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Review of Just Dance 2016 for Wii U

just danec for wii uWhile I was less than impressed with the Wii version of Just Dance 2016, I have to say I was much more impressed with Just Dance 2016 for Wii U.

Here are some of the highlights.

1) Option to Use a Smartphone as a Controller

As on the Xbox One and PS4, you now have the option of using your smartphone as a controller. If you choose this option a QR code will appear on the screen; scan it and you’ll be sent to the iTunes or Google Play Store to download an app called “Just Dance Controller”. Your phone and console need to be on the same WiFi network.

It might take a little trial and error, but once your phone connects it immediately becomes a “second screen” you can use to navigate the menu you see on your TV screen. You can use either your phone or the Wii remote to navigate the menus. Granted, this is a little less of a benefit for Wii U users, as we already had a second screen in the Gamepad (which is relegated to displaying the logo while the phone takes over), but I have to they did a pretty good job.

During gameplay your phone also becomes a controller that works exactly the same as the Wii remote–you hold it in your right hand, dance, and pray that it doesn’t come flying out of your hand. Again, not as much an advantage for Wii U users as for Xbox One or PS4 users, but one immediate benefit is that you can support up to six players vs. four with just the Wii remote.

As for its accuracy, I’d say its comparable to the Wii remote, if a little more forgiving. I tried dancing to the same song and got 3 stars using the Wii remote and 4 stars using my smartphone. That might affect you when you’re playing the online game against other players around the world, where they might have a bit of an advantage in scoring.

2) Better graphics

In the past it seemed that the Wii U version would just port over identical graphics from the Wii version. But here, you can see that the artwork has been redone to take advantage of the superior graphics capabilities of the Wii U.

3) Updated playlist with multiple options for choreography

As with previous versions of Just Dance, songs are choreographed for a single dancer, a duo, a trio, or a quartet; as anyone who’s played a routine involving multiple dancers knows it can be really fun to play as well as to watch. Here are the songs in Just Dance 2016, the artist, and the choreography for each:

  • All About That Bass – Meghan Trainor (1,2)
  • Animals – Martin Garrix (1,2)
  • Balkan Blast Remix – Angry Birds (4)
  • Blame – Calvin Harris Ft. John Newman (1)
  • Born This Way – Lady Gaga (1,3)
  • Boys (Summertime Love) – The Lemon Cubes (3)
  • Chiwawa – Wanko Ni Mero Mero (1)
  • Circus – Britney Spears (1,4)
  • Cool For The Summer – Demi Lovato (1)
  • Copacabana – Frankie Bostello (4)
  • Drop the Mambo – Diva Carmina (1)
  • Fancy – Iggy Azalea Ft. Charli XCX (1,3)
  • Fun – Pitbull Ft. Chris Brown (1)
  • Gibberish – MAX (2)
  • Hangover (BaBaBa) – Buraka Som Sistema (2)
  • Heartbeat Song – Kelly Clarkson (1)
  • Hey Mama – Daid Guetta Ft. Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha & Afrojack (3)
  • Hit The Road Jack – Charles Percy (2,3)
  • I Gotta Feeling – The Black Eyed Peas (1,2)
  • I’m An Albatroz – AronChupa (1)
  • Ievan Polkka – Hatsune Miku (1)
  • Irish Meadow Dance – O’Callaghan’s Orchestra (4)
  • Junto a Ti – Disney’s “Violetta” (3)
  • Kaboom Pow – Nikki Yanofsky (1)
  • Kool Kontact – Glorious Black Belts (2)
  • Let’s Groove – Equinox Stars (3)
  • Lights – Ellie Goulding (1)
  • No Control – One Direction (4)
  • Rabiosa – Shakira Fr. El Cata (1)
  • Same Old Love – Selena Gomez (3)
  • Stadium Flow – Imposs (1)
  • Stuck on a Feeling – Prince Royce (1)
  • Teacher – Nick Jonas (1,2)
  • The Choice is Yours – Darius Dante Van Dijk (1)
  • These Boots Are Made for Walking – The Girly Team (1)
  • This is How We Do – Katy Perry (1,4)
  • Under The Sea – Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” (1)
  • Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson Ft. Bruno Mars (1,3)
  • Want To Want Me – Jason Derulo (1,2)
  • When The Rain Begins To Fall – Sky Trucking (2)
  • William Tell Overture – Rossini (2)
  • You’re the One That I Want – From The Movie Grease (2)
  • You Never Can Tell – A. Caveman & The Backseats (2)

4) Use of the Wii U Gamepad

While it might seem that using your phone as a controller and second screen makes the Wii U Gamepad obsolete, the truth is that the Gamepad still has multiple uses. The main use is as a camera and microphone. Specifically, you place the unit in front of you so it has your full body shot and the system will automatically record you when you’re dancing and/or singing.

Be forewarned that the system will record you without you knowing in what it calls “AutoDance”, basically turning on and recording you at random places within each song. I had an unpleasant situation where I was dancing in the darkness of night in my skivvies, only to find that after my dance my Gamepad (which had been sitting under me) was recording my every move. Needless to say, I erased that video and if I could have burned it and thrown it out the window I would have.

Thankfully the video won’t be shared with anyone nor saved unless you explicitly tell it to, but be very, very careful when selecting to continue vs. saving or sharing it! Once you do allow them to share a video, it can be shared on World Video Challenge, Just Dance TV, Showtime, and your Dancer Card.

“Party Master” mode is still around–this is where one person controls the songs and the moves using the Gamepad and up to four players (six if using phones as controllers) can dance.

5) Sweat and Playlists

Formerly called “Just Sweat”, this is the part of the game where you can turn on a Kcal counter to track your calorie count, as well as configure a playlist for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 40 minutes, or continuous. I’d take the calorie counter with a grain of salt–it would have been more precise if there was a way for them to measure your weight and the intensity of your real movements during gameplay, but in lieu of that I assume they used an average weight and put you on the honor system as to whether you’re really working out intensively or just moving your hands.

It comes with three pre-set sample playlists of 3 songs, 6 songs, and 10 songs as well, but unlike with previous versions you can name and save multiple playlists, choosing any song and even repeating them if you like.

Here’s a video of me dancing to the “short” three-song playlist (unfortunately the audio was muted by YouTube, but you can get an idea of the intensity and length of the workout.)

6) New Features

There are a few new features in the Wii U version I found to be great enhancements to the game

a) Coop Mode

In addition to the traditional Just Dance where you compete against other dancers, in Coop mode you work together with a team to get high scores which collectively are represented by “jewels”. This is great for families where some dancers are stronger than others.

b) Dance Quest

This seems like a feature designed to help incentivize you to keep playing as often as possible. You start out with “Cake Quest” in which you try to score in the top 3 out of 9 computer players for three songs (I Gotta Feeling, Kaboom Pow, Hey Mama). Once you unlock a quest you get a trophy and and an avatar, and then go on to unlock 16 others, each with its own unique requirements.

Here’s me dancing to the Cake Quest (audio muted by YouTube)

They say that you compete against dancers from around the world, but when I played I noticed the avatar names were pretty generic, leading me to believe that if you don’t have an Internet connection or if it can’t find enough players it’ll replace them with computer players.

c) World Video Challenge

This is an interesting new feature where you can have a “video dance off” against someone else in the world. You position your Wii GamePad in front of your TV so it can record you dancing, and then you choose a mode—either going head-to-head against another player or dancing in a group and having the player with the best score in the group

For the head-to-head competition, once the challenge begins you’ll see your live video image on the left, and the video image of the person you’re challenging to the right. The image to the right is a pre-recorded video that someone else did so you’re not actually competing against the person live but against one of their past performances. Specifically you can scroll to choose from “Dance Masters”, random people from around the world, or the best from selected countries (Brazil, US, and France were the choices for me)

What this means, of course, is that all the competition is pretty much going to be someone who practices and practiced until they got as perfect a score as they could. As you can you can see your progress vs your competitor in a color bar so you can see how close (or in my case how far) your score and stars are away from the lead.

It would have been much more interesting to have been able to compete against live dancers, but of course between poor Internet connections around the world and the risk of live videos of people who are rude, intoxicated, and in various stages of being clothed it was probably a wise choice for them to go with the pre-recorded version.

Here’s a video of me dancing to “All About the Bass” against a dancer in Mexico. Yes, I’m dressed in a ninja outfit because as I established previously on my Xbox Fitness blog I’m too bashful to show my face to the world. As you can see, I did “okay” for my second time ever dancing to the song, but my opponent clearly practiced.

After the dance is over a winner is crowned. Something I’m not crazy about is that you’re forced to send a message to your opponent at the end, and it’s not clear if your video goes with it. Ubisoft seems to be pressing the boundaries with privacy which I don’t mind as long as I have a choice, but please don’t force me to do things I don’t want to do.

d) Showtime

Here, you can create music videos starring you. You provide the dancing and the singing, and they’ll put it into a video that looks practically produced. You can also view videos that other users have done.

e) Just Dance Unlimited

This is a subscription-based service where you can buy access to play from a library of 150 other tracks and counting. It’s a departure from their old DLC model where you buy a song at a time. Here, you subscribe to choose from all of them.

It’s a much better model than the old one, but given that the majority of the tracks are from past versions of Just Dance, I really wish they’d give owners of those old versions access, since we paid for them already.

If I had another gripe about the song list it’d probably be about the playlist. While there are many songs from today’s top pop stars like Iggy Azalea, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Demi Lovato, and more, I was a little disappointed at the lack of variety–in earlier releases it seemed that there were plenty of songs for anyone, young and old. But now it seems that the vast majority of the songs are pop songs, while there’s a handful of cover versions of oldies, one or two songs for young children, and a handful of really bizarre ones (including in an interesting piece of product placement the Angry Birds, complete with creepy anthropomorphic arms and legs, dancing to a stylized version of their own theme song.

One caveat I might have is for parents of young children, details of which I’ve posted in the Wii version review. While the title is rated “E for Everyone”, many of the songs contain lyrics and dance moves that some parents may still feel aren’t appropriate for their child. You might want to screen the dances and the lyrics before allowing your child to play the game unsupervised.

That said, the improvements made to the Wii U version make this a worthy successor to a great line of successful games in the franchise. I definitely recommend it for anyone with a Wii U who still wants to relive the glory days when motion control games were king.

Review of Wii Sports Club: Initial Setup and Tennis

Well, it’s been a pretty busy week for Wii fitness fans. We’ve seen Wii Fit U, and I’m expecting Zumba Fitness: World Party any day from GameFly now. After being neglected for a long time, it looks like active gaming is seeing a little bit of a resurgence. Let’s hope it lasts.

Of course, the mother of all motion games is making a comeback as well. Specifically, starting today, you can get a new game for the Wii U called Wii Sports Club. Wii Sports Club brings back Wii Sports to the Wii U, but with improved HD graphics, more precise MotionPlus support, and online play.

Wii Sports Club is only available as a downloadable title from the Nintendo eShop. When you enter the eShop, you’ll see a banner you can click on.

Once you’re in, it’ll give you the option to download it for free. Before you get too excited, what you’re downloading is just a shell, but you’ll have to purchase each individual sport you want to play.  Currently, Tennis and Bowling are available, but Boxing and Baseball are coming soon. There are two options for purchase: you can buy an individual sport for $9.99 and keep it forever, or you can “rent” a day pass for any sport for $1.99; obviously if you plan to play the game more than 5 days, you’re better off just buying the thing. In addition, for a full 24 hour period after installing Wii Sports Club, you can play any sport for free.

Some in the media have reported rumors that Nintendo will eventually release Wii Sports Club as a traditional retail boxed game rather than a download. My guess is that as usual, Nintendo will hold off on this option until it’s sure that it can’t squeeze any more money out of us early adopters.

The download took about 10 minutes for the main Wii Sports Club game plus the update, and then once I started up the game it took another 5-10 minutes to install. I have to admit, I’m not crazy about the time it takes to download Wii U games–at this rate I’d still much rather get a disc and install it myself.

But soon enough, the Wii Sports Club home screen showed up, along with familiar upbeat music.

wii sports club opening screen

You’ll be brought through a couple setup screens to configure the game. The first one says:

Do you want to enable SpotPass so that you can receive important notifications (including advertisements and promotions), ranking data (which includes Mii character information), and other information from Nintendo? Note: If you choose not to enable SpotPass, some services will be unavailable. 

Here’s the translation: If you let us spam you with ads, we’ll allow you to enjoy the game to its fullest. But I figured Nintendo ads are rarely annoying, so I Enabled it (if it becomes too intrusive, you can change it any time in the Settings menu).

The next screen said:

In Wii Sports Club, you can view the Miiverse posts of other players, including their custom, handwritten posts. Do you want to display other players’ posts?

I chose “Display” for now, but I can see this potentially getting annoying as more and more players join and it becomes harder and harder for Nintendo to moderate those who want to be obnoxious and annoying.

Next, there’s a little disclaimer:

When you play an online game, information such as your Mii character’s image, nickname, and club will be shared with your opponent. Additionally, data such as high scores and Mii character information will be stored on the server and used when compiling rankings. 

I admit, I’d be a little more nervous if I were on the Xbox where my real face might be shared, but I’m perfectly happy to let my little Mii go out there and show his face.

Finally, after a bit of a delay, you’re asked to do the familiar thing of pressing A and B together. Once you do this, you get these messages:

Welcome to Wii Sports Club! This is a game both for players who want tough competition as well as for players who just want to relax and play some games. 

First, let’s complete your simple setup.

The first thing you’re asked to do is to join a “club”. When you join a club, you can play as a member of that club. The cumulative stats of you and your fellow club members will be pitted against other clubs. You can also receive “Pep Talk” messages from other members of your club, which are basically canned messages that will show up at certain times of your game play.

You’re shown a list of states and provinces in your part of the world, but you can choose any of them. Since my home state is New York, I chose the New York club, but since I was born in New Jersey and lived there most of my life, I considered that one too. You can change clubs every 24 hours.

The first time you play, you’ll be told about your 24 hour trial where you can try out the whole game. You finally get to the main menu:

wii sports club main menu

Tennis allows you to play an online game, an offline game (similar to the old Wii Sports, where you can play against the computer or with local players), or training. Feeling pretty confident of my tennis skills from Wii Sports, I went right to the online game.

Online tennis matches are single-game matches that are like tie-breakers, where you play up to 7 points. You have to play doubles matches, whether you’re playing alone (in which case you control both players) or have two people playing (in which case each of you controls one person with a different Wii Remote Plus).

You choose right-handed or left-handed play, and then choose whether you wish to play anyone from around the world, only our friends, or only people in your club.

The system will then try to find a match for you. While you’re waiting you’ll be able to warm up by hitting tennis balls at targets. On this particular day, being the launch day, it never took me long to get matched to an opponent. Generally speaking, the system will try to match you with someone who’s about the same skill as you.

To start, both players point their Wii remotes to an icon of their Mii and press “A”. A set of bars in the lower right-hand corner will indicate how strong your Internet connection is. I noticed at times the play would get choppy or slow down, which was probably a result of either my Internet or my opponent’s Internet connection getting sluggish.

Right away, I noticed some differences in the aesthetics of the game. First, the tennis court is much more graphically detailed than its counterpart in the old Wii Sports. The grass is no longer a bright cartoony green, but a beautiful rendering of actual grass court, complete with dirt wear marks, stands, and a city in the background. The players seem a lot better proportioned, and the graphics were smooth.

I could also noticed the improvements in the Wii Motion Plus. Similar to the ping pong paddles in Wii Sports Resort, when I turned my wrist, the tennis racket in my Mii’s hands turned precisely as well.

In my first-ever experience, my opponent’s Internet connection was lost within a few minutes of playing.

I got a second opponent, a member of the Arizona Club. I put up a good fight, but he beat me 6-3. I learned quickly that my confidence in my skills was a bit misguided, as I tried to play using all the tricks I’d developed in Wii Sports, but the Wii MotionPlus is a lot more precise (and a lot less forgiving) than the old Wii Remote.

I made a couple adjustments and won my next match against Jakey from the California Club. By now, I was addicted. Playing against real people is definitely a lot more exciting and motivating than playing against a computer AI.

All during the game play, you can send messages to your opponent by using the cross buttons on your Wii remote. It can be as simple as “So Close” or “Well Done”, or you can customize the messages to a certain extent.

I’d definitely recommend that you go through the training again to learn how to control the racket with the more precise Wii MotionPlus. Unlike the old Wii Sports, where you’d just wind up and whack the ball with the right timing, in Wii Sports Club the position and angle of your Wii remote make a difference, as does the precise movement of your arm and wrist.

There are three training games, each which helps you master racket movement, and which are actually fun games in themselves. Ring Master has you trying to hit a tennis ball between giant rings on the court; Tennis Moles is sort of a tennis version of “Whack a Mole” where you try to hit your tennis ball on as many moles as you can; and “Rubber Ducky” is a game where you have to try to hit a tennis ball on all parts of the court to try to get a Ducky to chase after the ball as long as possible.

As brilliant as it was to see Wii Sports back in action, the experience wasn’t without its flaws.

From time to time my tennis racket would get distorted and feel like it wasn’t moving right during the gameplay. The system does say that when this happens, point your Wii Remote Plus at the screen and press the cross cursor to reset your racket’s position. But sometimes when this happens in the middle of gameplay, it’s not as easy to remember or do that.

In general, the controls seemed erratic, but it’s hard to say whether this is due to my own lack of skills with the MotionPlus or if there’s something wrong. But bottom line, unless online players find a way to cheat (which I hope doesn’t happen–that totally ruined games like Mario Kart Wii for me), we’re all playing on a level playing field.

In theory, I like how they allow you to post messages to your opponents, but I also hope that people maintain a certain level of civility, or I may find myself unplugging and just going back to offline play.

But these things aside, I think Nintendo yet again made a great move. Supporting online play adds a whole new dimension–it’s fun to compare your stats against other players around the world and you really do feel a sense of community among your “club” as you try to help it advance in the rankings. They managed to keep the fun, cute cartoony feel about the game, while still updating it for HD. And they did a nice job of updating the game for the Wii Remote Plus; while the new precision is going to be something that’s going to take getting used to, there’s no better motivation than competition to keep working at it.

Now of course this is a fitness gaming blog, so I should say that this is hardly strenuous exercise, although as we’ve talked about in the past, adding things like wrist weights while you’re playing can really help you with strength building and conditioning.

Overall, I’d give Wii Sports Club a 4.5 out of 5. I’d say it’s definitely worth the $40 to pay for all four games when they come out.

Review of the Wii Fit Meter – Like FitBit or Nike+ FuelBand for Wii U Owners

This post is part three of a three-part review of Wii Fit U. Read part 1 and part 2 to learn everything you need to know about Wii Fit U! 🙂

As most people know by now, Nintendo has a special deal for anyone who’s a Wii U owner and already owns a Wii Balance Board. If you download the free 31-day trial version of Wii Fit U from the Nintendo eShop, all you have to do is purchase this $19.99 Fit Meter and register it in-game to convert the trial version into the full version. Considering that the retail bundle of the physical game + Fit Meter will cost $49.99, you can save $30 right away. (This deal is only good until 1/13/14).

Since the Nintendo Store in Manhattan is within walking distance to my office, I made sure to pick one up on the launch date of November 1. I asked the guy at the store how they were selling, and he said they were selling great–on the first day of release they were already out of half their inventory. I also noticed that on Amazon, their stock keeps going in and out and whenever it does the price gouging third party sellers’ prices and inventory take over, ranging from $23 to $70. Don’t fall for this–try stores like Best Buy or GameStop; there may be inventory shortages for the first few days of its release, but you can bet that Nintendo is producing a ton of them for the holidays.

The Wii Fit Meter comes packaged in a small blue box. Opening the box revealed the Fit Meter itself carefully wrapped in a thin foam sleeve, all inside a small bubble wrap bag. There’s also a one-sheet instruction manual with basically one instruction: remove the plastic tab in the unit to activate the battery–and then refer to the Wii Fit U online manual for the rest. This sheet also has Nintendo’s standard 12-month warranty.


While early reports were that the Fit Meter would come in a variety of colors, for North America the only color you can get right now is black and grey. There are some rumors that they will be coming in red and green to match the upcoming Mario and Luigi Wii Remotes, and that other colors are already available in Europe. I’m sure they’ll be coming in multiple colors soon enough and the good news is, even in black and grey the unit looks really sharp and blends in with clothing when you wear it on your waist.

The unit itself is about the size of an Eisenhower dollar (or for you who don’t remember what that is, an Oreo cookie). It’s fairly light, and its edges are smooth and rounded, making it very comfortable to hold in your hand.

The Wii U logo is on top, and there are three buttons on the bottom, a left and right arrow and a large button in the middle. The middle of the unit is a 1″ x 3/4″ LCD screen; it looks like it can scratch easily, so I’d definitely cover the area with clear tape or a screen protector of some kind. For such a light object it seems pretty durable; I’ve dropped it about 3-4 times already each time expect it to come flying apart, but so far it’s stayed together. YMMV, of course.

There’s no backlight but the LCD display is pretty readable and as we’ll talk about later, you are able to adjust the contrast of the screen.

When you power up the unit (basically by removing the plastic battery tab), you’ll see an icon of the Fit Meter next to an icon of the Wii U GamePad on the LCD screen, basically telling you to register it to your Wii U.

The first thing you have to do is start up Wii Fit U, but make sure that you’re signed in to the profile that you want associated with the Fit Meter. While multiple users in Wii Fit U can use a Fit Meter, each person has to have their own.

To get started with the registration process, you can go under User Settings on Wii Fit U, or simply click on the bouncing Fit Meter. You’ll get a description of the Fit Meter, as well as the option to register it.


Click on the “Register” button. You’ll be told to point the Fit Meter to your Wii U Gamepad. It took me a few tries before I realized I had to point the *top* of my Fit Meter to the *top* of the GamePad, basically pointing the Wii U logo to the dark and shiny infrared sensor at the top of the unit (take a very close look at the diagram on your TV to see how things should line up).

sync wii fit meter and wii u

You then press and hold the middle (round) button on the Fit Meter (making sure not to move the unit). It may take a little trial and error to get the alignment right–the trick is to hold the Fit Meter really steady and parallel to the Wii U GamePad.

syncing the wii fit meter and the wii u


If you get an error message on your Fit Meter saying “Cannot Find Connection” or a message on your GamePad saying “Unable to connect with the Fit Meter. Shall I try again?”, chances are either the Fit Meter isn’t lined up just right, your hand might have moved, or you may not have kept the button held down. In any case, try again and it should work once you get the hang of it. When all goes well, you’ll see a “Transferring Data” screen as the system’s high-pitched voice repeats “transmitting data”.

On your TV, you’ll see the message “Your profile has been applied to the Fit Meter”, followed by a message from the animated Balance Board (with a new friend, the Fit Meter next to him) saying “I’ve put your information on the Fit Meter! Now you can record activity you do outside of Wii Fit U on the Fit Meter. When you’re training in Wii fit U, you won’t need your Fit Meter since I’ll keep track of the calories you burn. But be sure to wear the Fit Meter at your waist as you go about your daily activities! Then we can track the calories you burn throughout the day. To conserve power, the Fit Meter goes into sleep mode when not in use. Hold down the middle button to take the Fit Meter out of sleep mode. ”

fit meter and balance board

You’ll see two more messages:

  • A Fit Meter has been registered. You will now be able to enjoy this software even after the trial period expires!
  • Caution! Before deleting save data in Wii U System Settings, you must first reset and delete any Fit Meter registrations from Fit Meter in User Settings.

Lo and behold, when you look at your Fit Meter, you’ll see your Mii’s face magically appear on the LCD screen! Not only this, but with the typical Nintendo sense of humor, the Mii’s facial expressions will change as you exert more or less energy, which kind of reminded me of those old Tomagatchi pocket pets of many years ago.

You basically clip the Fit Meter on your waist, and keep it on all day. Your daily movements will be tracked throughout the day. The Fit Meter is more than just a pedometer. While it does track your number of steps, it also tracks your altitude, displays the current time, displays the current temperature, and shows how many calories you’ve burned. I was pleasantly surprised that unlike other pedometers, this one seemed to be pretty accurate at tracking actual steps and negating false positives (versus shaking or dropping the unit).

wii fit meter with mii, stii-wii

To save battery, the unit will go to sleep mode and shut off its display, but will continue to track you. It’s unclear how long the battery will last, but as long as the majority of the time you keep the screen off it should last for a very long time–many months if not longer. And when the battery does finally go out, the good news is that it appears to be easily replaceable. You unscrew a single Phillips screw on the back of the unit, which reveals a standard CR 2032 watch battery, which you can purchase on eBay or at just about any drug store or retailer.

There’s actually a surprising amount of information you can get on the unit alone. Pressing the left and right buttons simultaneously appeared to reset the altitude. Pressing and quickly releasing the middle button lets you scroll through various tiny graphs on the unit, including a METs (Metabolic Equivalents, basically a measure of exertion) graph, an altitude chart (great if you’re hiking up a mountain), a chart of calories burned by week, and settings for volume (of the various chirps the unit makes) and for contrast of the LCD display.


Moving forward, whenever you start up Wii Fit U and select your profile with the registered Fit Meter, the system will ask you to point your Fit Meter to the GamePad and sync the data (note that you can’t sync data once you’re in the game–you would need to exit out of the game first to the Wii Fit Plaza and then re-enter).

After you register your device you’ll notice that some of the things in Wii Fit U change as well, which is confirmation that you’ve officially gone from the “31 Day Trial” version to the full, unlocked version of the game. First, you’ll notice that your Mii is now wearing the Fit Meter on his or her waist. There’ll also be two new menu options:

mii and the wii fit meter

The first is called “Fit Meter Data”, where you’ll be able to view data transferred from your Fit Meter, with detailed information for each day. You can see the number of METs expended each day, by the hour of the day, whether you’re running, ascending, descending, walking, doing light activity, or resting.

Over time, it’s fascinating to look for patterns in your daily activities. For example, here’s a graph of my activity for today. Normally, I would have spent my Sunday afternoon lying on the couch and being lazy. But my wife asked me to walk with her to go shopping, so I did. At around 5:10 PM you can see the green line from where I walked down my three flights to stairs. You can see at about 5:15 that I took the short, slightly uphill walk to the CVS (the light blue line) and then did a little shopping (the dark blue line). Then, I walked to the supermarket (again, the light blue line), followed by even more shopping (the dark blue line). Around 6:05 I walked home, walked up the three flights of stairs (the orange line), and then got home. No running today, but I’m fairly confident that we’ll see red lines every morning as I’m always late to my morning train 😛

fit meter data graph of daily activity

It’s funny, but even after a few days I’m noticing that the Fit Meter is altering my behavior. I’m more likely to take the stairs vs. the escalator or elevator knowing that I’m getting “credit” for doing so. Likewise, whereas in the past I would take the subway to the train station in the afternoon, now I’m more prone to take the 20 block walk through the City.

The second is called “Fit Meter Challenge” where you can use your Fit Meter data and challenge yourself to complete “courses” from around the world. You can choose walking challenges or altitude challenges.

Since today was the day of the New York City Marathon, I chose the New York walking challenge. When I opened it up from the menu, I could see a rudimentary map of New York City with a running path from Midtown, up to Central Park, down through Times Square, and down the West Side to Battery Park for a total of 13 miles. There was also a “Enter Data” button with a picture of the Fit Meter. I pressed it, and then I saw my little Mii starting to walk the path, tracing out the 3.9 miles that I’ve logged on my Fit Meter since Friday, with coins blinging all along the way (which since the first Mario Bros game fills me, and no doubt you, with a weird Pavlovian sense of joy). When I got to the first “checkpoint” (Central Park North), I got some encouragement from the Balance Board (“The 3.9 miles that you traveled is about 91 times the length of a jumbo jet!”).

fit meter challenge
There are plenty of other course, including Chicago, Hawaii, Italy, Berlin, Sydney, Tokyo, and London, ranging from 26 miles to 653 miles! This should keep you pretty busy.  Similarly, you can choose altitude challenges; for example, climbing the equivalent of the Statue of Liberty, Mount Fuji, or Mount Everest.

Walking is based on both number of steps and stride, so you’re rewarded for brisk walking. Similarly, altitude is presumably calculated based on altitude changes as you walk, so theoretically you can’t “cheat” by taking an elevator.

If you have exercise goals set up, Wii Fit U will determine from the synced data if you’ve met those goals through your daily activity, and if not, will suggest additional activities within the game for you to complete your goals.

Overall, I’m very pleased so far with the Fit Meter. I’m not a hardcore athlete, but I do run to catch the train most mornings, and many afternoons after work I opt to take the 20 block walk back to the train station rather than taking the subway. I’d been thinking about getting a FitBit or a Nike+ to track my exercise, but those have been prohibitively expensive. I’ve also tried using iPhone apps, but it’s always hard for me to remember to turn them on and off. For me, the Fit Meter seems like a natural and hassle-free way for me to give myself “credit” for the energy I exert through the day–and to provide me plenty of incentive to keep moving.


Review of Wii Fit U – Part 2: Main Menu and Updated Exercise Activities

This post is part two of a three-part review of Wii Fit U. Read part 1 and part 3 to learn everything you need to know about Wii Fit U! 🙂

Continuing our review of Wii Fit U, you start off the game in Wii Fit Plaza, where you’ll see a list of all the Miis have have Wii Fit Profiles. You can also create new profiles, play the game as a guest, or play multi-player games (unfortunately, since there’s only one Balance Board, you have to take turns with these games, there’s no way to play them simultaneously nor compete online).

It’s actually kind of a pain in the neck to import another player profile–you need to exit the game, select the other Mii at the opening Wii U menu, go through a number of terms and conditions, and in some cases re-confirm the password and email of each player you want to add. All to satisfy the Nintendo lawyers, I guess.

It took me another 15 minutes, but I got the lovely Wii-sa’s information transferred as well. So in the Wii Fit U Plaza, it was me, Wii-sa, and the fake dog I set up when Wii Fit introduced the ability to weigh pets.

wii fit plaza


When you click the Start button, you get to the main menu.

main menu wii fit u

The Main Menu is divided into a couple areas:

1) A series of windows scrolling across the top of the page will allow you to:

  • View a monthly calendar of your progress
  • View graphs of your progress
  • Register or read more about the Fit Meter
  • View an album of “snapshots” taken of your Mii during gameplay
  • View a Notice Board of events that have occured in the game, such as unlocking features, new players being added, and so on.

2) Body Test – this allows you to take (or re-take) the Body Test

3) The Balance Board – when there’s an exclamation point over the Balance Board it means he has a message for you. The little guy is full of interesting tips (you’ll learn all you ever wanted to know about METs, or Metabolic EquivalenTS, for example).

4) User Settings – clicking on your Mii will let you adjust your height, birthdate, calendar stamp design, trainer (creepy male dude or the creepy female dudette from Wii Fit who’s slightly less creepy than she was before), outfit, privacy settings (whether you want pictures taken or a password to be entered to access your profile), and even when the date should change over to the next day (either 12 AM or 3 AM for those who work out after midnight).

5) Fit Meter – you can click on the Fit meter to learn more about it or to register your Fit Meter (and unlock the trial). The Fit Meter on the screen is the lovely green one they’ve been showing in all the promos, but the one I got at the Nintendo Store was black and grey.

6) Training – this is where you can access all the training activities.

When you click on Training, the menu has these options:

1) Select Exercise will let you choose an individual activity to exercise to. For each exercise, you’ll see the number of METs expended, as well as the number of times you’ve done the exercise and whether the Balance Board is required. The categories of activity are the same as in Wii Fit Plus, with addition of the “Dance” category. In this review, I only covered new activities; the older activities are essentially the same as what they were in Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus, although not all of the activities from those games carried over to this one.

a) Yoga (18 activities): here, you basically follow an on-screen trainer and mimic him or her in various yoga activities. These are mostly the same Yoga exercises from the original Wii Fit, including deep breathing, half-moon, warrior, tree, sun salutation, standing knee, palm tree, chair, triangle, downward-facing dog, dance, cobra, bridge, spinal twist, and shoulder stand. In addition, there are three new activities: spine extension, gate, and grounded V.

b) Strength Training (15 activities): As with the original Wii Fit, these exercises are meant for strengthening specific parts of your body. Again, you follow an on-screen trainer and again, these are mostly the same strength training activities from Wii Fit. They include single leg extension, push-up and side plank, torso twists, jackknife, lunge, rowing squat, single-leg twist, sideways leg lift, plank, tricep extension, arm-and-leg lift, and single-arm stand. The three new activities are balance bridge, side lunge, and single-leg reach.

c) Aerobics (15 activities): These are exercises that promote aerobic activity. They include a number of the same games from Wii Fit, including hula hoop, super hula hoop, basic step, advanced step, free step, rhythm boxing, basic run, two-person run, free run, island cycling, and driving range. Most of these games are the same as before, but many have interesting enhancements. For example, on the Hula Hoop, you can now twirl hoops not just with your waist but with your wrists as well with the Wii Remote Plus. On Island Cycling, the graphics are much improved, and as you “bike” you can see a beautiful day turn to a beautiful sunset and then turn into a starry evening, reminiscent of Walk It Out. Many of the activities also have a new “extra” mode that provides an additional level of challenge beyond the original.

In addition, they have a number of new activities.

  • Puzzle Squash – here, you use both the Wii Remote Plus and the Balance Board. You basically have to use the Wii Remote to hit a squash ball, and “walk” on the Balance Board to get your player to move to the right position. It’s a simple concept and fairly easy to master, but also surprisingly addictive.

  • Free Boxing – this uses the Balance Board, the Wii Remote Plus, and either the nunchuk or another Wii Remote Plus. This game is a lot like the Rhythm Boxing game except you’re using both your hands and your feet to punch in certain patterns. Again, this one is a lot more immersive than it might seem on the video.

  • Orienteering – this one is like the basic run, in that you’re travelling through Wii Fit Island. The difference is that you’re not using the Balance Board or the Wii Remote Plus, but you’re holding the GamePad in your hands.  As you walk in place, the GamePad can detect that you’re moving and if you’re turning to the left or right, and your Mii will respond accordingly. It’s a “hide and seek” type game where you’re walking around the island looking for Miis whose photos you see on your GamePad. You need to remember your surroundings and different faces, but you can always ask a random Mii for help too. It’s easy to “cheat” on this one by just shaking your hands and not really walking in place, but of course the greatest satisfaction is when you win the game and know that you’ve gotten exercise in doing so.

  • Rowing Crew – This one uses the Balance Board and a Wii Remote Plus. You can either site on a chair and put your feet on the Balance Board or (as I prefer), sit right on the Balance Board. You then grasp your Wii Remote with both hands, and make a rowing motion by bending your body up and down almost as if you’re doing sit-ups. You need to use the right technique–row to the cadence that your coxswain is setting, match your fellow crew members, and make sure your oar is out of the water when you’re not rowing by rotating the Wii remote the right way. You can see a first-person view on your GamePad and a side view on your TV. This one is hilarious–when you don’t row properly to the rhythm all your fellow rowers in your boat look back at you and give you dirty looks. But once you get the hang of it it feels remarkably authentic–and gives you a great workout.


d) Dance (8 activities): I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one. The first thing to know is that this is isn’t a clone of Just Dance or Zumba Fitness. Rather, it’s a simplistic but still pretty clever set of rhythm aerobics exercises that actually come close to simulating the basics of actual dance moves. You work out with the Balance Board and two Wii Remote Pluses, and basically have to move your arms and feet to match the trainer. There’s a wide variety of music with unique “moves” that let you work out different parts of your body. Hula music lets you relax, jazzy music helps you work your waist and thighs, hip-hop music lets you work out your thighs, locking let you work out your upper arms, flamenco lets you work out your arms and legs, salsa lets you work out your shoulders and back, and burning beats gives you a calorie burning challenge. The first time you run through the dance the instructor will give you an explanation of the moves, but then after that you can dance all you want.


e) Balance Games (18 activities): In every version of Wii Fit, this has always been the section of the game that’s the most fun, and it’s true with this game as well. Returning are old favorites from the original Wii Fit like Soccer Heading, Ski Jump, Table Tilt, Rhythm Kung Fu, Ski Slalom, Perfect 10, Snowball Fight, Obstacle Course, Tilt City, Balance Bubble, Bird’s Eye Bulls-Eye. But they have a number of fun new games as well. As with Wii Fit, there’s a Beginner level an an Advanced level to unlock for each activity. And as with Wii Fit, there’s really not much “exercise value” in a lot of these, but in a lot of ways I don’t think they’re meant to do that–they’re more suited to helping test and build your overall balance.

  • Trampoline Target – This is a fun one that uses the Balance Board where you’re jumping on a trampoline. The only problem is, you still can’t actually jump on the Balance Board, so you have to bend and then extend your legs at the right time, and then when you’re in the air you need to shift your weight to “steer” yourself back over the target in the middle of the trampoline. The more accurate you are with your “jumps” and your targeting, the higher your next jump will be. Like a lot of the others, this activity makes great use of the GamePad by showing you a top-down view on the GamePad and a side view on the TV. This one is a whole lot of fun, and works your legs, hips and overall balance, but it takes a while to get used to not actually jumping (as with earlier versions of Wii Fit, if you do accidentally jump the game clears your progress and resets to the beginning). I give this a 4 out of 5 for fun, and a 4 out of 5 for exercise.

    • Hosedown – This one uses the GamePad and the Balance Board. You hold the GamePad in front of you and point it at the TV. Miis will throw mud balls at you and you have to hose them down with water. You press one foot down on the Balance Board to spray the water, lift your foot off the Board to refill your water tank, and use the GamePad to aim and shoot at specific targets, while the TV has a wide angle view of the scene. I get the sense this one doesn’t really give very much exercise (1 out of 5), but it’s so fun (5 out of 5) it doesn’t really matter.

  • Dessert Course – This game was pure genius. You’re a waiter in a crowded restaurant who has to collect desserts from the chefs situated in the corners of the room and deliver them to people standing and waving you down throughout the room. You hold your GamePad flat like a tray (balancing your desserts on it), walk in place on the Balance Board, and “steer” by rotating your tray like a horizontal steering wheel. You see a first-person view of the room on the TV–and a first-person view of the desserts on your tray on the GamePad (which look delicious)! As you advance in the game, you start getting all kinds of desserts, from jelly rolls and round cream puffs that roll off your tray to jiggling cups of pudding and have to try to deliver them without bumping into your guests. This one is probably a 3 out of 5 for exercise, but easily a 5 out of 5 for fun.

  • Ultimate Obstacle Course – I think back in the day I described the Wii Fit obstacle course as sort of a “3D Super Mario Bros”, and wrote that I wished it could be longer and have more variety. Happily, this game delivers on that. As with the original version of this game, you walk in place on the Balance Board and try to avoid obstacles like giant rolling balls and falling off cliffs. Something new is the ability to “turn” by turning your feet on the Balance Board while walking in place, admittedly something it took me a while to get used to, with with enough practice I finally got it. This one is a 4 out of 5 for exercise (mainly because you’ll be playing it over and over until you get it right, and somewhere between a 2 and a 5 for fun depending on how quickly you master things like “turning in place”. A nice bonus is that your Wii Gamepad displays an overhead map of the course.

  • Core Luge – This is another of those really cool simulations that almost feels like the real thing. You sit on the balance board and just like a real luge-r, you start out on the course by pushing off with your hands to get some speed, and then lean back and navigate the luge course by moving your butt. Exercise value is about a 2 (you really don’t work out your core as much as you’d hope), but fun value is a 4 or a 5.

  • Scuba Search – This is a treasure hunt game that uses the Balance Board and the GamePad where you’re a diver searching for different kinds of fish and treasure. You can see a first-person view on the GamePad, and a map of the entire area on the TV. You basically shift the weight on your legs to make your diver swim, and you can bend and straighten your knees to make him zip forward. This one reminded me a little of Endless Ocean for the Wii. It has a lot of replay value because you’re always wanting to go back and find the fish or the treasure you missed. I give it a 4 or 5 for exercise (again, because of the replay value), and a 4 for fun.

  • Climbing – This is a rock climbing game that uses the Balance Board and two Wii Remote Pluses. You use the Wii remotes to grab towards the rocks (pressing A to grip them), and use walk in place on the Balance Board to climb. Technique and speed are important: you need to grab onto small (red) or medium (blue) rocks with one hand, and large (green) rocks with two hands, keeping your balance the whole time just like in real life. 3 or 4 for exercise value, 4 or 5 for fun.

2) Personal Trainer will let you input a certain goal (for example, calories you’d like to burn in a workout session, amount of exercise time, type of exercise, and activity level), and will put together a custom workout for you pulling together different activities and exercises.

3) Wii Fit U Routines are collections of routines (made up of three specially selected activities each) that are designed to help you work out specific goals, such as easing tension in your shoulders and back, relaxing, trimming your waistline, improving your posture, and even helping with your digestion and circulation.

4) My Routine allows you to put together your own custom workouts based on your favorite activities.

5) Ranking shows you statistics of how many times you’ve played each activity, which activities you’ve played most recently, and the total amount of calories burned and time spent playing each activity.

6) Finally, there’s a Group option that lets you select a group to work out with. You’ll be able to view the group’s statistics and leaderboards as a way to further incentivize you to work out. By the way, if you’re interested in joining the Nutwiisystem Gym Community, you can join Gym Community ID 5291-0085-6502

There are substantial improvements in the Wii U version of the game:

  • For Yoga and Strength Training, unlike with previous versions of the game, you can choose either a male or female trainer. The female trainer has gotten a bit of a makeover–she has a little more color and definition than before doesn’t look at pale and ghostly as she once did. They’re done an amazing job with the trainer’s animation so you can see exactly what the proper form is from any angle. You can use the GamePad or Wii remote’s arrow buttons to get a 360 degree view of the trainer from any angle, and use the 1 and 2 buttons (or X and Y buttons) to zoom in and out to get a close-up view.
  • For Yoga, Strength Training, and Dance, there’s a new feature called “mirror mode” that lets you see an actual video image of yourself next to the trainer. This one is a little tricky to set up–you definitely need a GamePad stand, and you need to put it in just the right place, preferably about 5 or more feet away from you (obviously, you’ll need to do the navigating with a Wii remote instead of the GamePad). Once you get it set up right, you can see a real-time video of yourself next to the Wii Fit U trainer, and you can match his or her moves precisely. The system doesn’t attempt to use video to judge if you’re using the right form, but you can easily eyeball whether you’re doing the moves correctly or not.
  • You can press the “-” button to swap the action between your Wii GamePad and the TV. This way, if you or someone wants to watch TV, you can continue your exercise unabated.
  • After you finish an individual exercise you’ll get a recommendation of which one to do next.
  • As I’ve mentioned the game makes great use of the GamePad to provide a new dimension (literally) to some of the activities.
  • Your “piggy bank” of calories and time expended in the lower right-hand corner has a personality now and will change colors and hop around as you progress in the game.
  • I like how there’s an option to switch players without having to restart the game, for situations at parties or family gatherings where you want to take turns playing. Speaking of taking turns playing, there’s also an option on the main menu to load up certain games where users can compete against each other by taking turns. I would have liked to see them support multiple balance boards for head-to-head action, but it looks like that’s just something they’re going to support.

As for negatives, I have to admit there aren’t many. I do have the same complaint with Wii Fit U that I had with Wii Fit, that most of the activities are so short they don’t really get your heart pumping at an elevated rate at a vigorous or even a moderate intensity zone, but then again if you string enough activities together and do them in a rapid-fire you can certainly get close. My other gripe is about the GamePad battery–it runs out way too fast, especially when you’re trying to use it as your main screen, so you basically have to keep it plugged in most of the time.

All in all, this gets a solid 5 out of 5 stars from me. It’s that good. It takes all the best things from the original Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus, and adds a lot of extras thanks to the Wii U. Graphics are faster and cleaner. The GamePad isn’t just a gimmick like it is in other games–they did a great job of using it to really enhance the enjoyment of the game. There are enough new activities to make the game feel fresh and new, and yet they kept enough of the old to keep it familiar. And the games are easy to learn, but have great replay value as well, something great for workouts.

Would I go so far as to say that if you don’t have a Wii U, that this game is so good that you should run out and get one?  I’d say if you were on the fence before and are serious about using your video game system for exercise, this game should be enough to push you over.  It has a multitude of innovations, from the Fit Meter to the innovative use of the GamePad, continues Nintendo’s brilliance in designing really fun and cute games with a great sense of humor, and both its games and its system are orders of magnitude cheaper than Sony or Microsoft’s upcoming products.


Review of Wii Fit U – Part 1: Downloading, Setup, and Body Test

Wii Fit U is the sequel to Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus, and is playable only on the Wii U. Clearly Nintendo is hoping that they’ll strike lightning again and that at least some of the 42 million people out there who own a Wii Balance Board will not only decide to dust off their old Boards but also join the 3.6 or so million folks who have purchased a Wii U (if you’re on the fence about buying a Wii U, they’ve sweetened the deal for the holidays by lowering the prices of the Deluxe Set by $50 to $300 and bundling either Zelda or Super Mario Bros U).

Now if you haven’t heard yet, there are a few different options for purchase.

  • If you own a Balance Board already and are reading this before January 31, 2014, you’re going to want to download the free trial from Nintendo eShop and then purchase the standalone Fit Meter for $19.99. Once you connect your Fit Meter, the free trial will unlock to the full version of the game, so you’ll have the complete set of what others will be paying $89.99 for.
  • If you own a Balance Board but prefer to own a physical disc with the game, or are reading this after January 31, 2014, you’ll want to purchase the Wii Fit U and Fit Meter bundle for $49.99.
  • If you don’t own a Balance Board, you’ll want to purchase the Wii Fit U + Fit Meter + Wii Balance Board bundle for $89.99.

Being cheap, I of course went for option #1.

My first step was to go to the eShop to download the trial. Since it’s free, you don’t even have to worry about putting a balance in the shop.

– You start by browsing to the eShop from your Wii U Gamepad. Select “Wii Fit U Trial Version”

nintendo e-shop with wii fit u

– You’ll get to a screen where you can read more about Wii Fit U. Click the blue “Download” button to begin.

wii fit u download

You’ll go through a couple more screens. The first screen is called “Confirm Your Purchase” that gives the following information about this product:

Due to the larger size of this title, the download could take some time. Additionally, factors such as the speed of your Internet connection will affect the amount of time it takes to download the game. You may need an external hard drive to download this software. Sold separately. Visit support.nintendo.com for information about storage options.

If you have a Wii U Deluxe, you’re probably okay, but if you have the basic I’d have an external hard drive or Flash drive handy.

Click the blue “Next” button. The screen will then turn white and say “Processing..Please Wait”. Finally, you’ll get to a page called “Thank You” where you can view your receipt. While it may seem like the process is finished, it’s actually only begun. I was confused because the eShop didn’t have anywhere to go to view your download in process, but all you have to do is click the “Home” button on your Wii U Gamepad and select the last icon called “Download Management”.

Now I have a pretty fast FIOS connection, but even my download time took about 40 minutes (the estimated time was way off).

download wii-ft-u

While I waited for the download to finish, I decided to get the rest of my equipment ready. I dusted off the old Balance Board and put fresh batteries in. Then, I put fresh batteries in the Wii Remote. Then, I waited…and waited…and waited. I wasn’t too upset, because I figured it was confirmation that yes, I really would get the complete game unlocked once I use my Wii Fit Meter (more on that the next post).

The download finished, but then it took another 20 minutes to install! Total time to get this thing into my Wii U:  1 hour.

When I went back to the home screen, after a delay with the annoying “Preparing…” screen, I finally saw it: the Wii Fit U icon!

wii fit u icon

The Wii Fit U opening screen starts with the familiar logo and music. A message reminds you that you can use this trial version for 31 days. Another screen will remind you that you need a Wii Balance Board to play the game, and then yet another screen will tell you to register a Fit Meter to continue using this version after the 30 day trial expires.

If you have a lot of saved data from Wii Fit that you want to transfer from your old Wii to your Wii U, you’ll need to go through the process of transferring data from your Wii to your Wii U, another long and rather painful process.

Assuming you’ve done this, another screen shows up saying “Wii Fit Plus data will be transferred, and Wii Fit U save data will be created.”  If all goes well, the “Creating Save Data” screen shows up, and then you get confirmation that Wii Fit U shared save data and my save data have been created, and that Wii Fit Plus data has been transferred (as well as any pet data).

On the next screen, it asks me to confirm the right date and time. My clock, for some reason, was off by about an hour, so it made me quit out of the game to adjust the time. I’m not sure why the Wii U can’t just go to the Internet and update the right time for me, but whatever…

When I re-entered the game I was able to see my Mii (and his data) and select it for use.

At long last, I saw our old friend, the Balance Board welcoming me back. Note that my Mii was still in pretty good shape as of the last time I used Wii Fit two years ago.

welcome from the balance board


The Balance Board goes on to explain the new features of Wii Fit U. First, he explains there are new training modes that have been designed for the Wii U GamePad. Also, the Wii U GamePad can be used as a personal display, so the TV can be turned off for certain activities, such as the Body Test (no more having the family crowding around looking at your weight).

You then proceed with the Body Test.

You start up the Wii Balance Board and as with the old Wii Fit you’ll be told to turn on the Balance Board with your foot and to stand on it (without fidgeting) until it’s properly set up.

You’re then told of a new feature that allows you to take photos of your face during the Body Test using the GamePad camera. You can choose to turn this feature on or off, but if you turn it on it’ll store the image of your face and you can see how your face changes over time (it’ll be available in the calendar along with your BMI and Center of Gravity). Photos are saved for three months, but the first photo you take each month is saved for five years so it’s a clever way for you to visually keep track of the progression of your weight loss.

You then proceed with the Body Test. You’ll hold the GamePad in your hands throughout the test, but the weight of the GamePad will be subtracted from your results. As with the old Wii Fit body test, you’ll be asked how much your clothes weigh.

As with the old Wii Fit, you’ll then test your Center of Balance by standing on the Balance Board as straight as you can. The difference this time is that you’re holding the GamePad at eye level and also taking a picture of your face. So you have to stand up straight while keeping your face centered on the screen in a frame. As with the original Wii Fit, you’ll then see a plot of how balanced you are when you stand. If you’re off balance, you’ll get advice on how to correct it, which, according to them will help raise your abdominal pressure and improve digestive health.

center of balance

Next you’ll see your BMI (or optionally, your weight). As with the old Wii Fit, you see a colored bar telling you in you’re underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese. I’m sad to say that while I was just overweight the last time I played Wii Fit, now I was well back in the obese column. And sure enough, my poor little Mii suddenly changed to have a gut the same size as my real one.

The Body Test continues. There’s the same basic balance test as in Wii Fit where you need to shift your weight to balance both your left and right sides at certain percentages.



There’s also a new balance test using the Wii U GamePad where you need to do the same balance test, but at the same time follow a moving ball as it floats in front of you.

wii u balance test

Finally, you get your Wii Fit age. Amazingly, mine was at 31, which is much less than my real age. Although notice also that in the course of weighing myself, my poor Wii gained a lot more weight back. Good incentive for me to get back on the saddle.

wii fit age

After all this is done, you “stamp” your progress into the calendar and then proceed to the main menu, which I’ll cover in the next post.


Review of Just Dance 2014 for Kids for Wii U

just-dance-2014-kids-reviewJust Dance 2014, as all of its predecessors, is a great video game, but it can be a bit of a dilemma for parents. On the one hand, it’s a great way to have fun as a family and to get some great exercise. But on the other hand, some parents may feel uncomfortable with songs like “Get Lucky”, “Blurred Lines” and “I Kissed a Girl”. They’re all great pop songs with a fun beat that adults can dance do, but at times the lyrics are a bit more suggestive than parents might feel comfortable with, especially for kids aged 7-12. And when parents have taken to Amazon review boards in the past to complain, they’ve often gotten pilloried by grown-up fans of the game who accuse them of promoting censorship.

In a way, Ubisoft’s answer to these parents is Just Dance Kids 2014, available for Wii, Wii U, and Xbox 360. The gameplay is essentially the same as Just Dance 2014, with a few differences that make it more kid friendly. But they did a pretty good job of still making it a game that the whole family can enjoy.

The first difference is that a lot of the extras you see in Just Dance 2014 aren’t there. There’s no “Sweat Mode” and no “Mojo Points” to earn. The tracks have one routine, unlike Just Dance 2014 that has multiple routines per song. And of course, there’s no “JDTV” nor online play options. You also can’t create dancer cards nor track individual dancers (everyone plays as “Player 1”, “Player 2”, and so on).

The next difference is in the track list. It’s not the typical fingerboards-on-the-chalkboard-please-put-me-out-of-my-misery collection of sickening-as-molasses kiddie songs sung by women who breathed in too much helium. It actually has a soundtrack which, dare I say, is pretty cool. You have pop songs from stars who got their starts on the Disney Channel like Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, and Bridget Mendler.

There are also popular songs from groups like One Direction and Owl City that tweens in the family will enjoy; oldies like “Magic Carpet Ride”, “Footloose” and “The Hustle” that mom and dad will appreciate; a few kid-friendly songs from the likes of the cast of Fraggle Rock and The Wiggles; and even “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Hickory Dickory Dock” for the toddler in the family (the former which inexplicably has a difficulty rating of 2/3 stars).

Here’s a complete track list:

  • 789
  • Day O
  • Do You Love Me
  • Fireflies
  • Footloose
  • Fraggle Rock
  • The Freeze Game – Yo Gabba Gabba
  • Get Down On It
  • Get Ready to Wiggle – The Wiggles
  • Give Your Heart a Break – Demi Lovato
  • Hickory Dickory Dock
  • Hit Me With Your Best Shot
  • Hit the Lights – Selena Gomez and The Scene
  • The Hustle
  • I Like to Move It
  • Interstellar Simon
  • Magic Carpet Ride
  • Make It Shine – Victoria Justice
  • Mary Had a Little Lamb
  • One Thing – One Direction
  • Party in the Kitchen
  • A Pirate You Shall Be
  • Power Ups
  • Problem (The Monster Remix) – Becky G feat. will.i.am
  • Put Your Hearts Up – Ariana Grande
  • Ready or Not – Bridget Mendler
  • Shout
  • Skip To My Lou
  • The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room
  • Walking on Sunshine
  • We Go Well Together – Goldheart

Each song is marked with 1-3 stars for difficulty and 1-3 sweat drops for energy level, something which has been in all the versions of Just Dance but which some reason was taken away from Just Dance 2014.

The other big difference is in the graphics. Instead of a faceless silhouette as your dance guide, your dance guide is a video image of actual kids, teens, and tweens dancing to the songs. My guess is that they decided to use real animated figures instead of abstract ones because they’re easier for kids to follow–there’s even a glowing trail on the dancer’s right hand that makes it extremely easy to follow. The animations themselves are whimsical and again, have a bit more realism and a bit less abstraction than the grown-up game.

I’m not sure if I was having a bad night, but motion tracking wasn’t working as well for me as it did on Just Dance 2014, which can always be a bit frustrating.

There are three dance modes. The first is “Just Dance”, where just like the grown-up version 1-4 players can dance to the song and are scored on accuracy.

There’s also “Freeze and Shake”, which is kind of a cross between “Red Light, Green Light” and “Simon Says” where in the middle of the song you’ll see icons next to your avatar telling you to shake your Wii remote or to freeze, and you’ll get points for following the instructions correctly. While I assume this mode was meant to appeal to younger players who are frustrated because they can’t do the dance moves, but want to get points for following instructions, this feature kind of fell flat for me. Even as an adult, it was hard for me to focus on the dance moves and constantly be looking in the upper left-hand corner to see whether I should shake the remote or move it.

The third mode is “Team High Score”, where all the players will dance, and while a “spotlight” shines on a certain player’s avatar, that player will dance while the other players will shake their remotes vigorously to collect the “stars” that the player generates. Again, probably a good feature for young players who want to feel like they’re earning points just like the older players, but not a very appealing feature for everyone.

So while I appreciate the addition of these extra modes to try to make it more fun for the family to play together, I’m not sure if these particular modes will be appealing to anyone except for the very young players to “fit in”. That said, I’d definitely like to see future versions continue to try to come up with ways the whole family can play together.

On the Wii U, you can use the Gamepad to navigate menus, which is a plus. Also, any time any of the song start, someone can pick up the Gamepad and start “Dance Director” mode, where one player can direct players to dance like animals, zombies, slow-motion dancers, a mime, a ninja, a cowgirl, etc. Then, it’s up to the person controlling the Gamepad to decide which of the players danced it better.

There’s also a “Parents” section of the game that has six options: “Play Tracker”, where parents can view the gameplay history; “Progress” that shows top scores for each of the songs in each of the modes, as well as the number of times each song has been played; “Medals”, which shows achievements of various kinds; “Options”, which lets you toggle lyrics, next move icons, progress meter and usage tracking on and off, and also lets you choose your language (English, Spanish, French).

There’s also a “Philosophy” option that lets you read a personal letter from the development team. It reads:

A message from the Just Dance Kids team: we’re a group of designers, artists, producers and programmers. But we’re also a team of parents and kids. Our goal is to make a game we’d be proud to take home and play with our own families. And to do that, we’ve hand-picked age-appropriate songs that capture younger kids’ imaginations, engage older kids with chart-topping tween artists, and get parents into the mix with timeless dance classics. We believe that in addition to enhancing children’s physical well-bring, brain development, and self-esteem, dancing is a highly beneficial co-play activity for kids and parents. That’s why we’ve included gameplay modes specifically designed for collaboration between all ranges of developmental abilities. From our family to yours-stay happy, stay healthy, and keep an eye out for those raccoon – The Just Dance Kids Team

I definitely appreciate this team’s philosophy, and they did do a very good job of making a game that’s really family-friendly. But I was a bit disappointed that the new modes weren’t as compelling as they could be. Also, there are plenty of songs and features on the grown-up version of Just Dance that are perfectly family-friendly, and kids who see their friends with Just Dance 2014 may feel a bit cheated that Just Dance Kids 2014 doesn’t have the same level of features or songs. I almost wish that instead of “penalizing” parents by making them purchase a new $29.99 game that’s “family friendly”, Ubisoft could just incorporate some of the songs and features of Just Dance Kids into the regular version of Just Dance and provide parental controls for parents who are sensitive about the more suggestive songs.

But that said, if you’re a parent who has young children, Just Dance Kids 2014 has a great selection of songs and dances for kids aged 6-12, and you can rest assured that you won’t be blushing trying to explain what certain songs are about.

Review of Just Dance 2014 for Wii U

just dance 2014 box art

I’ve reviewed every Just Dance game since the original on in 2009. While I’ve given the spin-offs and rip-offs less-than-stellar reviews, the main games in the series (Just Dance and Just Dance 2, 3, and 4) have always gotten 5 out of 5 stars from me. While the basic mechanics of the game have been the same since the beginning, Ubisoft has done a great job of improving accuracy and adding to the feature set in each new version.

This iteration is no exception. Just Dance 2014 should really be called Just Dance 5, but Ubisoft has wisely veered off that numbering scheme and started to name the titles by year, given that they’re releasing a new version every year anyway. They’re covering all their bases by releasing it for the Wii, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, Xbox One, and PS4 all at the same time.

When you start out the game, the opening menu is simple as always. In the center of the screen is a recommended song you can start dancing to right away. You can also scroll to the right to select individual songs.

In the upper right-hand corner you’ll see a yellow icon with an “M” in it. These refer to your “mojo points”. The points system is much easier to understand now than in previous versions of Just Dance; here, they serve as “currency” that you can use to “purchase” locked items in the game.

One nice thing about Just Dance 2014 is that none of the songs themselves are locked–every song is playable from the get-go. Instead, what’s locked are different variations of the choreography that’s available on certain songs. Here are all the different variations:

    • Classic – The standard, default choreography, all of which are unlocked from the beginning.

    • On Stage – Multiple dancers interacting with each other in a “dance performance”, which are a lot of fun not only for the dancers but also for onlookers. These are each 10 points to unlock.

    • Extreme – These are more advanced dance routines, not for beginners. They’re 25 points to unlock.
    • Battle – This is a mode where you compete against another player in a “Street Fighter” like battle–the better you dance, the more you’ll increase your life line and decrease your opponent’s. These are 10 points to unlock.

    • Mash-Up – Here, different dance moves (and the original dancers) from other songs and from past versions of Just Dance are pieced together to form a unique dance. These are 5 points to unlock, or throughout the year you’ll be able to unlock one for free each month.
    • Sweat – Songs are choreographed with maximum exercise, fitness, and aerobic activity in mind. These are 10 points to unlock.
    • Sweat Mash-Up – A combination of Mash-Up and Sweat modes, these are 5 points to unlock.
    • Puppet Master – Like Mash-Up mode, except that a human is controlling which dance steps the players will dance next using the Wii U Gamepad.

  • Others – Several songs have very unique choreography. Gwen Stefani’s Rich Girl has a “Chair” dance. Far East Movement’s Turn up the Love has something called “Sumo”. And Nicki Minaj’s “Starships” lets you dance to the Charleston. Each of these are 50 points to unlock.

Dancer Card – One relatively new feature is the ability to click the upper right-hand corner to select or create a “dancer card”. This will allow you to provide your nickname, an avatar (you choose from a set of cute cartoon faces all blinking at you), your gender, and your age. The choices are 0-9, 10-14, 15-19, 20-29, 30-39, and 40+, a set of groupings that sort of reminds me of Logan’s Run (a joke that only folks who are 40+ will understand).

Once you set up your dancer card, when you click on it you’ll see at-a-glance your style (how accurate you are), your kCals burned in Sweat Mode, your favorite songs, your average star rating, and your online level. It’s nice not having to go by “Happy” or “Sunny” anymore.

The Dancing: The dancing itself works pretty much the same as past Just Dance games. Each song’s choreography is designed for 1-4 different players. If you’re playing with 2 or more players, each player will use his or her Wii remote to select a character to follow, and can also choose his or her dancer card so that statistics will be properly tallied. Each player then holds the Wii remote in his or her right hand and follows the on-screen dancer’s moves as if looking in a mirror.

The animation on screen, as usual, is usually done with tongue firmly planted in cheek. A zombie is dancing to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”. The song “The Love Boat” is set to a scene of the eponymous cruise ship sinking in the background.

As with previous versions of Just Dance on the Wii, don’t expect the motion detection to be as precise as the Kinect, although it is impressive how accurate they’ve gotten it over the years.

The Wii U version makes nice use of the GamePad to include people who for whatever reason can’t (or won’t) participate in the dancing. Karaoke mode allows that person to sing along to the words (which are displayed on the GamePad screen), and if the singing is good, it’ll earn M points. Alternatively, the person holding the GamePad can use the GamePad’s camera to film the dancers in “Autodance” mode, which will produce a 30 second video that’ll be automatically edited in a stylized way and then can be saved or shared or uploaded to JDTV (see below).

Other options on the main menu include the following:

Just Sweat – This mode allows you to play several songs in a row for 10, 20, or 40 minute programs. You can also turn on “free mode”, which turns on a calorie counter that tracks you calories for any song in the game.

Shop – As you play the game, you’ll earn points, which are tallied by a yellow “M” in the corner of the screen. You can use these points to “purchase” unlockable content for the game. These include:

  1. Alternate Choreography. Here’s where you can unlock “On Stage” , “Extreme”, “Sweat” and “Battle Mode” choreography for songs. As of the launch of the game there are 24 of these to unlock, ranging from 10 to 50 points.
  2. Mash-Ups & Co. Here, you can download Mash-Ups and Sweat Mash-Ups of songs, as well as different Party Master modes. There are 77 of these to unlock, which should keep you pretty busy. All are 5 points to unlock, and there’ll be a “free one” to unlock each month of the year (as long as you’re connected online you’ll get a pop-up each month that alerts you to the free mash-up and avatar that’s available for you).
  3. New Songs. Unfortunately you can’t use your points to unlock new songs–you’ll need real money for that. Ubisoft cleverly weaved a list of purchasable songs into this menu so you’ll always be reminded of it when you’re unlocking content. They even offer a free song, Katy Perry’s Roar, for you to learn the download process (when you select a song you’re sent to Nintendo’s eShop to complete your purchase). When you buy a song, you’ll get avatars thrown in for free.

It’s really nice to be able to use the Wii Gamepad to navigate the store.

The World Dance Floor option will show up if you’re signed in. A number will show how many dancers are currently online. This is an interesting online mode where you can literally dance with players from around the world, earn points along the way, and even make friends. The good news is that you’re not personally identifiable, other than the name on your dancer card. There’s a countdown timer to “Happy Hour”, when you can earn extra points.

There are a number of activities on the Dance Floor. You can participate in dance offs against other players, you can dance to the same song with everyone in the group and see who’s the best, and you can vote on which song to dance to next. It’s a lot of fun, and it really adds a new dimension to dancing.

It is a little bit of a hassle to get online, as you need to login with your Nintendo ID, accept a network services agreement, and then if you want to access additional features you need to login (or set up) a uPlay ID and accept the Privacy Statement there. I did have a lot of trouble signing onto Ubisoft’s servers; I’d either get the message “The Ubisoft server is unavailable at this time. Please try again later” or the screen would say “working” but the status icon would just keep spinning and spinning until I had to reboot the Wii U. But when I did get through it was a lot of fun.

Finally, there’s another online feature called JDTV that consists of videos that other players around the world have uploaded. This was a feature available on the Xbox, but it’s now available with the Wii U when someone films the dancers in “Autodance”. You can view the most recent, the most popular, and featured videos, as well as your own.

Overall, I’m impressed yet again with this latest version of Just Dance. Every time I think the franchise is about the jump the shark, they make enough improvements to impress me yet again. The song list is a great mix of contemporary songs and oldies, there’s enough variation in choreography and collectible items to keep from getting bored, and the new points system to collect and “buy” items to unlock is much simpler to understand than in previous versions. The highlight, of course, is the new online features that let you compete and play with others around the world. it just adds a new level knowing that others around the globe are playing along with you.

Here’s a complete song list that lists artist, song name, number of dancers, and difficulty level of the classic choreography. They’ve done away with separate rating for difficulty and exertion, and have simplified it to easy, medium, and hard.

One Direction – Kiss You – 4 – Easy
Lady Gaga – Just Dance – 1 – Hard
George Michael – Careless Whisper – 2 – Hard
Kesha – C’mon – 2 – Medium
David Guetta ft SIA – She Wolf (Falling to Pieces) – 1  – Medium
The Girly Team – Flashdance-What a Feeling – 1 – Hard
Disney’s Aladdin – Prince Ali – 4  – Medium
Daft Punk ft. Pharrel Williams – Get Lucky – 2 – Medium
Jessie J ft. Big Sean – Wild – 1 – Hard
PSY – Gentleman – 1 – Medium
Robin Thicke ft. Pharrel Williams – Blurred Lines – 2 – Easy
Ray Parker Jr. – Ghostbusters – 4 – Medium
Gloria Gaynor- I Will Survive – 1 – Easy
Will.i.am ft. Justin Biener #thatPOWER – 4 – Hard
Daddy Yankee – Limbo – 2 – Hard
Ariana Grande ft. Mac Miller – The Way – 2  – Easy
Nicki Minaj – Pound the Alarm – 4 – Medium
Frankie Bostello – Love Boat – 1  – Medium
Olly Mira ft. Flo Rida – Troublemaker – 1  – Easy
Lady Gaga -Applause – 1 – Medium
Mick Jackson- Blame it on the Boogie – 4  – Easy
Imposs ft. Konshens- Feel So Right – 1 – Hard
Mungo Jerry- In the Summertime – 4 – Easy
Chris Brown – Fine China – 1 – Medium
Louis Prima – Just a Gigolo – 2 – Medium
Rihanna – Where Have You Been – 1 – Hard
Ricky Martin – Maria – 1 – Hard
Abba – Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight) – 1 – Easy
Dancing Bros – Moskau – 2  – Hard
Pitbull ft. Christina Aguilera – Feel This Moment – 1 – Easy
Wisin and Handel ft. Jennifer Lopez – Follow the Leader -1 – Hard
Village People – YMCA – 4 – Easy
Far East Movement ft. Cover Drive – Turn Up the Love – 2 – Hard
Bob Marley – Could You Be Loved – 2 – Easy
Nicki Minaj – Starships – 1 – Hard
Ruts hen Planeten – 99 Luftballons – 2 – Easy
Robbie Williams – Candy- 2 – Medium
Katy Perry – I Kissed a Girl – 1 – Medium
Bog Bog Orkestar – Isidora – 1 – Medium
Gwen Stefani ft. Eve- Rich Girl – 1 – Easy
Duck Sauce – It’s You – 1 – Medium
The Sunlight Shakers – Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In – 2 – Easy
Sammie – Misunderstood – 1 – Medium
Sunlight Express – Nitro Bot – 2 – Medium
Jason Derulo – The Other Side – 1 – Hard
Ivete Sangalo – Dancando – 1 – Medium
(Free download) Katy Perry- Roar

Five out of five stars. Highly recommended.

Review of Wii Street U, now supporting the Wii Balance Board!

A few days I mentioned the announcement from Nintendo that Wii Street U would be updated to use the Wii Balance Board to let you walk around the streets of anywhere in the world that has been captured on Google Maps Street View using the Wii Balance Board. What I didn’t realize as I was writing this was that the update has already happened!

The updated Wii Street U from the Nintendo eShop is available for download onto your Wii U for $4.99. To find it, just go to the eShop and type “Wii Street” in the upper right-hand corner of your GamePad. You’ll see an option called “Wii Steeet U™ powered by Google™”.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Go to Nintendo eShop and download Wii Street U to your Wii U
  2. Dust off that old Balance Board, and put fresh AA batteries in
  3. Load up Wii Street U. After the intro screen, you’ll be asked if you want to use the GamePad or to use the Balance Board. Press “X” to use the Balance Board.
  4. If you’ve never synced your Balance Board with your Wii U, you’ll need to do that now. Just power the Balance Board on, press the small red button in the battery compartment of the Balance Board, press the small red button in the front of the Wii U, and wait until the blue power light on the Balance Board stops flashing and becomes solid
  5. You’ll be asked to set up the Balance Board. Thankfully, they’ve made the process a lot faster than it’s been in the past. Just press “A”, step on the board when it tells you to, and you’re done.

You’ll then be dropped on the streets of Paris your first time using this software. You can literally “walk” on the Balance Board to start walking on the street. Happily, the software isn’t as picky as it’s been in the past at warning you not to “run” on the Balance Board…I was able to walk and even do some light jogging without getting the annoying “don’t run on the Balance Board” message.

Having said that, the Balance Board is still fragile equipment, so I’d still exercise some caution.  If you want to walk quickly or even do some light jogging, I’d strong suggest you don’t wear shoes of any kind and never jump on the Board–instead, lightly place the ball of your foot on the surface and gently place pressure with your heel. You’ll still get some great exercise, and you’ll ensure the Balance Board stays functional for a long, long time.

Granted, the experience is a bit herky-jerky, as the images are pulled from Google Maps Street View, and because Google didn’t take continuous video of the streets it won’t feel exactly like virtual reality. But if you’d said to someone even five years ago that you could tour streets in Europe, North America, and Asia by walking in your living room, they’d have had you committed.

What’s even cooler is that on the Wii U Gamepad, you can view a street map of the area you’re “visiting”. You can also use the left joystick to look around, up, down, left or right.

map view of wii street u

When you reach an intersection, you can lean left or right to change your direction. I couldn’t get this to work all the time, but happily, you can also turn using the cross directional keys on the Gamepad as well.

The fun starts when you access the menu by pressing “Y”

wii street u menu

The first menu option (Recommended) provides a number of “recommended” areas to try:

  1. Waikiki, Hawaii, United States
  2. Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan
  3. Monte Carlo, Monaco
  4. The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  5. The White House, Washington DC, United States
  6. Livingston Island, Antarctica
  7. Kennedy Space Center, Florida, United States
  8. Daigo-ji, Kyoto, Japan
  9. Florence, Italy
  10. Yosemite National Park, California, United States
  11. Dubrovnik, Croatia
  12. New Delhi, India
  13. Jigokudani Hot Springs, Japan
  14. Stonehenge, Wiltshire, United Kingdom
  15. Sydney, Australia
  16. Manza Beach, Okinawa, Japan
  17. Paris, France
  18. Times Square, New York, United States
  19. Fushimi Inari-Taisha, Kyoto, Japan
  20. Barcelona, Spain
  21. The South Pole, Antarctica
  22. Japan Mint, Osaka, Japan
  23. Los Angeles, California, United States
  24. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  25. Akiyoshido, Yamaguchi, Japan

There are a total of 96 suggested places to go visit.

Furthermore, because it’s powered by Google Maps, you can visit ANYWHERE in the world that Google’s cameras have been to. Want to see your old elementary school? How about the house you lived in as a kid? It’s all there. Just click “Search for a Place” and type in an address. You can also add any place to your Favorites.

“Street View Guide” lets you turn on and off the blue “guide” lines that let you know if a street is covered by Google Maps. You can also select street map view or satellite view for map type. Finally, you can even view the current weather on any street you’re walking on.

I was wondering if there’d be a day when Google Street View would be hooked up to a video game to allow you to virtually walk the streets of the world, and happily, that day has come. While this has been released as a free app without much fanfare, for me it’s one of the most promising examples of video game fitness software out there. I admit, I’m the kind of person who can’t watch TV or read a book while exercising, as my brain just can’t focus on both things. But with the new Wii Street U, you can literally spend hours exploring the streets of the world and getting great exercise all in the comfort of your home.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again–with the trimvurate of Wii Street U supporting the Balance Board, Wii Fit U being released as a free trial and the ability to upgrade to the full version with the purchase of a $19 Fit Meter, and the announcement of Wii Sports Club which will finally modernize Wii Sports for the MotionPlus controller (boxing and tennis are still among the best video game exercises after all these years), it’s clear that Nintendo is still serious about fitness gaming.

I rarely “review” free games, but this one gets a 4 out of 5 for sheer enjoyment and exercise value, and a 10 out of 5 for potential 🙂

Review of Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2013 for Wii U

Your Shape: Fitness Evolved by
Platform: Wii U
4 stars – Good but not earth-shatteringly great, first “pure fitness game” for the Wii U with features that range from mediocre to revolutionary.
by ,
Written on November 28, 2012

your shape wii u reviewThe Your Shape franchise is one of those franchises that’s been either hit or miss over the years. The original Your Shape for the Wii in 2009 was quite dreadful; Ubisoft tried to beat Microsoft to the punch by introduce a Kinect-like tracking system to the Wii, with unspectacular results (and the cartoon Jenny McCarthy still haunts me in my dreams). On the other hand, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved for the Xbox, introduced in 2010, was one of the better workout games for any system.

Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2013 sort of falls in the middle. There are parts of it that are brilliant, even revolutionary, but there are also some glaring weaknesses.You start out with a video of people having fun with the game. While the video was your typical fluff piece with people who are a little too beautiful having a little too much fun, what struck me was the crisp, high definition video quality. This is not your grandfather’s Wii.You start by creating your profile. I’ve played many, many Wii fitness games, and by far this was the most pleasant profile creation I’ve ever done, as it’s all done on the GamePad. So, for example, instead of clicking an eternity to get to my weight and age (which is always a very humbling process for me in both cases), I just had to swipe my finger to enter information about myself. You can also choose your fitness level: couch potato, aspiring gymnast, semi-professional, and Olympic legend. Not sure why they couldn’t have just said “light, moderate, hard, and advanced”, but I got the gist of it.

As much as I liked the setup process, there were already some less-than-optimal things. First, you can’t use the Balance Board to input your weight, which is one of the things the Wii can do that no other system can do. Second, they ask for your height in inches. Why not ask for my age in months? Finally, they have you take a picture with your GamePad camera, but don’t tell you until later that your face will be plastered all over the world if you sign up for online access.

You then get to the main menu, where your options are “Play”, “Profile”, “Medals”, “Store”, “Options”, and “Fitness Pal”. When you press “Play”, you’re immediately asked if you want to sign up to use online features; once you do this you can work out together with friends by comparing your records to theirs. I do like that Ubisoft is embracing social features in their games; one can only hope that they don’t end up abandoning it like EA Sports did.

The Play menu itself has a few choices:

1) Activities – There are two types of activities you can choose here.

The first is dancing to hit tunes. Your initial choices are Born This Way (Lady Gaga), Party Rock Anthem (LMFAO), She Wants to Move (NERD), and SOS (Rihanna). Each song has two versions: an easy “rehearsal” mode and a more challenging “performance” mode. As you earn coins (the internal currency of the game) you can unlock more songs. This part of the game seemed awful familiar and for good reason: it’s almost identical to Just Dance. I’d accuse Ubisoft of ripping them off, but since Ubisoft publishes both I suppose they get a pass. As with Just Dance, you hold the Wii remote in your right hand and have to mirror the on-screen dancer’s moves, and you’ll get points and accolades if you do. The main difference is that the choreography here is much more carefully designed to provide you a full aerobic workout vs. the dances of Just Dance that balance style and exercise. As with Just Dance, you’re pretty much on the “honor system” in terms of whether you move any body part outside of your right hand. But those who are tempted to “cheat” to get a high score probably should be buying this game in the first place.

The second activity is a really interesting one. It’s called “Zen Flow“, and provides some fascinating relaxation exercises. I tried the first one “Lotus Seat Position”. You’re told to sit on the floor crossing your legs, and then to hold the GamePad up to the screen. Then, while soothing music plays you move the GamePad to follow a pattern of light that’s displayed on both the GamePad and the TV. The whole time, a voice will instruct you on how to breathe and relax. I admit I was skeptical at first, but at the end of one session I really did feel relaxed.

2) Classes – These are your typical calisthenics-type workouts, with an aerobics instructor talking you through classes which range from about 7 minutes to upwards of 30 minutes for advanced classes. There are different styles of exercise, including “Be Groovin'” (Aerobic dance), Kickboxing, Cardio dance, Zen Zone, Zen Arena (martial arts), Cardio, and Power Training (strength and conditioning).

Motion controls are a little suspect. They’re not as bad as in the original Your Shape for Wii, but when I waved my Wii remote randomly, I got just as good a score (or in some cases better) as when I tried to match the on-screen instructor perfectly. If you’re content to work out to the classes (which are excellent) and don’t really care too much about your score, you’ll be fine.

One very cool thing was that the GamePad gave a continual readout of the time remaining and the calories burned. I like how the main screen wasn’t cluttered with that stuff, but anytime I wanted to see how much time was left in a workout I’d just need to glance at the GamePad.

3) News – This section is oddly named, as there’s no “News” here, there are just reports of your progress and your friends’ progresses if applicable. You can view high scores and achievements you’ve unlocked.

4) To Dos – There are many features throughout the game that try to incentivize you to play the game every day, including earning medals (achievements), earning coins (which can be used to “buy” things in the Store). This is one of the better motivations. Every day, the system will give you three “challenges” to play (such as scoring at least 90% in a kickboxing workout, completing a specific song with a certain number of points, etc). If you complete all the challenges you’ll be rewarded with a lot of coins.

5) Program – This is another cool feature that lets you set up a recurring workout for up to four weeks. You use the GamePad to set a fitness goal (just for fun, lose weight, reduce stress, improve stamina, build muscles, tone upper body, and tone lower body). You can set the number of weeks (1, 2, or 4), the number of sessions per week (2-4), and your “favorite style” (e.g., dancing, fighting, zen). A training plan will be put together. They kept it pretty simple, which I actually liked; instead of setting up a calendar with dates they just show you a chart of workouts you’ve completed and workouts you have left for the week, and its up to you to do them as convenient for you.

Back at the main menu, you have the option of going to the “Store” where you can “buy” dance songs, new workouts, and trainer outfits. I appreciated the fact that they used all in-game currency that you need to earn by working out rather than charging real money.

Now, I’ve always felt that the single silliest feature of Wii fitness games from the past were when they gave recipes; did they really expect you to take your Wii into the kitchen? But with the Wii U it makes all the sense in the world, as . In the main menu, their recipes are under an option called “Fitness Pal”. You can choose a goal (build muscles, child-friendly cooking, lose weight, improve stamina, reduce stress), and you’ll be served up menus of very tasty-looking food that you can cook. And because you have the GamePad, you can bring it into the kitchen (and even play some Wii games as you’re waiting for your water to boil).

Overall, I was very impressed by the Wii U features of Your Shape, such as the use of the GamePad to set up profiles, to display status, and to use as a cookbook. As for the workouts themselves, I was impressed by some things but not so impressed with others. On the positive side, the relaxation exercises are definitely groundbreaking and make good use of the GamePad. On the not-as-positive side, the workouts themselves didn’t seem to be much more revolutionary than what we saw even in the original My Fitness Coach, and the only real “fun” part of the game was a copy of Just Dance (which begs the question, why not just get that instead?). I was hoping to see the kinds of “activities so fun you don’t realize you’re working out” types of activities they built for the Kinect version, but I didn’t see any of that.

If you have a new Wii U and don’t already have a workout game with great cardio and fitness exercise, I’d say this is a worthwhile purchase. For me, I’d probably wait for the price to drop a little before buying this one, or at least wait to see if the upcoming Wii Fit U moves the bar any better than this one.

Review of Just Dance 4 for Wii U

Just Dance 4 by
Platform: Wii U
5 of 5 stars – The Wii U version of Just Dance 4 is an excellent upgrade that showcases some of the unique features of the Wii U
by ,
Written on November 26, 2012

In 2009, Just Dance for the Wii pioneered a new genre of dance games where you danced using real dance moves vs. just jumping on a mat or pattern-matching with a game controller. After some early fits and starts, they’ve since sold over 30 million units in its three year history. That’s enough to get every man, woman, and child in Canada dancing away.

Of course, success has spawned dozens and dozens of spin-off and knock-off games of varying quality. But each title in the original series of Just Dance, Just Dance 2, and Just Dance 3 have been excellent and have moved the franchise forward with great new songs and technical innovation. I’m happy to say that Just Dance 4 for the Wii U continues that tradition.

As with previous Just Dance games, the opening menu is delightfully simple and has just two options: Just Dance and Just Sweat. One thing I liked right away about Just Dance 4 was that you can use either the Wii remote or the GamePad to make your selection for all the menus throughout the game. Right away, I much preferred using the GamePad to scroll through dozens of songs rather than the Wii remote.

Selecting “Just Dance” shows you a cover flow where you can flip through songs to dance to. Each song has an icon showing how many separate players the song has unique choreography for. For example, for Solo songs, whether it’s one player or four, everyone is dancing to the same moves. For Quartet songs, four players will each be dancing to his or her own moves, making for entertaining dance routines. Here’s a video of choreography for One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful”, a song my nieces were especially happy to see.

When I played during Thanksgiving with my sister-in-law, my sister, and my wife, my brother who was videotaping the whole thing was laughing so hard he was in tears. I’m guessing it’s because we weren’t exactly coordinated, but with practice I think we could have looked like Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry, and Louis themselves.

You’ll also see a difficulty rating of 1 to 3. A song with a rating of 1 can be picked up and played by just about anyone right away. Songs with 2s or 3s have more intricate moves and require practice to master. Interestingly, they decided to do away with the “intensity” rating of the song which had been there from the first Just Dance.

As with previous versions of Just Dance, the songlist is great and contains many current hits. There are a few cover versions, but for the most part the songs are licensed tracks from the original stars.

Ain’t No Other Man – The Girly Team – Solo – 2 of 3
Asereje (The Ketchup Song) – Las Ketchup – Duo – 1 of 3
Beauty and a Beat – Justin Bieber featuring Nicki Minaj – Solo – 3 of 3
Beware Of The Boys (Mundian To Bach Ke) – Panjabi MC – Quartet – 2 of 3
Call Me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepsen – Solo – 1 of 3
Can’t Take My Eyes Off You – Boys Town Gang – Duo – 1 of 3
Crazy Little Thing – Anja – Solo – 3 of 3
Crucified – Army of Lovers – Quartet – 3 of 3
Disturbia – Rihanna – Solo – 3 of 3
Domino – Jessie J – Solo – 1 of 3 (exclusive to Wii U)
Everybody Needs Somebody To Love – Dancing Bros. – Duo – 2 of 3
Good Feeling – Flo Rida – Solo – 2 of 3
Good Girl – Carrie Underwood – Solo – 1 of 3
Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops!)” – Blu Cantrell – Solo – 1 of 3
Hot For Me – A.K.A – Solo – 2 of 3
I Like It – The Blackout Allstars – Duo – 3 of 3
(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life – Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes – Duet – 3 of 3
Istanbul – They Might Be Giants – Quartet – 1 of 3
Jailhouse Rock – Elvis Presley – Quartet – 1 of 3
Livin’ la Vida Loca” – Ricky Martin – Solo – 3 of 3
Love You Like A Love Song – Selena Gomez and the Scene – Solo – 1 of 3
Make The Party (Don’t Stop) – Bunny Beatz – Solo – 2 of 3
Maneater – Nelly Furtado – Solo – 2 of 3
Mas Que Nada – Sergio Mendes featuring The Black Eyed Peas – Solo – 1 of 3
Moves Like Jagger – Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera – Solo – 2 of 3
Mr. Saxobeat – Alexandra Stan – Solo – 1 of 3
Never Gonna Give You Up – Rick Astley – Solo – 1 of 3
Oh No! – Marina and The Diamonds – Solo – 3 of 3
On The Floor – Jennifer Lopez featuring Pitbull – 1 of 3
Oops!… I Did It Again” – The Girly Team – Quartet – 2 of 3
Rock N’Roll (Will Take You To The Mountain) – Skrillex – Solo – 2 of 3
Rock Lobster – The B-52’s – Duo – 2 of 3
Run The Show – Kat DeLuna featuring Busta Rhymes – Duo – 3 of 3
So What – Pink – Solo – 1 of 3
Some Catchin’ Up To Do- Sammy – Solo – 1 of 3
Super Bass – Nicki Minaj – Solo – 3 of 3
Superstition – Stevie Wonder – Solo – 1 of 3
The Final Countdown – Europe – Duo – 3 of 3
Time Warp” – Halloween Thrills – Quartet – 3 of 3
Tribal Dance – 2 Unlimited – Duo – 3 of 3
Umbrella – Rihanna featuring Jay-Z – Solo – 1 of 3
Want U Back – Cher Lloyd featuring Astro – Solo – 1 of 3 (exclusive to Wii U)
We No Speak Americano – Hit The Electro Beat – Solo – 2 of 3
What Makes You Beautiful – One Direction – Quartet – 1 of 3
Wild Wild West – Will Smith – Quartet – 3 of 3
You’re The First, The Last, My Everything” – Barry White – Quartet – 1 of 3

Something else that’s new to Just Dance 4 are “Dance Quests”, basically a checklist of five goals to hit for each song (for example, getting 5 stars on the song, hitting all the “Gold” moves properly, and so on).

Game play works pretty much like it did in earlier versions of Just Dance–you mirror the moves of your on-screen counterpart, and as you hit moves correctly you’ll be rewarded with positive messages and up to five stars. Pictographs will scroll along the bottom of the screen to cue you to upcoming moves, and occasionally you’ll see a “Gold move” that will get you extra points if you hit it correctly.

The motion control problems that plagued earlier versions of Just Dance are virtually non-existent. Of course, the system doesn’t detect precise hand, arm, and foot movement like the Xbox Kinect does, but it’s still surprisingly accurate–you’ll get more points dancing using your whole body than you will if you just phone it in and sit on the couch with the Wii remote.

The better your performance, the more “Mojo Points” you collect. Once you’ve collected a certain amount of Mojo points you can jump to the next level, at which point you can randomly select a new feature to unlock.

Something else to Just Dance 4 is “Battle Mode”, where you can play against another player (or against the computer). You start by choosing a character that corresponds to a song. Then, you basically compete in a dance-off. It’s an interesting twist on fighting games like Street Fighter, where the player that dances the most precise dance steps will score “hits” on the other. Whoever has the most life left at the end of a round wins that round and their song will be imposed on the next round. At the beginning your only song choices are Rock N Roll Will Take You To The Mountain or Livin’ La Vida Loca, but presumably as you collect Mojo Points, other songs will be available for Battle Mode.

Something else new to the Wii U version is the ability to create “Dancer Cards” (which are basically user profiles). You can select an icon to represent you or use the GamePad camera to take your photo. You then select whether you’re a girl or a boy, and select an age range (in a Logan’s Run-esque kind of move, there are 6 age groupings: 0-9, 10-14, 15-19, 20-24, 25-29, and 30+…which makes some of us who might be in our 40s or beyond feel awful sheepish :P). Finally, you enter a nickname, a welcome improvement after years of being stuck with the name “Happy” in previous versions.

From that point on, anytime you dance you can select your dance card and all your stats will be recorded. Your card will show the total time you’ve danced, the average star rating, your preferred dance style, and favorite songs.

“Just Sweat” mode lets you play several songs in a row for a set amount of time, either 10 minutes (burning around 50 Kcals), 25 minutes (about 100 Kcals), or 45 minutes (about 200 Kcals). Instead of choosing individual songs to work out to, you choose from the following four genres of music:

Aerobics in Space (Dynamic Fitness Steps / 80’s Pop Music)
Sweat Around the World (Latin Dance Practice / World Music)
Electro Body Combat (Cardio Fighting Exercise / Electro Music)
Cheerleader’s Boot Camp (Extreme Training / Punk Rock Music)

The routines start out with a slower warm up routine and end with a cool down routine. Your energy level from song to song is tracked in real time through a running graph at the top of the page, and will determine whether the next song is “COOL” or “INTENSE”, effective customizing your workout based on your individual level of energy. That they’re using a little artificial intelligence to give you a personalized workout is a nice improvement that’s definitely more sophisticated than in previous versions of Just Dance.

The number of Kcals you burn is displayed in the upper left hand of the screen. Take the calories with a grain of salt, as it’s an average number that’s likely to be understated for heavier players and overstated for lighter players. I would have liked to see the ability to measure weight using the Balance Board for a more precise calorie calculation.

One of the things I was most looking forward to was seeing how the Wii U GamePad was integrated into the game. At first, what the person holding the GamePad to do is limited; he or she can be the DJ, selecting the next song the group dances to, and he or she can also draw or write messages that are displayed to the players as they’re dancing (and can have a lot of fun trying to throw dancers off by making them laugh). It’s a nice way to involve someone who may for whatever reason be unwilling or unable to participate as one of the four players dancing with the Wii remotes.

One of the features Ubisoft advertised a lot was “Puppet Master Mode”, where a player could control some of the action using the GamePad. Inexplicably, they decided to lock this mode until you collect enough Mojo Points to move up a level, and then happen to choose it when you’re asked to randomly select which bonus feature to unlock. While I appreciate the use of Mojo points as incentive you to keep coming back to the the game, I found this a rather odd decision on the developers’ part. A lot of people will buy this game for use at parties or family gatherings, and may not realize that they have to play for a few hours before being able to lock one of the most anticipated multi-player features in the game.

I finally did unlock Puppet Master Mode (once you do, every song will have a “Puppet Master Mode” option if you select the song icon and click the “Up” arrow on the GamePad), and it was definitely an innovative use of the GamePad. One to four players can dance using their Wii remotes, and a fifth person holding the GamePad will periodically see four icons of dancing Just Dance characters on the screen. By tapping the icon, he or she can determine what the next dance move the players have to dance is. I was happy to see some classic and some silly dance steps from past Just Dance games (some icons even had the original characters performing them). From time to time, the person with the GamePad can also select a “Strike a Pose” position and assign bonus points to players.

I’ve been impressed with every version of Just Dance starting with the original, and I’m just as impressed with the Wii U version. Ubisoft has once again done a great job in moving the franchise forward in this new version. Just Dance may not be the most precise dance game in the world, but for my money it’s still the most fun one, both individually and in a group (which neither the PS3 nor the Xbox do as well). The two- and four-person choreography is better than it’s ever been and after a few sessions will make you and your friends feel like professionals. The improvements to the Just Sweat mode help make it a viable replacement to a fitness and exercise game. And the new GamePad features are a great way to involve those who may not be able or willing to dance.