It's hard to fully analyze a fitness product without spending a large amount of time with it. By the very nature of fitness and exercise, it takes time to see results. Even if you're already a health addict, you'll need some time to appreciate the nuances of a new routine, but after spending about a week with Wii Fit U, I can vouch for the vigorous nature of many of its exercises and games.

Some of them are more successful than others, but my main gripe with Wii Fit U has nothing to do with its individual activities. Wii Fit U's main flaw is its inability to string these activities together in a meaningful way. In terms of individual workout sessions, it's not a bad product, but if you want to follow a long-term, dedicated workout regimen, you're going to have to cobble it together yourself.
Gallery | 12 Photos

Wii Fit U (E3 2012)

If you've used Wii Fit before, Wii Fit U will be very, very familiar. With the exception of a few new activities and exercises, it is largely the same product as the original Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus, featuring many of the same activities. Most of the activities require the Wii Balance Board, which is essentially a smart, electronic fitness step. While standing on the Balance Board, for example, leaning to the right may cause your Mii to move in that direction. In others, running in place will make your Mii jog forward. Wii Fit U can also make use of the new Fit Meter, a pedometer-like device that measures the calories you burn throughout the day. The next time you boot up Wii Fit U, you can transfer this data via the GamePad's IR sensor, allowing you to track your daily activity away from your Wii U. Both the Balance Board and Fit Meter are available via Wii Fit U bundles, in case you don't already have them. Oh, and fair warning: In order to try every available activity, you will need at least two MotionPlus compatible Wii Remotes.

The activities in Wii Fit U are headlined by a new area of exercise: dance. By stepping to the rhythm on and off of the Balance Board, you can try your hand at everything from hip-hop to flamenco. I'll admit to having some stupid fun trying to pop and lock, but it rarely felt like real exercise. Since you have to follow along with a cartoonish Mii instructor, it doesn't feel like a real dance lesson, either. It can be entertaining, but it's not exactly Sweatin' to the Oldies.

There are a handful of new balance games to try, requiring you to carefully control your body while standing on the Balance Board. Most of these, however, feel more like Wii U proof-of-concept mini-game rejects than anything resembling exercise. Hosedown, for example, has you spraying oncoming hordes of muddy Miis with a fire hose. You aim with the GamePad, stepping one foot onto the Balance Board to turn on the water. If there's any kind of fitness benefit to Hosedown, I can't tell you what it is. You have to stand to play it, I suppose.


Somewhat more taxing is Ultimate Obstacle Course. The object is to guide your Mii safely through a gauntlet of giant metal balls, bottomless pits and rolling logs. Played from a third-person perspective, running in place on the Balance Board sends you forward. Turning your body side to side while running will change the Mii's direction, while quickly flexing your legs causes him to jump forward. At least, that's how it's supposed to work. Wii Fit U frequently failed to recognize that I was turning, forcing me to run dead on into an obstacle. Other times my Mii would turn too much, sending him flying off the side of the course. Eventually, I discovered that Wii Fit U does a better job of interpreting smaller movements, but even then it didn't feel intuitive.

Aerobic activities edge closer to real exercise. The new Rowing Crew game will definitely work your stomach, as you sit on the Balance Board, leaning back and forth while pretending to paddle a boat with two Wii Remotes. The Hula Hoop is back, and swiveling your hips is still very tiring (and humiliating, should anyone see you). Most of the other aerobic activities center on stepping on and off the Balance Board or running in place, which is still no replacement for a treadmill or, even better, actual running.

Yoga and strength training return, ditching silly Miis for realistic, human instructors. These have been given a graphical facelift, though they remain lily-white homunculi and have a habit of repeating their encouragements, often within seconds of uttering them. There's no faulting the actual exercises though. Lunges, reaches, Sun Salutations and squats stretch and burn just like they should, and planks are still the greatest evil ever inflicted upon the world, even if they are great for your abs.

Wii Fit U adds the new Mirror Mode to these exercises (and some of the other activities), allowing you to beam a video feed of yourself onto the TV using the GamePad's camera. It's a handy way to check your form, or to see how ridiculous you look (see above paragraph RE: popping and locking).

The "serious" exercises in Wii Fit U are worthwhile, and even the mild aerobic activity of dancing or running in place is better than no activity at all, but it all suffers from a lack of organization. Specifically, Wii Fit U offers no options for a long-term workout plan. You can select from several different routines, which bundle together a few exercises around a specific theme (toning a specific body part, improving your balance, etc), but these only last for a few minutes. You can also try the Personal Trainer, which lets you specify how many calories you'd like to burn, or how long you'd like to exercise. Wii Fit U will then automatically generate a series of exercises, which you can fine-tune to specific types and intensities. You can also craft and save custom routines.

If you're looking for guidance, however, you won't find much. One of the first things you'll do when firing up Wii Fit U is to set a goal and choose a time frame in which to reach it. In my case, Wii Fit U suggested losing a few pounds to reach a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index), and I gave myself two weeks to do it. And that's it. After that, you're just told to start trying out exercises and games. Wii Fit U will occasionally chime in with fitness tips or health facts, but if you want a daily workout plan, you're going to have to come up with it yourself. Wii Fit U has the tools to create such routines, which makes it all the more surprising that there are no built-in, long-term workout plans. You can set up long-term weight loss goals, but it's up to you to figure out how to reach them. (As an aside, I'm not a huge fan of BMI as a measure of overall health. It works fine as a point of reference for progress, but I would suggest consulting a professional regarding personal goals.)

And that's the one thing that truly keeps Wii Fit U from feeling like a "real" fitness product. Even a cheap workout DVD offers enough guidance to tell users how often to exercise and which routines they should perform. Sure, if you're knowledgeable about fitness, you can come up with your own plan, but then you're probably not the sort of person looking for s a fitness game in the first place. Furthermore, I can't speak for everyone, but those who are serious about fitness may be turned off by the cutesy elements of Wii Fit U's presentation.

If your goal is simply to be more active, of if you're just starting to dabble in dedicated personal fitness, Wii Fit U will probably fit the bill. If you're willing to put in the legwork to create a regular regimen and stick with it, you can definitely get a good workout. Anyone seeking detailed fitness guidance and structure should look elsewhere.


This review is based on an eShop download Wii Fit U, provided by Nintendo.

Joystiq's review scores are based on a scale of whether the game in question is worth your time -- a five-star being a definitive "yes," and a one-star being a definitive "no." Read here for more information on our ratings guidelines.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.