Thursday, November 12, 2009

Review – Wii Fit Plus -Developed and published by NintendoRated “E” for Everyone
Contains mild cartoon violence

“Plus” is a fitter version of the original Wii Fit. Yes, there are some new exercises, new modes for your friends and pets, many new and innovative games, but the real bonus is the way the software has been streamlined, making it easier for you to jump into a 30 minute routine and on to your day. What has been trimmed is the ceremony and presentation, the time you spend moving in and out of menu systems, waiting. What has been added is a new focus on burning calories and using specific exercises to achieve simple results, like trimming tummy fat, reducing arm flab, or loosening neck muscles. In day-to-day use, this is where the real plus lies.

A Faster Routine
Somehow by adding new options, Nintendo has made it easier for veteran Wii Fit fans to get down to business faster. Similar to the Trial Mode, a new Multiplayer Section lets you jump into the games with your friends without having to load a profile first. You can skip the balance tests, age results, and calendar with the new “Simple Test” and just quickly weigh yourself and move on. The Routine section lets you select a number of Yoga and Strength Training exercises to play as a group, so you won’t visit the menu in between each one, plus you can save it as “My Routine” for your regular workout. And finally, there’s the Wii Fit Plus Routines, pre-made groups of exercises designed to help you target specific fitness goals, to show you which exercises are best for which parts of your body.

This last feature is quite interesting as Nintendo uses simple images and concepts to offer something quite sophisticated. There are five categories of pre-made routines, each offering three groups of exercises. Lifestyle focuses on reducing stress, Health on reducing tummy fat, Youth on hips and lower body muscles, and Form to tone your figure. Whether these groups can have the advertised effect remains to be seen, but it helps Nintendo create a sense of variety out of the existing set of exercises, and that’s a clever move.

A New Motivation
The Body Mass Index (BMI) is still in use for setting weight loss goals, but it’s now overshadowed by a new system that focuses on burning calories to provide drive instead. After each exercise you’ll get two counters, one to measure your workout time as before, another to show you how many calories you’ve burned. You can then see these displayed on a graph after in the Wii Fit Plus section where a food guide is used to show you what the equivalent would be. If you’ve worked off 50 calories, for example, it will tell you that’s the equivalent to one tablespoon of mayonnaise or an ounce of avocado. You can click on pictures of food to create a calorie goal, so that when you exercise, it’ll show you how many calories are left to work off. This is a much better companion to the weight scale than the BMI chart.

I kinda wish Nintendo had left it there, but they’ve also introduced an “MET” system to help rate the intensity of an exercise. Sitting, for example is 1 MET, while Hula-Hooping is 4 METs. The idea is to plug this value into an equation along with your weight and time to work out a calorie goal. Honestly, who wants to do the math when the Wii won’t do it for you?

Add a new graph to the Wii Credit bank system and the number of units and systems to keep track of is getting out of hand. Whether you get these values in Imperial or Metric is now tied to which country you selected in the System Settings menu of the Wii itself. I’m Canadian and yes, we use metric, but for weight loss I prefer to shed off pounds, not kilograms, and so not having any easy way to change that is annoying.

Little Ones
While Nintendo still hasn’t come up with a way to support two balance boards for shared workouts, they have introduced new features for you to add the smaller members of your household.
Profiles created for users three and under are now given “Baby Stats” to record their details. This skips the Body Test and its related steps, and instead simply records their weight while being held on the Balance Board by a parent. When that user turns four, then the profile will change into a regular one and unlock all the other options. The idea, I believe, isn’t to push young users into obsessing about their weight, but merely to let them participate in all the fun.

Nor is this the same goal for pets, who now have their own section. It’s a similar idea, you hold your pet on the Balance Board and the software deducts your weight to find that of your pet’s and records it onto a calendar, so that you can measure changes due to medication, real world exercise, or new diet.

For many I expect the real use of the Pets will be to add a new dimension of cuteness. You can create a “Mii” version of your cat or dog, choosing from different ears, tails, and coat colours, and while they can’t use the Balance Board to perform exercises, just like the other Miis on your system, they can now populate your game worlds. When you go for an Island Run, in addition to passing your friends on the path, your pooch or kitty may show up to run alongside you to add extra support. They also appear in the Mii Plaza where it will interact with the Mii of its owner.

New Exercises And Games
I expected Nintendo to introduce a new section, Cardio perhaps, but instead we get just a small, disappointing handful of new exercises. There are three new yoga poses, including a Spine Extension, Grounded V, and Gate, and three new Strength Training exercises including the side lunge, single-leg reach, and bridge. All six are added to the advanced section of their grids, but are unlikely to play a strong role.

The games, on the other hand, have exploded. Here Nintendo’s creativity shines with juggling, skateboarding, cycling, and a driving range for you to practice your swing with. The more outrageous party-style games include a rhythm challenge where you must perform Kung Fu moves, a duck-and-toss snowball fight, a game where you ride a Segway along a beach to pop balloons and run over moles, and finally, my favorite, a game where you must flap your arms like a chicken to guide yourself to fly and hop from Island to Island, landing on targets to complete a course.

These mini-games are Nintendo’s strength and just as fun as a collection as any of their previous Wii games packages. You can argue that they alone cover the cost of purchase.

Not To Be Confused With A Sequel
Wii Fit Plus has the right name and at $25, the right price as its more as an expansion pack than a traditional sequel, which would change or take the core idea in a new direction. While the selection of just six new exercises is disappointing, the included tweaks respond to most of what fans have been asking for and the added games are hysterical, making Wii Fit a better, more enjoyable experience.