Nintendo is out to change the world and Wii Sports was only the beginning. With that game, Nintendo proved that video games could also be a way for people to get some exercise, which in this day and age is sorely needed. Taking this idea of ‘exer-gaming’ to the next level is Wii Fit, a game designed to get you off the couch and help you in shape but above all to motivate you and to make working out fun.
The secret behind Wii Fit is the revolutionary Balance Board that comes packaged with the game. By simply standing on the peripheral, it is able to determine your weight and B.M.I. (Body Mass Index) as well as your center of balance that the game then uses to guide you through the various activities. Every time you start Wii Fit you will be reminded to do a daily Body Test, here you will be weighed, your center of balance will be determined and your Wii Fit age (a number which tells the player how ‘fit’ they are, the closer the number is to your actual age the ‘fitter’ you are.) is assigned after two quick tests.
The game is then divided into 2 distinct sections, the first being the ‘statistical’ section, where you will be able to review your progress with charts detailing your weight progression, changes in your B.M.I., keep track of your Wii Fit age and keep a detailed activity log of how many minutes and hours you spend being active a day both on and off Wii Fit and even retake the Body Test if you feel the measurements weren’t accurate. In fact the only statistic I found to be inaccurate is the ‘body type’ designation, since the game only takes your B.M.I. into consideration when calculating this, which means only your weight and height are measured, this has led to many well documented cases of clearly healthy people being labeled obese or underweight. It would have been nice for Nintendo to include a questionnaire where the user can input other information about their body structure like bone mass so the game could make a more accurate designation of your body. However, for most players the body type the game assigns them will be in the right ballpark.
The core of the Wii Fit experience is of course the training. Here you can choose between four different types of activities; Yoga, Strength Training, Aerobics and Balance Games. The first of the four, Yoga, includes 15 two-minute poses that range from the relaxing Deep Breathing to the embarrassing (if anyone walks in on you) Downward Facing Dog and the seemingly impossible Shoulder Stand. All the poses with the exception of the Cobra, Bridge, Spinal Twist and Shoulder Stand use the balance board to some degree of interaction. The goal of Yoga has always been to help relax the user while at the same time giving his/her muscles a good stretch and Wii Fit’s Yoga routines do this splendidly. None of the activities will leave you sweating or breathing hard but you will be burning calories and getting a nice stretch in the process, a win/win scenario.
To complete a pose you simply place your body in the proper position and hold the positions for up to two minutes. This style of gameplay is immensely interactive and engaging, as your on screen trainer will give you advice based on how your position on the Balance Board and help you strike the perfect pose. As a side note, I highly recommend investing in a Yoga or gym mat when doing not only the Yoga poses but all of Wii Fit’s exercises, their simply is no substitute. Also it’s recommended to have a high enough ceiling, as some poses will have you reaching way above your head and if your anything like me, striking light fixtures.
Moving on now to the Strength Training portion of the game; this time around you will be working solely on your muscles, pushing yourself to see if you can do more repetitions then your previous attempts. This section includes 12 activities, with the Push Up & Side Plank, Jackknife and Plank exercises getting trainer challenge modes to see if you can outperform your in-game personal trainer. Contrary to the Yoga training, better performance during these activities will unlock the ability to add more repetitions to your workout. So if when you started working out with Wii Fit you could only complete 10 Jackknives, the game will encourage you to push yourself a little harder, maybe do 15 next time and eventually you will be able to do any activity with ease. Most of the activities once again use the Balance Board to some degree with the exceptions being the Tricep Extension and Single Arm Stand that only utilise the Wii Remote. Your on screen trainer will also motivate you and help you if your form is not correct in any of the activities.
Shifting from the workout room to the always sunny Wii Fit Island (which would later become known as Hulu Island in Wii Sports: Resort) are Aerobics and Balance Games which use a more ‘Mii’ style of visuals akin to Wii Sports, rather than the ‘realistic’ models used in the Yoga and Strength Training modes. The Aerobics section is divided into 9 different activities: Hula Hoop and Super Hula Hoop will have you spinning you hips to reach a high score, with the difference being that in the Super version you have to twist it once to the right and then again to left. Rhythm Boxing, the only game on the disk that uses the Nunchuck accessory, will have you squaring off against a virtual punching bag, while stepping on and off the Balance Board to the indications of an on screen trainer, think of it as a more refined version of the Boxing game included with Wii Sports. In Basic Step, Advanced Step and Free Step you will be tasked with stepping on and off the Balance Board all to the rhythm and on screen instructions. Free Step even allows you to change the channel and watch your favourite TV show all while receiving the cadence from the Wii Remote.
The final three activities are the Basic Run, 2-P Run and Free Run, here you either put the Wii Remote in your pocket and go for a jog around Hul-- err Wii Fit Island. Like Free Step before it, free Run also allows you to change the channel while the Wii Remote guides you, so you can watch the latest Simpsons episode and get a good workout at the same time! The Aerobics games are all designed to help you shed some unwanted body fat and get your body moving, and they all do this wonderfully, the jogging games and Rhythm Boxing are especially good at getting the blood pumping while the Basic Step based games seem more suited for older players who appreciate a stimulating but not physically taxing workout.
The final batch of activities that Wii Fit offers is the Balance Games. These are designed to help make the player more aware of their center of balance. The first game (and arguably the most addicting) in this category is Soccer Heading, where you tilt your Mii from left to right to hit soccer balls and try to link score combos, all while avoiding soccer cleats and decapitated panda heads (err ok…). The next trio of games all take place on a snowbound hill, the first; Ski Slalom will have you weaving from left to right trough slalom markers. Similar to this is Snowboard Slalom, with the difference being that the Balance Board is placed ‘sideways’ like an actual snowboard. The last winter themed game is Ski Jump, where the player, positioned on (what else) a ski jump, crouches down, builds up speed and extends their legs at the right time to jump. While in mid air, you must keep your balance or else your Mii will crash land and you won’t earn any points.
Table Tilt is up next, in this game the objective is to guide balls into holes, seems simple enough right? Well the hook of this game is that movements on the Balance Board tilt the board. The early levels are simple enough, but as you progress and unlock additional difficulties the game becomes devilish as you race to get all your balls in the hole before time runs out. In Tightrope Walk, your Mii must travel from one high-rise to another via a tightrope, you must walk carefully and watch your sway from left to right to avoid falling into the abyss, as well as extend your legs at the right time to avoid the enemies that patrol the tightrope. Moving on now to Balance Bubble, your Mii is trapped in a Bubble and must navigate a river before time expires, oh did I mention the river is infested by bubble hating bumblebees? Move your bubble bound Mii by moving forward, backwards, left and right on the Balance Board.
Penguin Slide… (sigh) the only game on this package that doesn’t work. Maybe it’s the Balance Board’s sensitivity, or maybe it’s the fact that you spend more time recovering from falling then actually playing. In this game your Mii is disguised as a penguin and must slide on his belly to catch fish, your sideways motions control what side he will slide too, unfortunately the slightest nudge will usually result in your Mii going for a dive, resulting in a 3-4 second wait for him to re-emerge, and when the game only lasts for one minute, those 4 seconds can feel like an eternity. Lastly is Lotus Focus, where you sit. That’s it, really. You sit on the Balance Board waiting for candle to burn out, all the while creepy noises and the sounds of people walking and coughing all around you. If any of these sounds disturb you and you move, even just a tiny bit the candle will extinguish and the game will be over. Lotus Focus is based on the ancient Buddhist practice of Zazen a form of meditation, and can actually be quite relaxing.
So for those of you keeping score at home, that’s a total of 48 activities that Wii Fit offers. Both the Yoga and Strength Training work exactly as advertised, as they simply require the player to strike a pose or engage in simple exercise for a few minutes. The Balance Board and Wii Remote recognition for these functions as you expect with very precise recognition of your movements and very accurate measurements of changes in your center of balance, weight distribution, etc. The Aerobics are also well represented in the gameplay department, with the only hiccup being the Wii Remote’s responses during the jogging games can get a little hectic, especially if you have placed it in your pockets. Finally, the Balance Games for the most part seem to mesh well with the Balance Board, games like Soccer Heading and the slalom runs play very well. The only real blemish being Penguin Slide, which is overly responsive and will constantly result in your penguin Mii flying off the iceberg.
In the presentation department, Wii Fit borrows heavily from its predecessors Wii Sports and Wii Play but also adds its own design to the series. Starting off, the menus are all very clean and easy to navigate, you can easily be checking your weight progression chart one second and the next be doing a Body Test and then easily move onto some Yoga, it’s all very seamlessly integrated and really adds to the game’s easy flowing nature. The graphics are really split into two different departments, the ‘realistic’ (I use the term loosely) style of the Yoga and Strength Training and the ‘Mii’ style of the Aerobics and Balance Games. It’s easy to see why Nintendo decided to make this split, as during the ‘realistic’ activities, an accurate representation of what your body should be doing is a must. This being said they really went with the bare bones minimum, nothing to show what muscles or body part should really be working just your trainer doing the pose along with you. This can make some of the looser terms like ‘lower back’ or ‘upper arms’ seem a bit confusing and it would have been nice for the game to highlight these areas that should be worked on.
With the Mii style, you get the fun, family friendly appeal of the game and some nice work was done to put your various Mii’s in ‘workout’ mode. It’s also clear that more animations were added to the Mii’s repertoire, again to reflect the notion of exercise. This being said, when divided into a game by game basis, it’s obvious that some shine while others don’t. The jogging games are full of life and other Mii’s running around, and even offer some hidden secrets (Mario symbols) scattered throughout the island. While others like Penguin Slide and Balance Bubble seem stale and boring with very little life in the backgrounds.
Sound wise if you played Wii Sports or Wii Play before it you know what to expect from Wii Fit. During the Mii style games, the soundtrack is boring and most of the tracks uninspired, although I do have a soft spot in my heart for the Basic Step music, catchy. While during the Yoga and Strength Training the only thing you will be hearing is your trainer’s instructions and when your should be breathing in / out as well as a small beep to keep the cadence during repetitions.
With 48 activities, most of which have extra difficulty settings, all sorts of accurate measurements, stat tracking and the ability to keep track of your weight loss / gain, Wii Fit is a very well rounded fitness game. Add to that the pack in Balance Board and the 99.99$ price tag is easily worth the price of admission. Not to mention that the Balance Board is also your ticket to the slew of new games that are being released that will make use of the peripheral like Shaun White Snowboarding and Wii Fit Plus. That being said, Wii Fit is not the be all end all fitness product and will never replace proper diet and exercise as the key ingredients to a healthier you. What it is, is a motivation program, a game that reminds you that even if you are too busy to go to the gym, you can always sneak a little exercise into your routine, even if it’s just for 30 minutes a day. A little goes a long way, and Wii Fit will cheer you on every step of that way making you feel good as you go for just one more push up or just another lap around the island.
Wii Fit is much more than another mini game collection, for many people it will be the game that helps them begin a workout routine and hopefully stick with it. Wii Fit is not the secret to a slimmer you, it wont give you six pack abs or that firm chest you hoped to get before the summer. What it will give you is those first crucial steps in starting an exercise routine, maybe it will even get the whole family working out together and hopefully having fun while at it.