lose weight with wii and nutrisystem

Archive for June, 2012

MiCoach for PS3 is finally here! Be first on line!

UPDATE: we’re a week from launch and the Web sites of both GameStop and Best Buy still reports that MiCoach is not available for pre-order and in-store pickup. But happily I walked into my local GameStop and they let me pre-order it. I’ll be trying it out and will provide my review here as soon as I can

After what seems like a drought that’s lasted forever, we have a bunch of new PS3 fitness games coming down the pike.

The most imminent is Adidas MiCoach which at long last is being released on July 24. It’s available for preorder at Amazon for $49.99 or for $10 less at GameStop. Oddly there doesn’t seem to be an in-store pickup option for the PS3 version at GameStop…I emailed them to ask why and they first responded with a form response that had nothing to do with my questio. when I replied to that a person responded and said, “yes, micoach for ps3 is available for pre-order.” which of course didn’t answer my question. I’ll keep trying. :p

One of the burning questions I had about MiCoach was whether there’ll be any interaction with existing MiCoach peripherals. Simon Drabble was kind enough to respond on Twitter saying yes, the heart rate monitor will be able to be used in the same by plugging the USB MiCoach Connect to the PS3. He added that all game data will be able to be accessed online at MiCoach’s site so that any workouts done at home on the PS3 will be integrated with workout data done outside the home. In other words, MiCosere seems to be offering many of the features that EA offered and abandoned in Sports Active.

The recent E3 conference brought showed some exciting news for the other platforms with Nike collaborating with Microsoft and Nintendo planning a new version of Wii Fit that includes a pedometer. While it seems at first blush that PS3 owners may be getting the short end of the stick, bottom line is, if 505 Games and Adidas do a good job with MiCoach, chances are they’ll be more successful on the PS3 than on other platforms, being the only (fitness) game in town, which hopefully means there’s a good chance they may take over the helm of the best PS3 fitness game. Time will tell, of course.

The only other potential fitness game I saw come out of E3 for this fall was Sports Champions 2. Seems that they’ve added a lot of sports from the original Wii Sports, including tennis, boxing, golf, and bowling, sports which actually make a lot more sense on the PS3 than on the Kinect because of the importance of precision (Kinect bowling and tennis, for example, can easily be played by monkeys).

Wii U Fitness Games Launch Titles

We interrupt our fledgling diet coverage to bring you back to video game news.

As the weather breaks 97 degrees here in New York, our thoughts turn of course to, the fall and winter. Specifically, game sites like Amazon, Best Buy, and Gamestop have all started to accept pre-orders for Wii U games coming out in the fall to coincide with the launch of the new Wii U (which somewhat ironically itself isn’t available for pre-order yet, probably because they haven’t decided on a price yet).

Here are the games that are looking promising as Wii U fitness games, along with pre-order links on Amazon, Gamestop, and Best Buy, depending on your preference. I’ve put them in approximate order of my anticipation of them based on what I’ve been able to preview so far.

Wii Fit U from Nintendo promises to be a true “next generation” version of Wii Fit that still very much uses the Balance Board, but also makes use of the Wii U’s new “second controller”. I would expect much of the same kind of “eastern-style” workout that characterized Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus, with a lot of emphasis on balance, posture, stretching, and so on. The inclusion of a pedometer peripheral also bodes well that Wii Fit U will be able to track your daily workout, regardless of whether or not you do it within the game. For now it’s only available for preorder at Gamestop, but expect it to come to Amazon soon.

Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2013 by Ubisoft finally brings the Your Shape franchise up-to-date on the Wii family (the last we saw was the unfortunate Your Shape with Jenny McCarthy). I don’t think the precision of motion detection will quite match the standards set on the Xbox Kinect, but on the other hand expect more cool things to be done with the new controller and expect the developers to make the most of the Wii U’s improved graphics and processor. With EA abdicating its Sports Active franchise and other companies like Adidas and Nike focusing on Playstation and Xbox, it looks like this’ll be the only “traditional cardio workout” game in town.  Preorder at Amazon or Gamestop.

Just Dance 4 by Ubisoft is a no-brainer of course. After the franchise has made buckets and buckets of money for Ubisoft, it’s only natural that they’ll be releasing this new version for the Wii U, the Xbox Kinect, the PS3 Move, and yes, the good old Wii all at the same time. Again, expect something different with the Wii U version, where players holding the touchscreen controller will be able to be “puppet masters” for the players dancing. Knowing human nature, you’ll probably get the best workout of your life as your friends make you do outlandish things. Preorder at Amazon or Gamestop.

 

Sports Connection by Ubisoft rounds out this early list. Curiously, Nintendo doesn’t seem to be interested in producing a follow-up to Wii Sports, the game that established the Wii. Instead, they’ll be focusing on a game called “Nintendo Land” as their bundled game where Luigi, Zelda, Animal Crossing, and a ninja game based on a 1986 Famicom title will all come together to showcase the new Gamepad controller. That leaves Ubisoft to lay the foundation of sports games with this title. Again, expect standard Wii Sports-live action with the twist of your opponent playing against you on the Gamepad. Preorder at Amazon or Gamestop.

 

If you click on any of the links and they’re dead or some outlandish price shows up, don’t worry, if you place your pre-order the retailers will give it to you for the lower price if it drops between now and the launch date. Speaking of the launch date, a lot of them say 12/31/12, again probably because the publishers are still trying to figure out the best dates (which will most likely be in the September or October timeframes).

From what I’ve seen so far, Nintendo is going to try to market the Wii U more towards traditional gamers rather than to the casual, family audience that embraced the Wii, and perhaps even to place heavier empahsis on the GamePad than on the old Wii remote. I’m not sure how wise a decision this is–it’s best not to bit the hand that has fed you so well these past few years, and Microsoft is itching to fill the void. On the other hand, between these offerings by Nintendo and Ubisoft, it’s clear that  there’s still enough room for casual fitness and fun games.

Leave a comment if you hear of any other Wii U fitness games for launch.

Playstation 3D Display on sale yet again #ps3 #3d #sale

Guess what? The PlayStation 3D Display Bundle is available at Best Buy for $200. That’s right, the same system I happily forked over $600 for on launch day is now a third of that price.

Considering the system includes a $60 game, a $60 pair of glasses, and a $20 cable, that’s like getting the actual monitor for…aw, I’m actually too depressed to do the math…

Just kidding of course…I have no regrets about buying it at the original retail price, as you can tell by my rave review of the PS3 3D Display. But if you were lucky enough to procrastinate about it until now, I’d jump on it while you can.

As I wrote in my original review, this is a great low-cost way to experience 3D of a lot of the games you already have without forking over $3000 for a bigger TV that’ll be outdated in a year. I’ve enjoyed Uncharted 3, MLB 2012, and a bunch of games I didn’t realize we’re in 3D.

Dont forget that you can also watch 3D Blu-Rays on this thing, as well as use it as a high-end computer monitor.

Sick while on Medifast

So, the Medifast continued. Here were some of the more interesting “meals” I’ve had:

First were the Medifast pancakes. As usual you start with a packet of powder. This was the first change I got to use their “shaker jar”.

medifast pancake powder

I kept trying to think of why the shaker jar looked so familiar to me. Then it struck me. It’s exactly the same kind of plastic container that, um, you might use at a doctor’s office when sharing a little bit of yourself with the doctor. Let’s put it that way so as not to gross everyone out. Still, by now I’ve grown used to Medifast being more a series of medical experiments anyway than actual food, so I didn’t mind.

They tell you to put a couple tablespoons of water into the cup and shake it 5 times. That’s right, not 4 times, not 6 times, but 5 times. The result was something that kind of resembled pancake batter.

medifast pancake mix

Next, I fried it up in a skillet.

medifast pancakes

The batter was so thin that I thought I was just making boiling cloudy water. But eventually it started to thicken. Or should I say thin-en. The “pancake” ended up being thinner than a crepe and impossible to flip. So instead of something like this lovely picture on the box…

medifast pancake box

I ended up eating this.

medifast pancakes

As bad as it looks, trust me when I say it tasted even worse. The “pancake” had no taste except for the tiny number of teeny tiny chocolate chips. I’d say it was like eating paste, except at the time I would have longed for a nice big bottle of paste. Still, as we established we’re not doing the diet for the culinary delights.

The next interesting scientific experiment was mixing a strawberry shake. This one was pretty cool. I opened the package and poured what looked to be whitish-yellowing powder into my Fiji water bottle. I filled it with a cup of cold water and shook. Magically, the concoction turned pink!

medifast strawberry shake

I’ve said it before, but the shakes are probably the best-tasting thing on the menu. They’re grainy, they have incredibly artificial flavor, but they’re easy going down and the really do satisfy your hunger.

The last interesting Medifast meal I’ll share with you today are their brownies. Now I thought, as in Nutrisystem, that I’d open the box and find actual brownies to warm up. To my surprise, they provide powder (no surprise) and trays in which you can “bake” your own brownies. Okay, I thought, this ought to be interesting.

The first step is, as usual, pouring the powder in the tray.

medifast brownie mix

Then, you mix it with water.

medifast brownie mix with water

After stirring, it looks something like this.

medifast brownie

Now again, judging from the box cover art I expected something like this to turn out:

medifast brownie

Yum yum, right? Well, after sticking it in the microwave (you also have the option of baking it, but I don’t think it would have made a difference), here’s what I got:

medifast brownie

It was a LOT of work for a few bites of brownie, but I have to say the brownie was not half bad, relatively speaking.

Now, all was going well. Very well. So well that when I last checked by weight I was already at 219 pounds, that’s 9 pounds lost in about a week. And so as painful as eating the food was, I was pretty happy with Medifast.

Then a few days ago something went really wrong. I developed a small cough. Within two days, it became a terrible cold/flu, complete with sore throat, fever, and  a terrible hacking cough that wouldn’t subside. In fact, my cough got stronger and stronger, so much so that I had to take the last few days off from work because I was hacking so hard and so frequently that I couldn’t sleep through the night. As I write this now, I’m still coughing every few minutes, so much so that my whole body shakes when I cough and I have a horrible headache (I finally went to the doctor today and he prescribed antibiotics for me).

Now before Medifast’s lawyers start knocking on my door, I should say that I don’t believe that that the diet caused the cold–for that I’ve got to thank the good folks on the New York City subways whom I wish loved to share their seats as much as their germs. On the other hand, it’s a strange coincidence that in the middle of summer when the weather is 95 degrees that I’d develop a bad cold, with the only difference in my life that I just started this diet two weeks ago.

After Googling, I noticed that other bloggers who are or were on Medifast have had similar experiences (see here, here, and here). I’m thinking this can’t be a coincidence.

My unscientific conclusion is that there’s a certain shock to the system when your body is used to eating certain things, and then it’s deprived of those things. As much as I appreciate that Medifast is full of vitamins and minerals, bottom line is that those are in chemical form and not from fresh fruits, meats, and vegetables. And while I appreciate that Medifast cuts down on carbs, I wonder if reducing carbs in my body to the extent I did ended up stressing it to the point where my immune system was compromised. I’m not a doctor, so I can’t tell for sure. But one thing I know is that this is by far the worst cough I’ve had in my life.

And despite the 9 pound weight loss,  I’ve taken myself off Medifast for the time being and am trying to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables, even if they aren’t on the “approved” list of low-carb vegetables. The good news is that I am still trying to keep the good habits, such as the regimen of eating more small meals every day rather than gorge on big meals.

Another bad thing about getting sick is that I really can’t exercise, as doing so would probably divert resources my body needs to shake this bad cold. As soon as I’m back to health, I’ll resume again. But I think the greater priority for me for the moment is to stop my cough before my head explodes.

 

 

 

Playstation 3D Display at Cheapest Price Ever

Guess what? The PlayStation 3D Display Bundle is available at Best Buy for $200. That’s right, the same system I happily forked over $600 for on launch day is now a third of that price.

Considering the system includes a $60 game, a $60 pair of glasses, and a $20 cable, that’s like getting the actual monitor for…aw, I’m actually too depressed to do the math…

Just kidding of course…I have no regrets about buying it at the original retail price, as you can tell by my rave review of the PS3 3D Display. But if you were lucky enough to procrastinate about it until now, I’d jump on it while you can.

As I wrote in my original review, this is a great low-cost way to experience 3D of a lot of the games you already have without forking over $3000 for a bigger TV that’ll be outdated in a year. I’ve enjoyed Uncharted 3, MLB 2012, and a bunch of games I didn’t realize we’re in 3D.

Dont forget that you can also watch 3D Blu-Rays on this thing, as well as use it as a high-end computer monitor.

If at first you don’t succeed…diet diet again

Well, as most of you who have followed the blog since 2009, you’ll know that I originally weighed in at about 225 pounds, which put me just over the obese line. I went on Nutrisystem and a regimen of Wii exercise, and got myself all the way down to about 195. I was feeling great and looking not-so-bad.

For about a year or so I maintained about that weight. But then the Nutrisystem stopped, and the exercise became less and less. And sure enough, the pounds just started to come back.

Fast forward three years later to 2012. A few weeks ago I got on the scale again and my eyes nearly popped out of my head. The scale read 228! I actually tried one or two other scale, thinking this one must have been broken. But alas, it wasn’t.

What made me really sad about this is that I really thought I was trying…I ate salads for lunch, I avoided fast food. But despite the fact that I thought I was eating healthier and exercising, truth be told, I’d pretty much reverted to bad habits. I drank sugary drinks, I snacked a lot more at all hours of the day and night, my life became increasingly sedentary, and trips to Seattle and Hawaii where I thoroughly enjoyed the local cuisine without a modicum of self control didn’t help.

I think I mentioned about a year ago that I have my wedding coming up in October to the lovely Lisa, who gave me a friendly challenge a year ago to lose 25 pounds by our wedding. Now I should explain that Lisa is one of these freaks of nature, where if we sit down to eat the same meal (in the most recent case sliders and fries at Yankee Stadium), even if we eat the same amount, I’ll gain five pounds, and she’ll lose three! But instead of kvetching about it, I started to notice why. I’m the sort of person who, since childhood, has eaten three gigantic meals a day–with breakfast being largely optional. Lisa, on the other hand, eats throughout the day. I’m a big fan of fast food, and big honking glasses of cold soda, and snacking on bowls of Cap’n Crunch before bedtime (yes, really). These are the sorts of things that have just crept into my daily habits. Lisa, on the other hand, snacks on things like almonds and rye bread, and enjoys them.

And so I realize more than ever that weight loss isn’t about the latest fad diet. It’s about reprogramming your body and your brain to start taking on good habits. And so, I figured I’d go back to the future and try again with a packaged diet program and a Wii workout regime.

As much as I enjoyed Nutrisystem and found it very effective (so much so that I named this site in homage to them), this time I thought I’d try a competitor of theirs, MediFast (also known as TakeShapeForLife or Simple2Lose). What appealed to me about this program is the same thing that appealed to me about Nutrisystem–instead of bizarre gimmicks like taking the buns off hamburgers or eating nothing but grapefruit, this seemed on the surface like a pretty healthy choice.

And so, let the games begin. As I did when this site started I’ll give you a weekly blow-by-blow account of my progress, good or bad. I figure the Wii fitness game world is going to be quiet anyway until the fall, so we’ll go back to the basics (don’t worry, I’ll be providing full coverage of Wii U fitness games as they show up).

The Medifast program is not cheap. For four weeks worth of food, the bill came out to be $327.50, after all the online coupons and discounts I could find. That’s comparable to a month of Nutrisystem. Ordering on their Web site was pretty easy and the food came within a few days.

MediFast works along the same lines as Nutrisystem. While you’re on the program, you eat what they tell you to eat, and nothing else. In Medifast’s case, this means eating around a 100 calorie meal every 2-3 hours of the day. You’ll eat four of these throughout the day, timed in the early morning, the late morning, lunch time, the mid-afternoon. Then, you’ll have dinner, which consists of a protein and three servings of vegetables from a list they provide (this is where Medifast and Nutrisystem differ, as Nutrisystem is a lot more flexible about fresh vegetables and fruits). You’re even allowed to have a snack before bed.

The thought behind these program, of course, is that those who develop bad eating habits (like me) tend to starve themselves and then gorge on one or two big meals. That ends up slowing the metabolism to the point where the body simply becomes inefficient in burning off calories. If you’re someone like me who maintains the same weight no matter how much exercise you do, while your friend (or fiancee) loses 5 pounds just by sneezing, this might be one way to help.

Here’s what my haul looked like when it arrived.

medifast month supply

Right away I could see differences between this and Nutrisystem. While Nutrisystem provides meals that look (and sometimes taste) like “real” food like lasagna or hamburgers, Medifast doesn’t even seem to bother. My big box from UPS contained bars and shakes and oatmeal packets and the occasional shrink-wrapped cookie.

I started the diet about a week ago, and started the morning with oatmeal. The directions said to empty the packet in a microwavable bowl, add 1/2 cup of water, and stick it in the microwave. I tried it and it looked like this.

medifast oatmeal

Looks pretty bad, doesn’t it? Well, trust me, it tasted much, much worse 😛 In all honesty, it was not a very auspicious beginning to the Medifast experience. After microwaving, the “oatmeal” was in rock-hard clumps within the brown water that reminded me of an Aveeno bath. I stirred and stirred but couldn’t get the clumps to unclump. Something tells me I should have done a modicum of stirring before sticking it in the microwave.

Still, a diet is a diet, so I figured I’d stick to it.

When 10:15 AM came around, I was in the office and starting to get pretty hungry, which I saw as a good sign. I had a “Fruit and Nut Crunch Bar”.

fruit and nut crunch bar medifast

Now when I heard that I would get to eat bars during this diet, I was envisioning something the size of an old Willy Wonka bar. This bar looked about half the size of a traditional granola bar. I made a point to chew carefully unlike the traditional way I eat bars like this which is to inhale them.

This was not bad tasting, and it lived up to its name of being fruity and crunchy. It’s sweet and I believe the crunchiness is soy that’s puffed up to resemble rice. While not the best culinary experience I’ve had, it did the job of satiating my hunger.

As 12:00 rolled around, it came time for me to prepare lunch. I took a paper packet out of the Chicken and Wild Rice Soup and read the instructions–put the contents in a “deep bowl”, add a cup of water, microwave for 2 and a half minutes, stir, let rest for a minute, and then microwave another minute. I didn’t have deep bowl, so I thought I’d be clever and divide the soup into two paper cups.

I could see why they told me to use a deep bowl, because after about two minutes the soup gushed out of one my cups like I’d struck oil. After cleaning up the microwave, I combined the two cups.

medifast chicken and rice soup

The soup wasn’t much better tasting than the oatmeal from the morning. There were a few scraps of freeze-dried chicken, one or two grains of rice, some freeze-dried carrots. It seemed almost like cruel and unusual punishment that outside my window are food trucks with cheesesteaks and burgers and pizza and gyros. But again, a diet is a diet.

As 3:00 rolled by it came time for a Vanilla shake. That’s right, another packet of powder. Between the oatmeal, the soup, and the shake, by now I’m starting to feel like a mad scientist brewing up concoctions with water and powder.

I didn’t have my free “shaker cup” handy, but in a fit of inspiration I took a Fiji water bottle, a Post-It note, and improvised.

medifast shake

As you can imagine, I ended up with a lot of white powder all over my shirt, my pants, and my desk. Luckily no one stopped by that I had to explain it to.

Believe it or not, the taste of the “shake” was not bad and was probably the best tasting thing of the day. Although it did have a somewhat chalky residue. It did the job of clearing away the 3:15 PM hunger pangs, though.

As evening rolled by, I treated myself to a salad at Cosi. While technically it didn’t fall into the guidelines of the “one lean and green meal”, I figured it was close enough–it had about the right amount of salmon, plus lettuce and mushrooms and stuff on the list of approved veggies. I didn’t ask them to hold the carrots or the edamame, which I suppose would have sped up my weight loss, but at some point you just have to draw the line of wanting to stay human.

Funny thing–after a day of eating powder and water, I enjoyed the salad almost as much as a Peter Luger steak. I’m not sure if that’s an unintended consequence of being on Medifast, but when it comes time for you to enjoy that “lean and green meal”, you really do.

In the evening, I treated myself to another bar, and I also did about 30 minutes of riding on the Cyberbike and lifted some weights. I think one critical thing when on these diet programs is to remember to exercise–cardio will use up the fuel from whatever carbs you’re allowed to eat, and gaining muscle mass will make the burning of those calories much more efficient.

My initial thoughts about Medifast? I’ll be totally honest–I thought Nutrisystem’s food wasn’t great, but compared to this it may as well be gourmet fare. But of course, that’s not what Medifast markets itself as. As with Nutrisystem (but taken more to the extreme), I see it more as a way to build up good habits and to get the body used to those habits. Eating more small meals a day is better than gorging on big meals. Eating leaner, healthier foods is better than loading up on grease and salt and sugar. These are all good lessons to keep even after the diet is over. I suppose if I had opted for a Medifast program with a “coach” like Simple2Lose that’s exactly what the coach would be telling me (plus, the coach would probably berate me for eating the edamame).

In a lot of ways, I see going on Medifast as sort of like putting your body through basic training in the Army. For a few weeks you give up your freedom and flexibility in order to learn some discipline. Just by forcing myself to do “five pre-apportioned small meals a day thing”, it really opened my eyes to how much food my body doesn’t need that I snack on throughout the day without even thinking. I love ya, Cap’n, but our late night rendezvous have got to stop.

My early opinion is that the food is definitely a step below Nutrisystem, and that’s a pretty low bar to start with. You’re basically making “meals” out of packets of soup powder, packets of shake powder, and dry nutrition bars. Granted, they keep you from getting too hungry through the day as long as you space them out right, but I won’t kid you, it’s not the most pleasant experience. Perhaps the point is that when it comes time to go off the diet, you’re thrilled to be eating “good” food like rice cakes, fresh fruits and veggies, and tuna sandwiches on wheat again.

And so, the saga begins anew. If you haven’t done so already, “Like” this site on Facebook by clicking in the box to the right to encourage me to keep going! 🙂

Review of Cyberbike Exercise Bike for the Wii

Cyberbike by
Platform: Wii
Rated:E
4.5 of 5 stars – The biggest peripheral you’ll ever buy for your Wii, and it’s worth it.
by ,
Written on June 16, 2012

Well, I’m a year late, but it’s come time for me to review the Cyberbike Magnetic Edition exercise bike for the Wii. This was actually introduced to the US market a year ago in June 2011 by Big Ben Interactive. It was originally released to Big Ben’s native France back in December 2009. I ordered mine several months ago and it’s been sitting in the box all this time, which kind of shows you the amount of anticipation and excitement I’ve had about it. I made the mistake of reading some of the very negative Amazon reviews, and that pretty much was a major disincentive to me even opening the box.

What makes this game unique is the accessory it comes with, probably the biggest video game accessory you’ll ever see. It’s an entire exercise bike in a box. The box itself is gigantic, measuring 24″ by 20″ by 10″ and weighing in at about 33 pounds.

wii exercise bike box

The bike retails for $199.99, but since it’s been out for a year now you should be able to find it for much less. These days you can find new and used versions on Amazon for around $100-$180, and every now and then there’ll be an Amazon Gold Box deal that drops the price to about $150. And of course, you can always find it on eBay.

Is this Wii fitness bike really worth it? Did it surpass my low expectations, or was it worse than I’d imagined? The answer may surprise you.

Opening the box revealed the bike in about a dozen different pieces.

wii fitness bike parts

At first it was a little daunting, but assembling the bike was surprisingly easy. It took all of about 15-20 minutes.

The steps are simple: you take the heavy central unit and attach the legs…

wii fitness bike legs

Then you insert the seat and use the seat post to adjust it to the right height…

seat for wii exercise bike

Attach the pedals…

wii exercise bike pedals

The one tricky part, if you can call it that, is plugging in the cable between the main central unit and the handlebars.

cyberbike cable

And voila, you have a Cyberbike.

completed wii exercise bike

Like I said, after reading some of the Amazon reviews I was preparing myself for the worst. I’m an over-200 pound fellow, and I pictured myself sitting on the bike and having it crumble into a million pieces due to my weight. But happily, the bike easily supported my weight and adjusted perfectly to my height.

The next step was to plug one end of the cable into the bike…

plug in to fitness bike

…and the other end into the GameCube connector sockets (the round plugs at the top of the Wii).

plug into wii

From this point on, you can flip a switch to put the bike into “Gamecube Mode” or “Cyberbike Mode”.

switch between gamecube and cyberbike

If you flip the switch on the bike to “Cyberbike mode”, the handlebars will simulate the joystick on the Gamecube controller and steer your vehicle. Forward and backward pedaling are the same as moving the “C” stick back and forth. I think that Big Ben Interactive hoped that millions of people would snap up the Cyberbike and that third party developers would build games for it using these controls. But unfortunately, the only game that ever was (and likely ever ever will be) developed for the Cyberbike was the game bundled with the bike called Cyberbike Cycling Sports.

Sadly, this game was painfully weak. The graphics were of horrific quality, even by Wii standards. When the game stuck to basic cycling, it was pretty good, but for reasons I’ll mention below the game developers couldn’t leave well alone.

You start by selecting an avatar; you can’t even choose your own Mii. Disappointing, considering the built-in avatars are among the ugliest characters I’ve seen in a Wii game. You have two basic modes to choose from: Story Mode and Fitness mode.

The premise of the “Story Mode” of the game was bizarre–you’re a biker and your goal is to collect “pollution” to be recycled. You start by controlling a bike, but then you control a submarine, and then a mine cart, and then a helicopter traveling the world and picking up pollution.

As I said, the bike part can be quite fun, despite the klunky animation and the sub-par graphics. You just hop on the bike and ride. It’s as easy as, well, riding a bike. When I first started my character wouldn’t go for the longest time, and I realized it was because my switch was still in Gamecube mode…switching it to Cyberbike mode fixed that right away.

The main gripe I have is that the action is just not smooth. The game is not very forgiving on tight turns, so you’ll often find yourself crashing into a wall and having to cycle in reverse to get back on track. It becomes worse when logs are introduced–you can pick up lightning bolts on the ground to use to power jumps that you can do over the logs (by pressing the L button), but the controls to jump are unreasonably sluggish.

It became much worse when controlling the mine cart, where the game became almost unplayable. There, you don’t use the handlebars to control steering, but to control where the cart tips. Problem is, the game rarely got it right. You can see what I mean in these videos.

The game became mostly unplayable when I tried controlling the helicopter (in a bizarre choice, you control the propellers by pedaling and you move forward by pressing the “A” button). And the game became completely and frustratingly unplayable when I switched to submarine mode, which as you can see in the video I never quite figured out (nor cared to).

Now, if the game had been nothing but an exact recreation of Wii Sports Resort or Wii Fit Plus’s biking, I would have been very, very happy. But despite the variety of vehicles and environments, this game just seemed to lack the creativity and fun that Nintendo made famous. I didn’t feel very immersed in the story nor compelled to play over and over.

Not to say that the game wasn’t fun at all. I actually did like “Fitness Mode” quite a lot. There are four modes for fitness corresponding to each of the vehicles. Reflex (mine cart), Exploration (submarine), Divided (helicopter), and Endurance (cycling). When you start out Fitness mode, you’re able to specify a target number of calories, time, or distance. You’ll keep playing the game until you meet your goal.

In a way, “Endurance” reminded me of “Walk It Out” where you could just explore a virtual world by cycling around it. Although one frustrating thing is that there are a lot of closed gates. Like Walk It Out, I expected to be able to unlock them, but there isn’t any way to open these gates to explore different paths, you’re pretty much stuck with the paths they give you. You only seem to be able to unlock bike accessories and clothes when you play Story Mode.

I found the calorie count to be pretty accurate. Other Wii exercise games tell you that you burned 300 calories if you so much as sneeze, but here I had to bike almost 10 minutes to burn 10 calories, which seems about right.

If this game was the extent of what the Cyberbike could do, it’d get a very big “meh” from me. But then I tried “Gamecube Mode”.

In “Gamecube Mode”, pedaling forward acts the same as you pressing the “A” button on a Gamecube controller. Pedaling backward is the same as pressing the “B” button. Turning the handlebars left and right act the same as moving the Gamecube joystick left and right. Conveniently, this is how most Gamecube racing games and Wii racing games that support the Gamecube controller work.

The one thing to bear in mind is that because the pedals simulate pressing the “A” button, it’s important to stay off the bike until you’ve made all your selections and are ready to play. Otherwise you’ll be in a world of frustration if you make even the slightest movements on the pedal.

At first I was a little skeptical as to how well this would work. But then I tried out Mario Kart Wii and was blown away. The first thing to keep in mind when playing Mario Kart Wii (or most Wii games that support the Gamecube controller) is that on the opening screen you need to press the “X” button on the Gamecube controller (or in this case, the bike) and NOT the “A” button on the Wii remote. That lets the game know you want to use a Gamecube controller.

As long as the game you’re playing supports the Gamecube controller AND uses the A button to accelerate, the B button to go in reverse, and the joystick to steer, you’re in luck. To see if a Wii title supports Gamecube controllers, look for the blue Gamecube controller icon on the back of the game box. Or, you can of course get an old Gamecube game (which will work in the Wii). And if you find a game where the controls are a little off, you can actually reprogram the buttons and the pedals on the Cyberbike to conform to that game (again, the game needs to support Gamecube, though).

I won’t mince words. It was a BLAST riding a bike to play Mario Kart Wii. Ironically, it was much, much more fluid playing Mario Kart Wii with the Cyberbike than it was to play Cyberbike’s own game. In a lot of ways it was much, much more natural feeling than even holding the Wii remote sideways as a steering wheel. As you can see in the video below, it was just as challenging as playing with the Wii remote, but certainly doable (I had to try a few times to get the first place prize, and as you can see I barely made it). And after I finished a few rounds I was covered in sweat. And the best thing about it is, I was so engrossed in trying to beat my old nemeses in Super Mario Kart that I didn’t even think about how hard I was pedaling. As I’ve said many times before, to me that’s the sign of a great fitness game.

And the cool thing about this accessory is that it turns just about any driving (or biking) game that supports Gamecube controllers into an exercise game (unfortunately the one game that would make the most sense–the biking in Wii Sports Resort–will not work with this game because it doesn’t work with GameCube controllers).

The bike allows you to increase or decrease the resistance; the newest version of the bike controls resistance using magnets, which eliminates wear-and-tear on the bike. Just turn the knob in front of the unit and your pedaling will feel looser or harder.

Here’s a video of me playing Mario Kart. Yes, it looks exactly the same as if using the Wii remote, the only difference is that I’m continually pedaling. The one minor gripe I have about the game is that no matter how fast or slow you pedal, your Kart or Bike will go at a constant speed. But in all honesty, I didn’t mind as much.

 

Which was the stronger experience, playing Cyberbike Cycling Sports or Mario Kart Wii? let’s put it this way: since I put together my Cyberbike a week ago, I’ve played the Cyberbike Cycling Sports game about once or twice, but I went back and played Mario Kart Wii every day, each time working up a huge sweat.

For those who want a little variety, here are some other Wii games that are compatible with the Cyberbike, i.e., they support the GameCube controller and use the same controller button configurations. I’ve listed them in order of what they’re rated on GameFly, along with the original release date. If you have a Cyberbike, I’d suggest renting the game on GameFly first to make sure it works and then buying it at Amazon if you like it. Since these are mostly older games, you’ll be able to get them at a steal!

As I get a chance to try them, I’ll update each with a comment on how good they are to use with the Cyberbike in particular:

  • Need for Speed: Undercover (7.2) – 11/19/2008
  • NASCAR The Game 2011 (6.4) – 5/23/2011 – It works with the Cyberbike as long as you change the controls to be “A” to accelerate and “B” to reverse. But because the game relies so heavily on precision steering to do “slingshots” and “drafts”, it’s practically impossible to compete with the other simulated racers while on the Cyberbike, although it was pretty neat to be able to ride the practice tracks and try to beat my own lap times. Recommended only if you’re a die-hard NASCAR fan and are willing to put in the effort to try.
  • Cars 2: The Video Game (6.3) – 6/20/2011
  • Need for Speed: Prostreet (6.2) – 11/15/2007
  • MySims Racing (6.1) – 6/ 10/2009
  • Sonic Riders Zero Gravity (6.1) – 1/9/2008
  • Need for Speed: Nitro (6.0) – 11/4/2009
  • NASCAR Kart Racing (5.6) – 2/12/2009
  • Need For Speed Hot Pursuit (5.5) – 11/15/2010 – With this game you have to remap the “R” to the “A” (or pedal) button. You should also do the reverse by remapping the “A” to the “R” button. Finally, remap the L to the hand brake. After you do this, the driving experience is quite natural (while it takes getting used to, it’s a blast to ride your bike over 100 miles per hour while trying to shake the police). Although bear in mind that the weaknesses of this game show through, namely the very poor graphics and a bit of hypersensitivity in the controls.  While this was the last NFS game to support the Gamecube controller (and thus be compatible with the Cyberbike), I’d definitely recommend any of the predeceddores (Undercover, Prostreet, or Nitro) before this one.
  • Cruis’n (5.6) – 11/28/2007

And of course, most GameCube racing games are compatible. I actually went on eBay and bought a copy of Simpsons Hit and Run; it was neat controlling the various Simpson’s vehicles on the bike, but the amount of time you spend in your vehicle is so short you don’t really get exercise. Looking to try Mario Kart: Double Dash next.

Overall, I’d rate the game a 3 out of 5, and the bike a 5 out of 5. That’s right, the bike gets my highest rating, even a year after its release. I should say that it definitely helped its rating that I went in with absolutely zero expectations. The bike itself is hardly a top-of-the-line exercise bike, but it does the job, and it’s actually the perfect size for my little apartment. The magnetic resistance is effective–I really do feel the burn when I’m into a game. And the integration with games like Mario Kart Wii is simply phenomenal. One thing the Amazon reviewers said was spot on–the seat is very, very uncomfortable and solid as a rock. I ended up putting several layers of towels on the seat, as sitting on it for prolonged periods of time really became a pain in the ***. A lot of people have reported some success when covering it with a seat cover like the Mongoose Gel Bicycle Seat Cover.

The next question you’ll probably have is–is it worth getting? One major strike against it is that the newest version of the Wii and the upcoming Wii U will NOT support GameCube connectors. What this means is that this Wii exercise bike (along with other peripherals that use the Gamecube-type connectors on the current Wii such the DDR Dance Mat and the Active Life mat) will not be able to be used with them as-is. On Cyberbike’s sporadically-updated Facebook page, they did say as of May 9 that they are “working on something” but didn’t give a timeframe.

Having said all this, do I still think it’s a worthwhile purchase? Let’s put it this way. There are no other products on the market that combine an exercise bike with a video game machine. The Xbox doesn’t do it, the PS3 doesn’t do it (BigBen has released essentially the same version of the bike for the PS3, but it appears to be available only in Europe with no plans to release it for the US). You can buy very expensive exercise bikes out there that have video panels with rudimentary displays of a track or an incline, or you can buy DVDs that simulate riding, but for right now the Cyberbike for Wii is the only game that lets you really play Gamecube and Wii racing games on the bike.

And so my recommendation is yes, this is worth buying, especially if you find it for $150 or less, and especially if you already have a treadmill or an elliptical and just want a cheap exercise bike to complete your home gym, with an interactive video display that surpasses the quality of $1000+ exercise bikes (you can, of course, ride the bike without playing the video game too). My recommendation? When Fall 2012 comes around you can buy a brand spankin’ new Wii U for the living room, and let your old Wii retire in the home gym as permanent exercise equipment (along with that old cathode ray television you have in the closet :)). You’ll be surprised at how this fitness bike can breathe new life into old driving games–and into your exercise routine.

Wii U Fitness Games Announced at E3 2012

When I first heard and wrote about the sequel to the Wii, the Wii U, I was admittedly a little concerned that it perhaps spelled the end of active gaming on the Wii. After all, all the hype seemed to be about the “second screen controller”.

At the E3 Conference yesterday, Nintendo’s Chief Operations Officer Regi Fils-Aime made the big announcement of the games that will be launching with the Wii U. And happily, while a lot of emphasis was certainly placed on the new touchscreen controller, they made perfectly clear that Wii Fitness will still have a nice home in the Wii U.

The most exciting news was the announcement of Wii Fit U.

As you can see in the video, the Wii Balance Board is back and will still be supported in a big way. There will be a number of brand new balance games that look as fun and creative as the original games for the Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus. Note in the video how the new touchscreen controller can be used as a screen to show stats, can be used to extend the game play, or can even be used to free up the TV so that one person can work out and the other can watch a show. Granted, these games don’t look like they’ll have huge cardio impact, just like the current set of Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus games (seriously, if that dude was winded after playing that little fire hose game, he must be in really, really bad shape). But still, they do look just as creative and fun.

Another cool new feature will be the inclusion of a “Fit Meter”, a keychain-sized accessory that you can wear during the game and even outside the game to count all the calories you burn during the day. The device fits in the palm of your hand and includes a pedometer (for counting your steps), an altimeter (for determining the inclines you go up and down) and even an atmospheric pressure sensor (which calculates where you are relative to sea level, so folks up in the mountains will get more “credit” for their workouts than folks at sea level).

fit meter wii u

After a day of working out, you take your Fit Meter and oint it at the Wii U’s infared sensor. The Wii U will tell you how many calories you’ve burned, and will even give you a chart detailing your activity.

wii u fit meter

In this way, you can actually make your whole day into a game, comparing how many calories your burn with friends and family during the day and during your non-Wii workouts. The inclusion of the Fit Meter sounds like Nintendo’s version of Nike+ for Kinect. It’ll be interesting to see which one is more accurate and more easy to use. Once both are released, I’ll plan on doing a side-by-side comparison.

From their respective launch videos, it actually looks like the Wii U version is going to be a lot more creative than the Kinect version (which seems to be just the kind of calethenics we saw already in EA Sports Active 2 and Your Shape).

In other Wii Fitness game news, as expected Ubisoft announced Just Dance 4 and Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2013.

Just Dance 4 looks like it’ll also have really creative use of the new controller. Among other things will be “puppet master mode”, where players will be able to choreograph dances on-the-fly on the touchscreen controller, which the player dancing to the TV will have to match.

Your Shape on the Wii looks like it finally caught up with the Xbox version, with better graphics. On top of this, it looks like it’ll have the kind of social integration on the Web that EA tried and failed to do. And on top of this, it’ll use the second screen controller as well to show session information.

Somewhat overshadowed by the news above, Majesco also announced an upgrade to its popular Zumba series of games with Zumba Fitness Core. So far it doesn’t appear that the new controller will be used and that they’ll just be adding additional dances and music. There will also be additional fitness features that will work out more of the body, although details are still scant.

On the subject of EA Sports, I think it’s probably safe to say that Sports Active is either dead or will be hibernating for a long, long time, so EA has effectively given up its leadership in that space without a fight. With Adidas coming out with offerings for the PS3 and Xbox; Nike coming out with offerings for the Xbox; and Nintendo coming out with offerings for the Wii U, it looks like we have a bunch of new players in town to vie for the title of video fitness game champion. I, for one, can’t wait to try them out!

What is the release date for Wii U and all these goodies? Nintendo is saying an amorphous “Holiday 2012”, likely because they’re been burned so many times in the past giving a specific date. Be sure to join us on Facebook or Twitter to hear the latest!