Thursday, June 5, 2008

A perfect 'Fit' for Wii

In the past, Nintendo has had you raise virtual puppies, stomp on evil Goombas and save the world from Mother Brain.

Now they want to get you in shape.

Wii Fit is the newest off-the-wall title in Nintendo's repertoire. The game features more than 40 exercises to help you burn fat, build muscle and gain perfect posture.

The Wii Balance Board is the real star of the show. The innovative peripheral is included with every copy of Wii Fit and is used with nearly every activity in the game. You simply sync the Balance Board to the Wii console before you play for the first time, and you'll be ready to work out in no time.

The game provides a nice introductory tutorial that explains how to use the device. You are also asked to pick a Mii — a user created avatar — to help represent the virtual journey that lies ahead.

The first thing on the docket is finding out your BMI (body mass index), which is determined by stepping on the Wii Balance Board after submitting your height and date of birth. Next is a series of exams that judge how well you can shift body weight under a strict time limit. The results determine a "Wii Fit Age," a number that most people will strive to lower by playing the game. You are able to set a limit on how much weight to lose over a certain amount of time. A calendar is provided to see the progress that you will need to make in order to reach the goal.

There are only a few exercises to choose from initially, but many more games unlock as playing time increases. A metallic piggy bank dubbed the "Fit Bank" keeps track of how much time you spend and rewards you accordingly.

Yoga provides stretches that are combined with deep breathing exercises to clear the mind and the soul. The gamer mimics the actions of an onscreen yoga instructor, holding each pose for several seconds while trying to maintain balance. One of the tougher poses is the shoulder stand, which hurts about as much as it sounds.

Strength training helps to build muscles all over the body. You can choose to do push-ups, side planks and even the dreaded jackknife (lying flat on the floor and bringing your legs and arms to meet above your body). One big problem with exercises in this category is the amount of space that they can require. Gamers trying to bulk-up in a cramped space will quickly become frustrated.

The aerobic exercises are the most innovative experience of Wii Fit. You can work those hips while spinning hula-hoops around your waist or step in the ring for some rhythm boxing. You can also head outdoors to jog around a beautiful island. This is one activity that doesn't use the Wii Balance Board, and instead makes use of jogging in place with a Wii Remote in your pocket.

Balance games include hitting the slopes for some ski jumping and tightrope walking. One of the more popular games in the category involves heading soccer balls into a goal while avoiding the occasional shoe and panda bear head.

Nintendo's latest creation will not trump going to a gym, but it does provide an innovative way to get on the path to fitness. The Wii Balance Board is worth the price of admission alone due to the amount of games that will be compatible in the future. Wii Fit gets 4 buttons out of 5.

- Chris Pittman

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