By the end of this adventure, your body will be sore.
Mini-games are nothing new on the Wii. Fitness games aren't either. So for a while now game developers have been trying to improve these genres by implementing new ideas, such as emphasis on story driven gameplay (Disney's Guilty Party), selling new peripherals that alter the gameplay (Ubisoft's Your Shape), and even featuring a popular franchise to sell the concept (Mario Party). Active Life Explorer does this by incorporating heart-pumping mini-games in a variation of Wii Fit's exercises, and the end result is incredibly fun but very tiring.
Like the previous games in the series, Active Life Explorer comes bundled with an Active Life play pad, similarly designed to the Power Pad and the Dance Dance Revolution pads. There are six arrows and two square buttons, colored blue and orange. The quality of the pad itself is pretty good. It plugs into the GameCube port of the Wii. The pad is designed to accommodate two players, one on each side of the pad.
The 20-plus mini-games live up to the title's moniker, as they all require physical activity in order to complete them. Despite many of them featuring the same motions, such as running in place, button pressing, and jumping, they are very creative in their design, taking full advantage of the adventure theme. Activities in these mini-games include running across a runaway train while avoiding obstacles, running away from mummies and pressing the buttons on the pad to close a gate, and even a dog-sled mini-game, where both the pad and the Wii Remote are used.
The main problem with some of these mini-games is that if you aren't fit, you will get tired quickly, especially in the harder difficulty levels, where a lot of stamina is required to complete them. Some games are also very hard to complete due to difficult to execute commands on the pad. Despite that, the mini-games do a great job of placing the player in an adventurous setting and being very enjoyable to play.
The mini-games are very easy to control thanks to the quality of the pad. One small problem I encountered is that during gameplay, you may push the wrong button due to all the activity going on, and also at times you need to stomp hard in order for the game to register the button presses. Nevertheless, Active Life Explorer controls well and keeps up with the frenzied nature of the gameplay.
Active Life Explorer features three main modes of play. Treasure Adventure is where the player goes on a treasure hunt around the world by completing mini-games. Along the way they will unlock new difficulty settings for the mini-games as well as costumes. This is an easy way to explore all of the mini-games the title has to offer, although you will have some difficulty completing this mode if you have issues with some of the mini-games.
The next mode is Free Play where players can partake in all of the mini-games at their leisure. This is a great mode for practicing some of the harder mini-games. The final mode is the game's main multiplayer component, Party Mode. The most surprising aspect about this mode is that it allows up to eight players, two players on four pads. You can then select the length of the session as well as the difficulty. While it is unlikely that you would have four pads available to you, it is impressive that eight-player support is included.
There are three additional modes: Treasure Mode, where you can see the treasure you have collected in Treasure Adventure as well as change your character's look, Rankings, where you see the records you have set, and finally Treasure Trials, where you complete mini-games in succession.
The visuals of Active Life Explorer may not push the Wii's graphical technology, but they are certainly captivating. The colors are very warm and vibrant, giving a strong Indiana Jones-like vibe that adds immersion to the overall experience. The cartoony characters look weird at times, but complement this style very well. You can use Mii characters and change their outfits for a more personal aesthetic. The music very well done, making its presence felt through epic compositions and unique tracks for the mini-games. It is a commendable presentation.
In conclusion, Active Life Explorer is an excellent mini-game compilation title as well as a fitness game. The very creative games combined with a plethora of modes and features make this title worth checking out if you want a party game for the family or just a fun exercise game. Be warned, though, as the mini-games can get very intense if you are not the physical fitness type.