‘Wii Fit’ Outruns the Competition
Nintendo twisted itself into a pretzel to make the “tired exercise” genre fun and innovative again with “Wii Fit.” After some heavy lifting, the new “balance board” accessory takes the gold.
“Wii Fit” runs laps around Konami’s endless “Dance Dance Revolution” rehashes, and even Nintendo’s own “Wii Sports.” Unlike Mario Kart Wii’s wheel, the balance board is leaps beyond a gimmick.
With wireless connectivity and motion sensors that measure degrees of weight shift to tenths of a percent, the board is a genuine innovation. It is split into right and left planks, which measure the movement of each leg. This creates an unparalleled nuance of control compared to other mat-based games.
An accessible and intuitive interface lets you hit the track running. To start up, a cute animated scale asks your height and age, and then weighs you to customize the board’s sensors to your dimensions. The game lets you create a profile using your Mii. It will even scale your character’s proportions to your weight. If you want to hide your stats, you can lock your profile with a password.
Nintendo borrows heavily from its own “Brain Age” series. After determining your stats, you are assigned a “Wii Fit” age. The game then tells you how much weight to lose to bring your body mass index (BMI) and fitness age down. Set a weight loss timeframe and goal before tackling the training. If your timeframe is unrealistic, the game will recommend changes.
Just like “Brain Age,” you can keep track of your daily scores, which encourages a regular workout to watch your progress.
“Wii Fit” offers a blend of exercises, including yoga, aerobics, strength and balance. Each category contains a variety of mini-games. After everything is unlocked, there are more than 40 training exercises to choose from.
For most exercises, your choice of a male or female personal trainer will guide you through the motions. A “balance radar” will display your position on the board. You are awarded points in most exercises for maintaining your center of balance while performing the assigned motions.
To score higher, keep your balance in the designated area on the radar. When you play on the harder difficulties, the area gets smaller. Watching the digital trainers perform the exercise really helps mimic the movements and positions accurately.
Yoga exercises are by far the most underwhelming. They are bland and slow, definitely aimed at the casual gamer. Games range from practicing breathing to flexibility training that borders on contortionism.
The real fun is in the aerobic and balance games. “Basic Step” is a dance mini-game that approximates “DDR.” Step on and off the board in rhythm with the song. “Table Tilt” recalls “Super Monkey Ball”: shift your weight with precision to maneuver a floating table and roll marbles through a hole. The tables get progressively harder, with narrow turns and multiple marbles. Hit the slopes with “Ski Slalom” and “Ski Jump.” Crouch forward to gain speed, and lean left and right to turn the skis.
The basics are all there, too: running, sit-ups, push-ups and stretches. For “Basic Run,” jog in place through a digital park filled with all your Mii characters. There are Easter eggs in this mini-game for Nintendo fans: you’ll see houses that look straight out of Zelda and an 8-bit Mario at the finish line.
Yoga aside, the mini-games are a blast. Beating your high score gives you incentive to play often. The effects are real: after two hours on the board, you will build up a sweat and wake up sore.
Unfortunately, the only multiplayer game is jogging, which leaves something to be desired. Only one balance board can be hooked up at a time.
The graphics are deliberately bare bones. Most of the time, they are simple and elegant, on par with “Wii Sports.” In some mini-games, though, Nintendo’s minimalism seems lazy. The audio is also basic. Nevertheless, the visuals and sound aren’t what you pay for.
The most notable issue is BMI accuracy. There is no way to account for muscle mass. Guns and six-packs count as flab. The balance board has also proven to be inaccurate in weighing small children. These are definitely major downsides as the exercise regimen is based entirely on this calculation.
Still, for the genuinely flabby, the game works, even by professional standards. Andrew DeMattia, a fourth-year political science major and National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer at the Aneateater Recreation Center offered his take on the software.
“It provides a good variety of exercise for a video game like this. While it’s no substitute for the real gym, it gives you a good at-home work out.”
As usual, Nintendo’s innovation touches off the relay. Some publishers have already grabbed the baton. Namco released “We Ski” and EA announced “Skate It.” Both are compatible with the balance board. Nintendo definitely tripped on the BMI measurement. However, with the innovative balance board, “Wii Fit” sprints to victory as a fun new way to play games.