If every game you buy comes with its own unique add-on, before long you'll find yourself owning a collection of dusty gizmos that rarely get used. Family Trainer: Extreme Challenge comes with a non-standard dance-mat style controller, made for two players. You can also use the mat for Family Trainer: Outdoor Challenge, but not a whole lot of other games. So the question is, will this game get enough play to justify accommodating the bulky mat that comes with it?
With funky manga-style characters and bright graphics the game is aimed at a younger
audience. Fifteen activities cover nine sports, and these range in intensity from gentle to
energetic. Most of them use the trainer mat on its own, although BMX, wakeboarding and
kite surfing use the Wii remote or the Wii remote and nunchuck as well as the mat. This
means there's a lot of jumping and stepping exercises. Luckily there's some variety in
the types of activity, with rock climbing played on all fours and street luge played from a
seated position, for instance.
In terms of gameplay, all of the activities are well designed. They may be increasingly
difficult to master at the advanced levels, but the level of challenge is consistent. It's not
the case that one or two sports are far tougher than the others, and none of them are
There are three modes in Single Player: Extreme Tournament, Challenge Mode and Free
Play. Extreme Tournament is the key to unlocking features and progressing. There are
several tournaments at each difficulty level, each of which involve three to six activities.
Players must get a passing score at each one in order to clear the tournament. If a
player fails one sport, it's possible to try it again immediately rather than having to
start the whole series again from the very beginning. So it's quite forgiving, although
there's no way to review the controls of an individual activity whilst in the middle of a
tournament, so the usability isn't perfect.
Challenge Mode involves playing individual sports in different ways than usual. For example,
one street luge challenge involves crashing into barriers instead of avoiding them. These
games are often short but tough.
Free Play allows players to tackle individual sports. To begin with the only level available
is Easy, so to unlock the higher difficulties it's back to Extreme Tournament mode.
This is the kind of casual game that's easy to dip into for a few minutes at a time, yet the
Extreme Tournament mode allows for longer, more structured play. It's moderately
active. There's no warm-up, but it's certainly possible to work up a sweat. So it bridges the
gap between fun and serious fitness without ever looking like hard work, making it a
good way to sneak some exercise into a kid's day.
It's not the longest of games, but there's variety in the activities and care has obviously
gone into testing the gameplay to create an enjoyable experience. Young, fun-loving
gamers will find it well worth making space for Family Trainer: Extreme Challenge and
its large mat.