IGN Review of Wii Fit Plus
While Wii Sports remains the top-selling game this generation, due in whole to the fact that it comes packaged with Nintendo's system, Wii Fit, an $89 bundle that also includes the scale-like Balance Board, isn't far behind. Indeed, although some critics scoffed at the prospect of seasoned players rising from their sweat-stained couches to burn calories the Nintendo way, the title -- the furthest thing from a traditional game -- has remained at the tippity-top of the sales charts since its release nearly a year and a half ago. The fittingly-named Wii Fit Plus, which effectively replaces the original product, is every bit the enhancement over its predecessor, sporting a handful of new exercises, more mini-games, and a few extra layers of much-needed calorie-burning guidance. Plus is a bulkier offering, but not a strong as it might've been if Nintendo had addressed and not ignored a few shortcomings of the first game.
Supposing you're that one guy who still hasn't heard of Wii Fit, it is, very simply, an exercise-themed game for Nintendo's console. You step on the included Balance Board, it measures your weight and tests your balance, and awards you a Wii Fit Age. You can then jump into a series of genuinely taxing games and exercises, from hula-hoops and running to yoga poses and strength-training challenges such as push-ups and side-planks. All the while, on-screen instructors offer dynamic guidance based on the data -- the subtle shifts in your posture and the steadiness of your arms and feet -- to help you stay on form. It's still exercise and as a result you will still feel your heart racing and the sweat dripping, but you might just forget for a few minutes that you're working out because you'll be having fun.
If you already bought Wii Fit, you can get the Plus upgrade for a paltry $19.99 -- well worth it, in my opinion, and I'll explain why in the paragraphs to follow. Wii owners who never picked up Fit will pay $99 for the bundle, $10 more than the original, which is disappointing since the Balance Board hardware -- available in Japan two years ago -- should've decreased and not increased in price by now. Boo, Nintendo. And, of course, if you don't own the system yet, you'll need to shell out $300 for a Wii and the Plus package, a sizable investment to drop that waist size.
Wii Fit Plus is Wii Fit, literally, and then some. That's because Nintendo took the core Wii Fit package -- the menus, the interface system, the virtual trainers, and all the balance games, aerobics, yoga and strength training exercises and simply re-used them for this newest version. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, either -- after all, most of these inclusions were well implemented and worth exploring. The title even imports all of your workout data from the previous effort so that you can continue onward. You'll be happy to know that if you never committed yourself to the first game and therefore never unlocked any of the advanced routines, they are automatically opened for you in Plus, a welcomed move on Nintendo's part; I always thought locking the exercises away was unnecessary. All of the additions in Plus are immediately accessible, too.
Speaking of those additions, I know what you're thinking, which is, Matt, tell us about the single greatest advancement in Plus. Well, I think you'll agree that it's the ability to weigh your cats and dogs. Yep. Simply hold your favorite pet on the Balance Board and the game will weigh them for you. Finally, right? Yeah -- probably not. I didn't have a pet handy for this review, so I weighed the closest thing -- IGN editor Mark Bozon. And then I forgot about the feature altogether, which is what you're likely to do, too.
Thankfully, Plus does have some genuinely worthy content additions, though. Three new yoga and three more strength training exercises, to start. The spine extension will stretch your torso as you hold the form and the balance bridge is sure to give your muscles a workout as you kick out your leg and hold it straight, repeat, and then switch legs. The wide assortment of yoga and strength training exercises already available in the original Fit (and reused) are, in my opinion, much better than these latest inclusions -- nothing beats the push-up side-planks if you want to work your chest -- but they are nonetheless welcomed.
That noted, it's very clear that Nintendo put a greater emphasis on increasing the number of balance games in Plus -- 15, as compared to six new exercises -- and thankfully, many of the extra modes are very well thought out and a lot of fun. In rhythm kung fu, for example, you hold the both the Wii remote and nunchuk in your hands, step on the board, and then mimic the actions of the Mii avatars that surround you in a training dojo. When they punch your firsts and raise their legs, you do the same. It's not very hard, but it's entertaining. Much better is golf. You turn the Balance Board sideways to play. Step on it and swing away with the Wii remote -- the mode measures every minor nuance you make, including the shift of your posture and the momentum of your swing. I found myself correcting my form based on the results, which is pretty impressive. Skateboarding is also played sideways -- you merely lean left and right to steer in the respective directions and straighten your knees quickly to ollie. In snowball fight, you lean left and right on the board to dodge snowballs thrown your way and use the Wii remote to throw back -- just point, aim and tap the A button. These games are all great in their own right, but as far as exercise goes, they aren't very difficult, so don't expect to shed pounds if you play these and avoid yoga and strength training.
The one exception is bird's eye bull's-eye, incidentally a balance game that requires you toss your dignity aside before playing. Hold your arms out sideways and flap to make an on-screen chicken flap its wings. Uh-huh. The goal is to land on various point targets strewn about an ocean level. It's completely ridiculous, but also very enjoyable, and the longer you hold your arms out and the more you flap, the more difficult it becomes. You will actually feel the burn if you keep at it. While the majority of minis are equally entertaining, there are a handful of duds, most of which revolve around running in place.
One of my favorite enhancements in Plus is its calorie counter. Every action in the game has been assigned a metabolic equivalent of task (or METS) number. A lot of the mini-games feature METS ratings of 2, which isn't much -- about the same as going for the easiest walk you've ever taken, but some, like push-ups, rate higher. In Plus, calories are counted by multiplying your weight times your METS. And after every exercise, whether yoga, aerobics or strength, and after every balance board game, you'll see the calories you've burned, which is both encouraging and discouraging; the former because you can visualize some scientific representation of your workouts and discouraging because the calories don't usually come off in triple or double digits, but single.
The game lets you look at the total daily calories you burn and even compares them against a food menu so that you can really gawk at your accomplishments or shortcomings. If you burn 100 calories, an undertaking that took me about 25 minutes of rotating between yoga and strength exercises, you'll be able to eat 30 grapes or a big spoonful of mayonnaise. Think about that the next time you chow down on some 650-calorie hamburger from your favorite fast food chain. Since the difficulty of the workouts in WiI Fit Plus are relatively forgiving, it'll take you longer to burn those calories, which is unfortunate. In contrast, I shed 500 calories, according to Nike Plus data, if I push through a 30-minute run around my neighborhood. Of course, I won't have as much fun doing it, and that's not to be discounted.
The calorie counter is long overdue and much appreciated, but I'm not nearly as happy about Nintendo's decision to rely once more on the body mass index (or BMI) scale as the primary measurement of your Wii Fit successes or failures. In my review of Fit, I called it an imprecise calculation system that considers your height and your weight and then assigns you a label -- oftentimes, unjustly overweight, because it never takes into account your muscle-to-fat ratio. Having very precisely measured my waist and chest lines, my gym instructor suggested I lose 10 more pounds to be at my optimum (lean) weight of 170 pounds. Plus, on the other hand, says I need to be 152 pounds to achieve that goal. Had Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped on the Balance Board in his prime, Plus would have very likely labeled him overweight or possibly obese based on his height and weight ratio alone. It's simply not a fair standard, and given that Plus, like Wii Fit before it, has no means of really looking at your body frame, BMI is not practical for those who desire very accurate results.
Conspicuously absent from Plus is the inclusion of any online functionality whatsoever, which is sorely missed and rapidly approaching criminal. I'm not suggesting online play, although some of the balance board games probably would be fun against others -- but rather some brand of online community. The game doesn't even feature leaderboards. I already mentioned Nike Plus, which allows iPod users to track how far they run and compare their data with friends and family online. It also allows users to create running challenges -- for example, a race to see who can run 30 miles the fastest (sometimes over the period of weeks or months). Wii Fit Plus would've benefited in a big way from similar functionality -- say, goals to see who could do the most push-up side-planks in a day or burn the most calories. A glaring oversight on Nintendo's part. Instead, you get a quick and easy local multiplayer mode in which players take turns with the modes, not nearly as motivational.
Thankfully, one of Fit's biggest issues -- the inability to create custom workout programs -- has been very thoroughly addressed in Plus. Now you can go to the My Wii Fit Plus Routines section, where you'll be able to select from four categories, including lifestyle, health, youth and form, and pick from a handful of exercise pre-sets that Nintendo has designed to target specific body areas. Better yet, though, is that you can create your own custom routines from scratch. I enjoy the balance board games, but they're not difficult. So when I use Wii Fit as an exercise solution, I prefer to stick to yoga and strength training. I very quickly customized a 40-minute routine comprised of nothing but poses, lunges, push-ups and planks, and woke up sore the next day. That's progress.
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