gbrading's Wii FIt (Wii) review

If you stick with it, Wii Fit can work in an engaging way.

So, it's here. The bright, shining future we had all been waiting for. Games designed, not to be played by sitting on a sofa casually clicking buttons, but by actually engaging in some form of exercise. Or, is it? At heart, Wii Fit is really an extremely simple collection of various balance mini-games and physical exercises, but in reality it manifests itself as something slightly greater than the sum of its parts. If you take it seriously, are in for the long run and use it as intended, Wii Fit can definitely improve your balance and physique in several important ways. However, if you are not fully committed to the cause, the game will not hold your attention for particularly long, and will not reward your lack of motivation. Furthermore, as a traditional game, its capacity for genuine thrills is rather limited to say the least, as it fulfils almost none of the typical characteristics of a video game. However, if you are willing to make the most of the game for what it is, it can be both beneficial and slightly addictive.

The idea of Wii Fit is purely non-competitive, in the sense that you are striving to improve your own fitness, rather than competing with others. Your in-game persona is once again your loveable Mii, and when first starting up you set your age and height, which will be reflected in the appearance of your Mii in the Wii Fit Plaza. The Wii Balance Board peripheral examines your given age and height, works out your weight, and then uses all three to calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) to determine whether you are Underweight, Ideal, Overweight or Obese. Each day, you can take a Body Test which calculates your new BMI, along with centre-of-gravity, and then gives you several athletic tests to determine your Wii Fit Age. The best age you can strive for is 20, which means that the game is not as effective at judging athleticism for those who are 20 or under. Once all this is sorted out, you can actually get down to training itself. The game splits the mini-games into four categories: Yoga, Strength, Aerobic and Balance. Yoga and Strength exercises are lead by either a male or female trainer, depending upon your preference. Both are there to demonstrate the given exercise, but also to offer words of encouragement or advice during the exercise itself. Although you won't ever mistake them for real people, it is useful to have a physical representation of someone to copy whilst doing these exercises. A nice little cosmetic touch is that over the weeks, these trainers will change their hairstyles and eventually get haircuts.

The Yoga section is probably one of the strongest assets of the game. In Yoga, balance is crucial, and if there is one thing the Balance Board excels at doing it is measuring your balance. Most exercises will place you on the Balance Board, and then keep your balance whilst assuming the Yoga posture for a number of seconds. Once you have mastered a pose, it will unlock more complex postures, culminating in several that do not actually involve the Balance Board (such as the Shoulder Stand). Depending on how much you moved about and wobbled, the game will give you a point score out of 100, and the trainer will offer feedback on how well you have done. These scores will then be recorded for posterity in a leaderboard, showing your progress against that of other users currently on your Wii. These are probably the exercises from which you might notice a definite knock-on effect: I can vouch that doing the Tree pose regularly will definitely improve your balance, as I now find myself doing the pose randomly whilst waiting at bus stops. On the other hand, Strength training is a bit of a mixed bag. Certain exercises, such as the Jackknife, Plank hold and the Push Up/Side Stand, are definitely useful for improving the upper arms and/or abdominals, and if you are a stranger to exercise will be relatively tough. However, some of the twists seem slightly pointless, and the Tricep Extension is really best done with something heavier than a Wiimote. For some reason, the trainer seems to have a compulsion repeat the fact that "this is a great exercise for toning the upper arm" every two seconds as well. If you are looking for an utterly punishing exercise program, Wii Fit is not going to give it to you. It goes without saying that you must not cheat during these exercises; whilst you could get away with it for much of the time, you would only be cheating yourself.

Many exercises start off locked, and are eventually unlocked by accumulating Fit Points, which are the minutes you have spent actively playing the game. This time is only added to the FitBank when you actually finish an exercise, so you can't sit on a menu in the hope of eventually unlocking everything. Many of the Strength exercises can be ramped up in either the length of time you hold them for, or the number of times they are completed. This means that if you have mastered doing 10 Arm and Leg Lifts, you can go on to do 20, et cetera, as and when you feel confident. There are also three Challenge modes for Press Ups, Jackknifes and the Plank. These are against the trainer, where you 'compete' to see who can do the most. The challenges will slowly ramp up in difficulty each time they are successfully completed, meaning that you can actively exercise for as little or as long as you want. There is a certain pride to be found from successfully beating the trainer, which is a nice bonus, but like all exercise it is slightly repetitive, and for much of the time you will not be concentrating on the screen. The third form of training, Aerobic, is a means of burning off calories. Many will do just that; Wii Jogging, despite going physically nowhere in space, is surprisingly tiring if you want to keep up a good and steady pace needed for a good score. During them, your Mii will run around the parks and town of the Wii Fit Island, whilst you do the hard work of actually jogging on the spot with the Wiimote in your pocket. The jogs can be altered for differing lengths, and dependent on your speed, you could travel in a number of different routes around the island shown on the screen. Hula Hoop is also good fun, with the aim of getting the most revolutions and hoops spinning at once, by correctly spinning for extended periods. Step Aerobics is rather sedentary by comparison and a bit confusing in places, where you must correctly step off and onto the Balance Board in time with the music. Finally, Rhythm Boxing is a nice merging of the basics of Step Aerobics, with the boxing mini-game from the original Wii Sports.

The most fun you will probably get out of Wii Fit will be from the Balance games, almost all of which are quite addicting. My favourite is Table Tilt: a kind of 3D maze in which you need to navigate certain balls into holes in order to complete. You lean this way and that on the Balance board in order to move the maze, and all in all it is quite ingenious. Others include Balance Bubble, where you must float your way downriver inside a giant bubble, being careful not to touch the sides for fear of bursting, alongside Penguin Slide, where you slide yourself across an iceberg in order to catch the bounteous fish leaping out of the icy water. The Ski Jump game is also great if a little imprecise, and the same can also be said for both Skiing and Snowboarding in general. You will either find yourself widely going off course, or not judging your turns correctly, so that you go sailing past the flagpole you were supposed to be navigating round. The least 'gamelike' game, Zazen (Lotus Focus in North America) is an interesting diversion where you must sit as still as possible on the Balance Board, whilst watching a candle slowly melt down. You would think this would be easy, but the Board is very good at noticing even small movements, and the onscreen noises (such as someone walking in the background and mosquito hums) are designed to take away your concentration. However, if you successfully complete the exercise, there is a great sense of achievement.

Graphically the game is on par with Wii Sports and the rest of the Wii-branded games, and is perfectly usable and fit for purpose. After a bit of time, you may be struck with the longing for a bit more content here and there, but this idea will only pass through your head after unlocking everything first. The rest of the flaws of the game can be solely laid upon the idea that some of the content is not particularly 'fun' or engaging, in the typical sense of a video game. Sure, it is all presented in a friendly and relaxed way, but if you approach it without proper dedication, as merely an offhand diversion, the game will lose its appeal very quickly. It is not a 'game' in the typical sense, but more like a kind of digital training regimen, for which you must exercise your own will to stick with the program and continue to see it through. There is always the underlying feeling that you could cheat the system and ace your jog for example (which can be done by just waggling the Wiimote in a steady rhythm), but doing so is not in your best interest. To sum up, Wii Fit does partly manage to do the seemingly impossible of merging video games and physical fitness. The downside is that it will not necessarily motivate those who are already lacking in motivation to partake in exercise, and neither will it present a totally fun experience. However, for those who do keep at it, the game will reward you with a sense of achievement and the benefit of a more finely tuned physique and sense of balance.

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