Wii Fit Review (WII)

Posted by Libe Goad on Monday, May 12, 2008

"Our hope is that Wii Fit will bring video games to people who've never experienced them before," said Nintendo's legendary game creator Shigeru Miyamoto. "With Wii Fit, we're able to show people interfaces and technology can be used for other applications outside of video games."

 Since the Nintendo Wii hit store shelves in late 2006, bringing gaming to new audiences has apparently been Nintendo's unofficial mission statement. Twenty-five million people, many of them not traditional gamers, have jumped on the Wii bandwagon. Unfortunately, many of new "casual" gamers haven't bought a lot of new games for their consoles, opting to stick with the simple athletic themes of Wii Sports. Nintendo hopes Wii Fit will convince them to pony up for another workout-themed game. Need proof? Since Wii Fit launched in Japan and, more recently, the UK, it has sold about 3 million copies worldwide.

Not everyone will clamor for Wii Fit, despite its clever design and charming Nintendo-like environment complete with cute characters and upbeat music. Hardcore gamers, especially those who took a "sick day" when Super Smash Bros. Brawl came out in March, might be less enchanted than the "Gamer Mom" demographic. After all, a fitness game that measures your Body Mass Index and assigns you a 'Fit Age,' while roping you into a regular training regimen that consists of doing yoga, strength training, cardio and a handful of balance exercises, won't necessarily appeal to the guy who just wants to smack down his friends and watch his name climb to the top of a leaderboard.

 The majority of the activities in Wii Fit center on the Wii Balance board, a finely tuned scale-like contraption with sensors that measure how much weight a person puts on each foot at a given time. It's a hefty piece of equipment, despite the plastic look and feel – we accidentally dropped it on our foot, and have been nursing a silver dollar sized bruise ever since. The Balance Board connects wirelessly to the Wii -- and after a simple initial setup, it's just a matter of turning it on and off (via a press of the big toe) to use it.

 Before Wii Fit-ting, new players must set up a profile (represented by a pre-made Mii – the Nintendo avatars used by the Wii across many games and services), then endure a not-too-difficult test which will measure your sense of balance and determine your BMI, or body mass index, based on age, height and weight. At the end, you get assigned a "Fit Age," (kind of like a Brian Age from the puzzle-solving series of the same name), and obviously, the lower your Fit Age, the better. Fit Ages seem a little arbitrary – we managed to reduce ours five years in two days – but the more important weight and BMI measurements are dead on. In the end, it's still a clever way to pull people off the couch and work on getting that age somewhere closer to your real age.

 Wii Fit includes about 40 activities total, many of which have to be unlocked by putting enough exercise time into the "Fit Bank." Exercises fit into four categories, yoga, strength, cardio and balance games. The balance games are the most fun, and we would have liked to see more of those in the lineup. The rest of the exercises will likely get old in short order (unless, like us, you're totally addicted to step aerobics and push-ups), but since the game asks you to install a new Wii Fit channel onto your system, we can only guess that that will be used for updates down the road.

 Even for a regular exerciser, there will most likely be a set of activities that play to their weaknesses. We easily scored three or four stars on many of the yoga poses, but could barely pull off the strength exercises. "Did you put your knees down?" the in-game virtual trainer scolded after noticing the weight on the board getting lighter during a set of push-ups. D'oh.

 The most noticeable omission is serious multiplayer or a party mode. Like DDR or Wii Sports, it's actually fun to watch other people play and would be great to be able to switch off trying out different activities without having to retreat to the Wii Fit main menu and load a new profile. Furthermore, the fact that games only accommodate one balance board at a time seems almost anti-Nintendo. Isn't this supposed to appeal to the whole family? What better way for a family to bond than going head-to-head in a hula-hoop contest? There are a few opportunities for team-ups, including a two-player jogging game, but the second player can't log in as their Mii, and their results aren't recorded.

 Like Miyamoto said a few months ago, Wii Fit won't necessarily make you fit. If you're looking to get ripped, you're better off buying some protein powder and heading to the gym. For everyone else, this is a clever way to sneak in a little extra exercise every day, and for some couch potatoes, this could be the best way to start down the path to physical fitness



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