Platform: Nintendo Wii
Developer – Nintendo
Publisher - Nintendo
Wii Balance Board Compatible
Dolby Digital Pro Logic 2
Nintendo’s fun and innovative Wii is enjoying quite a run of success not seen since the days of the NES and SNES. The somewhat lower horsepower machine, when compared to the Xbox 360 and PS3, has put some distance behind itself with fun and engaging titles that seem to have the masses clamoring for more. Most recently Nintendo’s latest high profile release, Wii Fit, looks to continue this run with a cute but a semi serous look at getting people off the couch and actually exercise while gaming. Now when I play games I tend to want to sit and absorb them rather then having to jump around and literally jump through hoops to finish my game. As exaggerated as this comment may be, Wii Fit actually has you jumping and hopping to get you fit. A few questions come to mind though: Is it fun? Will you play it more than a few times? Let’s find out.
Wii Fit's presentation is typical Nintendo, which is to say that it’s clean, cartoony, and cheery for the most part. The title looks best while in the aerobic and balance game modes, with a player's assortment of Miis taking center stage. It makes for a pretty eye popping and quite colorful visual feast. On the other hand, the character models used for the fitness trainers are rather sparse in nature as they are flat shaded and almost clinical in their looks. But given the more serious nature of these exercises it is somewhat expected. Technically speaking the game really has none of the clipping or framrate problems of other titles as the action never really pushes the hardware. Regardless, I think the gamer will probably be too busy to notice any graphical issues while he or she plays so the visuals, while somewhat important, are quite secondary to the gameplay of Wii Fit.
Wii Fit has a ton of background music playing behind almost every mode found within the game. You really can’t discern a specific music type but I found it pretty fitting for the game itself. The music generally changes for specific situations too. For example, in downhill skiing it is often a bit more aggressive or upbeat which matches the hectic nature of the mode. However, during the yoga modes the music is quite relaxing lulling you to feel calm and peaceful. Wii Fit also has some talking spattered throughout. I enjoyed the slightly matrix-like robotic female voice that prompted me along my routine. Other than this though the game is all about reading text. Accompanying the text in the game is the standard pops, buzzes, whistles, and beeps. These are pretty unremarkable but effective enough to convey the message. The game is encoded in Dolby Digital Pro Logic 2 so the quality of what you hear is quite excellent.
I was pleasantly surprised at how heavy the Wii Fit box was. I assumed the heavier the package the better quality the board controller would be. Upon opening the box I found that it contained the game disc, board controller, four batteries, instructions, and four extra feet pads for the board. The Wii Fit board has a very solid feel and build quality to it and Nintendo states can hold up to a 330 pound (150 kg) person.
When you first load up Wii Fit you have the option of selecting the Mii you want to represent yourself. You are then asked to fill in your particulars such as birth date, height, etc. To finish the little introduction you are going to have to step on the Wii Fit board and allow it to calculate all the data that it needs. While standing on it the Wii Fit enters a body test mode that will run a series of tests based on your balance. After this it calculates your body mass index (BMI) and assigns you a category (underweight, normal, overweight, or obese) and announce your Wii Fit age. My BMI registered at 24 when it should have been at 22 and my age was mid forties although I haven’t yet hit that mark yet. Your Mii will grow fatter or skinnier depending on how your results turn out. The ultimate goal here is to lower your age closer or lower than your actual age while lowering your BMI along the way. So here’s the hard part, in order for us couch potatoes to attain our optimum levels daily training via a multitude of exercises and activities is a must. This going to be easy for the younger and more eager Wii fit users as it is gaming to them but some of the old school or hardcore gamers may not follow this line of thinking.
The game has a whole host of training activities for anyone to participate in when you first begin the game. As you train and get better you earn credits that will be placed in a bank. Eventually you will be able to unlock new exercises and mini-games that can be played. Having to activate new modes over time is an ingenious way to keep the user motivated to keep training daily in order to unlock them. Basically there are four different training categories: Aerobics, Strength Training, Yoga, and Balance Games. Each of these has plenty of activities to explore, with some being simple and fun games like snowboarding, ski jumping, hula-hoop, and tightrope walking. Others offer a more rigours workout like jogging, push-ups, and various yoga poses. For most of the traditional workouts available you can pick your very own trainer. The trainer’s duties include explaining how to properly perform the various moves and offer advice if you're having difficulty. Sadly, I found after a couple of interactions they seemed to disappear for the rest of your training, a real life trainer would be way more hands on with their clients. But hey, maybe I am nitpicking here.
Overall the modes in any exercise start on easy, but as you become better you will want to increase the repetitions. I’ll admit the first few times I tried an assortment of exercise I found that my balance was really off and my lack of push-ups was evident in the soreness I encountered in my pecs the next day. Wii Fit actually does work if you can give it the time like you would any exercise regime. So, does Wii Fit make you lose weight and get healthier? This really depends on the time you put into it. If you are like me and don't exercise as much as you should, but play Wii Fit and stick with it on a daily basis, then the answer is going to be yes.
Wii Fit also speaks to the gamer at heart as the mini-games are quite appealing. The downhill ski jump has the player leaning forward, back and from side to side to try and keep your balance. I found this was no easy venture but it was extremely fun and somewhat addictive. You must try to keep within a small zone to really gain speed and then at just the right moment stand up to jump. The game tracks your distance and records. Another fun mini-game to play, and even watch, is the hula-hoop mini-game where players try to keep a hula-hoop from hitting the ground by gyrating one’s hips. It almost reminds me of the DDR games that are so popular with the younger and hip crowds. Table tilt is another great mode, and one of my favorites, that really shows off the balance board. In this cool mode Miis are morphed into marbles and your goal is to get the marbles into a hole. By leaning on the board you tilt the on-screen platform. This game is very much like a cool version of the retro-game Marble Madness but on a life size scale. This mode gets difficult fairly quickly so frustration may set in at first, but it really makes you aware of small balance shifts you can make with your body. It also wants you to finish what you started so the addiction level is high on this one.
It is the above mentioned modes that really show where a lot magic Wii Fit has to offer lies. Did you realize you were exercising while trying to balance the marbles with your board? Were you actually hula hooping or testing your center of gravity? This logic is how Wii fit will remain pretty popular, and perhaps subtly encourage people to exercise more.
I think another plus of Wii fit is that people can come up with their own exercise program. For those that can put something like that together more power to ya. On the flip side it would have been nice if the game recommended exercises for an individual based on their body tests and performance during various exercises, that way one could have some kind of general direction. The game is very light on help and guidance even though all the tools are there to do what you need too. In the end it is all up to you to figure out how to go about doing it.
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