Shawn Johnson Gymnastics for the Wii
Reviewed by Nutwiisystem on January 8, 2011 .
Summary: Not a workout game per se, but a surprisingly enjoyable and realistic simulation of competitive gymnastics.
The bulk of the market for Wii fitness games are female. Being male, it sometimes gets just a tad awkward for me to review some of these fitness games. Trying to emulate an 11 year old girl dancing to Dance Sensation was an excrutiating experience where I had to make sure the room was clear and all the blinds were closed before I could start. I had a similar experience when I reviewed We Cheer 2 and had to pretend to be a blue-haired tween cheerleader. Oh, the things we do for our art. And no, I didn’t have a ton of fun perfecting the moves to Miley Cyrus’s “Girls Night Out”. No, really, I didn’t…ahem.
Moving on, I decided to review the new game Shawn Johnson Gymnastics for the Wii. There are actually a lot of similarities between this game and the two I mentioned above. All three are obviously designed for little girls, I’d say between ages 7 and 13. In all three games, the on-screen animated characters you control do “authentic” dance steps, cheerleading routines, and gymnastic moves respectively. But in all three of the games, the player is controlling the action just by following on-screen cues with their Wii remote and/or their balance board.The game starts out with a greeting from an animated Shawn Johnson. The animated character really doesn’t look too much like the real thing. She’s not quite real, not quite a cartoon, with a shiny face that looks a bit like a creepy talking egg (as you know, the real Shawn Johnson is a very lovely young lady, so some artist at Zoo Games really needs to be smacked). But it is her real voice welcoming you to the game, which puts a smile on your face and helps your maintain your suspension of disbelief.
The first step, as with most games like this, is to design your player. Your character has to be a girl, and you can choose basic things like hair style, hair color, and clothes.
There are a series of “tutorials” which teach you how to play the game. As in real gymnastics, you have several events to choose from. You can do practice the vault, a floor routine, the balance beam, the uneven bars, or compulsories, which are a combination of all of them.
Throughout the tutorial, Shawn will instruct you on actual terminology and strategies relating to gymnastics, like a real gymnastics coach.
But of course you don’t really do gymnastics moves. The way it works is, every specific “move” done by the on-screen gymnast’s is represented by a specific series of controller moves, whether it’s mashing a series of buttons, moving or flicking the Wii remote, moving the nunchuk joystick, or (if you’ve enabled the balance board) appling pressure using your feet to match on-screen cues. The faster you react to the cues, the better your score is. Miss a cue, and your on-screen character stumbles.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of the moves, you can proceed to the competitions. You compete against seven other virtual gymnasts, and the competition can get intense–just like in the Olympics or the World Championships, you need to keep an eye on your score and everyone else’s score, and both you and your competition will be stronger at some events and weaker in others.
Me rocking the compulsories
Like in real gymnastics, in compulsories your routine is defined for you, while for free exercises you can build your own routines by stringing together a series of moves. . As a real gymnast does, you can create routines of varying degrees of difficulty depending on your skill level and the score you need to win a competition. And as a real gymnast, you can “memorize” the sequences over time, which will help you improve your score.
You move through the competition by designing progressively more complex routines (in terms of both the on-line gymnast as well as your working of the controllers) and winning competitions. Each competition you will unlock other levels as well as rewards like new moves, trophies, new outfits, and photos and videos of Shawn Johnson.
Creating an uneven bars routine
As with Dance Sensation, I wouldn’t say this is a workout game by any stretch of the imagination, even though in some circles it’s being touted as one. As Dance Sensation was a “dance simulation”, I’d say that this is a “gymnastics simulator”. You really don’t get the physical workout you’d get with real gymnastics, but you do learn a lot about what it’s like being a gymnast. The realism of going through competitions and creating routines is phenomenal. You can see that Ms. Johnson really played a big part in creating the game.
Unfortunately, the developers at Zoo Games could have played their part a little better. As I said, the graphics are definitely average-to-subpar for a Wii game. The controller responsiveness was decent for the most part, except for certain moves where you had to move your Wii remote. At times I’d do it right, but the system would completely miss it, making my poor on-screen character fall on her face. The system tries to tell you hints like “if a move is not registering, don’t keep doing it, but try it a little differently” or “don’t make large moves, just make compact moves”, but other games seem to handle motion control without making the user compensate for it. There are also some user interface glitches with the menus and navigation that there’s really no excuse for in this day and age.
To sum up, while I wouldn’t recommend this as an exercise game, if there’s a young girl in your life who loves gymnastics, I would highly recommend it as a fun and engaging way for her to learn about gymnastics and experience what it’s like to be a gymnast, especially as we get closer to London 2012.
I also applaud Shawn Johnson for her business acumen, and I hope this game does well for her. After she achieved so much success in Beijing in 2008, I’m impressed by the way she has continued to be a real role model for young people at a time where there seem to be fewer and fewer of them. Instead of hearing stories about her in getting arrested for DUI or smoking bongs or whatnot, you see her winning Dancing with the Stars and doing a ton of charity work. Here’s wishing her luck for her comeback in 2012!