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