Active Life Explorer Review
Active Life Explorer is yet another iteration in the Active Life series that encourages kids to get off the couch, and get active. Utilizing a mat controller that mimics the old Power Pad for the NES, players will run, step and jump their way across a myriad of challenges that will have them sweating before they know it.
Though the adventure is presented as a series of mini-games, it does incorporate a storyline that works, for the most part, if only to get you from challenge to challenge. You're a young and eager explorer (girl or boy) in search of immense treasure as you scour the world map and complete dangerous tasks.
All of these challenges utilize the mat controller in a unique way. Running has you alternately steps on the two center buttons as fast as possible, jumping is as easy as literally jumping up from the pad, ducking is done by bending over and simultaneously pressing the two front arrows, and some challenges even include the use of the Wii-remote. It's a system that literally puts your movements in the game, without the need for a camera.
Some of the 24 challenges include running across a collapsing bridge, jumping from one moving train car to the next in order to stop the train from falling off a bridge, stomping on alligator heads that want to grab you off your boat, swimming deep underwater, jumping to avoid fiery pillars, and rappeling down a high cliff. The Wii is no stranger to mini-games. but being able to utilize your body instead of just gesturing with the Wii remote offers a heightened sense of immersion.
Not all the challenges are fun, however. A few bad apples prove to be more frustrating than fun due to odd control mechanics. These are few and far between however and don't hurt the overall package. As you complete challenges, you will unlock harder difficulties to play through in Free Play, as well as numerous costumes and clothing for your chosen avatar. It's a neat incentive that the younger crowd will definitely appreciate.
The mat was my main concern. I had bad experiences with similar mats for Dance Dance Revolution, but I was pleasantly surprised by how accurate the Active Life mat really is. Even the slightest step was detected, which made the overall experience much more enjoyable and eliminated frustration. Perhaps the most fun to be had with Active Life Explorer is when playing multiplayer. The pad can support multiple people at a time, and also incorporates cooperative challenges. Though the option to crush another person's record is there, it was nice to see that the spotlight in multiplayer was on teamwork.
Wii owners with Kinect envy should look no further than the Active Life games. They may not fully represent your movement in game, but come extremely close. Though it's a game primarily aimed at the younger crowd, players of any age can get in on the fun, especially when played with multiple people.