Dance Dance Revolution: Ultramix 2 (Xbox)Gaming Software
Year Released: 2004
Categories: Interactive/Gaming System Workouts
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If you'd like to have DDR at home but haven't decided which console to buy, get an Xbox and Ultramix 2. The workout mode isn't perfect, but it's an improvement over the earlier games with more streamlining and fewer numbers.
One great thing about the Xbox itself is that it has a built-in hard drive to store date/time and workout data; you can store your workout info right away without having to purchase separate memory cards. In UM2's workout mode, you begin by recording your weight (which is saved from your last workout) and selecting a difficulty level (the default is always Light, a minor inconvenience). The game then goes to the song selector screen and you can select your first song. That's the only one you get to select per "session"; after the song's over, following a brief "Cleared" screen, the game then selects another song at random. It keeps going like this for as long as you want to work out.
During the song, the total time lapsed and calories burned are displayed at the bottom of the screen. There's no life bar, grading, scoring, or failing out in workout mode; on the top of the screen, a graphic of a runner is shown instead of a life bar. You do get step ratings (perfect, good, etc.) and combo counts, and you can have the announcers cheer or razz you if you wish.
At the Cleared screen, you can hit the B button to view your stats: current distance traveled in miles, overall distance since you began working out, current number of steps (pedometer), current calories, and overall calories. Hitting A or B will take you to the song screen to pick another song. However, all your current numbers will be reset to zero when you do.
A graph on the stat screen shows how many calories you burned on each date you worked out (shown on the horizontal axis). The left vertical axis shows number of calories while the right vertical axis shows your weight; a vertical bar indicates calories burned while a dot marks your current weight and lines between the dots show a (hopefully downward) change. Under "Records" on the main menu, you can view days you worked out, your weight change, overall miles, steps and calories. Up to 4 people can work out simultaneously with different difficulty levels, and there are runners for each player who run a "race" at the top of the screen during play - a cute feature.
I have only a few minor complaints about UM2's workout mode. While the "random nonstop" play is certainly a good way to get a continuous intense workout, I do miss being able to select songs like in the Max and original Ultramix games. Sometimes the game selects the same song twice in a row, or twice in a session. At the very least, it would be nice to be able to "killfile" some songs I dislike, like Max 300. (You can end a song in midplay by standing on the Back button, but then the session ends and all your numbers are cleared.) I'd also like to be able to change the difficulty within sessions, like on the older DDRs. Finally, some of the numbers and tiny lettering on the stat screens are hard for these middle-aged eyes to read without squinting.
Still, of the DDRs I own, UM2 has my favorite workout design. I like the minimalist, jump-right-in style rather than having to select a "goal" each time. I like the new song selector design which shows all 3 foot ratings at once for each song. The song list is very large, with a minimum of locked songs (frankly, having to unlock songs is very annoying) and includes oldies like Brick House, Jam On It and an Elvis song called Rubberneckin', as well as some very catchy originals (my favorites: V, Starmine, Moonlight Shadow, and a bluegrass number called Toe Jam). Subscribers to Xbox Live can download additional song packs for a fee. UM2 is very beginner-friendly with Beginner level steps and a Training mode where you can slow down the tempo on any song and add a metronome and handclaps. Another fun feature is that the announcers sometimes say date-appropriate or time-appropriate things, like holiday greetings or "It's the weekend!" or "Dance the night away!" Compared to the older DDRs, the graphics and overall "look" of UM2 are very sleek and attractive.
I give Ultramix 2 an A+, and eagerly look forward to Ultramix 3.