Need exercise? Try these video games

BY LOU KESTEN Associated Press
Every article about America's obesity epidemic seems to mention video games. But being a dedicated gamer doesn't mean you have to turn into a Jabba the Hutt-sized couch potato, particularly if your regimen includes selections from the ever-growing genre of rhythm games.
To play games like Konami's Dance Dance Revolution, you have to replace your controller with a floor pad and try to match the onscreen action by stepping on different sections. Even the most devoted gym rats will work up a sweat during a good DDR session.
Any of the following games are a good bet to get you up off your La-Z-Boy:
• Pump It Up: Exceed (Mastiff, $59.99, for the PlayStation 2, Xbox): Dance Dance Revolution remains the most popular rhythm game in America, but in Asia it's being challenged by Pump It Up. Likewise, DDR experts will find themselves challenged by this newcomer, thanks to a simple gameplay twist. Instead of having pressure points directly to the left, right, front and back of the player, the Pump It Up pad puts them on the corners, demanding quite a bit more agility.
Oddly, the additional movement makes the workout feel more like dancing. Pump It Up is not recommended for those who are out of shape or asthmatic; progressing through just the first few levels is exhausting. Later levels require you to press three buttons at a time, so you have to crouch and use your hands.
• In the Groove (RedOctane, $39.99, for the PlayStation 2): DDR fans impatient for Konami to release some fresh beats have flocked to this game from dance pad manufacturer RedOctane. In the Groove sticks to the classic dance pad layout, but like Pump It Up, it throws in some three- and four-button moves that will have you hitting the floor on all fours.
In the Groove has five difficulty levels, starting with a laid-back novice mode. A fitness mode asks you to input your weight and then tells you how many calories you've burned in a session.
• EyeToy Play 2 (Sony, $49.99, for the PlayStation 2): Maybe you're looking for more of an upper body workout? Play 2 is the latest application for Sony's EyeToy peripheral, a camera that picks up your own movement. For example, you can swing punches at an onscreen boxer, or use your hands as paddles in a game of pingpong. You can play air guitar or drums, kick soccer balls or hit home runs, wield a chain saw or a cheese grater.
At times the lack of precise control is frustrating, but all the games are very simple. That variety -- along with the sheer ridiculousness of watching your friends flail their arms about -- make Play 2 an ideal party game.

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