Raw eggs not included.
Wii Fit is possibly the ultimate casual game. Its marketing targets a wide spectrum of players, such as soccer moms and people that don’t know what exercise is. It contains no blatant references to any established Nintendo franchise; instead, Wii Fit occupies the same as-yet-unnamed genre as Wii Sports and Wii Play, that stable of games that encourages everyone to play regardless of - in this case - weight or range of motion. I’m a huge fan of excercising at home, so my wife and I grabbed Wii Fit on Day Uno. After a full fortnight, are our waistlines slimmer? Is our posture better? Can we lift baby pachyderms over our heads without batting an eye? I’m happy to say “yes” to all of the above, excluding the pachyderm thing. I made that up.
Wii Fit’s biggest strength is also its biggest weakness: its focus is primarily on improving your center of balance, and thus your posture. According to the friendly, flexible on-screen Balance Board character, poor posture leads to back problems, low energy, and poor digestive health (as the owner of three collapsed intervertebral disks, I can assure you that poor posture also leads to excruciating pain!).
The primary method of interface with Wii Fit is through the latest Nintendo peripheral, the Balance Board. This white, large, rectangular device is divided into four equal sections, and it measures your weight, the amount of pressure applied to it, and how much pressure is being put on any one quadrant of the board. It’s a surprisingly sophisticated piece of equipment, and its sturdy frame has not yet winced under the weight of either me or my wife as we’ve danced upon it.
After creating a profile, which is tied to an in-game Mii avatar, you’re given a Body Test. This test measures your center of balance (CoB) and body control. The CoB test merely asks you to stand perfectly still for about ten seconds while the board reads how your CoB wavers while standing. The body control tests usually have to do with actively moving your CoB around by leaning on the board in different directions. With practice, the body control tests become second nature, and it becomes possible to move your CoB without radically moving your body; it’s a skill that you acquire over time. The initial tests result in a Wii Fit Age (like a Brain Age) which forms the benchmark for your ensuing exercises. Wii Fit measures your progress via this test, and you can do one test every 24 hours.
Otherwise, it’s all about daily training. There are four broad categories: Yoga, Strength Training, Aerobics, and Balance Games. Each category includes between nine and sixteen different activities. Virtually every Strength Training activity includes multiple repetition options, and the Balance Games include different levels of difficulty for select games. Of the four categories, Aerobics is notable for being poorly thought out. The step games are DDR-esque in that you step on and off the Balance Board in rhythm with an onscreen indicator, but it doesn’t really make you sweat (unless you’re Gilbert Grape’s mother, at which point the Balance Board might break anyway). The running games only utilize the Wii Remote, which you stick in a pocket.
What’s disappointing about the Aerobics games is how few there are in comparison to the other categories. There are nine distinct Balance Games and they almost all have multiple levels of difficulty, as do the boxing and solo running games. In Aerobics, however, there are only four distinct games, and different difficulty levels are treated as games unto themselves. So while there are technically three types of “Step” games (Basic Step, Advanced Step, and Free Step), they’re all identical and amount to no more than three difficulty levels of the same activity. Why Nintendo didn’t include more games for this particular category is truly puzzling, and you can’t help but feel a little short-changed.
For the fitness enthusiast, Yoga and Strength Training are where it’s at. You can select either a male or female trainer, and they will demonstrate new activities before you do it with them. There are a ton of yoga poses. Some of them don’t use the Board or the Wii Remote (which seems bizarre), but those that do are focused on balance. After a few days, your balance really does improve. The Strength Training exercises can be pretty brutal, especially the Push-Up Challenges, but I suck at push-ups. They get you sweating, especially when you start ramping up the reps.
The Balance Games are more for fun than anything else, but they do make you aware of your CoB. The skiing, ski jump, and snowboarding games are simplistic, but indicative of the Balance Board’s robust gameplay potential. Other games put you in silly situations like tightrope-walking, fish-catching (as a penguin, no less), or floating down a river in a bubble. Most of the Balance Games could probably be full games on their own; for example, there’s a curious Super Monkey Ball-like marble game, which is ridiculously difficult on Advanced.
So after two weeks of this, what do I think? Well, I can’t really speak for myself because I’m not supposed to lose much weight (what with the Cystic Fibrosis and all), so I never set a weight loss goal. My goal is to stay at the highest tier of the game’s “Normal” weight category (based on my BMI) without slipping into the “Overweight” zone. My wife, however, wanted to lose a bit of weight. I play Wii Fit for a half-hour a day, but she does an hour. And yes, she has lost weight and her CoB has improved. For myself, the biggest benefit has been an awareness of my own CoB. When I began Wii Fit, my CoB was toward my heels, but now it’s far more centered and I have fewer back aches as a result.
However, I can’t recommend Wii Fit as your primary source of excercise. First of all, the game is a bit too focused on CoB and BMI, the latter of which has been repeatedly shown to be a poor indicator of overall health. When you set a fitness goal, it’s more like a weight loss goal. You can’t select “build muscle”, “tone muscle”, or “lower body fat percentage”. Your only choices are to increase or decrease your weight.
To that end, another drawback is that Wii Fit doesn’t have a coaching mechanism that tells you how best to meet your weight-loss goal. You are free to do whatever you want, without direction. Sure, the game will suggest certain activity combinations, but that’s hardly a workout, and there’s no incentive to complete the workouts suggested. Speaking of incentives, newcomers will notice that relatively few games are available at the beginning. However, the more time you spend on the Balance Board, the more activities you’ll unlock. When you unlock all the individual games, you begin unlocking additional reps or difficulty levels. This may keep some players motivated, but future iterations of Wii Fit could really use some sort of fitness coach to help you along.
In terms of multiplayer, Wii Fit doesn’t feature any true two-player games. Two people can jog in place if you have a pair of Wii Remotes, but that’s about it. Of course, a practical obstacle to multiplayer would be the need for multiple Balance Boards, but it would be nice to at least have the option of playing with a friend. The ski-jumping would be great with two players, as would the marble game and the bubble river race. Online play would also be great for some of the games, despite the fact that Wii Fit’s focus is on the individual.
Overall, Wii Fit is a great supplement to your existing exercise routine, but I don’t think it will ever replace a gym membership and proper eating. However, it does provide at least one very unique experience: the improvement and awareness of your center of balance. Wii Fit is a great game that my wife and I love, but it cannot and will not replace our other fitness activities.