- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 13, 2009

Here’s an abbreviated look at some multimedia titles for everyone in the family.

Personal Trainer: Walking (from Nintendo for the DS, $49.99) — Not since taking a stroll to the Dairy Queen has walking been so rewarding. This part life coach, part game simulation is designed to keep humans in motion.

Once players get past the price point, they will find a pair of small infrared devices called activity meters. The meters not only count steps, but also communicate via a wireless connection with the DS. A meter is easily synched to the hand-held console and a virtual representation of it appears on the DS’ screens. The meter reminds owners how to accomplish a healthy lifestyle.

Next, a player either creates a Mii avatar or uploads one already in use with his Wii console, and it’s time to start walking. The meter can be carried in a pocket or clipped to a purse or belt. The second meter can be given to another family member, even the dog, with the option to create a Mii pooch.

My greatest challenge was keeping the meter on my person and not losing it in the laundry or forgetting about it during a change of clothes. However, it is a sturdy little device that held up through some rough hikes.

Team exercisers can have up to four walkers registered in one cartridge ($14.95 per extra meter) so it can become a challenge to maintain bragging rights as goals and accomplishments are shared.

The software portion of the title is short on excitement but loaded with statistics and graphs to keep track of daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly progress down to times of inactivity, average number of steps taken and active walking periods.

Walkers can take those accumulated steps and perform some activities on the DS, such as transform them into energy to light up a virtual neighborhood or, better yet, virtually walk around the world.

In another feature, as the Mii walks, using the owner’s accrued steps, it draws the outline of an object that offers a bit of an education. As the picture takes shape, the walker is given clues. When enough steps have been loaded to finish the image, it is fully revealed with more facts — such as in the case of highlighting a space shuttle and learning the craft is fast enough to go around the world in 90 minutes.

One hundred pictures eventually can be “drawn,” which translates into taking tens of thousands of steps.

The walker also can go online and combine his efforts with others from around the world to try and virtually trek to other planets.

I Love Beauty: Hollywood Makeover (from City Interactive for DS, $19.99) — Here’s one for girls who dream of prepping starlets for the lifestyle of the famous. Because makeup is not my strong suit, I enlisted the help of a female tester who found the game as shallow as the starlets she had to make look “marvelous.”

The player begins with a choice of three avatars, a perky brunette, a blonde with curly hair and a black-haired girl with darker skin, which immediately limits the player’s ability to choose someone that looks like her. My helper picked the brunette, Megan, whose head is just a little too big, in the vein of the Bratz dolls. It’s not a realistic look for the pre-teen girls this game targets.

The game’s back story is a soap-opera-like exercise in family dysfunction as a young girl lands in California only to be contacted by an aunt she barely recognizes. The aunt entices her to come hang out at her famous “Beauty Center,” a mecca for celebs and the starstruck.

Without so much as a cosmetology license to hang on the wall, Megan convinces her aunt that she can step behind the stylist’s chair. While I understand the game needs to get the girl into the beauty center and working, a more realistic path might have had Megan taking a few courses to familiarize the player with the action.

Tasks are simple and use familiar DS stylus movements to apply 36 cosmetic choices. Some tasks are timed, requiring the player to move the stylus back and forth while applying hair dye, for example, or skill based, such as pushing up on the eyelash curler to create a lovely sweep, versus a spidery-looking crunch of the ol’ eyelashes.

Challenges include dying, curling and straightening hair; applying foundation, lipstick, eye shadow and false eyelashes; and filing, painting and drying nail polish (yes, blow into the DS mic).

To finish the starlet’s look, players can add hair bobs, necklaces and earrings.

Skills are tested in three styling competitions as well as 13 makeup and hair minigames with more than 60 variations. Players also can practice their skills in a free-play mode.

All together, my tester did not find the game worth the bother. It was too repetitive and it takes a lot of work to unlock new areas. Also, would it have been that hard to add recognizably black, Asian or Hispanic avatars or even include one or two clients who weren’t stick-thin, perfect models? I know these things are built for young people to play, but can’t we provide even the slightest slice of reality?


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