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EA Sports Active 2 is another proper workout. The Kinect version freed me from the dreaded leg strap and for me was the easiest to use. It works because it's fun.
Having read Paul's professional take on EA Sports Active 2 (Wii), I thought a more casual user's opinion may be in order. I've played all manner of exercise games from Your Shape (Wii) to Yoga (Wii) to Active Health with Carol Vorderman (DS) and have even given the original EA Sports Active a good go. But on each occasion, my casual commitment to exercise at home has meant that they have been more trouble than they were worth. I've simply got too many other more pressing family chores to attend to. Setting up controllers and tensions bands is just too much hassle.
Having got Kinect for Christmas I thought this may be an easier way to slot in some daily exercises. You see, EA Sports Active 2 on the Kinect doesn't need any controllers - all you need do it pop on a heart monitor and tell Kinect to start the game - much to the sniggers of any children in earshot.
It's a lot more accessible than the first game with a nice introduction to get the sensor positioned. I was glad I had the 360 version, EA Sports Active 2 (PS3) needs a controller to navigate and, like EA Sports Active (Wii), also requires a leg monitor to be strapped on to detect movement.
Setting up was a doddle. We have a nice big lounge so I had enough room to stand far enough away from the Kinect camera, but I think if you had less space you may want to consider the PS3 or Wii version.
The exercises themselves are varied and well explained.
Once setup the game proper starts. It's a little overblown and bombastic for my reclining English sensibilities but nevertheless it paints a picture of a fitness adventure ahead of you that at least communicates some of the effort that is going to be required here.
I liked the fact that I could customise my on screen self more than with Your Shape (Kinect) but I was still a little disappointed not to be able to use my Xbox 360 avatar that I (sneakily) spend quite some time preening over.
Entering some stats and goals triggers some suggested routines, but I found these a little restricting. I know they are probably more balanced than exercises I choose for myself but we all have to start somewhere. I opted to create my own routines from the 52 exercises (apparently there are 68 on the PS3 version although I really don't see why).
Figure: EA Sports Active 2 features by platform.
Each exercise starts with a gentle warm up and concludes with a cool down and stretch series. During each session it can look a little like a dancing game as you follow the on screen instructions. But unlike Dance Central and the like, this is all about movement rather than precise timing. Rather than being punished for missing a beat, here your instructor waits for you to catch up - much more friendly.
The exercises themselves are varied and well explained. Lunges, curls crunches and burn-inducing bent arm side planks form the building blocks of each session. But what kept me going was not the difficulty but the way EA Sports Active manages to incentivise each routine with different games. Somehow these painful exercises are actually quite fun.
Much of this is from the different on-screen games you play while you exercising - much more entertaining than trying to keep track of Corrie or East Enders while pounding the floor. Football kicks, basketball jumps and mountain biking were my favourites. These all worked will with Kinect's usual body tracking system telling you if you strayed off the advised path.
But what kept me going was the way EA Sports Active incentivises each routine with different games.
You can track your progress with a wealth of fitness tools that track goals, provide a workout calendar, nutrition guide and connect with other EA Sports Active users online. Although it supports a second player I didn't try this - I'm much more of a lone exerciser these days.
One thing I missed though was any kind of stretching and suppleness routines. My favourite part of Wii-Fit Plus (Wii) were the Yoga sessions. EA Sports Active 2 hits the right notes for cardio and strength but has a real blind spot for flexibility and balance.
EA Sports Active 2 isn't cheap - around 70 GBP on Wii, PS3 or 360 - but it does offer a genuine contribution to you exercising efforts if you give it the chance. Of course there is no such thing as a panacea and you have to work at this as much as anything else - but because it manages to maintain the fun and variety I found I was actually looking forward to my daily sessions - so far anyway.
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