As a lifelong geek, I’ve never had much desire to exercise. As a kid I was always as skinny and weak as Neon Genesis Envangelion’s Shinji. My adult life, or at least the last ten years, I’ve struggled with weight loss. With the birth of Toddler_o_Geek (then Newborn_o_Geek), I stopped dieting and trying to exercise and really gained a lot of weight in a short amount of time. With weight related health problems looming, I must exercise for at least an half hour a day, doctor’s orders. After a few weeks of using a boring peddling machine while watching Invader Zim, R.O.D. OVA, or Blood+ at 5:30 AM, I ordered Red Octane‘s DDR clone bundle, In the Groove, plus 2 Ignition 3.0 Dance Pads (one for me and one for Wife_o_Geek or Toddler_o_Geek, though she prefers a bamboo inlayed serving tray we keep on the ottoman, it’s more to her scale). I had to wait a few weeks for the bundle to show up (backordered), and then another week for the second dance pad. Now I could join all those obese elementary school kids I keep hearing about, and dance away from diabetes and heart disease.
After assembling the pads (they have thick foam pads you construct like a puzzle and insert into the soft enclosure pad, zip) and letting them air out in the laundry room for a few days (you will be surprised by the acrid foam smell) I installed them in my home theater room behind the couch. The Red Octane Ignition 3.0 Pads (I assume 1.0 didn’t have blogs and 2.0 didn’t have layers) had a universal multi-connector so you can hook up to Xbox, PS2 or your home PC/Mac through USB. The distance from the back of my couch to the upper right corner of my equipment cabinet was long enough that I needed PS2 and Xbox extension cables. My first few sessions’ difficulty level was increased because I thought you had to stand in the middle of the pad on the Red Octane logo not touching any of the four directional pads. I have size 13 feet, so by keeping my ankles locked together and only stepping on the pads when the arrow passed the mark, I was constantly off-balance, having to shift my weight and attempt multiple steps to hit the beat. I explained my technique to my friend, Fuzzy, at work and he explained that you can keep your idle feet on the left and right arrows and just step when when the beat moves you. So I’ve improved. I can still only play on In the Groove‘s easiest setting. Any higher difficulty is total chaos, which I’m sure would make a great viral video.
In the Groove has a Workout mode that lets you set your weight (to correctly count calorie burn), and a goal of either calories or time. You can then pick songs one at a time (not recommended unless you want to take a break every few minutes), as a set or random play. Random play was best for working out as it plays one song after another for as long as the cardio session lasts. Even on the easy setting (lower number of steps), I worked up a sweat after ten minutes with a combination of side-to-back-to-side steps, jumps and claps (the game didn’t ask me to clap, I just felt like clapping). Twenty minutes would go by before a sweat bead would form while on the old peddler.
In the Groove‘s music selection is one generic (or unknown artists, to me at least) techno (or euro-trance-house, I’m not up to speed on my dance music genre niches) tune after another. The songs were great for working out, but nothing else. The only stand-out artist was MC Frontalot with the PA (Penny Arcade) Theme, the song had some great double stomps that kept me sweating.
Toddler_o_Geek loved to run interference. I would be halfway through my workout when she decided to crawl onto my dance pad. Because I was staring at the big screen, trying to catch every arrow beat on time, I didn’t notice her underfoot and I kicked her in the head with my shin. Ow. The kick didn’t phase Toddler_o_Geek, she kept on crawling and babbling, then got up on her serving tray to continue her dance steps. It took me a while to catch up with the game, I really need to work on my recovery after missing a cue, I’ll panic and keep missing the next ten steps. These games take lots of concentration.
The generic PS2 screen savers that run behind the markers hitting the beats on In the Groove‘s interface were unremarkable. I also had Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 3 for Xbox which I bought to entertain the neighborhood kids during a party. DDR had multiple break dancing, cel-shaded disco dudes and divas on stage with a cheering crowd. I imagined all this screen activity could distract from hitting-pad-on-beat, but Konami’s presentation was certainly more impressive.
The Ignition 3.0 Dance Pad has raised directional pads so you can easily find them with your feet while focusing on the screen. When not in use you can pull out the hard foam inserts and fold up the soft enclosure. If you want to leave them out, you may have trouble with the aesthetic police, the pads had a silver base color, a large Red Octane logo in the center, orange gradient directional pads and colorfully labeled A, B, X, Y, circle, square, X and triangle pads.
Hands down (on higher difficulty levels you have to use a hand to hit a third pad in addition to your feet), In the Groove with the Ignition 3.0 dance pads was a fun work out. The most fun I’ve had exercising since seventh grade aerobics (and I couldn’t admit to having any fun back then because I don’t like getting my ass kicked in the boys’ locker room), Geek with Family highly recommends a regular dance pad workout regimen. In the future, when Wife_o_Geek isn’t using the second pad and I’ve built up some mad dance skillz, I’d like to play the double pad mode. Then I’ll pull a muscle. Feel the burn, burn the feel.