By Etienne Vlok
Gaming and exercising doesn’t seem like a natural team-up. The former usually involves getting comfy on the couch (if you’re not exclusively a PC gamer) and turning up the volume, whereas the latter requires that you engage in strenuous physical activity, often in a gym where you are motivated(!) by Enrique Iglesias or Kurt Darren songs played very loudly (pretty much anything other than mute it too loud in my opinion, but I digress.)
Wii Fit aims to change this perception, by presenting a workout in the form of a game rather than a series of intimidating exercises. While it’s by no means a complete replacement for an intensive physical program, it does offer the opportunity of to improve your health and stay in shape in the comfort of your own living room. Using the Mii you created on your system as your virtual body double, Wii Fit will definitely elicit a few laughs as well when playing with friends.
The piece of equipment that makes this whole process possible is a brilliantly conceived piece of technology developed specifically for the game, called the WiiFit Balance Board. At first sight, it looks like a high tech scale (which is indeed one of the many functions it provides) but its primary purpose is to sense your movement and balance when you stand on it. It’s not exceedingly heavy and is flat enough to be stored easily, so it’s quite possible to adopt the board as a fixture in your living room without having to move all the furniture.
The exercises themselves are classified into four main categories: yoga, muscle exercise, aerobic exercise and balance exercise. When you start of, you are presented with a small number of workouts for each category. As you spend more time using the game – essentially, getting fitter – you unlock more varied and exerting exercises. The yoga is a good way to warm up or stretch away some aches while improving your general posture, whereas the muscle exercises focus on strengthening specific areas of your body. The aerobic section includes activities to get your heart rate up and start burning excess fat, while the balance games aim exclusively to develop your â€˜deep muscles’ that control your posture.
Throughout, the game tries to motivate you into spending more time exercising, and continually challenges you to improve on your previous efforts, since each â€˜round’ is given a score based on your performance. For a lot of exercises, the core focus is to perform any given activity while maintaining a correct posture and centre of balance. Something as mundane as trying to touch your toes becomes a lot more challenging when you realize that the natural posture your body assumes when doing so compensates for the weakness of your muscles. Doing it while keeping the correct posture is an entirely different matter altogether, since this actually exerts your muscles. In using this extremely simple approach, Wii Fit manages to give you an actual workout. Trust me, after repeating two sets of 15 lunges with each leg while keeping an upright posture and balanced centre of gravity, any thoughts of â€˜this is merely a gimmick’ were long gone.
Sometimes, you won’t even have to use the Balance Board. The jogging exercise requires you to run in the same place with the Wiimote in hand (or back pocket) until you complete a lap. The movement of the Wiimote indicates the speed at which your legs are moving up and down, and consequently, how fast you are â€˜running.’
Most of the exercises take place in a â€˜monkey see, monkey do’ kind of way, with a virtual instructor first performing the exercise themselves, then allowing you to have a go. While a bit tedious, the tutorials are only compulsory for the first time you attempt an exercise.
Ultimately, Wii Fit is a difficult game to review, since it’s not a game in the traditional sense of the word. That said, it’s remarkably fun and very original in how it involves the player to create a training program. While it’s certainly not cheap – retailing at R999 everywhere, to the best of my knowledge – it’s a very natural use of the motion sensing technologies of the Wii, as opposed to some of the stilted uses other games try to shoehorn into the gameplay.
Last Updated: May 9, 2008