Interesting PS3 sports training video games announced by THQ

We’ve had a bit of a drought with PS3 Fitness games lately, but recently, THQ has announced some pretty interesting ones. UFC Personal Trainer is going to be released in a few weeks, on June 28. Here, you’ll be brought through the regimen of an “ultimate fighter” with training of the type that a mixed martial arts athlete goes through.

Also just announced from THQ was MiCoach Premium – Move and MiCoach Basic, due to be released in March 2012. This looks like it’s going to be amazing. Working with Adidas, this is going to be an interactive experience which will feature athletes from various sports, including Dwight Howard, Kaka, Tyson Gay, Jrue Holiday, Josh Smith, Jessica Ennis, Ana Ivanovic and Eric Berry. Each of the athletes will guide gamers through training programs in their respective sports, receiving real-time feedback on their actual in-game performance during their workouts when wearing a miCoach heart rate monitor. This is one I am definitely looking forward to.

Long story short, while the lack of Move games has been a bit disappointing, hang on, reinforcements are coming! Check out this video of Dwight Howard talking about the game:

Playstation Network “Welcome Back” Annoyances: Error 80710D36 and the disappearing FREE PS3 GAME 1

PSN Welcome Back free game download screenIt’s been kind of a dry spell for Move games in recent months, but I promise I’ll be back in the coming weeks with more reviews.

In the meantime, what is obviously occupying Sony’s time is trying to recover from when hackers got into Playstation Network and stole all our personal information.

If you haven’t heard yet, Sony is offering anyone who had a Playstation Network account before April two free games from a selected list. To download your free games, just go into the Playstation Store. They’re also offering “free access for 30 days” to Playstation Network Plus, but I won’t spend time covering that here because frankly, I see this as an insulting way for them to use their foul-up to try to upsell us to their paid service.

But if you’re like me, you’ve gone onto PSN and have faced even more headaches. Long story short, the  “Make Good”  is not so good, and is making Sony look even more buffon-like. Sony had better get on their horse and do a lot more if they expect us loyal Playstation users not to defect to the Xbox.

To help you through the morass, I’ve put some of the most common answers and questions (and annoyances) about the Playstation Welcome Back program here.

Q: What games should I choose of the five free games (InFAMOUS, Dead Space, Little Big Planet, Super Stardust HD, and Wipeout + Fury)

A: The best reviewed games on the list are Infamous and Little Big Planet–those are must-haves if you don’t have them already (Infamous is a mature “open world” game where you fight your way through a post-apocalyptic world; Little Big Planet is a fun little vertical scroller/puzzle game where you dress up your own “bag boy” and walk him through some really innovative worlds).

If you have either of these already, the next best choice is Wipeout, a fast-moving spaceship racing game.

I’m not a fan of Super Stardust–it’s a Robotron-like game which is much too complex for its own good. Also not a fan of Dead Space–it’s just another zombie game. If you like zombies, maybe you’ll get a kick out of it, but no thank you. I like my undead dead.

Q: I keep getting a message that says “An error has occurred. (80710D36)

error 80710d36

The dreaded (and dreadful) Error 80710D36

A: This is likely caused by millions of Playstation Network users flooding the system. Just press O to go back and X to try again, and keep doing that until it works (it could take 5-10 tries). Or, if that gets too annoying, just wait until a time with less peak traffic (e.g., after midnight).

Q: I selected my FREE PS3 GAME 1, but I’m unable to go back and choose an actual game. What do I do?

A: How annoying is this? You follow the instructions to check out with the FREE PS3 GAME 1, only to receive an error message AND to find that the option has disappeared when you return. Sony really should have delayed the launch a few more days and got a usability expert to test these things, because it’s a simply awful user experience.

Happily, there is a way you can claim your free game.

1) Exit out of Playstation Store and click “Account Management” on your main screen under “Playstation Network“. (It’s the icon of the square smiley face with the pencil in front of it).

2) Choose “Transaction Management” and then “Services List“. If you get the 80710D36 error, just press O to back out and try again.

3) You should see an entry called SCEA Promotion / Sony Computer Entertainment America. Click on it, and again, keep backing out and trying again if you get the 80710D36 error. Eventually you’ll see a “Welcome Back: Free PS3 Game 1” entry. Select it.

4) Click “Select Content“. Once again, keep going back and trying again if you get “An error has occurred”.

5) You should eventually get to a screen where you can select Dead Nation, inFAMOUS, Little Big Planet, Super Stardust HD, and WipEout HD.

Review of EA Sports Active 2 for Playstation 3

ALERT: EA Sports Active 2 is currently $30 off at the EA Sports Store. Get it while you can!

On December 14 only, EA Sports Active 2 available at Amazon for $40 off list price. Order before 12/17 to get free shipping before Xmas!! (As of December 17, this deal appears to still be active!)

EA Sports Active 2

Reviewed by on November 29, 2010 .
Summary: The best fitness game for the Wii makes a successful transition to the PS3.

review of ea sports active 2ea sports active ps3 reviewEA Sports Active has long been the king of the hill of fitness games for the Wii, along with its sequel EA Sports Active: More Workouts. But with the advent of the Playstation Move, EA had a decision to make. Should it continue to support the Wii and possibly cede the title of “best fitness game” for the PS3 to another game publisher? Or should it invest a ton of money into making the game work with the radically different Move controller?

EA Sports ended up doing something rather clever with EA Sports Active 2. It created its own controllers. Specifically, you have an arm controller to detect arm motions, a leg controller you strap onto your thigh, and a heart rate monitor that provides you with constant on-screen feedback of your pulse. So instead of awkwardly forcing you to hold a controller in your hand, now you can have full range of motion, grabbing onto the included resistance band (which is much less flimsy than the original Wii version) or even using free weights in your exercises.

One thing I really love about the new EA Sports Active is the innovation it put into the activities. There are over 70 to choose from, ranging from basic exercises to sporting events. As in the original version, most sporting events basically consist of you doing repetitions of exercise movements that approximate the movement that your on-screen character does. What I really like about EA Sports Active 2 is that they’ve incorporated much more interactivity and “video gaming elements” into the activities. For example, in the skateboarding and mountain biking activities, you need to leap at just the right moment to avoid obstacles. In the Basketball event, a cursor will move over the basket, and you need to time your release of the ball correctly to score.

There’s a new 9-week exercise regimen that you can follow. It’s not just a random assortment of exercises each day, it was clearly put together by a real fitness expert. Each day, you work progressively on different fitness goals. There’s a good variety of activities to keep the workouts interesting.

Another great improvement is the ability to work out with (and compete against) someone else, if you purchase a second set of controllers. There’s something about competition that makes exercise go by so much faster. If your Wii is connected to the Internet, you can also challenge your friends (or complete strangers) online or join an online workout group.

If there’s a gripe I have about EA Sports Active 2, it’s that it uses the same kind of “cartoony” graphics that you see on the Wii version. I’ve long hoped that EA Sports would start to incorporate more of the increasingly realistic graphics of its sports titles like Madden NFL into its fitness game, but it looks like that’s still some time away.

Overall, I’d say that EA Sports has made a very smooth transition to the PS3. Ironically, it doesn’t use the Move at all, but ends up providing a much stronger workout than if it did. For serious fitness on the PS3, this is a must-have.

If you have a Wii, read the updated Review of EA Sports Active 2 for the Wii!

5 of 5

Review of Dance Dance Revolution for Playstation Move

Dance Dance Revolution

Reviewed by on .
Summary: A good, if not phenomenal, first-ever release of DDR for the PS3.

A lot of Playstation 3 owners have been waiting a long time for Dance Dance Revolution to make it to the PS3. Four long years later, it’s finally arrived. Was it worth the wait?

The first thing I noticed when I opened my DDR box was a brand new, sleek black dance pad. it definitely looks a lot “cooler” than the old white dance pads on the Wii and the PS3. The pad features the normal four directional arrows, as well as the Playstation X, square, triangle, and circle on the four corners. Installation is a snap, of course–just plug it into an available USB port and you’re all set.

The options on DDR should be familiar to anyone who’s played it on the PS2 or the Wii. You have an enthusiastic man’s voice shouting out the options as you select them.

  1. In “Free Dance” mode where you can just dive into dancing. You select te number of players (single player or multiplayer) and then you can choose any song at one of four difficulty levels (beginner, basic, difficult, expert).
  2. “Club Mode” is where you basically have to proceed thorugh different levels of difficulty to win the game. As with all the DDR games, this is a good way to learn the game and to gradually build skills. unfortunately, the developers decided to put in things which seem more like gimmicks than anything else. There are features like “TRICKS” which will suddenly change the difficulty level in the middle of a song. As you finish songs in other “clubs”, you can move them to your own “club”. Honestly, this section seemed much more confusing than it should have been, and the confusing and poorly written explanation of “How to Play” at the beginning only made things worse. Konami should have stuck with keeping this simple. I didn’t even bother.
  3. “Dance Off” mode is where up to four players can take turns dancing. There’s something called a “combo roulette” which does things like speed up the dancing, shift the top arrows around, make the arrows bigger. But what it ends up doing is make the competition confusing and frustrating. Seems like another situation where they tried to innovate, but ended up causing more of a mess.
  4. There’s been a lot of talk about how the new Dance Dance Revolution makes use of the Playstation Move controller. Turns out there’s only one menu option in which you can use them: “Move & Step”, which is basically “Free Play Mode” that uses the Move Controllers. So you can’t use the Move Controllers in Club Mode or Dance Off Mode. To start, you need to adjust your position so that you and your mat are in the middle of the screen–and you need to stay in that position throughout the song. I thought that maybe like Just Dance, the game might at least featured some hand movements that looked like real dancing. But that wasn’t the case. Instead, there are four new kinds of arrows (pointing diagonally to each of the four corners of the screen) added to the mix. To get points, you need to swipe your hand to that corner when you see the arrow. The controls are precise, of course, and you do see a visual “swoosh” when you move your hands in the right direction. For some inexplicable reason, when using Playstation Move controllers, not only does XMB navigation not work, the “X” button on the Move controllers doesn’t even work. So you’re in an awkward position where you’re holding two Move controllers, but when you need to select a menu option or even just move to the next screen, you need to drop the Move controllers, pick up your Dualshock controller, make your selection, and then pick up the controllers again. It’s a rather sloppy piece of programming on Konami’s part.
  5. The remaining modes are “How to Play” (for anyone who doesn’t know how to play DDR yet), “Training Mode” (which lets you break down any song at any difficulty to practice it–again, no Move support), “Music Store” (which lets you access DLC), “Workout Profile” (which tells you the number of calories burned), “Records” (which displays the high scores for each song on your system for Free Play Move and Move & Step), “Video Manager” (which lets you export videos to YouTube and Facebook) and “Options”

The graphics are much better quality than on the Wii or the PS2, of course. When you select the songs you see a high-resolution image of the song’s album cover. For the most part, the graphics are crisp and the colors bright. During the dance numbers, you’ll see a video of yourself, taken with the Playstation Eye, in the background (sometimes clear, sometimes stylized with a solid color). I first found this a pretty cool feature, but sometimes the stylized images were so garing and distracting I just had to turn the camera off.

The playlist, as usual, is a combination of licensed tracks and Konami’s in-house music composers.

  • According to You (Orianthi)
  • Animal (Ke$ha)
  • Bad Romance (Lady Gaga)
  • Battlefield (Jordin Sparks)
  • Celebration (Kool and the Gang)
  • crushcrushcrush (Paramore)
  • Dancing in the Street (Martha and the Vandellas)
  • Hey, Soul Sister (Train)
  • I Got You (Leona Lewis)
  • I’m Yours (Jason Mraz)
  • Love Like This (Natasha Bedingfield)
  • Love Shack (The B-52s)
  • Mission (Everything But the Girl)
  • My Life Would Suck Without You (Kelly Clarkson)
  • Need You Now (Lady Antebellum)
  • Plastic Beach (Gorillaz feat. Mick Jones and Paul Simonon)
  • Rio (Duran Duran)
  • So Fine (Sean Paul)
  • Venus (Bananarama)
  • We Are Family (Sister Sledge)
  • dreaming can make a wish come true (jim and NRG Factory feat. Anna Kaelin)
  • In the Zone (UI, NPD3 style) and KIDD KAZMEO
  • Let’s Get Away (NAOKI fear. Brenda Burch)
  • MAGIC PARADE (Lea Drop feat. Katie Dellenbach)
  • One Sided Love (D-crew with Melissa Petty)
  • Private Eye (atomsoak ft. cerol)
  • Rescue Me (NAOKI feat. fracus)
  • Rhythms Inside (DKC Crew)
  • The Island Song (TAG feat. Eric Anthony)
  • TIME (NM feat. Aleisha G)

There are a number of aggravating annoyances. You can’t pause when you’re in the middle of a song. No buttons will work, and even if you hit the PS button, the song will keep on going. So if you get a phone call in the middle of a song, you just have to let it play all the way through.

You have the ability to record your performance in Free Play Mode, Dance Off and Move & Step. I can see the usefulness of recording songs with a dance game like Singstar Dance where you’re dancing to “real moves”. But here, you’re just hopping up and down and waving your arms randomly. Something tells me that this isn’t the sort of thing most people will be sharing on their Facebook page.

In all honesty, I think this summarizes DDR’s main weakness. DDR was the king of the hill of motion gaming since it first launched as an arcade game in 1998. But the world has moved on. Now that you can dance “real dance moves”, stepping on arrows seems a bit passé.

Don’t get me wrong, die-hard DDR fans will love this new game, the improved graphics, and the new music tracks. It’s still one of the better workouts you can get, especially when you practice over and over again to nail a difficult song. And of course, no other game can match it in terms of precision. But everyone else will probably find more satisfaction in newer games like Singstar Dance for the PS3, Just Dance 2 for the Wii, and Kinect Dance for the Xbox where they can not just pattern match but actually learn real dance steps. In that regard, DDR seems almost antiquated.

Overall, I’ll give it a rating of three of five stars. Executed well enough, but there’s really nothing very noteworthy nor innovative about it. It’s basically the same as it was in 1998–the “improvements” the developers tried to make (including use of the Move controllers) seem for the most part forced and contrived, as if they knew they had to be innovative, but knew that there’s just not that much more that can be done to stretch a 12-year old platform.

That said, I’d say it’s still a good purchase if you’ve never owned DDR before, and especially if you have kids in the house whose gym classes offer DDR (it’s a great way to get kids to not only get some exercise, but also give them some bragging rights at school after they’ve practiced at home).

3 of 5

Review of Singstar Dance for the Playstation Move

Singstar Dance
Reviewed by on November 26, 2010 .
Summary: SingStar Dance Party Pack carries on the excellent karaoke capabilities of its original, and now adds the ability for an additional player to dance to the music with precision controls of the Playstation Move. 

Back in 2009, Ubisoft released Just Dance for the Wii. This is the game which changed the face of dance games. Prior to this game, video game dancing pretty much consistent of pattern matching. But now, you could dance actual dance moves and have the system tell you how well you’re doing.

A year later, Sony released Move for the Playstation and Microsoft released Kinect for the Xbox 360. Suddenly, motion control was much more accurate and available with high resolution graphics. And not surprisingly, Sony came out with Singstar Dance and Microsoft came out with Dance Central.

I won’t comment on the relative merits of Move vs. Kinect–that’s something that time and the marketplace will ultimately decide. What I can say is that for those who own a Sony Move, Singstar Dance is a solid title that still carries on the excellent singing and voice evaluation capabilities of the original, while adding new features that use the Sony Move that make it feel like a next-gen version of Just Dance.

Like the original Singstar series, Singstar Dance uses proprietary microphones. They’re solid, high quality mikes that plug into a USB hub. The blue and red mikes from the original Singstar series will still work, but ordinary USB microphones will not. The “Party Pack” is pretty reasonably priced at $40, considering that it comes with both microphones.

When you get to the main menu, you have the option of viewing a tutorial on how to dance (basically the same as Just Dance, you hold the Move controller in your right hand and dance the mirror image to the onscreen silhouette). You can also start playing solo or with friends. You can also view your personal “media gallery”. More on this later.

Singstar Dance allows up to four players to play together. A maximum of two can sing at a time, and a maximum of two can dance at a time. When you have four players together all going at it the same time, it’s a lot of fun. As for those who want to sing and dance at the same time, you’re out of luck.

As with the original Singstar, for singers a meter will appear below showing how in-tune you are. The more accurate the singing, the higher the score.

When dancing, the original artists’ video will play in the background, while a silhouette figure appears to the right of the screen which you need to match the movements of. You can view a tiny video of yourself in the lower right hand corner. Or, you can switch views so that you’re taking up the entire screen.

The very cool part is that after you finish dancing, you can view a video playback of either part or all of your performance, which you can save (or in my case destroy and remove all evidence of). You can also see snapshots of your performance as well as “golden moments” (which I assume are the classic poses pre-identified in each of the songs). Each of these can be saved in the aforementioned “gallery”, or even uploaded to an online portal (where you can see others’ performances as well).

For both singing and dancing, you can choose a difficulty level. For the most part, once you get to the more advanced levels the dance moves are authentic (meaning they’re the same or very similar to the artists’ own moves). This means that to really experience the game to the fullest, you’ll need to practice and practice to get the steps right just like in real life. I would have liked to see a “practice” mode where they break down each of the steps for you or at least let you try it in slow motion, as trying to figure it out from the fast-moving silhouette can be difficult.

Here’s a video of me, playing the part of “Freakishly Huge Spice”, struggling through the Jackson 5 classic “I Want You Back”.

In this particular case, the “you” in the song represents “my dignity”.

It’s frustrating to get the moves right just by watching the on-screen character. But I imagine that as soon as you do, it’s definitely rewarding. When I tried it, the motion tracking using the Sony Move was flawless, even in a dark room.

Here’s a list of the tracks that come with the program. Additional ones will be available as downloadable content:

  • Backstreet Boys – Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)
  • Black Eyed Peas – Shut Up
  • Blondie – Heart of Glass
  • Chris Brown – With You
  • Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
  • Diana Ross and the Supremes – Baby Love
  • Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive
  • Gossip
    - Standing In the Way of Control
  • Gwen Stefani – What You Waiting For?
  • The Jackson 5 – I Want You Back
  • Jamiroquai – Cosmic Girl
  • KC & The Sunshine Band – That’s The Way (I Like It)
  • Kid Cudi – Day ‘N’ Nite
  • Kool and the Gang – Celebration
  • Lady Gaga – Poker Face
  • La Roux – Bulletproof
  • MC Hammer – U Can’t Touch This
  • New Kids on the Block – Hangin Tough
  • ‘NSYNC – Bye Bye Bye
  • OutKast – Hey Ya!
  • Paula Abdul – Straight Up
  • Pitbull – I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)
  • The Pussycat Dolls – Don’t Cha
  • Reel 2 Real – I Like to Move It
  • Ricky Martin – Livin’ La Vida Loca
  • Run-DMC vs. Jason Nevins – It’s Like That
  • Salt ‘N’ Pepa – Push It
  • Shaggy – Bombastic
  • Sir Mix a Lot – Baby Got Back
  • Soulja Boy – Crank That

As you can see, most of the songs are family-friendly, although a few may be a little too suggestive to play with children (the game is rated “T” for Teen).

One cool bell-and-whistle is voice-controlled menus, where the PS3 will use voice-recognition to bring you to the right place when you say an artist’s name, a genre, or a song. This was a little hit and miss when I tried it, so I kept it off. Playstation XMB navigation good enough for me.

One slight annoyance was that the game would “stutter” every now and again. It lasts for just an instant, but it happened enough times to be noticeable. I guess that may be to be expected with all the video information streaming to the screen.

All in all, this is a solid title that makes great use of the Playstation Move’s controller and the Playstation Eye camera fairly well. It’s not perfect, but with the dearth of really good launch titles for the Playstation Move, I’d say this one is a nice first attempt, especially if you’ll be playing with friends. Rating:4 of 5

Review of The Fight: Lights Out for Playstation Move

The Fight: Lights Out
Reviewed by on November 20, 2010 .
Summary: A fighting game that provides a better aerobic workout than most fitness and exercise titles.

5 of 5

I review a lot of games that can be used for fitness and exercise. Very rarely has a game provided such an intense workout that just after a few minutes of playing with it, I’m covered with perspiration and my muscles feel tighter. It happened with The Fight: Lights Out.

It takes a while for you to get started with this game. When you pop the disc into your PS3, you need to wait a few minutes while the game data installs. You’re instantly introduced to “Duke”, your grizzled virtual trainer who looks like he’s been in a couple fights himself in his day (the graphics are so detailed it’s hard to tell if he’s a real person or a computer-generated image).

While this is primarily a fighting game, there are fitness elements throughout. You start out by entering your weight, height, and age. Your BMI is calculated for you.

You can then choose a look for your fighter. You select from a variety of faces, beards, hair colors, and hair styles. Chances are you can get someone approximating your look. In the next step, you divide 60 “ability points” into various categories: strength, speed, stamina, chin (your charater’s ability to take a punch), heart (your character’s resolve in staying up despite taking a beating), and technique. In the course of the game, you can win more “ability points” to further strengthen your character.

In the next step, you calibrate your Move controllers (you need two of them). The process is a bit more involved than usual. You need to center yourself in the camera, stretch your arms straight out, and then move your remotes back and forth. You can also take a picture of the background without you in it to enable head tracking, which will supposedly track your head movements just like a Kinect (I couldn’t get it to work on mine, possibly because I had objects in the background).

Duke will go on to tell you how to play the game. You’ll need to keep your feet in place when boxing. You hold down the Move button while angling your controller to the sides, front, and back to move your character. You’ll also learn how to read the various elements in the game which represent your character’s well-being. There’s a health meter and a stamina meter, neither of which you want to run out. There’s also a rage meter, which goes up each time you get hit and adds fuel for “dirty moves”. A diagram of a skeleton will tell you if any part of your fighter is injured and needs to be patched up.

Once you finished the tutorial, you’ll see four menu options:

  • Events: Takes you through different fights of increasing difficulty. With each fight, you’ll earn money, reputation points, and new moves.
  • Training: Will let you re-do the tutorial or take new tutorials on sparring, heavy bag, speed bag, target practice, and endurance sparring.
  • Fitness: Shows you how many calories you burn while playing.
  • Fighter: Lets you adjust your character’s appearance, assign new “ability points” you earn, heal from injuries, and apply “boosters” which you earn during your fights. You can also download cheats online (which, of course, come at an extra price).

As for the actual fighting, it is by far the best fight experience I’ve had in a video game. Your onscreen character reflect your motions almost perfectly–and even mimics hooks, jabs, and uppercuts pretty well. It does take a little while to get used to fighting on a two-dimensional screen–it’s hard to gauge depth, so often you may be swinging and missing at your opponent (the game does work with 3D, so I suppose with a 3D television this issue would be solved). You can also switch camera angles, which helps.

Other than that, it’s a remarkable simulation of actual fighting. After each fight, you can view the calories you burned as well as statistics (punches thrown, punches connected, “dirty moves”, and punch accuracy). You can even view a video replay of your fight. Like I said, after about 5 rounds I was breathing hard and felt my muscles tighten. What’s great is that I didn’t want to stop–I just wanted to keep pounding the tar out of my opponents. I have a feeling that of all the games I have to get in shape, this is going to be the one I go back to most often.

If you’re looking for a workout and exercise title that’s not like a wimpy and prissy Jane Fonda video, you’ll be thrilled at this one.

Review of Get Fit with Mel B for the Playstation Move

Get Fit with Mel B
Reviewed by on October 30, 2010 .
Summary: A decent workout title that introduces some innovations such as use of the Playstation Eye to let you see yourself working out on screen and more accurate motion controls with the Playstation Move.

ps3 fitness game - get fit with mel b

Get Fit With Mel B is the first “pure fitness game” to come out for the Playstation Move. If the screens for Get Fit with Mel B look familiar, there’s a good reason. The game was developed by a company called Lightning Fish, which also happened to develop a game for the Wii called “New U Fitness” in the UK, where it was pretty well received.

In what turned out to be a disastrous move, the game was re-released in the United States by Ubisoft. In their wisdom, they decided to rename the game “My Fitness Coach 2″. The game had nothing to do with the original “My Fitness Coach” (a groundbreaking game developed by Respondesign), but evidently the Ubisoft marketing folks wanted to cash in on the brand name. The results were almost as bad as “New Coke” vs “Old Coke”. People who loved the first My Fitness Coach were up in arms that the “sequel” was nothing like the original. Reviews on Amazon were abysmal.

Marketing department snafu notwithstanding, New U Fitness was not as bad as the reviews would indicate. It had a snazzy, three-dimensional opening menu, and you could choose on-screen instructors to lead you through a variety of basic calisthenics exercises (sit-ups, lunges, etc.). You could choose either individual exercises or have the system prepare a daily workout that combined different exercises over time based on your fitness goals. It had the typical bells and whistles of a Wii workout game such as allowing you to change your background scenery.

It suffered from the two things that most Wii games suffer from: lower resolution graphics, and spotty motion controls. But if you were committed to to working out, it was a decent title which was more or less an exercise DVD which let you “mix and match” exercises, nothing more and nothing less. Sort of like eating your vegetables, it wasn’t “fun”, but it did the job.

My initial impression of Get Fit with Mel B is pretty much the same. The premise of the game is more or less identical to My Fitness Coach 2 and in fact, so are the menu options.

The opening menu options are:

Today’s Workout: When you set up your profile, you can identify up to two fitness goals falling under the categories of General Health (weight loss, detox, lower cholesterol), Lifestyle (e.g. “Destress”), Special Occasions (e.g., new mom/dad, getting ready for the holidays), Sports and Activity training, and working on specific parts of your body. The system will automatically put together a daily 30-minute regimen of exercises that will target these goals.

Choose Workout: Here, you can drill down to the specific exercises that you want. Exercises are broken into two categories: Fitness and Aerobics. Fitness exercises include things like crunches, squats, lunges, etc. You typically do them in reps of 10-20 before going onto the next exercise. Aerobics is where this title is at its best. You can choose from a series of dance moves, boxing moves, or cardio moves. There’s also a “custom workout” option which lets you put together your own string of exercises (selecting exercises and defining the number of reps for each), a “practice” option which lets you practice certain exercises as many times as you like (anywhere from 4 to 96 reps), and a neat “challenges” option where you’re pushed to complete a series of themed exercises (dance exercises, abs exercises, leg exercises, boxing exercises, and cardio exercises) within a certain amount of time.

Your Progress: This section allows you to track your workout progress. One thing the Wii has that the PS3 doesn’t is a balance board which will automatically chart your weight. So it’s time to dust off that bathroom scale. Nutrition: I never quite understood the concept of having recipes on a video game. I get that they want to provide a “holistic workout regimen” that involves proper diet, but on the other hand, not many people have their TVs set up in their kitchen or a printer hooked up to their video game console.

Here’s a video of me doing the “cardio” exercises under the “Challenge” section.

I look gargantuan compared to Mel B because of two things. First, the furthest I could get my Playstation Move camera was about 5 feet away. Secondly, because I’m a little bashful–the last thing I need is to be recognized on the street and told how bad my form was on the video!

After seeing myself on TV, I wonder if I could have been the sixth Spice Girl: “Freakishly Huge Headless Spice”.

There were a couple things I really liked about Get Fit with Mel B:

  1. The game makes excellent use of video. You first get a hint of this when you seeing a video image of yourself under “Your Progress” in the opening menu options. After you select your scenery and start your exericses you see two exercise mats, one with a video image of Mel B (it’s really her, not a creepy cartoon rendering), and the other with–you! As Mel B does the exercises, you can match her movements and timing exactly, step by step, arm movement by arm movement. It’s a vast improvement over the “do the mirror image of my movements” inherent in Wii exercise games.
  2. The scenery is breathtaking. Granted, when compared to other PS3 games it’s probably not that impressive, and it’s really just a backdrop (there’s no interaction with the scenery), but for someone used to choosing background scenery on a low-resolution Wii, I was impressed. The first scene I chose was the “City Apartment”, which was a window overlooking a city skyline. You can also choose from a park, a dock (in the Maldives, no less), a poolside, a forest meadow, and a luxury yacht.
  3. The array of individual exercises is impressive. There are 22 basic fitness exercises, but 15 dance exercises, 20 boxing exercises, 14 cardio exercises, and 14 advanced cardio exercises. Put them together in different orders with different amounts of reps, and you’ll have a pretty good variety of workouts.
  4. You can choose to work out using your own equipment, including an aerobics step, a fitball, a resistance band, wrist weights, and ankle weights.
  5. I like little details they put in. When it’s time for a water break, Mel B takes out a bottle of water and drinks it with you. The game is intelligent enough to give different “fitness goals” based on your profile information (e.g. whether you’re male or female). And so on.

Having said that, there were a number of things I found annoying about the game:

  1. While other games say that you need to be at least 8 feet from the camera, most of the time you can get away with being 5-6 feet away. Not so with this game. Anything less than 8 feet and your video image will not appear on the screen properly.
  2. For a lot of exercises, it simply doesn’t make sense to have the Move controller tracking your moves. For standing exercises like squats, lunges, and jumping jacks it’s great. But for exercises like push-ups and crunches it just doesn’t make sense.
  3. It doesn’t use the Playstation Move XMB navigation for menus. I’ll chalk this up to the developers not knowing about it, being an early release title. Still, it gets annoying having to point a cursor and click on every button when every other Move game lets you hold down the trigger button and move the controller to navigate. Worse, you can’t even use a Dualshock or Sixaxis controller to control menu options.
  4. This is an annoyance I don’t think the game developers could have done anything about, but when performing exercises that require you to be on the floor, it’s very tough on the neck to look up at the TV screen to follow the moves. Perhaps a little more vocal guidance from Mel B during these exercises would help.
  5. In general, while the motion controls were a step above what you could find on the Wii, I didn’t get the sense that they made full use of the Move’s capabilities (generally, as long as there was ANY motion, it registered on the screen).
  6. Tiny annoyance, but it seems the game developers forgot to convert certain screens for an American audience. When you first input your birthday, it took me a while to figure out that it was in “day-month-year” format versus “month-day-year”. And what the heck is a “gram” or “milliliter” in the recipes section? :)

This has all the bearings of a game which is pretty well made for a first-generation title, but probably won’t stand the test of time as newer and more innovative games come out.

Still, for someone looking for a “pure” exercise game, this is not a bad choice. It provides an impressive amount of different cardio fitness and aerobics exercises. The ability to see your own actual video image next to Mel B is not just cool–there’s no better way to help you visualize and time the exercise. And the scenery is definitely beautiful and head-and-shoulders improved over what you’d see on a Wii.

That, plus the fact that this is the first attempt at a fitness game for the PS3, gets it a solid 4 stars from me. Having said that, I hope as game developers produce more fitness titles for the PS3, that they can introduce more “gaming” elements to make workouts a lot more immersive and fun.

4 of 5

Amazon Gift Cards on Sale

For a limited time, Amazon is holding a special for people with an Amazon Visa Card. Buy any Amazon Gift Certificate (up to a total of $2000), and Amazon will give you 5% back. This is in addition to the 3 points (3%) you get from using the Visa card!

Details can be found at this link: Amazon Gift Card Special

You can buy them to give away, but personally, I’m going to buy some for myself–you can think of it as getting an instant 8% discount off anything you buy at Amazon–a great deal considering that you’ll be hard pressed in the next few weeks to find any sales for the Playstation Move given how new it is.

If you look at the right side of the page, you’ll see all the upcoming games for the Playstation Move which you’ll be able to use for a workout. If the past is any indication, Amazon’s sure to have some special promotions for the Playstation Move and its new games as the holidays approach, all of which will be good with the gift cards you buy now.