Now, however, Nintendo has achieved the kind of universal appeal in their simpler games that allows them to expand into all sorts of oddities, and Wii Fit is just one example. Half game, half lifestyle tool, Wii Fit rides on the coattails of the success of both the Wii and the DS (and its popular Brain Age) into living rooms around the world. But once there, how's the experience?
I'll confess, up front, that after being excited for Wii Fit, I'm a little disappointed with the package. There are some great things here, but at the same time, there are some major annoyances. First and foremost: why are most of the exercises locked here? No, scratch that; the reason for the unlockables is clear enough, and even if I don't agree, I can see the point of it. Progression in workouts is very important. However, the mechanism for the unlocking just plain fails here. As you go through minigames and various exercises, you earn credits for time spent (rounded up to full minutes). At various intervals of credits, you unlock new game options. For example, ten minutes in, you unlock the first one -- the tightrope game. Fifteen and it's a new yoga pose. Next, the rowing squat.
But what if I don't want the tightrope game? What if I'm solely interested in aerobics and strength training, or really into trying out the yoga? Then you can either suck it up and power through, or repeat the very few exercises of that type the game allows you to access over and over (and over and over) again. Unlockables may sound like a good idea, but in practice, it's a major turnoff for anyone serious about attempting this as a workout tool.
The problem of unlockables may be foremost among the issues here, but it's not alone. Wii Fit uses BMI, Body Mass Index, as one of the pillars of measuring Wii Fit age -- a sort of gauge of your overall fitness. BMI has its own problems, as there are many factors the measurement doesn't take into account. As part of this gauge, Wii Fit also checks your balance ... and that's it. Perhaps not the best measurement of fitness level. Further, the title offers little to no guidance about working out beyond the explanations of each exercise and the occasional "don't forget to warm up before exercising."
While that's a nice tip, there are a few more that could have been included here. Such as how to design a workout, since Nintendo didn't include any long sessions, workout plans, or "playlists" beyond the occasional suggestion of combining two activities. That's helpful, but it's not enough, especially since Wii Fit is clearly geared toward beginners. Most people will simply do things that appeal to them, until eventually they're just doing a few balance games and calling it a day. Wii Fit can be a great trainer, if you know what the hell you're doing. Otherwise, it's probably going to end up being just a game with a neat peripheral, that you use for three days when you make the latest New Year's resolution to lose weight, or when you have people over and want to introduce them to the fun of being hit in the head with hula hoops.
And while this only applies to a few of the exercises, it's worth noting that some of the activities are actually more difficult with the balance board than they would be without. Tree pose in yoga requires stability, and that's more difficult to achieve on this surface, and the board lifts the body enough to make push ups require a little getting used to, particularly with the carpet extensions affixed to the board's base.
But there are also some great things here. The board itself is pretty well designed (though it could have been a bit bigger), and the way the Wii remote and the board are used in some of the activities is simply remarkable. Nintendo is at the peak of their innovation here, despite doing things that are very simple. Need to measure your jogging pace? Carry the Wii remote, or tuck it into a pocket -- no board needed. And while the board can't measure your alignment during yoga poses, you're more likely to be able to hold the post still and balanced if you're doing it correctly, and that the board can measure.
It's just pure fun at times, too. The fact that other Miis pop up during some of the activities is just fantastic, and it can help keep things entertaining, as do the balance games. The minigames are a fun diversion on their own (and they can be pretty challenging!), and some of them blend light exercise with simple fun. They also work well as a rest period mixed into longer workout sessions.
The real question, of course, is this: is Wii Fit a viable workout tool? Definitely, yes. No, Wii Fit is not going to transform your life and make you healthy and fit, but it's a good way to get interested in exercising, or keeping up with your routines if you have limited time, space, or funds. There is some great variety among the exercises (once you get them all unlocked, which takes several hours), and it's a nice alternative to boring old regular exercise. If I'm on the treadmill, it's unlikely that my father-in-law will run past. It's even more unlikely (regrettably) that the White Stripes will run past, but that can happen while jogging in Wii Fit! It's nice for other reasons, too; it's quieter than most workout equipment, and if it's too hot for anyone but a veteran to comfortably run outside, or the weather's bad, it gives you a reason to run inside. If you need a little guidance in learning about exercise, this is a nice beginning. If you just need a little encouragement, this is more fun than many other forms of exercise.
Beyond that, the training sessions are fairly well designed. The exercises are easy to follow and well explained, and most are pretty simple. They're no joke, either. If you really work through these exercises and give it some real effort, you'll get that heart rate going in no time.
Wii Fit is definitely effective and definitely flawed, and that's frustrating. As with so many games, there's the lingering sense that this could have been just a little bit better and really been mind-blowing. As it is, the problems are enough to drag Wii Fit down. It's a good experience, and one that is worth recommending, but here's hoping the inevitable sequel is a step up.
Final verdict: 7.5/10