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TVG puts Wii Fit to the test to see whether Nintendo can help the nation to get fit and healthy...
That, according to Nintendo's latest culture smashing phenomenon is my Wii Fit Age, calculated after stepping on the robust designs and endearing shapes of the Wii Balance Board for the first time. Of course, this figure wouldn't be too concerning if I remembered PONG the first time round, but it is a rather worrying 20 years beyond my actual age in the real world.
It seems Nintendo and Wii Fit has arrived just in the nick of time.
Wii Fit is the latest Nintendo craze to spread across the globe from the mind of Shigeru Miyamoto; gamers know him for Mario and Zelda, but if you're reading this, chances are you'll know him for Nintendogs. Turning normal-minded folk who wouldn't typically touch a videogame console into crazed Wii Remote wielding fitness fanatics, the impending European release follows widespread success in Japan last year where it notched up sales close to 2 million! Surely, the hysteria is certain to continue.
It's not an entirely new concept; fitness conscious Playstation2 owners will recall the EyeToy: Kinetic range, despite its numerous flaws and foibles. Where Wii Fit triumphs however is the ease of use and accompanying Wii Balance Board, which can accurately track your actions and tell whether your technique needs improving or if you're actually just trying to cheat the system - plus you don't have to be in a strongly lit room to enjoy it, which is always a bonus.
Bearing predictable similarities to Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training in Minutes a Day, Wii Fit offers an experience not traditionally expounded in the pages of TVG. Grouped into four different categories (Yoga, Muscle Workouts, Aerobic Exercises, Balance Games), Wii Fit's daily challenge involves Training via the different games and carrying out the all-important Body Test to chart your progress.
So to discover whether Wii Fit is going to get the nation healthy or left little more than a glorified set of scales, I took to the challenge, undertaking the Wii Fit regime over the course of a week to see whether this slightly saggy gamer posture can be transformed into one of a toned athlete.
Day 1 - Judgement Day BMI - 23.05 Weight - 11st 2lbs Wii Fit Age - 48
From the very first Measuring moment there's something a little perturbing about Wii Fit and its apparent ability to judge your fitness. Taking your height and age, the enigmatic Balance Board with its cries of "Step on Me", and "Ouch" when you do so, seems strangely alien for a gamer like myself traditionally adverse to using anything beyond my thumbs and fingers.
The initial Body Test appears to be primarily based around your centre of gravity, which impressively pinpointed my honed left-sided slouch, but doesn't necessarily seem to involve anything related to general health and fitness at this stage. After performing the first Body Test, Wii Fit and its infuriatingly chirpy in-game Balance Board mentor runs through what the results mean. Typically prophesizing all kinds of physical disorders and problems in later life, the next step as informed by the said Board is the significance of setting a goal in terms of weight loss over a desired period - 3lbs for the next week, 3 more if the novelty lasts.
A strong part of Wii Fit's appeal comes from its ability to track your daily progress, monitoring everything from your BMI (Body Mass Indicator), Weight, and FitCash (time logged), to the ever-so slightly dubious Wii Fit Age of your onscreen Mii embodiment. Much like the Brain Age rating before it, its scientific grounding remains debatable, coming across as little more than another figure to track, compare, and compete with against other people. It seems a little too focused on balance at this stage and less to do with criteria usually associated with fitness - where's the pulse meter that plugs into the Nunchuk slot?
Day 2 - The Day of Balance BMI - 22.86 Weight - 11st 0lbs Wii Fit Age - 40
Day 2 brings a slow, gradual improvement; evidently, Wii Fit could actually be onto something.
Sticking to a daily vigorous routine of Deep Breathing and Half Moon Yoga poses, in conjunction with a combination of Lunges, Torso & Waist Twists, and a few runs down the Ski Slalom slopes, has begun to have some effect, chipping away at the all important Weight and BMI and creating an odd sense of contentment. The slightly dubious Wii Fit Age has also seen a welcome reduction, although its relevance still seems debateable despite a little more added sophistication with the introduction of two Athletic Ability challenges. Once again these seem a little too obsessed with your balance and centre of gravity to represent a true take on your fitness.
Plainly, the Balance Board's novelty value provides the initial impulse to giving it a go. Fortunately, its brilliant design and performance also ensure it's the reason you'll keep coming back to Wii Fit. Unlike countless fitness DVDs starring former supermodels and washed up TV stars, the strong integration with what you're doing on the board and onscreen provides a tangible interaction between you and the "game". Each of the activities, whether it's stretching for the sky in the yoga Tree pose or holding the Parallel Stretch tracks your pressure on the board to determine how well you're performing and a score at the end.
The Wii Fit team have come up with many ingenious uses of the Balance Board, whether it's wiggling Hula Hoops around your waist or sitting on it in the Lotus position! But more on these later.
Day 3 - Fun Day BMI - 23.25 Weight - 11st 3lbs Wii Fit Age - 41
Disaster! My fears over the dubious Wii Fit Age are compounded with an increase in BMI and Weight! Wii Fit reliably informs me that such fluctuations are inevitable and that the typical body gains and looses up to two pounds every day. Such "failures" have to be explained to your mentor, with a variety of reasons for your setback that forced me to sheepishly admit to a late-night attack of the munchies.
Keen to prove myself to the increasingly infuriating, yet paradoxically adorable, manifestation of the Balance Board that guides you through every step of the way, I decided now was the time for a proper workout. Time to earn some serious FitCash and unlock the hidden challenges.
Of the "games" available, it's easy to see a definitive line between those that are pitched slightly seriously and those that provide plenty of fun, though a certain selection of them can easily lay claim to offering both. Some of the more strenuous activities can begin to get a sweat going and increase your heart rate, with the muscle and aerobic exercises offering the type of workout that makes you think it could actually be doing something worthwhile. It's slightly disappointing, however, to find some of the later Yoga poses requiring neither the Balance Board nor the Wii Remote, casting the considerably expensive peripheral to the sidelines.
Yoga and Muscle Workouts are carried out under the watchful gaze of nimble instructors, whose sterile appearance captures the clean-cut Wii look and style appropriately. Whether it's mastering the Warrior pose or attempting the dreaded Press Up & Side Stand, these tasks will have muscles you never knew existed aching in the mornings on the way to attaining the perfect posture.
The Aerobic Exercises offer a slightly more entertaining workout. The Super Hula Hoop stands out as hilarious for spectators, but exhausting for the participant. Step Aerobics are exactly what you'd expect, stepping in time with the music, using the Balance Board in a similar manner to Dance Dance Revolution. The most rewarding, however, is the one that doesn't use the Balance Board at all. Casting the board to one side, Jogging challenges you to run around Wiffity Island (obviously designed by Nintendo) by popping the Wii Remote into a pocket and simply jogging on the spot. It's ideal for anybody who's ever contemplated going out for a run but always found excuses (the weather's miserable or can't find your trainers).
Balance Games tend to offer the most fun with tasks such as the Ski Slalom (and Snowboarding variant) and Ski Jump likely to become favourites amongst Wii Fit early adopters. With a closer look and feel to games in the classic sense of the word, activities like the Table Tilt, Tightrope Tension, Balance Bubble, and Penguin Slide, provide plenty of replay value, though you're sometimes left doubting their overall effectiveness on your health and fitness.
New games and activities are unlocked as you accumulate time on the Wii Balance Board, with a considerable 15 different tasks for each of the Yoga and Muscle Workouts, along with 9 different types for each of the Balance Games and Aerobic Exercises. Virtually all of the different types offer extra options to unlock for the slightly more seasoned fitness guru, whether it's adding extra reps to a workout or more complex courses for the skiing. Linking certain Yoga poses and Muscle Workouts can open up hidden Workouts, such as the Warrior and Lunge, little combinations that when combined excel in toning specific areas of your body - just watch those thigh muscles in the morning!
Day 4 - The Day of Reckoning BMI - 22.50 Weight - 10st 12lbs Wii Fit Age - 30
After a hard Friday night on the town it seems my statistics have taken an unexpected dive, with considerable reductions in BMI and Weight, along with a Wii Fit Age that's starting to look a little more respectable. Not that I condone the benefits that several pints and a curry brings, but the figures seem to suggest differently...
On a day of feeling slightly under the weather, I've had the time to think and ponder about habits that Wii Fit has already started to change. Shigeru Miyamoto and the team behind Wii Fit are keen to promote that it's all about discovering new things about your body, and this certainly holds some truth. I've found myself thinking about posture more than ever before and it's definitely succeeded in making daily exercise somewhat more appealing. The activities are interspersed with handy health tips on eating habits and sleeping patterns, which I've also strangely found myself paying heed to.
The real quality behind Wii Fit comes from sharing the experience and playing against others. There's a healthy sense of competition to the various exercises, games, and workouts, with a Top 10 leaderboard collating scores and providing that "one more go" appeal - slightly strange when it's physical exercise we're talking about. Shigeru Miyamoto suggests this is a key element to Wii Fit, and I'm prone to agree. Wii Fit is a game that appeals to the audience Nintendo is grabbing and it's great to share, perhaps the only complaint is the lack of WiiConnect 24 leaderboards to elevate the competition with friends and family you don't see regularly.
BMI - 23.05 Weight - 11st 2lbs Wii Fit Age - 22
Somehow after a weekend of considerably strenuous activities I've ended up with the same BMI and weight as when I started, but my Wii Fit Age has fallen by a dramatic 26 years!
It seems that the Wii Fit Age is little more than a statistic to compare and compete with against your fellow Wii Fit fanatics, which can't really be faulted, but I wouldn't loose too much sleep over it compared to the slightly more serious Weight and BMI statistics.
Wii Fit will never be a replacement for the gym, but that's not necessarily what Wii Fit is all about. Instead, its blend of fun and healthy competition is geared towards those (like myself) who fear such places of strenuous workouts. It's the challenge of gaining the top spot in the various games' Top 10 leaderboard and comparing figures with your friends and family that provides a lot of the fun and appeal behind drawing you back daily.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect about Wii Fit is just how enjoyable Nintendo have made the entire experience; when you're having fun, exercise doesn't seem like such a chore. It's not a "game" for gym-freaks, but if Wii Fit can maintain its initial impetus then it should succeed at getting families and people of a similar disposition to normal exercise like myself, doing just that little bit more.
As you'd expect from a Wii title very much geared in Nintendo's new style of thinking, Wii Fit is an experience that literally anybody can understand and enjoy. Setting the game up, activating the Balance Board and competing in the daily challenges is entirely hassle free. The clever bods at Nintendo have also taken a surprising twist of ingenuity with the ability to "install" to the Wii Channel List, bypassing the need to find the disc and any excuses for not doing your little bit each day.
BMI - 22.73 Weight - 10st 13lbs Wii Fit Age - 23
Well if it stays like this, I'm on course for the 3lbs I need to loose during the first week. With a BMI approaching the 22 that's deemed desirable, a weight that I can deal with and not forgetting a Wii Fit Age that I can actually boast about, perhaps there's something to be said for whacking on Wii Fit for 20 minutes every day.
Like Brain Age and Animal Crossing before it, Wii Fit is geared in the new Nintendo way: a little bit every day. My only concern with Wii Fit is just how long the novelty will last and whether the daily Body Test hook will keep you coming back. The classic Nintendo hook is still evident throughout the entire Wii Fit experience, from hidden Ultimate Balance challenges to slight variations such as doing the Body Test with your eyes closed. Nevertheless, its long-term value is tied to the effort you're willing to put in and how long you consider it beneficial - some people will drop it as quickly as they picked it up.
Day 7 - The Verdict BMI - 22.92 Weight - 11st 1lb Wii Fit Age - 25
Well perhaps a week is a little too limited to make a call on the overall effectiveness of Wii Fit. After a grand total of 2 hours and 28 minutes on the Balance Board I've ended up with statistics pretty much the same as when I started, I've lost a pound and my BMI has reduced by 0.13 - but my Wii Fit Age has dropped by 23 years, so that's ok.
I'll hold my hands up and admit it. Wii Fit is a game that scared me from the start. Not simply because of its efforts to change my 20+ years of a posture honed for slouched sofa gaming perfection, but also because it marks a concerning trend of Nintendo distancing itself from its classic formula.
In all seriousness, Wii Fit has succeeded. It's made daily exercise fun and appealing, plus its lessons about the body have had a lasting effect. If certain videogames can attract negative press then Wii Fit, as a videogame, deserves praise for its efforts to get Wii owners thinking about their health.
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