truth :)

Other options on the main menu include the following:

Just Sweat – This mode allows you to play several songs in a row for 10, 20, or 40 minute programs. You can also turn on “free mode”, which turns on a calorie counter that tracks you calories for any song in the game.

Shop - As you play the game, you’ll earn points, which are tallied by a yellow “M” throughout the game. You can use these points to “purchase” unlockable content for the game. These include:

  • Alternate Choreography. Here’s where you can unlock “On Stage” , “Extreme”, “Sweat” and “Battle Mode” choreography for songs.
  • Mash-Ups & Co. Here, you can download Mash-Ups and Sweat Mash-Ups of songs.
  • New Songs. Unfortunately you can’t use your points to unlock new songs–you’ll need real money for that. Ubisoft cleverly weaved a list of purchasable songs into this menu so you’ll always be reminded of it when you’re unlocking content. They even offer a free song, Katy Perry’s Roar, for you to learn the download process (when you select a song you’re sent to the Playstation Store to complete your purchase). When you buy a song, you’ll get avatars thrown in for free.

The World Dance Floor option will show up if you’re signed in. A number will show how many dancers are currently online.

This is an interesting online mode where you can literally dance with players from around the world, earn points along the way, and even make friends. The good news is that you’re not personally identifiable, other than the name on your dancer card. There’s a countdown timer to “Happy Hour”, when you can earn extra points you can use to unlock more stuff.

There are a number of activities on the Dance Floor. You can participate in dance offs against other players, you can dance to the same song with everyone in the group and see who’s the best, and you can vote on which song to dance to next. It’s a lot of fun, and it really adds a new dimension to dancing.

Getting online was pretty easy–when it worked. I tried multiple times and kept getting the message “The Ubisoft server is unavailable at this time. Please try again later”. But finally, I was able to get through, just by having signed in already with my Playstation Account. Here’s what a typical World Dance Floor session looks like.

Finally, there’s another online feature called JDTV that consists of videos that other players around the world have uploaded. While this is a cute feature, it’s one I got bored of pretty quickly, as all the dances are strange, stylized “mash ups” of dances the the system does called “Autodance mode”. I would much rather see real and complete performances than these bizarre edits.

But overall, I’m impressed yet again with this latest version of Just Dance. Every time I think the franchise is about the jump the shark, they make enough improvements to impress me yet again. The song list is a great mix of contemporary songs and oldies, there’s enough variation in choreography and collectible items to keep from getting bored, and the new points system to collect and “buy” items to unlock is much simpler to understand than in previous versions.

The highlight, of course, is the new online features that let you compete and play with others around the world. it just adds a new level knowing that others around the globe are playing along with you.

Here’s a complete song list that lists artist, song name, number of dancers, and difficulty level of the classic choreography. They’ve done away with separate rating for difficulty and exertion, and have simplified it to easy, medium, and hard.

  • One Direction – Kiss You – 4 – Easy
  • Lady Gaga – Just Dance – 1 – Hard
  • George Michael – Careless Whisper – 2 – Hard
  • Kesha – C’mon – 2 – Medium
  • David Guetta ft SIA – She Wolf (Falling to Pieces) – 1 – Medium
  • The Girly Team – Flashdance-What a Feeling – 1 – Hard
  • Disney’s Aladdin – Prince Ali – 4 – Medium
  • Daft Punk ft. Pharrel Williams – Get Lucky – 2 – Medium
  • Jessie J ft. Big Sean – Wild – 1 – Hard
  • PSY – Gentleman – 1 – Medium
  • Robin Thicke ft. Pharrel Williams – Blurred Lines – 2 – Easy
  • Ray Parker Jr. – Ghostbusters – 4 – Medium
  • Gloria Gaynor- I Will Survive – 1 – Easy
  • Will.i.am ft. Justin Biener #thatPOWER – 4 – Hard
  • Daddy Yankee – Limbo – 2 – Hard
  • Ariana Grande ft. Mac Miller – The Way – 2 – Easy
  • Nicki Minaj – Pound the Alarm – 4 – Medium
  • Frankie Bostello – Love Boat – 1 – Medium
  • Olly Mira ft. Flo Rida – Troublemaker – 1 – Easy
  • Lady Gaga -Applause – 1 – Medium
  • Mick Jackson- Blame it on the Boogie – 4 – Easy
  • Imposs ft. Konshens- Feel So Right – 1 – Hard
  • Mungo Jerry- In the Summertime – 4 – Easy
  • Chris Brown – Fine China – 1 – Medium
  • Louis Prima – Just a Gigolo – 2 – Medium
  • Rihanna – Where Have You Been – 1 – Hard
  • Ricky Martin – Maria – 1 – Hard
  • Abba – Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight) – 1 – Easy
  • Dancing Bros – Moskau – 2 – Hard
  • Pitbull ft. Christina Aguilera – Feel This Moment – 1 – Easy
  • Wisin and Handel ft. Jennifer Lopez – Follow the Leader -1 – Hard
  • Village People – YMCA – 4 – Easy
  • Far East Movement ft. Cover Drive – Turn Up the Love – 2 – Hard
  • Bob Marley – Could You Be Loved – 2 – Easy
  • Nicki Minaj – Starships – 1 – Hard
  • Ruts hen Planeten – 99 Luftballons – 2 – Easy
  • Robbie Williams – Candy- 2 – Medium
  • Katy Perry – I Kissed a Girl – 1 – Medium
  • Bog Bog Orkestar – Isidora – 1 – Medium
  • Gwen Stefani ft. Eve- Rich Girl – 1 – Easy
  • Duck Sauce – It’s You – 1 – Medium
  • The Sunlight Shakers – Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In – 2 – Easy
  • Sammie – Misunderstood – 1 – Medium
  • Sunlight Express – Nitro Bot – 2 – Medium
  • Jason Derulo – The Other Side – 1 – Hard
  • Ivete Sangalo – Dancando – 1 – Medium
  • (Free download) Katy Perry- Roar

Overall, if you’re using the PS3 for fitness, I’d definitely recommend Just Dance 2014. The fact that it’s stood the test of time vs. other games like Everybody Dance and Singstar Dance really shows the quality and sheer simple enjoyment this game provides.

Review of Playstation Move Fitness

Sadly, this is probably going to be one of the last Playstation 3 fitness games I or anyone else ever reviews. There just aren’t new games being developed for the PS3 as the world gets ready for the PS4. And of course, fitness games themselves have gone a bit out of vogue.

Back in 2012, you might recall I excitedly talked about a new game from Sony Computer Entertainment called Move Fitness. It had been released in Europe and I was eagerly awaiting its arrival in the US.

Funny thing, I didn’t even realize until a few months after the fact that it had been released in the US, albeit as a downloadable title on the Playstation Store (the official launch date was March 26, 2013). Seems that fitness games had gone so out of vogue that Sony didn’t even bother to release it on a disc nor throw a lot of marketing behind it. My guess is that Move Fitness went on the drawing board at a time when games like Wii Fit were raking in money, and by the time it came to fruition the industry started to turn its back on fitness gaming.

What’s sad is that Playstation Move Fitness is great. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the best fitness games I’ve reviewed, and those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a long time know that I’ve literally played every fitness game on the Wii, Xbox, and PS3. Playstation Move Fitness is probably the first game that gets motion controls right. The controls aren’t imprecise like the Wii, nor are they sluggish or bloated like the Kinect. The on-screen character reacts at the same time you do with one-to-one precision.

Something else I like is that this game keeps it simple. It doesn’t try to be all things to all people like Adidas MiCoach or Nike+ for Kinect seem to do. It just sticks to what it does, and does a great job at it.

Okay, enough talk, here’s my review.

The first thing you see when you start the game is the “Sony Computer Entertainment” credit. Right away, this is a good sign. I’ve had nothing but great experiences with SCEA titles, from Sports Champions to MLB: The Show to LittleBigPlanet. Right away, I know the quality is going to be pretty good.

You start by configuring the Move controller for your dominant hand, adjusting the screensize (which will be important to make sure your gameplay is accurate), and selecting your age and gender.

You then choose a “trainer”. It really doesn’t make a difference which one you pick; each one will give identical workouts, so it really depends on whose voice you want to hear and whose picture you want to see giving you instructions. In politically correct fashion, there’s a white dude in a tanktop, a white dudette in a tanktop, an African American (or more likely, a Black British) dude in a tanktop, and an Asian female in a tanktop.

You then choose your unit of measurement–metric or imperial. I don’t think too many people know what the word “Imperial” means anymore, so they probably would have been better giving examples, like “meters vs. feet”.

You then enter your weight. Of course, unlike the Wii the game can’t calculate your weight for you, so you’re on the honor system. You can enter a minimum of 44 pounds and a maximum of 441 pounds, so anyone who’s 442 is out of luck. You then enter your height and click “Create Profile”. You do have the option to connect to the Playstation Network.

The home screen has four options: Workout Programs, Single Exercise, Profile & Info, and Settings & Extras.

Workout Programs are basically tailor-made fitness programs that put together multiple “Single Exercises”. You can schedule workouts on a regular basis, and because of the sheer number of exercises you can choose from it’s unlikely you’ll ever get bored.

When you select Single Exercise, you see a list, in alphabetical order, of every individual exercise that’s featured in the Workout Programs.

I would divide them into three broad categories: Ball and Sports games, Boxing and Punching games, and Cardio and Aerobics games.

When you select an exercise, the first thing you do is calibrate the second Move controller by pointing it at the Playstation Eye and pressing the trigger button. You then stretch out your arms to the widest they will go, and then move your body so that it fits within the camera. One thing I absolutely love about the game is that it’ll accommodate you playing in a small room, a minimum of 5 feet 9 inches and a maximum of 9 feet 9 inches. This is much more forgiving than most Kinect exercise games, where you have to completely clear out all the furniture in your living room.

The main page of the exercise will appear, displaying the best score (and highest amount of calories burned) you’ve gotten on the exercise, the last score and calories burned, and the total score and calories burned added up from all the times you’ve ever played it.

You can turn the tutorial (a few intro screens) on and off. Happily, most of the exercises are so intuitive that you really don’t need them.

You can also select 1-4 players. Unfortunately, they can’t play simultaneously, but you can play one at a time and compare your scores. It’s great if you have a workout buddy.

All the games keep score based on how well you do the exercise; do a good job and you’ll get double scores, and do an outstanding job and the exercise will go into “overdrive” mode, during which time you can get 5x scores.

Here’s a description of each exercise.

Ball and Sports games

Basket – This was the first exercise I played, and it shows the best of the best this game has to offer. You squat down to pick up a basketball, and then stand up, rear back, and throw the basketball into a hoop, using the T button to let go of the ball. I won’t say this is the most realistic basketball game; as long as you throw the basketball with both hands using an arc motion, sufficient force, and the generally correct direction, you’ll have no problems scoring baskets. Bottom line, you do get the same thrill you get playing real basketball, and you squat, stand up, and jump without even thinking about it, which provide great exercise. This is what a fitness game should be–one that’s fun enough that you don’t even notice that you’re getting a workout. 5 out of 5.

Catch – Here, you’re holding up a net with both your hands as a machine shoots balls out at you all over the place. You have to run to the left and to the right and hold your hands in the right place to catch the ball. This is one game where I wish they had 3D support, as it’s tough to really pick up the ball coming at you on a 2D screen. But as long as you watch the red light on the machine (which tells you when the ball is being released) and follow the trajectory of the ball into your glove, you’ll have a lot of fun with this one.  5 out of 5.

Clear – This is another simple but ridiculously fun one. Your trainer is standing on top of a ramp and rolling medicine balls down to you. Your job is to intercept them and roll them back up to him. In a short time, it becomes a lot like that episode of I Love Lucy in the chocolate factory, as you’re running from left to right trying to keep all the balls on the ramp from getting past you. This is another one that’s both fun and realistic in its graphics and physics. 5 out of 5.

Dodge – This is another game where a ball machine is hurling balls at you, but instead of catching them you need to dodge them. Blue shading in front of you will show you the area you need to avoid getting hit. You can move to the left or the right, or you can lean, lunge, and dodge. This one is pretty simple when the balls are slow, but once you get into “overdrive mode”, look out! 5 out of 5.

Dodgeball – This game is a combination of Dodge (above) and Throw (below). It’s a game a lot like classic dodgeball, where you have to duck from the machine throwing balls at you, while picking up balls in front of you and hurling them at one of five cutout figures. As I’ll mention below, the throwing took a little getting used to, but this one was a lot of fun as well. 5 out of 5.

Pickup – In this game you crouch of pick up a ball, and then you need to crouch, stand up, or jump or stretch upwards to deposit the ball into one of six targets using a forward pass. What’s very cool about this game (which we’ll also mention in some of the boxing games) is that your vantage point changes in the game depending on how you move; stretch or jump upwards and the camera will pan to the top targets; duck downwards, and the camera will pan to the bottom ones. 5 out of 5

Throw – In this game, you need to crouch down to pick up a ball, and then hurl it with either your right hand or your left hand to topple one of five cardboard cutout figures. Figuring out how to aim and throw is a little tricky at first, but after time you’ll get the hang of it.  5 out of 5

Chopping - It wouldn’t be a Move game without swords. This game is a lot like Fruit Ninja and every other slashing sword game you’ve played, but the swords are amazingly precise. Unfortunately, the same 2D vs 3D problem I mentioned above applies here, as it’s very, very difficult to make out the depth of the plates being thrown at you. I ended up just flailing my arms wildly, which perhaps isn’t good samurai technique, but I did get some good cardio out of it. 5 out of 5.

Boxing and Punching Games

Breaking Walls – It wouldn’t be a Move game without boxing either. Unlike on the Wii or Kinect, the boxing on the PS3 is amazing, down to seeing your hands rotate in real-time on screen as you do it in real life. Breaking Walls is a great game where you literally punch out pieces of a call, causing it to shatter and clear. You basically go from pane to pane, rearing up and punching as hard as you can. It’s very realistic and very cathartic on days when you feel like punching the wall but don’t want to clean up the mess. 5 out of 5.

Dummy Targets – Here, you face off against a dummy that looks like he’s made of foam. Targets will light up on his face, chest, and lower left and lower right sides. You need to punch the targets, in some case adjusting your body (again, which automatically adjust the camera angle accordingly). I really like how this encourages not just punching but also squatting and leg movements as well. 5 out of 5.

Dummy Warmup – This is a good exercise to get acclimated to punching the dummy in “Dummy Targets”. There are no targets here, you just get a minute to punch as much as you like out of the foam dummy. The more, faster, and harder you punch the more points you’ll rack up. The attention to details is astounding. As you punch the dummy, you’ll see it move exactly the way it should in real life, even down to the detail of the foam and vinyl on the dummy changing as you hit it. This is another great one to play if you just need to let off some steam. 5 out of 5.

Heavy Bag on Rail - Here you’re hitting a heavy punching bag along a rail. As the bag starts to travel down the curving rail, you’ll need to position your body to keep the bag moving. This one is really realistic and a great workout. 4.5 out of 5.

Heavy Bag Targets – This one is similar to  Dummy Targets, except instead of targets showing up on a dummy they show up on a heavy bag. As with Dummy Targets, as you rotate your body in real life, the camera rotates around the bag on your screen, making for a virtually realistic experience. 5 out of 5.

Heavy Bag Warmup – This one has the same concept as Dummy Warmup. Just wind up and flail away as long as you can until your arms get sore. The heavier and more varied your punches the higher your score. 5 out of 5.

Mitts – Here, you can work on different kinds of punches. Your trainer will hold color-coded mitts up and shout out instructions to throw a left or right uppercut, hook, jab, or cross. You need to punch accordingly. As you get good, you won’t need to wait for the instruction, you’ll just recognize the position of your trainer’s glove and do the right punches. 5 out of 5.

Mitts Combos – Same idea here as Mitts, except the trainer will hold up two gloves in different positions and you have to throw the right combination of punches. 5 out of 5.

Punching Pad - As I played through all of these, I started to realize that most of them seem pretty similar. Punching pad has your trainer in the ring holding up a pad and having you hit targets on it. You need to hit them accurately and with force. The twist here is that your trainer will move to the right or left, so you have to keep up with him. 5 out of 5.

Sparring – This one brings all your boxing training to practice. You’re sparring against your trainer. Targets will appear all over his body which you have to hit with force, and you need to dodge his punches. I wouldn’t say this is as strong as The Fight: Lights Out, but it does the job. 4.5 of 5.

Cardio and Aerobic games

I won’t go through each of these games, as they’re all pretty similar. You do a pretty standard cardio exercises, such as jump squats, jumping jacks, lunges, or twists. Red and blue targets will appear on the screen, which you’ll be expected to pass your hand through as you do the exercise.

I’ll say upfront that for these it’s fairly easy to “cheat” by not doing the complete exercise, but of course since the goal of this game is to get a great workout, that’d be a rather silly thing for someone to do.

Overall, it’s never fun to do a lot of these exercises, but “gamifying” the exercises really does make them a little easier to get through. There’s just something about going into “overdrive mode” that helps motivate you to try a little harder and faster, despite how tired you are.

Here are the exercises. Most are self explanatory, but you can watch the video to see them in action.

Circling Arms
Cross Punching
Jump Squats
Jump Squats Switch
Jumping Jacks
Lunges
Punch Up
Shoulder Press
Triange
Twists

<VIDEO3>

All in all, if Playstation Move Fitness represents the denouement of Playstation Fitness games (and in many ways, this blog), I’d say it’s a good one to end with. It finally brings the worlds of virtual reality, motion controls, and exercise together in a really compelling way. It’s just a shame that the gaming industry doesn’t see fit to really market this category anymore, especially given the epidemic of obesity in the United States and throughout the Western world.

The good news, of course, is that the PS4 will continue to support the Move, and hopefully game developers will continue to push the envelope in developing virtual reality titles that really force you to jump, kick, dodge, lunge, punch, and dance your way to victory and fitness. And don’t worry, I’ll be there covering it :)

If you’re interesting in buying Playstation Move Fitness, it’s not available in stores; you can only get it at the Playstation Store on the Playstation Network. In order to buy it, you can purchase a Sony Playstation Network Card at Amazon, and then input the code into the Playstation Store. The game is only $9.99, much less than the $59.99 one might expect if the game were launched in physical form. It’s not the end-all, be-all video game, but what it does, it does very, very well, and easily gets 5 out of 5 stars from me.

The PS4 and the future of Playstation Exercise and Fitness

As most of you have probably heard by now, Sony recently announced the PlayStation 4, to be released this holiday season. It’s already available for pre-order at Amazon and other stores.

Here are the impressive specs:

  • AMD 8-Core x86-64 Jaguar CPU
  • AMD Radeon 1.84 Teraflop GPU
  • 8GB GDDR5 Memory
  • 500GB Built-in Hard Drive
  • Blu-Ray / DVD Drive
  • Super-Speed USB 3.0
  • Wi-Fi
  • Ethernet
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • HDMI, Analog AV Out, or Digital Optical Output

playstation 4The good news for PlayStation Fitness fans is that your current Playstation Move controllers will continue to be supported. As for the PlayStation Eye, they’re designing a new one with much higher resolution than the old one, meaning that your motions will be much more precise, recognize depth of space precisely, and detect sound and face recognition. In other words, they’ll be trying to out-Kinect the Kinect.

The bad news is that it doesn’t sound like there are a whole lot of developers lining up to develop motion control games for the Ps4. The one I’ve heard for sure so far is (as you might have guessed) Just Dance 5 (named Just Dance 2013) for the Ps4. Still, with the improvements they’re making to the Playstation Eye, I’d be shocked (and disappointed) if developers didn’t find new and amazing things to do with the improved resolution.

But bottom line, we probably won’t see a whole lot of active gaming titles for the PS4. That said, hopefully some publishers will invest some time into building one. I still contend that the technology is there to create amazingly accurate virtual reality (games like Sports Champions and The Fight: Light Out were good examples of where games should have evolved to), but sadly, very few companies have the vision nor the talent to build these experiences right.

By most accounts, Microsoft will be positioning the Xbox One as both an entertainment center and a gaming console, while Sony will be going full steam ahead in building a gaming system that appeals most to hard-core gamers. So after years of these two companies duking it out for supremacy, it’ll be interesting to see which one is making the better strategic decision.

Microsoft has already made a few boneheaded decisions that are drawing ire among the gaming community. Its worst offense: essentially trying to end the sales of used games. Sony, for its part, declared that you’ll still be free to share and resell games however you like.

Time will tell which console to get, but at $400 for the PS3 and $500 for the Xbox One, not even mentioning the cost of games, it’s going to be a hefty investment.  If I had to make a prediction, it’s that you’ll see the same patterns for both systems you saw with the Wii U: early sellouts due to large amounts of sales to early-adopter fanatics and hoarders hoping to make money, followed by a period where all the manufacturers have to cut their projections.

Review of Sports Champions 2 for Playstation Move

Sports Champions 2

Another exceptional motion gaming experience for the PS3

Motion control games for the PS3 and Xbox Kinect have largely failed to rise to the expectations of being a true “second generation Wii”. The biggest exceptions have been Sports Champions and Sports Champions 2 for the Playstation 3. It’s just a shame that there are so few other Playstation Move games that exude this level of quality.

Rating by steve: 5.0 stars
*****

sports champions 2 reviewThe Playstation Move and the Xbox Kinect were both launched with tremendous fanfare. Both motion-control mechanisms were supposed to revolutionize high-end gaming, bringing the active gaming, motion control experience the Wii pioneered to high resolution games. It would usher in a whole new world of virtual reality gaming.

Both Sony and Microsoft took very different approaches to motion gaming. Microsoft opted for motion sensors that detected the whole body’s movements from head to toe, touting a controller-free experience. Sony, on the other hand, basically mimicked the Wii’s use of a handheld controller, offering much more precision than the Wii could deliver.

As someone who’s reviewed a lot of games on both this site and its sister site XboxFitness.Org, I can say that the results on both systems have been largely disappointing. The Kinect has some impressive technology, but developers seem unable or unwilling to create much of anything but lumbering, sluggish games that require way too much playing space.

On the other hand, early games such as The Fight: Lights Out and the original Sports Champions for the Playstation Move were nothing short of extraordinary. High resolution graphics combined with highly accurate motion controls helped you really feel like you were boxing, or playing ping pong, or fighting with swords.

That was in 2010. Now, more than two years later, there haven’t been very many games that seem to really take full advantage of the Move. most game developers that use the Move seem to include it almost as either a gimmick or as an afterthought.

Sports Champions 2 is the first Playstation Move game in a while that’s been worthy of a five-star rating. Just like its predecessor, the developers showcase the Move’s full capabilities. It’s really a shame that other developers can’t follow suit.

The idea behind Sports Champions 2 is simple: think of it as Wii Sports for the Playstation. In fact, four of the sports (Tennis, Bowling, Boxing and Golf) were literally in Wii Sports and were most likely left off of the original Sports Champions because the developers wanted to avoid comparisons or accusations of them being derivative (which they were of course). In addition, they’ve brought back archery (which was also in the original Sports Champions), and added skiing.

You start out by calibrating one or two Move controllers by pointing them at the Playstation Eye one by one and pressing the Move and trigger buttons.

You can jump into playing the sports right away using “Free Play”, or you can select “Cup Mode” to play matches against progressively harder opponents and earn Bronze, Silver, or Gold prizes for completing a certain number of matches (including challenges and “boss matches”) and collecting points for achieving objectives along the way. Finally, you can select “Party Play” to play as a group.

As with the original Sports Champions, after you finish playing you have the option of taking a “victory photo” of you holding an augmented reality piece of sports equipment. They also added the ability for your to save your photo or post to Facebook.

Bowling is pretty much the same as the Wii Sports game, of course with much higher resolution graphics. The one big difference is when setting up your shot, instead of using arrow keys to position your player, you can press and hold the Move button and actually walk to your left or your right. Other than that, it’s just a matter of holding down the trigger button, making a bowling motion with your arm, and releasing it at the right moment. You can also make the ball spin by twisting your wrists.

Obviously, there’s not much of a workout in this, and in all honesty other than the improved graphics it really doesn’t feel much different than what we were playing on the Wii years ago.

Boxing, on the other hand, is obviously much improved over the “fling your arms wildly” boxing games you find on the Wii and even the Kinect. It uses two Move controllers to let you control both your hands.

The obvious comparison is going to be to The Fight: Lights Out. The graphics in both games are excellent; while The Fight: Lights Out presents a gritty street brawl-type environment, the environment here is more like traditional boxing. Also unlike The Fight, there’s no blood or guts in this one, it’s very family friendly.

Like The Fight, you have pretty precise control over your fighter. You can punch to the head and to the body with jabs, uppercuts, hooks, or quick combinations. You can block punches to your head and to your body by holding the Move controller over either, and you can dodge by using the trigger buttons on either hand. The harder you punch in real life, the harder you punch in the game. As you increase in difficulty, you do need to employ a certain level of strategy, such as being able to anticipate what combinations your opponent will be using, tiring out aggressive opponents with good defense, or even faking out opponents by having them block fake punches before you counter with real ones.

This sport is by far the best fitness activity on the entire disc. You’ll get a pretty good aerobic workout each time and build some pretty good arm muscles.

Archery is pretty much the same sport as in the first Sports Champions; as in that game, you hold two Move controllers, one being the bow and the other being the arrow; you simulate an archer’s shot by “reaching into your quiver of arrows” with your arrow arm and then line up your shot as if loading your arrow and drawing it back on the bow (you can use the Move button to zoom into your target). As with the former game, controls and game play are excellent and very precise.

Sports Champions 2 adds an interesting twist to the game by allowing two people (or one person and the computer) to play on the same field and shoot for the same targets, which doesn’t just include regular targets but also things like balloons. You compete for the highest score.

Again, I wouldn’t exactly call this the most intense fitness activity, but after a few minutes of playing you do end up moving quite a bit. Add some hand weights to your Move controllers and you’ll actually be getting a pretty good arm workout.

Skiing is an interesting new game. You hold your Move controllers like ski poles, but unlike real skiing you don’t move your body to turn, but your Move controllers. To move faster, you sweep your Move controllers as if they were ski poles. To jump, you lift up the Move controllers and make sure they’re angled properly for a smooth landing (you can even do a couple flips if you have some good hang time).

The result is actually a much more realistic experience than I thought it’d be. It certainly doesn’t have the same workout intensity that skiing on Kinect Sports has, where you have to twist and turn and jump with your whole body, but it definitely has much, much more precision than the Xbox; when skiing on the Xbox I never really feel like I’m in control, while with the PS3 the turning and jumping are incredibly precise. Again, not a very intense workout, but a fun game nonetheless.

Golf, again, is much more precise than on other systems in many ways. It’s not necessarily going to help you with your golf swing (whether you use a technically correct swing or just wave your arms, the system will treat the shot the same). But what the game lacks in realism of mechanics, it makes up for in terms of precision and accuracy of your swing; a bar on the screen will show you the strength of your swing from 0% to 100% and your target strength given the ball location and your club, and you need to swing the club with precisely the right force.

Putting is also the closest I’ve felt to the real game on any system, from lining up the shot to using the precise right force to get the ball in the hole.

Finally, tennis is probably the most realistic tennis game I’ve played on any system. Some parts of it are amazingly realistic. Just like with ping pong in the original Sports Champions, when you can move your hand in any direction, tilt it, or twist it, the on-screen racquet will respond with uncanny precision.

This precision carries over to the gameplay as well; unlike Wii Sports or tennis on the Kinect, playing tennis is not just a matter of flicking your wrist wildly with the right timing. The position, angle, and velocity of your swing all matter. What’s more, you can apply things like top spins and lobs very similar to real life.

Granted, when you first start the game it’s not all that realistic, as a trail of your opponent’s returns are displayed to you visually so that you know where it’s going. Plus, shots will tend to land magically within the lines. But as you progress deeper into the game, some of the aids you get early on the in game start to disappear and the game starts to feel more and more like real tennis.

I can’t say you get too much exercise in this one, as you’re really just moving your arm (you can move your body left and right when setting up your serve by pressing the Move button and walking to the left or right, but otherwise the running is done for you automatically). But if “get into the game” by doing a little footwork as you’re playing, you might be surprised at how good a workout you get.

You’ve probably seen a few recurring themes through this review. Every sport is definitely a lot of fun and makes great use of the Move controller to simulate playing the actual sport. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them real simulations or virtual reality experiences, but they definitely are polished games and give you a nice feel for the real thing.

As far as workouts go, I’d say the only real one is the boxing. Tennis and skiing may give you a bit of a workout if while you’re playing the game you’re also moving your feet. As for the rest of the sports, if you use Weighted Training Gloves you can get a pretty decent workout from even those.

It’s tough for me to review this one. From a pure gameplay point of view, it’s easily a 5, one of the best games yet for the Playstation Move. But if I were reviewing it strictly from a fitness perspective, I’d probably give it less. Still, given that it’s one of the only decent motion games to be released for the Playstation Move in the past year or so, I’d say it’s a worthwhile purchase and a good choice to supplement your aging PS3 fitness games.

Review of Just Dance 4 for Playstation Move

Just Dance 4

The king of PS3 dance games

While Sony attempted to establish itself in the dance genre with Everybody Dance, that title seems to have fizzled while the Just Dance franchise continues to go strong. The latest version of Just Dance is well done on all three major platforms, and the PS3 Move brings along certain advantages that are missing in both the Kinect and Wii versions.

Rating by steve: 5.0 stars

*****

just dance 4 review for playstation moveIt’s been a while since I posted a new PS3 fitness game review. It’s certainly not been for want of trying; I’ve been checking the new game release schedule pretty closely for the past few months, but it seems that there are only two Move games that involve any kind of physical exertion this season. The first is Sports Champions 2, which I’ll be reviewing shortly, and the second is Just Dance 4, which I’ll be reviewing now.

Just Dance 4, of course, started on the Wii and continues to be the most popular dance franchise on that platform. For the Xbox 360, Dance Central 3 reigns supreme. For the Playstation 3, last year Sony released Everybody Dance, which I thought was a pretty good game, if the weakest of the three as a showcase for the platform. The fact that there is no 2012 edition leads me to believe that perhaps sales of Everybody Dance weren’t necessarily phenomenal. It’s clear that PS3 developers are focusing more on hardcore games and less on motion control or fitness games. Still, if you are a household who happens to own a PS3, there is still a lot of good exergaming to be done, and the game we’re going to review today is a shining example.

With Just Dance 4, Ubisoft made the good choice of developing it to be virtually identical between platforms. You can learn the moves on a PS3, take those same moves to a friend’s house with an Xbox, and the kids can use what they learned in gym class on a Wii.

When you start the game you’re asked if you want to create a Uplay account. In all honesty, between my Playstation Account and NIntendo account and my Microsoft account and my gazillion other accounts I wasn’t all that enthusiastic of signing up for yet another one. But since it seems that this will be the main way that Ubisoft allows users to access downloadable content, and there might be some interesting bonus content in the future, I figured I’d go ahead and sign up.

The opening menu of Just Dance 4 should be familiar to everyone by now; it consists of two options: Just Dance and Just Sweat. Selecting menu options is a pleasure on the PS3 with the extra big buttons and the precision of the Playstation Move controller. Reports are that the Xbox version suffers greatly because its menus are almost impossible to navigate using the Kinect.

Selecting “Just Dance” lets you go right away to selecting songs. One unique thing about Just Dance 4 is that depending on the song, you’ll get choreography for one, two, or four players. Four player choreography is especially fun if you’re playing with a group of people; each player gets a different and unique part to dance to, and the results are amazing if all four of you do it well and amazingly hilarious if you don’t (which will be the more common occurrence). Here’s a duet of my wife and me dancing to “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” (spoiler alert: she wins).

While the PS3 often gets third world status when compared to the popularity of the Wii or the full body motion detection of the Kinect, in this case the PS3 shines in that you get the best of both: because the PS3 Move controller’s motions can be detected both by light trails on the Playstation Eye, as well as through radio signals similar to the traditional Wii controller, players don’t necessarily need to be in camera range to be detected. This means that unlike the Xbox version where four players would have to squeeze to fit inside the camera view of the Kinect camera, on the PS3 version all four players can play, providing all have a PS3 Move controller.

The playlist for Just Dance 4 consists of a surprising number of licensed tracks from some of the hottest pop stars. There’s also a good selection of oldies and songs from multiple genres, so there’s a good chance that everyone in your group playing will find a song that appeals to him or her:

Asereje (The Ketchup Song) – Las Ketchup – Duo – 1 of 3
Beauty and a Beat – Justin Bieber featuring Nicki Minaj – Solo – 3 of 3
Beware Of The Boys (Mundian To Bach Ke) – Panjabi MC – Quartet – 2 of 3
Call Me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepsen – Solo – 1 of 3
Can’t Take My Eyes Off You – Boys Town Gang – Duo – 1 of 3
Crazy Little Thing – Anja – Solo – 3 of 3
Crucified – Army of Lovers – Quartet – 3 of 3
Disturbia – Rihanna – Solo – 3 of 3
Everybody Needs Somebody To Love – Dancing Bros. – Duo – 2 of 3
Good Feeling – Flo Rida – Solo – 2 of 3
Good Girl – Carrie Underwood – Solo – 1 of 3
Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops!)” – Blu Cantrell – Solo – 1 of 3
Hot For Me – A.K.A – Solo – 2 of 3
I Like It – The Blackout Allstars – Duo – 3 of 3
(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life – Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes – Duet – 3 of 3
Istanbul – They Might Be Giants – Quartet – 1 of 3
Jailhouse Rock – Elvis Presley – Quartet – 1 of 3
Livin’ la Vida Loca” – Ricky Martin – Solo – 3 of 3
Love You Like A Love Song – Selena Gomez and the Scene – Solo – 1 of 3
Make The Party (Don’t Stop) – Bunny Beatz – Solo – 2 of 3
Maneater – Nelly Furtado – Solo – 2 of 3
Mas Que Nada – Sergio Mendes featuring The Black Eyed Peas – Solo – 1 of 3
Moves Like Jagger – Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera – Solo – 2 of 3
Mr. Saxobeat – Alexandra Stan – Solo – 1 of 3
Oh No! – Marina and The Diamonds – Solo – 3 of 3
On The Floor – Jennifer Lopez featuring Pitbull – 1 of 3
Oops!… I Did It Again” – The Girly Team – Quartet – 2 of 3
Rock N’Roll (Will Take You To The Mountain) – Skrillex – Solo – 2 of 3
Rock Lobster – The B-52′s – Duo – 2 of 3
Run The Show – Kat DeLuna featuring Busta Rhymes – Duo – 3 of 3
So What – Pink – Solo – 1 of 3
Some Catchin’ Up To Do- Sammy – Solo – 1 of 3
Super Bass – Nicki Minaj – Solo – 3 of 3
Superstition – Stevie Wonder – Solo – 1 of 3
The Final Countdown – Europe – Duo – 3 of 3
Time Warp” – Halloween Thrills – Quartet – 3 of 3
Tribal Dance – 2 Unlimited – Duo – 3 of 3
Umbrella – Rihanna featuring Jay-Z – Solo – 1 of 3
We No Speak Americano – Hit The Electro Beat – Solo – 2 of 3
What Makes You Beautiful – One Direction – Quartet – 1 of 3
Wild Wild West – Will Smith – Quartet – 3 of 3
You’re The First, The Last, My Everything” – Barry White – Quartet – 1 of 3

Gameplay is pretty much the same as always: you dance by mirroring the moves of an on-screen counterpart. The more precise your dance is, the more points  and stars you’ll get and the more positive on-screen feedback you’ll get. Pictographs will scroll along the bottom of the screen to cue you on upcoming moves. Unlike the Kinect, the Wii and Ps3 versions of the game only detect your right hand, which is holding the controller. In a sense, you’re on the “honor system” to move the rest of your body the right way, but after a lot of experimentation I found that to get the highest scores it’s a lot easier just to dance the correct moves with your whole body than to try to figure out how to game the system by moving your right hand in the right way.

Something new to Just Dance 4 is “Battle Mode”, where you can play against another player (or against the computer). You start by choosing a character that corresponds to a song. Then, you basically compete in a dance-off. It’s an interesting twist on fighting games like Street Fighter, where the player that dances the most precise dance steps will score “hits” on the other. Whoever has the most life left at the end of a round wins that round and their song will be imposed on the next round.

By most accounts, one of the best features on Just Dance 4 for PS3 is the improved “Just Sweat” mode. This mode lets you play several songs in a row for a set amount of time, either 10 minutes (burning around 50 Kcals), 25 minutes (about 100 Kcals), or 45 minutes (about 200 Kcals). Instead of choosing individual songs to work out to, you choose from the following four genres of music:

  • Aerobics in Space (Dynamic Fitness Steps / 80′s Pop Music)
  • Sweat Around the World (Latin Dance Practice / World Music)
  • Electro Body Combat (Cardio Fighting Exercise / Electro Music)
  • Cheerleader’s Boot Camp (Extreme Training / Punk Rock Music)

The routines start out with a slower warm up routine and end with a cool down routine. Your energy level from song to song is tracked in real time through a running graph at the top of the page, and will determine whether the next song is “COOL” or “INTENSE”, effective customizing your workout based on your individual level of energy. That they’re using a little artificial intelligence to give you a personalized workout is a nice improvement that’s definitely more sophisticated than in previous versions of Just Dance. The number of Kcals you burn is displayed in the upper left hand of the screen. Take the calories with a grain of salt, as it’s an average number that’s likely to be understated for heavier players and overstated for lighter players.

Overall, Just Dance 4 is by far the best dance game for the Playstation 3, and among the best fitness games of any kind. Highly recommended.

Equipment Needed for Adidas MiCoach

As I mentioned in my review of MiCoach, one thing they don’t mention very prominently on the game packaging or in online advertisements is that the game does require some extra equipment that doesn’t come bundled with it. You can still use the game without this equipment, but you’ll have to skip lots of exercises that use the equipment. You’ll know whether you have to use the additional equipment in any given exercises by looking at the icons next to each exercise. Also, your on-screen instructor will show you exactly how to use the equipment, either verbally or clearly in the demonstration of the exercise.

In order to have a full experience, you’ll need to invest into buying some additional equipment. I’ve put some of my suggestions below.

    • Towel – Any old hand towel should do here. In some games you’ll fold the towel and use it as a pad to make exercises more comfortable.
    • Bench – This is another piece of “equipment” mentioned. You’ll need this from time to time to rest a hand or foot on it for support. You should be okay with a folding chair or a kitchen chair here, just keep it handy near your workout area.
    • Stability Balls – The manual suggests you use an “Adidas Core Stability Gym Ball”, but as luck would have it that’s not available in the United States. You should be okay getting any brand of Exercise Balls. I just decided to go by the highest Amazon ratings and go for the one with the highest ratings, the Body Sport Exercise Ball. The Isokinetics Balance Ball Chairis a pricer option but also one I considered, as that could also double for your “bench”. To choose the right exercise ball for your height, use this as a guide:
      • 34-inch (85 cm): For users 6′ 7″ in height and taller
      • 30-inch (75 cm): For users between 6′ 2″ and 6′ 6″
      • 26-inch (65 cm): For users between 5′ 8″ and 6′ 1″
      • 22-inch (55 cm): For users between 5′ 1″ and 5′ 7″
      • 18-inch (45 cm): For users between 4′ 6″ and 5′ 0″
    • Dumbbells – Dumbbells are used in some exercises to introduce resistance and help with strength and muscle conditioning. Again, brands of dumbbells will work, but I like these Valeo Hand Weights because of their rating and the ease of holding them with the PS3 Move controller. The game will advise you on what weight to get, so I’d suggest playing it a couple times without the weight to get a sense of what the exercise entails. One bit of advice–don’t go too high too fast in your weight selection. Even the lightest handweights get very, very heavy as you get longer into a workout.
  • Heart Rate monitors - The game integrates with heart rate monitors. Obviously, the one Adidas wants you to buy is the Adidas MiCoach Pacer Bundle Heart Rate Monitor. But I like the fact that they didn’t make it so that you had to use their own proprietary heart rate monitor (like EA Sports did), but will support any third party heart rate monitor or USB dongle that supports the ANT+ standard. Here’s a list of some at Amazon that range in price from $30 to $300. When you have this equipment set up, your heartrate will be displayed on screen throughout your workout.

At first, I wasn’t happy that I had to buy all this extra equipment to use this game. Then again, I figured these are all pieces of equipment you should have anyway in your home gym or when doing your workouts on and off the PS3. Plus, I’d rather choose my own equipment than have a flimsy resistance band or non-standard heart rate monitor like EA Sports did. Bottom line is, MiCoach is not just another game–it’s a system that will require a bit of an investment to get the full value out of. Shop around and try to find the highest quality, lowest price equipment to use.

 

Review of Adidas MiCoach for Playstation Move

Adidas MiCoach for Playstation 3

An excellent new entrant into the world of Playstation fitness games but not without its faults.

miCoach by Adidas is the most promising PS3 Fitness Game to come on the scene for a while. It features excellent technical workout plans of the caliber that’s given to professional athletes, and also features instruction and master classes from some of those athletes themselves. Unfortunately, this title is marred by spotty motion detection and buggy integration with MiCoach’s other properties.

Rating by steve: 4.0 stars

****

review of micoach by adidas for playstation 3I’ve been waiting with great anticipation for the release of miCoach by Adidas.Those who’ve been keeping up with this blog are familiar with the drama this game went through to get release. It was originally supposed to be released by THQ, who after going through financial difficulties decided to scrap the title. This didn’t sit well with Adidas, of course. Lawsuits ensued and at the end of the day 505 Games was chosen to publish the game.

The last really excellent workout game that was developed for any system was EA Sports Active 2, but it seems that EA has all but abandoned that franchise. The Wii U will be getting Wii U Fit in the fall, and the Xbox will be getting Nike+ Kinect, which means Adidas MiCoach is really the only serious player in the fitness game market for the PS3 in the foreseeable future.

The first thing to know about Adidas MiCoach is that it requires the Move controller. The game doesn’t even allow you to use a Dualshock or a Navigation controller to select menu items, which I found a little frustrating. After a lot of trial and error, I found that the best way to navigate menus is to point the Move controller up (or down), and then lightly tap the trigger button to move from option to option.

The game starts out with a video greeting from the athletes who’ll be “training” you. What’s very cool about this is that all of them are real athletes and stars in their respective sports, from Dwight Howard to Kaka to Tyson Gay, to Andrea Petrovic, to Eric Berry. The online trainers are rendered very well; with a few exceptions they look like their real selves and not some creepy computer-animated version of themselves (I’m talking to you, creepy Jenny McCarthy). One other useful thing I learned from this intro video is that the game is pronounced “My Coach” and not “Mee Coach”.

One thing that no one really bothered to tell me before I bought the game is that you do need to have additional equipment, namely a towel, a stability exercise ball, and dumbbells. You can use the game without these, but you’ll be limited in how many of the over 400 exercises you can do. The game also supports the use of any ANT+ compatible heart rate monitor; if you have this your heart rate will be displayed throughout the game.

Something else important to know before purchasing the game is that you need a LOT of space. You need a least 10-12 feet of space in front of your PS3 Eye camera, 10-12 feet from side to side, and the camera needs a full and unobstructed view of your whole body, as well as the floor. If you don’t have this the game will be terribly frustrating for you.

There are three basic options in the game: Training Plan, Training Games. and Conditioning.

TRAINING PLAN

I would call Training Plan the “hard core” portion of the game that  literally lives up to the name “My Coach”. I would say that Training Plans are not suitable for somebody looking for casual fitness, but rather inteded for someone who wants to do some professional-caliber, in-depth training for a sport or an upcoming event like a marathon.

In fact, the first thing you do when you select Training Plan is to select a sport you’d like to train in. Your choices are basketball, football, running, soccer, and tennis. You can also choose from two generic options: men’s training or women’s training, and you can select “Getting Started” which will acclimate you to the system with some simple stretches.

The training provided can get very technical. I’m not a professional athlete, but I’d guess that the programs here are comparable to the types of programs that professional strength and conditioning coaches might use for their respective sports.

For each of the sports there are core exercises to 1) build strength, 2) increase speed, or 3) maintain a certain level of fitness during the season. Within each of these options are additional choices; for example, under “build strength” for basketball, the sub-options are 1) game shape, 2) build lean mass, 3) maximize strength, and 4) sky high, each focusing on a different area of strength training.

Once you choose one of these sub-options, you’ll get set up with a set number of workouts over a set number of weeks (for example, “sky high” consists of 12 workouts of 4 per week over a 3 week period). You’ll also be told what equipment you need, and your calendar in the game will be set for you.

Here’s a video of one of the workouts under Football. Those of you who follow the blog will recognize my ninja outfit; for those of you new to the blog, the reason I hide my identity is twofold: first, I’m bashful, and second, I have no intention of becoming the next Wii Fit Girl.

These are not easy workouts. Most of them last anywhere from 45 minutes to over an hour and have an intense number of exercises. As I said, the exercises get very technical, tailored towards working out parts of your body needed to excel in the sport you chose–there are floor exercises and stretches, cardio workouts, and drills. And with each sport, you’ll have actual professionals who’ll demonstrate the exercise to you and give “insider” tips during the training. The professionals include:

  • Tennis: Ana Ivanovic, Andrea Petkovic, and Fernando Verdasco
  • Football: CJ Spiller, Eric Berry, Jozy Altidore, Von Miller
  • Soccer: Gareth Bale, Jose Mourinho, Kaka
  • Basketball: Josh Smith, Dwight Howard, Jrue Holiday
  • Track: Tyson Gay, Jessica Ennis

As you progress  through your workouts you can unlock video “master classes” from the athletes which give you further advice.

One thing to note is that you do NOT get intense cardio workouts with these exercises, which are aimed more at  strength and flexibility training. See the “MiCoach Integration” section below for more about this.

TRAINING GAMES

This is the “lighter”, “more fun” portion of the game, and it is fantastic. It consists of simulations of actual sports.

Specifically, you can practice shooting baskets. You basically hold your Move controller in your hands while pressing the trigger and make a shooting motion like you’re holding a basketball. Release the trigger to shoot. The sensation is shockingly realistic. Like real basketball, it takes some trial and error to figure out how hard to make your throwing motion, and admittedly sometimes you’ll make a slight move and the basketball will go sailing over the backboard. But once you get used to the game, it’s an amazing simulation. What’s more amazing is that you can move to the left and right and the image on the screen will move with you. By far the most realistic basketball simulation I’ve played on any video game system.

You can also simulate being a soccer goalie blocking shots, again an excellent simulation that really requires you to move. As the ball comes toward you you have to time your leap and your hands to block the shot.

Finally, there’s a tennis game that has you returning serves and trying to hit blocks; not the most accurate simulation, but one that’s still a lot of fun.

The level of workout you get from these training games is not nearly what you’d get from playing the real thing, of course, but it’s a very well executed part of the game that provides some workout, and some very good fun and much needed distraction for the shorter-attention-spanned amongst us.

CONDITIONING

This is the part of the game I’d suggest for the more casual fitness gamer. Each conditioning routine consists of a certain amount of exercises, followed by recover periods, followed by training games. The conditioning workouts seem to be around 20 minutes, making them ideal for morning or evening exercise. Strangely, you can’t schedule conditioning by itself into your calendar, you can only add it on to an existing Training Plan (great if you have 2-3 hours a day to workout, but not great for the rest of us).

MOTION CONTROL

Now for the most important question in a PS3 Fitness game: how accurate were the motion controls?

Interestingly, not all exercises use the Move controller. The game attempts to be Kinect-like by use just the Playstation Eye camera to track certain exercises. This is a welcome development for those exercises where it’s just too unwieldy to try to hold a controller. As for how well it works, I’ll be honest, it’s hit or miss. There are times when I’d be adjusting my position to prepare myself for the exercise, and the system will have already counted my random movements as two or three reps.

For those exercises that use the Move controller, again, I found them hit or miss. I found that exercises where I had to lie on the floor were more “miss”, while exercises while standing or on the stability ball were more “hit”.

The biggest takeaway for me was not that the motion controls were horrible, but that your conditions need to be absolutely perfect for the system to recognize your motions correctly. It’ll take some trial and error to figure out the best positioning for you (both standing up and lying down) as well as for your PS3 Eye camera. One good thing that MiCoach does is allow you to skip an exercise if it realizes it’s not tracking you properly, instead of berating you mercilessly for your failure (I’m talking to you, creepy Jillian Michaels). But I would have much preferred for them to provide some better guidance on how to set up your system and your environment rather than just bail on you.

INTEGRATION WITH MICOACH

MiCoach for PS3 was designed to integrate with MiCoach.com (and by extension with their iPhone app). MiCoach.com was designed to give you the ability to set up both cardio workouts and strength/flexibility workouts for different sports, and to track your progress–using high priced MiCoach accessories, of course, but also allowing you to enter on the Web site any exercise you did (say, if you played in a softball game or a tag football game). What the PS3 version of MiCoach does is replace the “strength/flexibility” workouts on the Web site with interactive versions of the same workouts.

Again, it’s up to you to supplement your workouts with the cardio workouts on the Web (most of which are interval training). For example, I’ve decided to do the “Men’s Training – Get Lean” program on the PS3, while using my iPhone to track the cardio of me walking 20 minutes a day from my office to the train station.

As I mentioned before, the game does communicate with MiCoach.com. I already had a MiCoach account, so all I had to do was enter my Playstation ID and a personalized six-digit code under “Settings > Sharing/Connections”. If you don’t have a MiCoach.com account yet, you can set up a new one for free (you’ll be prompted to do so when you first set up the game) and you can enter your console ID when you sign up.

The integration isn’t perfect. There are times I’d set up plans on the PS3, and the Web calendar wouldn’t be updated (for example, when adding conditioning exercises to Training Plans). Similarly, there are times I’d make adjustments to the calendar on the Web (such as adjusting the date for a specific workout) and the PS3 version wouldn’t be updated. The Web version had a pretty good overview of all the activity I do, but the PS3 version was lacking everything I did on the iPhone. You’re very much limited in what you can do on the PS3–you can change the days of the week you work out or “catch up” on missed workouts by picking up your plan from today, but you can’t delete workouts or move them around. There also seem to be a lot of bugs with data on the PS3; according to the stats, last week I travelled 31,726 miles in one workout (in case you’re wondering, the right answer is 2.12). One wonders how much the THQ/505 Games snafu contributed to the sloppiness here.

Overall I give their integration efforts an A for effort, but a D for execution. They have a lot of work to do here.

CONCLUSION

Overall, MiCoach for PS3 is a game that shows a lot of promise. If you are already an active user of MiCoach; already own the required equipment such as an exercise ball and hand weights; or are actively training for any of the supported sports, I’d highly recommend it. If you’re more of a casual gamer I’d still recommend it for the training games and the conditioning exercises, but the full training plans may be overkill for you.

I give the concept, the graphics, and the attention to detail in the individual exercises a 5 of 5, but the motion control issues and the snafus with integration are enough to push it back down to a 4 of 5. Still, I’d say the game easily surpasses games like Fit in Six, UFC Personal Trainer, and EA Sports Active 2–and is on par with Get Fit for Mel B–to jump into the echelons of the Best PS3 Fitness Games. Hopefully they will continue to work on these things and send updates to both the Web site and the PS3. This thing has a ton of potential, but it just falls a little bit short of perfection at the moment.

 

Review of London 2012 Olympics for Playstation Move

london olympics 2012 for playstation 3 by segaAs a kid, the Olympics were always a big thing in our house. I faintly remember Nadia in 1976, I remember screaming in the family room during the 1980 Hockey Finals, and of course there was the 1984 Olympics where somehow the absence of the Soviet bloc didn’t quite make the impact I think the Soviets wanted it to.

Of course, during those years I learned to love video games as well. An I’ve been a big fan of Olympic video games since I first played Microsoft’s Olympic Decathlon on the Apple II in 1982 and Summer Games in 1984. While not all of us can be Olympic athletes, at least we can get a taste of the thrill of victory, et. al.

Olympic games have been hit or miss since then. They’ve generally come down to a competition to see who can wiggle their joystick quicker or whose thumbs can move the quickest. Which is why I was very eager to try out London 2012 by Sega for the PS3.

When you start up London 2012, you get treated to a nice video montage that shows off the graphics. One very nice thing about this game is that it’s officially licensed with the International Olympic Committee, meaning that you’ll see all the official logos, sights, and sounds of the real Olympics. They’ve recreated a number of venues in London with uncanny realism.

I wouldn’t say that most of the graphics are exactly photorealistic, but they’re definitely nicer than any Olympic game that’s preceded it. And if you’re lucky enough to have a 3D display, you can view all the action in 3D.

There are a staggering number of events in London 2012. It doesn’t have every sport of the Olympics, of course, but there’s definitely a very good mix of events. Here’s the full list:

Track:

  • Men’s 100m
  • Men’s 110m hurdles
  • Men’s 200m
  • Men’s 400m
  • Women’s 400m

Field:

  • Men’s Discus Throw
  • Men’s High Jump
  • Women’s High Jump
  • Men’s Long Jump
  • Men’s Triple Jump
  • Men’s Javelin Throw
  • Men’s Shot Put

Swimming:

  • Men’s 50m Freestyle
  • Women’s 50m Freestyle
  • Men’s 100m Freestyle
  • Women’s 100m Freestyle
  • Men’s 100m Breaststroke
  • Women’s 100m Breaststroke
  • Men’s 100m Butterfly
  • Women’s 100m Butterfly
  • Men’s 100m Backstroke
  • Women’s 100m Backstroke

Diving:

  • Men’s 3m Springboard
  • Women’s 3m Springboard
  • Men’s 10m Platform
  • Women’s 10m Platform
  • Men’s synchronized 3m Springboard
  • Women’s synchronized 3m Springboard
  • Men’s synchronized 10m Platform
  • Women’s synchronized 10m Platform

Shooting:

  • Men’s 25m rapid fire pistol
  • Men’s skeet
  • Women’s skeet

Archery

  • Men’s archery individual
  • Women’s archery individual
  • Men’s archery team
  • Women’s archery team

Gymnastics

  • Men’s trampoline
  • Men’s vault
  • Women’s vault

Other sports

  • Men’s Keirin (a.k.a. cycling)
  • Men’s K1 Kayak single
  • Men’s Single Sculls
  • Men’s Table Tennis
  • Men’s Weightlifting over 105kg
  • Women’s Beach Volleyball

Now while this game is advertised to have Move support, one thing to bear in mind is that only a subset of games really use the Move. I’ll cover those in depth below. But the vast majority of games, as well as the main story mode, use the Dualshock Controller. As with most previous Olympic video games, it comes down to who can manipulate their controller the best.

Each event lets you view a tutorial on how to play. For most events, it’s mainly a game of timing. For example, in the swimming competition, you press “X” to dive, mash “X” to get your initial momentum, pull back on the “L” and “R” joysticks to do your strokes, press “O” to turn, and press “X” to lunge.

Similarly, for the running activities, you press “X” to start, mash “X” with the right cadence to keep your runner going, and lunge using the “L” joystick at the end.

Overall the controls were pretty intuitive and easy to learn, but did feel a bit dated.

There are a couple different game modes. “Olympic Games” is more or less the “story mode” which lets you play 20 events over several days against CPU opponents at easy, medium, or hard level. You choose which country you’ll be competing for, and you can even customize athletes on your team (unfortunately it looks like all the names are made up; it probably would have been cost-prohibitive to get approval for actual names and likenesses). Then, you choose two events from a short list of events on each day to compete. Your goal, of course, is to win as many medals as possible. As with the real Olympics, you need to qualify first and then if you make it, compete for the medal.

There’s “Events Play” mode, where you can select a group of events to play against the CPU, against other players, or paired up with other players on the same national team.

With “Party Play”, you can jump right into a number of activities that are most suitable for multiple players, including javelin, trampoline, kayak , keirin, skeet, table tennis, and 100m.

“Online Play” is a mode where you can actually compete against others on the PSN Network. You can compete in random events, a custom event, or even take place in a tournament against friends or random players. When I tried “Quick Play” the number of players to compete against were pretty sparse (it took a few minutes for the system to find someone for me to compete against), but that should change as more copies of the game are sold. What’s cool about this is that because the game is sold all around the world, chances are the players are really from countries they represent.

When speaking of the game solely in terms of using the Dualshock controller, it’s fun enough, but really not much different than every Olympic game that preceded it back. That said, the graphics and realism alone put this in a class of its own.

I’ll spend the rest of the  time talking about the portion of the game that had Move support.

The part of the game I was personally most interested in was the games that had Move support. Sadly, Move support is really relegated to one part of the game called “Motion Play Party” mode, where you can play a subset of events against up to 3 other players with the Move or against the CPU. The events supported are:

  • 25m rapid fire pistol
  • Archery individual
  • Archery blitz
  • Javelin throw
  • Javelin target
  • Kayak slalom
  • Kayak super sprint
  • Keirin
  • Keirin battle
  • Skeet
  • Skeet attack
  • Table tennis
  • 100m

There are also “Party Challenges” for 2 or more players where you need to compete in certain events to unlock further challenges. I would recommend learning the sports in Motion Play Party mode first.

The first Move event I tried was the 100m. 1-4 players can compete. You basically run in place with the Move controller in your hand and then lunge towards the finish line by throwing your arms back. This one actually felt a lot more natural than the awkward button mashing on the controller, and it acutally provided a pretty good workout. But it was admittedly tempting to cheat by just shaking the Move controller like a drumstick or a baton (which works better than just running in place).

They also have an event called keirin (I had to look it up on Wikipedia…it’s basically cycling on a track). This one was an ill-conceived one for the Move. The graphics and the realism are pretty good, but it’s just not a great use of the Move controller. They have you holding it sideways to steer a la Mario Kart, and accelerating by mashing the Move button. Problem is, your left hand is covering up the glowing ball on the Move controller so the system is constantly losing contact, and it’s awkward for your thumb to reach the Move button. Ironically, this would have been a lot stronger using the Dualshock controller (which has an internal gyrometer that would do just as well for steering) rather than the move.

I had high hopes for the kayaking event. I assumed that you’d be able to hold your Move controller sideways, or even hold two Move controllers, and use it like a real paddle. But instead, they have you swiping your Move controller down and to the left to paddle right and down and to the right to paddle left, almost as if you’re rowing a rowboat with one hand. It’s definitely not a natural paddling motion. I got a decent workout to my right biceps, but mainly because I kept flailing in every direction trying to figure out the controls. Perhaps if you figure out the motion controls to this one it might be fun, but it was too frustrating for me to want to try.

Table tennis was moderately fun, but don’t expect anything even close to Sports Champions. Remember the “ooh, ahh” at how realistic Sports Champions felt the first time you rotated the Move controller in your hand and and saw the paddle rotate as precisely on the screen? There’s none of that here. For that matter, most of the controls are unrealistic and unnatural. I tried playing using “real ping pong” strategies, but the CPU would clobber me. It’s only when I started doing bizarre things such as moving the paddle straight up for topspin and moving the paddle straight down for backspin (without even trying to aim or spin the ball) that I started getting competitive against the CPU. This is a major step backwards from the standard set in Sports Champions.

Where the Move excelled in this game were in the “shooting” and “throwing” games. Pistol shooting, for example, was extremely realistic and precise, something the Move is head and shoulders better at than the Kinect or the Wii.

Similarly, I found the archery to be comparable to Sports Champions, maybe a little bit better. As with Sports Champions you can use one or two Move controllers; using two is definitely the way to go. Unlike Sports champions you don’t have to make the motion to grab an arrow from your back, which I always found a little awkward in that game.

The unrealistic thing is that you can shoot random targets during the competition to get bonus points, multipliers, and extended times, although I have to say that did add to the fun and challenge. No matter how much I tried, one of the CPU players kept beating me, so if you want to win against the CPU, you need to rack up a big lead early and master hitting all the special targets in the last round.

The javelin throw was also quite realistic. You hold the Move controller like a javelin (with the glowing ball facing forward). You don’t need to run, but you do need to time your throw perfectly; the force, angle, and straightness of your throw will determine how far it goes.

I played a couple games in 3D, and the 3D effect really does a lot to enhance the game play, from seeing the depth of vision in archery to the first-person view through the kerin track at breakneck speed. If you have a 3D display, the 3D really takes the already excellent graphics to the next level and adds to the realism of the game.

Overall I’d give this game a 4 of 5 stars. It’s a solid title that any fan of the Olympics can enjoy. I’m not sure of its replay value after the Olympics are over, and aside from one or two Move games it really doesn’t have much for someone looking for PS3 Fitness. But from a fun perspective it’ll be a great game to take off the shelf and play with family and friends during the Olympics and probably for a few months after.

Install Amazon Instant Video on your PS3 and get a $5 credit FREE

The summer of the PS3 Fitness Game drought continues, but I did want to chime in with a pretty good promotion from Amazon. This is a teeny tiny promotion that Amazon isn’t making very obvious, but it’s a good one.

On the PS3 product page, there’s a teeny banner that says:

amazon instant video

Clicking on it takes you to a page about Amazon Instant Video, on the top of which is a teeny banner that says:

So it seems that if you register your PS3 with Amazon to start watching videos on the Amazon Instant Video application on your PS3 (which I’ll bet you didn’t know you had), you’ll get a cool $5 to use towards buying or renting a video.

The cool thing about this is that is really expands your ability to use your PS3 for fitness. How? There are a ton of exercise and fitness videos out there, most at only around $1.99 to rent or $9.99 to buy. And so while the PS3 hasn’t been graced with a Jillian Michaels video game like the Kinect or Wii (trust me, we’re not missing much), we can still have Jillian grace our PS3 screens by using one of her videos. Not to mention Bethanny, Bob, Denise, Billy, and the gazillions of others who’ve put out exercise videos. It’s the perfect antidote for the paucity of PS3 fitness games lately.

Here’s exactly how to do it.

1) On your PS3, go to TV/Video Services. You may already have a green icon there that looks like this.

amazon instant video ps3

If not, go to the “My Channels” icon that looks like a test pattern and select the Amazon icon.

2) Once you select the icon you may be asked to download software.

ps3 download amazon instant video

You may or may not have to install a system update. After that you’ll be asked to sign into your PS3 account. Don’t worry, you’re almost there :)

3) Finally, you’ll get to the main Amazon video screen.

main screen of amazon video on ps3

The interface looks similar to what you’ve seen on devices like Roku, Apple TV, and Xbox LIVE.

4) Next, select the box that says “Register Your Device”. You’ll be brought to a screen showing you a 5-digit code. This code will be unique to your device.

amazon registration code

5) Next, go www.amazon.com/mytv. If you have multiple people in your household with Amazon accounts, make sure you sign in with the account you want permanently associated with the PS3.

where to enter ps3 registration code on amazon

6) Magically, on your PS3, you’ll see a success screen.

successful registration screen

7) Next, you’ll go through screens asking to confirm your 1-Click settings. From Amazon’s perspective, they of course want to make it as easy as possible for you to make an impulse buy :P. They’ll then try to push you to buy Amazon Prime, which actually is not a bad deal if you do a lot of ordering on Amazon. Not only do you get free 2-day shipping on all orders, you also get access to a bunch of free videos you can watch through streaming. The free videos you can watch with Amazon Prime aren’t the latest hits, of course, but there are some good ones (I watched all three seasons of Arrested Development using Amazon Prime).

8) Finally, you’ll get to the success page on Amazon.

successful registration for amazon video

Now here’s the annoying thing. Amazon, of course, makes it difficult to look up your promotional certificate balance. To do so, you have to choose an instant video and then look at the tiny print under the product description.

check amazon instant video promotional credits

When I checked, I saw a balance of zero. Not cool.

promotional balance amazon

I started a chat session. I was bracing myself for a big fight, but they were fast and very, very nice.

amazon chat session

This is where I love Amazon. While other companies I’ve had similar issues with would argue with me, ending up costing hundred of dollars of their customer service people’s salaries to fight against me just to deny me the $5, Amazon credited it right to me, no questions asked. This is why I continue to be a loyal customer.

So your mileage may vary. A lot of people are reporting that the $5 credit is being instantly credited to them, but even if it’s not Amazon is smart enough not to deny it to you if you ask about it.

Once I registered I was able to see the videos I’d previously purchased on Amazon under “Your Video Library”, and also access the free Prime videos, as well as buy new videos of course.

So that’s the story. I actually just made a great deal with Verizon FIOS and upped my Internet speed from 50/25 from 15/5, so Internet is blazingly fast on my PS3 now. When I had cable and DSL, I was used to video pausing in the middle at random times and being choppy, but right now I’m watching a video that’s running as smooth and clear as a Blu-Ray. The nice thing about FIOS is that you get your own dedicated line, meaning if the teenager in the apartment upstairs has WoW playing 24×7, you won’t see your bandwidth affected and your video streaming will still be lightning fast (self-serving note…if you’re interested in FIOS go through this link to sign up for FIOS, and both you and I will get a shiny new $50 American Express gift card :)).

So that’s it. Enjoy instant video on your PS3…and start working out those abs!

 

 

MiCoach for PS3 is finally here! Be first on line!

UPDATE: we’re a week from launch and the Web sites of both GameStop and Best Buy still reports that MiCoach is not available for pre-order and in-store pickup. But happily I walked into my local GameStop and they let me pre-order it. I’ll be trying it out and will provide my review here as soon as I can

After what seems like a drought that’s lasted forever, we have a bunch of new PS3 fitness games coming down the pike.

The most imminent is Adidas MiCoach which at long last is being released on July 24. It’s available for preorder at Amazon for $49.99 or for $10 less at GameStop. Oddly there doesn’t seem to be an in-store pickup option for the PS3 version at GameStop…I emailed them to ask why and they first responded with a form response that had nothing to do with my questio. when I replied to that a person responded and said, “yes, micoach for ps3 is available for pre-order.” which of course didn’t answer my question. I’ll keep trying. :p

One of the burning questions I had about MiCoach was whether there’ll be any interaction with existing MiCoach peripherals. Simon Drabble was kind enough to respond on Twitter saying yes, the heart rate monitor will be able to be used in the same by plugging the USB MiCoach Connect to the PS3. He added that all game data will be able to be accessed online at MiCoach’s site so that any workouts done at home on the PS3 will be integrated with workout data done outside the home. In other words, MiCosere seems to be offering many of the features that EA offered and abandoned in Sports Active.

The recent E3 conference brought showed some exciting news for the other platforms with Nike collaborating with Microsoft and Nintendo planning a new version of Wii Fit that includes a pedometer. While it seems at first blush that PS3 owners may be getting the short end of the stick, bottom line is, if 505 Games and Adidas do a good job with MiCoach, chances are they’ll be more successful on the PS3 than on other platforms, being the only (fitness) game in town, which hopefully means there’s a good chance they may take over the helm of the best PS3 fitness game. Time will tell, of course.

The only other potential fitness game I saw come out of E3 for this fall was Sports Champions 2. Seems that they’ve added a lot of sports from the original Wii Sports, including tennis, boxing, golf, and bowling, sports which actually make a lot more sense on the PS3 than on the Kinect because of the importance of precision (Kinect bowling and tennis, for example, can easily be played by monkeys).

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