Active 2 decent workout; Lost in Shadow slow going

Now that the holidays are past, it’s time even for gamers to think about fitness. EA Sports Active 2 fits that need like a new pair of sneakers, reminding you that shaping up can be engaging and fun, and doesn’t have to involve sweating in front of strangers.

EA Sports Active 2

Platforms: PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360

Genre: Sports

Publisher: EA Sports

ESRB Rating: E, for Everyone

Grade: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

Now that the holidays are past, it’s time even for gamers to think about fitness. EA Sports Active 2 fits that need like a new pair of sneakers, reminding you that shaping up can be engaging and fun, and doesn’t have to involve sweating in front of strangers.

To be clear: Active 2 is not a video game, per se. There are no terrorists, zombies, dinosaurs or even rival sports teams to defeat. No, it’s just you, a fictional personal trainer and whatever amount of desire for fitness you bring to the table. If you can’t motivate yourself, you probably won’t last long here because this game is, quite frankly, just about working out. When a developer deftly blends push-ups and bicep curls with slaying demons or saving fair maidens, then you’ll really be playing with power.

Except on the Wii platform, you strap motion sensors to your arms and legs to register how well you work out. Mine disconnected from time to time, but for the most part they stayed in sync and did a solid job.

Active 2 allows you to complete nine- or three-week training sessions, all managed and taught by your trainer. If the sessions intimidate you, you can do one-off sessions for a quick workout. The graphics are pretty bland, so don’t think you’ll be doing workouts on virtual beaches or mountaintops.

Like with any workout, Active 2 will give back only as good as you put in. Stick with it, and you’ll quickly shed that excess holiday weight.

Lost in Shadow

Platform: Wii

Genre: Platformer

Publisher: Hudson Entertainment

ESRB Rating: E, for Everyone

Grade: 3 stars

Lost in Shadow is similar to Limbo, which was one of my top 10 games of 2010. Shadow brims with originality for Wii players, but is held back by monotony and puzzles that take too long to complete.

At the game’s beginning, a boy gets tossed from a tower, and his shadow is separated from his body. This is you, the shadow. To reconnect yourself to the boy, you must traverse a spooky castle and fight off shadow monsters to reach your destination.

The game’s genius is that you can only travel along the shadows projected by the castle’s platforms, walls and other architecture. This gets more complex and exciting as you become able to control the direction of light and adjust the shadows. It’s a fascinating and original take on platform gaming and forces you to see the game’s design in a new way.

As distinctive and mesmerizing as the gameplay is, Lost in Shadow becomes more about guesswork and less about the journey and the tension the environment evokes. Once you get used to slaying shadow enemies with your sword (which is never really difficult), the game becomes monotonous. If you can make it to the latter portions of the adventure, you are rightly rewarded, but I predict many gamers will abandon the poor shadow boy to the darkness.

Follow Chris Campbell at twitter.com/campbler or email him at game—on—games@mac.com.

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