Reviewed by Nutwiisystem on December 16 .
Summary: The best yoga and Pilates workout title in an admittedly lackluster field.
It’s been a long and hard road for those looking for good Yoga and Pilates programs on the Wii. Wii Fit provided some Yoga exercises which by most accounts, while a decent demonstration of the potential of the Wii balance board, were a bit rudimentary and disjointed. The first “pure Yoga” title for the Wii, Dreamcatcher Yoga, was an unmitigated disaster both from a Yoga perspective and a technical perspective. The first “pure Pilates” title, Daisy Fuentes Pilates, didn’t fare much better.New U Fitness First Yoga and Pilates is actually the second “NewU” fitness game developed by Lightning Fish games to hit the US Market. The first was a game originally released in Europe as “NewU: Fitness First Personal Trainer”. However, when Ubisoft (the US publisher) brought the game to the US they inexplicably changed its name “My Fitness Coach 2” (In a boneheaded move, they apparently attempted to cash in on the huge success of the original “My Fitness Coach”, but ended up alienating fans of the original My Fitness Coach and short-circuiting any possible interest in the NewU title, which was a decent workout title on its own merits). Anyway, I’m happy to see that the new publisher, Deep silver, was wise enough to keep the original name for NewU Fitness First Yoga & Pilates.
In any case, if you have My Fitness Coach 2, you’ll see similarities between that game and this game, most notably the “swooshing” 3-D menus and the cheeky reaction of the trainers after you’ve done something well.
When you start NewU Fitness First Yoga and Pilates, you first create a profile. You’ll enter your name, sex, your “build” (skinny, average, or overweight), and you’ll also select your experience level with yoga and Pilates (a complete beginner, someone who’s taken a few classes, or an expert). You then enter your date of birth, height, handedness, and then choose from one of 10 goals (ranging from weight loss to relieving back pain to improving posture to de-stress; women will also see an option for post-natal exercise).
You then choose one of three “teachers” (all female) each with different personalities and styles who will take you through all the exercises. They tried to make the teacher selection as realistic as possible–you can even read each teacher’s bio and hear a taped introduction from each of them. Finally, you choose a location (relaxing nature vistas ranging from a mountain valley to a beachfront), and then have the Wii balance board calculate your weight. By the way, the balance board is not required for this game, but it definitely does augment most of the exercises.
You then see a series of menus:
Toning – This is where you can do your daily classes, each of which is basically a string of yoga or Pilates exercises put together one after the other for about 30 minutes. You can have the system select a class for you, if you’re in a hurry you can choose a “quick class”, or if there are certain exercises you like you can create a custom class.
From here, you can also practice exercises, perform Pilates Core Skills (Water Tilt, Zip Up, and Drawing In), or try some Challenges which really do test your endurance (e.g. Pilates 100, Side Plank, Crescent Moon Standing, Tree Pose, or Perfect Warrior III). Here’s a video of the Pilates 100, Crescent Moon Standing, and Perfect Warrior (note in the Perfect Warrior the moment I fall flat on my face).
Meditation – This is a very interesting part of the program where you can try different meditation techniques, such as Healing, Let Go, Third Eye, Energizing, and Calming. After a particularly stressful week, I did try the “Let Go” exercises and I have to say it helped. The instructor will calmly say instructions to you, calm images will appear on the screen, and peaceful music will play. You can choose Meditation any time from this menu, or you’ll be given the option to meditate after a workout.
As for the workouts themselves, they are typical yoga and Pilates moves (weighted more on the yoga side), such as airplane, dancer’s pose, dog tilt, crescent moon standing, and sun salutation (I counted 30 moves total under the “Advanced” setting; other settings will have fewer). As you perform each, you’ll see a video image of your instructor in front of the vista you selected (the teacher was basically filmed in front of a blue screen and is superimposed over a picture of your environment).
I do like the fact that they used video, because you can see exactly what the instructor is doing. In addition, before each exercise, you can select “show me first” where the teacher will literally talk you through a step-by-step tutorial. You can also view an ‘About this Exercise’ blurb which explains the goal of the exercise.
I’m a total novice when it comes to yoga, so I chose the beginner’s path. The exercises were just right for my level, not too complex, not too strenuous. At the more advanced levels, the instructor goes much faster, and there’s a presumption that you know the moves already (she’ll yell out instructions like “step back into a downward dog” or “lower chest down into a baby cobra”).
I asked my girlfriend, who has taken both yoga and Pilates classes, to go through a class at the “advanced” level and let me know her opinion. She did, and afterwards told me she did get a pretty good workout, comparable to a class. She said the moves were indeed accurate and that exercises like the “Sun Salutation” sequence were challenging in a very good way.
On the negative side, she said the instructors at times seemed a little “robotic” and dry in their explanations–they’ll shout out literal instructions, whereas the best “real” instructors would have put a little more personality and creativity into them. Also, some of the sequences were much too fast, and at times it was a bit awkward to have to look up at the screen while performing the move (this is where more descriptive vocal commands would have helped). Still, after a few rounds of practice, she got the moves down and was doing them naturally. And she did like details such as the instructors telling her how to breathe, as she did the relaxing music.
The controls are decent. The system makes good use of both the balance board (to check how much in balance your forearms or feet are as you perform certain exercises) and the Wii MotionPlus (to check how steady your hand is for certain exercises where you need to stretch your hands). An indicator in the upper left-hand corner will show how steady and centered you are. While most exercises are intuitive, there are some where no matter how “correctly” you think you’re doing the exercises, the system will tell you you’re not–and will not tell you what’s wrong. That, of course, is a frustration many of us have gotten used to with Wii games.
Overall, I’d say if you’re interested in “Western Style” fitness, your best bet is EA Sports Active 2, Biggest Loser Challenge or Zumba Fitness. However, if you’re interested in “Eastern Style” fitness, this one is clearly the best choice to date, although admittedly there wasn’t a very high bar set. While it’s no substitute for a real class, it’s a great way to get a decent yoga and Pilates workout in the privacy of your own home when you just don’t feel like going out.