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Wii Fit Review

By Matt Cabral, 6/5/2008

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Sharpening your mind with Nintendo’s casual gaming hit Brain Age was just the beginning. Now the wizards behind the Wii want to whip your whole body into shape with their latest “not quite a game” effort Wii Fit. Bundled with the bathroom scale-like balance board, the title gets gamers off the couch and on their feet with a variety of fitness-focused minigames. But, to be honest, Wii Fit is far less a game than an actual weight-watching, exercise-encouraging tool; unlike the Brain Age series—which are still games at their core, despite the mind-improving marketing behind them—Wii Fit takes a more serious approach to self improvement. Don’t let Nintendo’s previous non-traditional games fool you: Wii Fit is definitely more exercise than entertainment.

Now, that’s by no means a bad thing if you’re aiming to break a sweat and drop some pounds--this package will help you do both. Granted, you’ll only get out of it what you put into it, but stick with it, and the results may surprise you. Many of the title’s exercises and routines are the real deal, complete with next-day sore muscles and a satisfying feeling of accomplishment. The strength training and yoga exercises can be particularly taxing, running you through the paces with various balance, stretching and muscle-resistance tasks. This isn’t surprising, as these two fitness categories remain true to what you might perform at a gym or in a yoga class. A push-up is pretty much a push-up whether you’re doing it on a gym mat or on Nintendo’s balance board. Again, this isn’t a flaw—remember, it’s exercise, after all—just know Nintendo hasn’t prettied-up or toned down these activities with any silliness or casual user accessibility; don’t expect to see a cute pancake flipping minigame to act as bicep training, or a dog-petting sim to replace true abdominal exercises.

If you prefer a little more fun with your fitness, the balance and cardio options are more inline with what you’d expect from Nintendo. Hula-hooping, skiing and head-thumping soccer balls manage to be mildly entertaining diversions that’ll also get your pulse pumping. Some of these activities are more fun than others; a Marble Madness-like exercise entirely controlled by shifting your balance in different directions offers the package’s closest thing to an actual game, but a snooze-worthy step program feels like a weak version of Dance Dance Revolution. While the fun factor can vary greatly, all routines, to some degree, do provide a form of fitness training.

Wii Fit also tracks your progress and allows you to set goals. It records your body mass index and weight, and will even report your approximate age--similar to Brain Age--based on your stats and physical condition. For example, if you’re an out of shape 20 year old, it might calculate your body type as that of a 37 year old. In addition to displaying your personalized Mii, Wii Fit uses a cute cartoon version of the balance board to guide you on your calorie-burning path. The program’s brutal honesty is actually quite amusing in light of this friendly presentation; no matter how innocent the on-screen antics, Wii Fit pulls no punches in reporting your physical condition. If you’re overweight, it’ll tell you, even as your adorable Mii stares down at his potbelly in disappointment.

The absolute coolest thing about this whole deal is the balance board itself. It’s a super-sturdy peripheral that holds enormous promise for future gaming. While Wii Fit is supporting its introduction to the world, there’s no doubt much cooler offerings will eventually utilize it to great effect. Sure, you can count on a slew of crap titles—Ubisoft has already announced one that’ll see players controlling the action with their asses—but the potential for real innovation is huge; how about a first-person-shooter that has gamers gunning with the Wii-mote/nunchuck set-up and dodging bullets—slow-mo Matrix style—by shifting their weight on the board? And, while an onslaught of ski and snowboard games is no doubt in the pipeline, how cool would a well-done surfing sim be? Or a fighter that delivers vicious kicks with a simple toe tap and allows you to avoid a foot to the face by ducking? It’ll take some time for developers to harness the power and innovation behind this potential-packed device, but we’re betting the balance board will have us doing far cooler things than stretching our thighs, in the future.

In the meantime, however, Wii Fit offers a nice introduction to the foot-focused gaming to come. We do wish it included a bit more structure in its workouts and the ability to create customized routines, but, if you’ve got the will power, you’ll succeed even without these absent hand-holding tools. Those who’ve been hitting the gym for years or even follow a regular at-home regimen won’t want to replace their muscle-building methods with Wii Fit, however, for those unaccustomed to regular physical activity, it’s definitely a positive step in the right direction. The most important thing to remember is that it's an exercise tool rather than a fun-first, fitness-second title like Wii Sports. We’ve heard a few criticisms regarding the ability to easily cheat in Wii Fit’s running exercises by simply lounging on your couch and shaking the Wii-mote up and down (you’re actually supposed to run in place with the Wii-mote in your hand or pocket.) This evaluation clearly comes from a gamer’s perspective, as anyone serious about exercising would only be cheating themselves by taking such shortcuts. Pick up Wii Fit expecting a party and you’ll be disappointed, but buy it as you would any other piece of fitness equipment and you’ll likely enjoy Nintendo’s innovative approach to getting in shape. Besides, if you make the investment now, you won’t have to take the plunge later when the balance board gets its killer app.

Overall: 88%



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