"EyeToy: Kinetic" screenshot
AP / Sony
This screenshot from "EyeToy: Kinetic" shows a player engaged in one of the workout modes. The game includes a 12-week training program and four different exercise styles.
updated 1/9/2006 6:38:31 PM ET 2006-01-09T23:38:31

There's nothing too physically demanding about most video games. A few manufacturers, however, have decided the only proper way to enjoy one is to break a sweat. Here's a look at a some recent titles where getting off the sofa is a prerequisite to playing:

EyeToy: Kinetic
(Rated E, $49.99, PlayStation 2)
"EyeToy: Kinetic" from Sony Computer Entertainment intends to be a personal fitness trainer for the 21st century, with mixed results.

As with Sony's previous EyeToy games, "Kinetic" uses a USB camera peripheral to superimpose an image of yourself on the television screen, tracking your body movements.

Setup was a bit of a chore. It took me a while to properly focus the camera, and I had trouble getting it to consistently track my hands, arms and legs.

You'll need plenty of square footage, too. I had to clear out the sofa and coffee table from my living room to make way for all the lunging, kicking and general flailing about.

When "Kinetic" worked as advertised, it was fun powering through the included four "fitness zones," such as combat mode, where you have to punch and kick colored spheres as they bounce across the screen.

The advice from the male and female digital trainers doesn't go much beyond mundane encouragement like "You're doing great!" And without a heart rate monitor or other scientific gauge, I wonder how precise and personalized this sort of training can be.

Though it's going to cost a lot more, anyone who's serious about fitness will probably get more out of a gym membership.

"Kinetic" is a good idea if you're looking for a way to break up your existing regimen. At times, I forgot I was getting a decent workout, and that's no easy feat for someone like me, who only runs if he's being chased.

Two and a half stars out of four.

Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2
(Rated E10+, $59.99, PlayStation 2)
Konami Digital Entertainment-America raises its popular dancing game to new heights with "Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2."

This one left me hunched over and panting after only a few minutes.

You play by moving your feet on a special mat to corresponding arrows that scroll on the TV screen. You have to tap the same symbols on the mat at just the right time to do well.

I was huffing and puffing to a mostly electronic collection of music including "Block Rockin' Beats" by the Chemical Brothers.

I wasn't fit enough to do it for more than a few songs at a stretch, but I at least I got a great cardiovascular workout. A workout mode even tracks the calories I burned as I made an utter fool of myself.

This version adds EyeToy camera support so you can get your hands involved in the routine, as well as online play, which is limited to rankings.

If you're really looking for some fun competition, buy a second mat, invite some friends over and host a truly hilarious dancing grudge match.

Like Napoleon Dynamite, I'm now on some Gatorade-fueled quest to perfect my new dance moves. I don't think I'll ever have his skills though, so don't look for me on any stage, ever.

Three stars out of four.

Guitar Hero
(Rated T, $69.99, PlayStation 2)

OK, so "Guitar Hero" isn't really an exercise game. Unless you're a rock star wannabe like me, who found himself strutting around, head-banging and moshing to the music.

This is the game that will either cure that case of air guitar or make it worse.

"Guitar Hero" includes a stringless, plastic guitar which plugs into the PS2 and acts as the controller. There are five colored fret buttons and a strum bar instead of strings, as well as a whammy bar you can grab to oscillate those long power chords.

The game by RedOctane covers an excellent, if short, collection of some of rock 'n' roll's best guitar pieces, from the killer riff of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" to more recent numbers by Franz Ferdinand and Sum 41.

I certainly have a new appreciation for the skill and artistry of guitarists.

I'm no musician so I started off on the easy mode, where my limited dexterity was still put to test, strumming up the ladder from unknown garage band to stadium-filling supergroup.

It may not have been the workout of "Kinetic" or "DDR Extreme 2," but prancing around does burn calories, and at least I wasn't slouched on the sofa.

My only complaint was the quality of the guitar, a smallish, plastic number that seems destined to break well before I smash it on the floor in some fit of musical passion.

The connection cord was a bit short for full-on rock sessions, too. I'd like to see a wireless version.

Three stars out of four.

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