Monday, January 09, 2006

Jackie Chan Knows Fitness

By now you've heard about Yourself!Fitness and Eyetoy:Kinetic and get the idea of a software-based personal trainer, but you're not yet convinced. You feel like something's missing, and find yourself asking "Why couldn't Jackie Chan be my personal fitness instructor?"

Glad you asked!

Jackie Chan wants to help you get in shape. The Jackie Chan Action J-Mat looks like a DDR pad but it only has four padded buttons and they are all in a single line. What can you do with four buttons? Walk or run in three locations - left, right, or center - do jumping jacks, and various other step patterns and rhythms. Use your mad stepping-on-a-big-button skillz to help Jackie Chan evade obstacles in the streets of Hong Kong or let Jackie lead you through a musical cardio fitness routine in a studio complete with goofy claps and hand motions.

The XavixPort console that plugs into your TV is $79; individual games (software carts with a custom controller ) go for between $49 and $89. Radio Shack sells the system or you can get it online at the Xavix store.

Another shipping Jackie Chan title is Power Boxing, which uses boxing gloves with a radio position sensor. Other Xavix games include tennis, table tennis, baseball, bowling, bass fishing, and golf.

I just realized I left off my take on the whole thing. Which is: the Action J-Mat is fun! Goofy, exhausting fun. Sure, the graphics are primitive, the controller looks dorky, the box itself lacks charisma...but the game works on its own terms and will get your heartrate up in no time. The retro nature of the graphics and gameplay is part of the charm, and Jackie Chan's charisma somehow survives being pixelized and animated even to this ridiculous degree. If you want a little box to plug into your TV and help you get in shape by playing videogames, $170 for a Xavix console with a copy of J-Mat will get you there, and there are many other exercise-oriented games you can add to the system later on if you later get bored with it.

If you do buy a Xavix, be on the lookout for a followup product that will probably be called the Action J-Stick. It's a heavy stick you wave in the air to block ninja attacks while getting a good upper-body workout. I played the prototype at CES; the game is nowhere near ready to ship but what I saw and tried seemed pretty promising. When it's ready, you'll probably find more info at Jackie Chan Studio Fitness.

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