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EA Sports Active II Review

Review; Sep. 20, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Anne King
A little pain from a video game never hurt anyone

I've been playing this stupid, awesome game (if you can call it that) for the past six months. Maybe longer. The main reason? I hate gyms. The other reasons? I've got a 30 to 40 minute commute; I have four dogs and a cat (and a mess of fish) who need me home after eight to 10 hours so they can eat, go for walks, and do all the other stuff they do on said walks; I work (supposedly) eight hours a day. To wit, I simply don't have enough time for a freakin' gym.

EA Sports Active II Screenshots
Click the image to view game screenshots

So I picked up EA Sports Active II based solely off the advice of a friend after complaining Wii Fit was doing sh*t. (Don't even get me started on that soft-spoken, genetically ambiguous twit.) The night I tried it out, I was soaked. Panting. In pain. And overall, thrilled.

The music was great; the graphics were simple enough that they weren't a bother; the game got my heart rate up — let me repeat that. It got my heart rate up, and I could tell (you know, aside from all the sweat) because it tracks my heart rate with this little sensor that straps around my left arm. Another one goes around my right thigh, and that's how it determines if you're really following along. And, believe me, it's oh-so-irritating if it thinks you're not. Because you just want to get through this damn set, and if it would just move on so you could get out of this uncomfortable, painful position ...

EASAII is set in a seemingly remote, lush desert oasis that looks like a golf course plopped down in the middle of Utah somewhere. It's pretty, but somewhat dead and lifeless — sometimes I wish there were background wildlife, but really, that's not the point. The point is you're going to run in place while your character onscreen leisurely struts around a paved track surrounded by red arches and water until your tongue falls out, or you're going to squat and jump repeatedly while your character cycles with ease around a red dirt track on the side of a mountain until your legs feel like giant rubber posts stuck to your torso.

EASAII lets you set your own program, a nine-week ordeal in which you pick the days you're going to work out, and you stick to that schedule — or, by God, you'll know you're not. 'Cause it counts every day you've missed and displays them proudly for you on the main menu screen and the program screen. (And for those of us who are OCD, that's really a bother.)

The first nine-week program was hard. I set it on the medium program, but I have never seriously worked out once in my life, aside from a little rough yard or house work. When I finished that final day (after only missing one day — it let me make up the rest of them), I was bummed. So I decided I'd move on to the hard program. But there's the con: Each work out program starts you off on piddly, 20-minute sessions a day for the first three weeks. After hammering away for nine weeks and working up to a 40- or 45-minute routine, that wasn't enough. So I started creating my own work outs in addition to the pre-programmed ones.

Creating your own is simple enough, but it's made complicated because there's so many options: cardio, abs, lower body, upper body, full body, basketball, soccer, mountain biking, mountain boarding, kick boxing step aerobics, low-impact, high-impact ... you get the idea. There's a resistance band thrown in, too. But with myriad options comes a lot of time spent making work outs. So, more often than not, I resort to the game-generated and pre-set options, which are pretty damn hard in and of themselves, even if they include really irritating sets such as foot fires and mountain climbers.

As far as I can tell, there's no way to simply play the self-created or pre-programmed workouts. You always have to have a program in session — the game funnels you to program settings anytime you're not currently in one. The way around it? Leave the program alone. I left my second go-round on the hard program on the last day and haven't selected it since. It's been proudly telling me I'm on day 63 of 63 for the past few months while I do the harder pre-set programs ... and include my own weight lifting sets.

Let's face it: there's only so much you can do on your own with a resistance band. This game got me kick-started into working out regularly, and it definitely improved my cardiovascular strength. But there's no way I was going to build muscle definition with a resistance band. So I've include some small bar bells to use whenever possible with the game and now do my own thing with the weights.

There's an online option, too, and you can also purchase an additional workout package. I created a workout group and invited friends to join, but what I really wanted to do — share my pain-inducing, self-created workouts — I couldn't. That's an idea for a future iteration.

I've been letting this game kick my ass for more than six months now, and I still enjoy a hearty, painful session at least three times a week — that's replayability at its best.


Review Score


Titles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.

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