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Review: Wii Fit Plus


6:00 PM on 10.19.2009
Review: Wii Fit Plus photo



Wii Fit Plus is a $20 upgrade to Wii Fit. It includes everything from the original title, plus new games and new "fitness"-related things that I only sort-of care about.

The game now tries to count how many calories you've burned by using the MET system (but like its attempts to tell me how obese you are via the BMI scale, I have my doubts about the validity of these guesses). It also allows you to set up your own routines based on your goals, and it lets you make a Mii of your babies, cats, or dogs and chart their weight progressions. There are also a few new ways to test your "Wii Fit" age, three new yoga exercises, three new strength training exercises, some charts indicating the average calorie content of a bunch of different foods, and a few other non-game elements I may be forgetting. 

Whew! Enough of that, back to the videogame talk. Yes, people, as much it may pain some of you to know, Wii Fit Plus really is a videogame, or at least, it's a series of videogames collected in one package. Semantics aside, Wii Fit Plus is definitely more game-focused than the first one. For starters, it gives all its games (even the ones found in the original) non-simultaneous multiplayer, which goes a long way to give the game that "Wii party" accessibility so many people seem to like. More importantly, Wii Fit Plus includes 15 all-new games (all shown here in video form). Three of these games are "sequels" to some found in the original Wii Fit, one is based off a game from Wii Sports Resort, and the rest are brand new. 

I played these games for 30-45 minutes a day for the past two weeks. Hit the jump to see what I thought of them (and if I lost any weight).

Wii Fit Plus (Wii)
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Released: October 4, 2009
MSRP: $19.99 (disc only) / $99.99 (with balance board)

Wii Fit Plus is a fairly mixed bag of games -- some are much bigger, and some are much smaller, than others. Some seem totally fresh, others come off like refined versions of those found in the original Wii Fit, and some seem like they were intended to be a part of Wii Sports Resort, but for some reason were cut. Actually, a lot of the games here take place on Wuhu Island, the home of all the events of Wii Sports Resort. It's probably the weirdest mix of games in any of the "Wii" collections.

Let's start with one of my favorites.

Bird's-Eye Bulls-Eye

Unlike what you may have read, this game doesn't involve the Wii Remote at all; all inputs are through the balance board. In the game, you command a Mii wearing a remarkable flying chicken suit. You're tasked with flying around the southern coast of Wuhu Island and hitting targets along the way while taking care not to fall in the water. Flap your arms to fly, lean in the direction you want to fly towards, and hit the (sometimes moving) targets; that's it. 

This is the probably the most interesting application of the balance board that I've experienced yet. The game totally immerses the player (sorry, Megastryke) in the act of becoming a real-life chicken man. It's also got that "easy to learn, tough to master" thing going for it. Finally, you burn a lot of calories with this, so if you are looking to lose some weight, this is one of the best games here.

Island Cycling

This is how cycling should have been done in Wii Sports Resort. It's pretty much perfect. You pedal by stepping up and down, either by lifting your feet fully off the balance board, or just your heels, in an alternating pattern. To steer, you hold the Wii Remote Mario Kart Wii-style. It feels quite natural, and it'll only be seconds before you forget you're playing a game and feel like you're really cycling. 

The only problem is, there isn't that much to do. The game measures the distance that you cycle as you cruise around downtown Wuhu Island, hitting flags placed throughout the area until you've touched them all, and are asked to head back to the finish line. You'll get better rewards for making the trip while covering as little distance as possible. I wish the race mode from Wii Sports Resort cycling was in here too, as cycling here just feels a lot more fun, and I want more of an excuse to do it.

Perfect 10

This is my least favorite game in Wii Fit Plus, and one of my least favorite games, period. The goal of the game is to hit numbered mushrooms with your hips, which lights them up. Light up mushrooms that add up to ten, and you're off to the next set. The next difficulty up requires that you hit numbered mushrooms up to 15, and so forth. 

I think maybe I'm too fat for this game. I had the same problem with hula-hooping in the original Wii Fit. It just doesn't register my (sexy) hip moves very well. My lighter friends didn't seem to have the same problem, so maybe if I was lighter, things would be fine. Either way, I hate this game. It involves math and bad motion controls, two of my least favorite things. There is really no way for it to win me over.

Segway Circuit

This is the first Wii Fit Plus game I ever played (back at E3 09), and I'll forever associate it with non-exercise exercise gaming. Thanks to Arrested Development's GOB, I can't break the connection between the segway and ridiculous, trophy-minded, lazy magicians. Despite that prejudice, I really love Segway Circuit. As a form of exercise, it actually doesn't fail. I can't play it for more than ten minutes without needing a rest.

More importantly, Segway Circuit is fun. This is one of the more "game-y" games in Wii Fit Plus, and it's easy to see how Nintendo could take the three levels presented here and turn Segway Circuit into a full-fledged game on its own (hopefully with chainsaws and explosions). 

All you do in the game is roll around on your segway (Wiimote handlebar controls to steer, balance board lean to accelerate or back up), going over jumps and popping beach balls within a time limit. What makes it game-y are the power-ups and enemies. Moles dig up from underground to steal your balls, which is jerky, and if you hit them, it'll take five seconds off your time (also jerky). Each level ends with a chase against a "boss mole," holding the course's last beach ball, with boss music and everything (yay videogames!). Power-ups come in the form of your own pets, which, once registered into Wii Fit Plus, can be found hanging around the circuit. Once you make contact with them, they'll run alongside you and look happy. If you hit A, they'll run out in front of you to grab a beach ball or kick some mole ass.

There is something almost embarrassingly fun about seeing a Mii of your cat kick ass on command. My cat won't do anything in real life on command, let alone kick mole ass. It's just a small part of what makes Segway Circuit more fun that it really deserves to be.

Tilt City

This one is also more fun than it looks, which isn't saying a lot because it doesn't look fun at all. It's a little too simple; you lean from left to right on the balance board and tilt the Wii Remote left and right to get colored balls to fall into correspondingly colored pipes, and you're done. 

Sounds dull, right? Well, it can be when things are going slow, but when the screen gets filled with balls, I get excited (pro homo). When you're dealing with four or five balls at a time, you'll be challenged to tell your feet to lean one way and your hands to tilt the other way, which actually feels fresh and can be a lot of fun; kind of like playing the drums, but without the need to keep rhythm.

Which brings me to the next game...

Rhythm Parade

This one feels a bit like a reject from Wii Music, but that doesn't mean that it completely sucks. Like with Tilt City, needing to use your hands and feet in conjunction is fun, but it does get a little old to basically just march in place and occasionally do some hand motions. Forget about playing this one at parties. Nothing is worse than watching your friends virtua-march as a parade of cheerful Miis walk around Wuhu Island Square.

In case you hadn't guessed, Rhythm Parade puts you in the role of band leader, marching around the town. You have to keep a constant, pre-set rhythm with your feet, while doing increasingly more complex rhythms with your hands. Picture playing the snare drum in a school marching band, and you'll get the picture.

I figure that kids will dig this one more than adults -- particularly, kids who love band camp.

Big Top Juggling

This one also looks sort of lame, but it wasn't long before I started to really love it. Where Tilt City and Rhythm Parade involve using your hands and feet to do the same things (tilting/leaning and keeping time, respectively), Big Top Juggling tasks you to do one thing with your feet (lean back and forth on a ball) and one thing with your arms (fake juggle). The results are surprisingly compelling.

I mean, before this, I thought I knew what kind of videogames I liked, and juggling clown simulators weren't on the list. Now they definitely are, at least until someone makes a crappier one than this. Why is this game fun? It's really hard to put into words, but I'd go out on a limb and say that the mix of constant danger, feeling of mastery that comes from a ball well juggled, and need for total concentration are all big parts of it. 

It gets even more fun when your in-game friends start tossing bombs at you. Fans of high-pressure, multi-tasking games (like shmups) need to try Big Top Juggling before they write it off.

Rhythm Kung-Fu

Conversely, we have Rhythm Kung-Fu, which features no pressure or multi-tasking whatsoever. It's basically a game of Simon Says using your whole body. Kick, punch, chop, and block; that's all you do. Well, maybe not chop, but you do have to do a kamehameha wave-type deal every once and a while, which I guess is sort-of cool. 

Like the name implies, you have to do all these motions with a certain timing, but it's incredibly easy. The weak difficulty and relatively slow pace are the main problems with Rhythm Kung-Fu. As fun as it is to punch and kick, doing so with this little challenge just isn't for me. This one joins Rhythm Parade in Wii Fit Plus's kid's section.

Balance Bubble Plus and Table Tilt Plus

I'm combining these two because they basically accomplish the same thing. Balance Bubble and Table Tilt are two of the best games from the original Wii Fit, and these "plus" versions play like super-difficult bonus levels of said games. 

In Balance Bubble Plus, you have to guide your Mii-in-a-bubble down a river past bees and rotating planks, and this time, into a dark, Zelda-esque temple. Touch anything along the way and you pop. It's an extremely tense, exciting game, in a one-hit-kill sort of way, that you either love or hate. Table Tilt Plus is a little less nerve-racking, but it's still very tough. The game is basically a smaller scale version of Kororinpa, but with multiple marbles at one time. It has almost as many gimmicks and tricks, and due to the improved controls, it's a little more fun than Kororinpa.

I really like both of these games and have spent at least two hours on each over the past two weeks, despite the fact that there is is only one difficulty level (most games in Wii Fit Plus have 2 or 3). Like Wii Play's Tanks, I would gladly pay ten to fifteen dollars for full WiiWare versions of each of these games.

Snowball Fight

Snowball Fight is okay, but it's a bit shallow compared to some of the other games in Wii Fit Plus. You lean left and right to pop your head out from the cover of your tarp-thing, and use the Wii Remote's pointer to aim snowballs, with A to throw them. 

It's actually kind of exciting to tuck your whole body to dodge snowballs, have your view obscured by your cover, and then physically stick your head out and start gunning down your foes with endless supplies of snowballs. Another nice touch is when you get hit by a snowball. Your vision is temporarily blurred by the snow on the "camera." Sadly, it doesn't stay that exciting for long. Things change up a bit when your enemies come out in snowman armor, which requires extra hits to take down, but that's about it for variety. If there was some actual character movement of bosses or something, then Snowball Fight could have been a top-class entry. As it stands, it's more of an example of untapped potential than anything else.

Obstacle Course

That reminds me, one of the biggest examples of untapped potential from the first Wii Fit was the Tight Rope game, the one that basically played like an extremely linear 3D platformer with added "balance fun." Wii Fit Plus's Obstacle Course looks to expand on that potential a bit, and it does a pretty good job of it. This time, you don't have to worry about losing your balance, but you still have to walk, run, and jump (all on the balance board) with skill and precision. 

This game is tough. It took me about ten minutes to get through the first level, and it only gets harder from there. Giant medicine balls, conveyor belts, rolling logs, moving platforms, and icy floors are just a few of the problems you'll have deal with on your way to the finish line.

I've always thought a full-3D platformer done with balance board (or now, Natal) controls could be awesome, and Wii Fit Plus's Obstacle Course game further supports that belief. I don't care if it's relatively simple like this game, or if it's complex like Mirror's Edge; someone really ought to take advantage of how fun it is to platform "for real." There is something uniquely exciting about running and jumping in real life, and seeing a character pull off the same moves in tandem on-screen, only with increased magnitude and flair.

Driving Range

Golf is another sport that was done in Wii Sports Resort, but is done much better here. This may be the most accurate golf experience on the Wii, even better than Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10. Using the balance board, the game can detect the things that golf pros tell me really matter in the sport -- namely, hip movement and proper shifting of weight.

This is the first Wii golf game you can't cheat in. You really have to stand up, get on the board, hold the Wii Remote like a golf club, and swing for real. Sitting on the couch and pretending to swing by just flicking your wrists isn't going to work anymore. The game detects your center of balance at all times, and you can replay any swing to see how you're doing with the whole weight shifting thing. The amount of body/game connection here is pretty astounding.

I hate sports, I hate golf, and I hate most Wii golf games, but I really liked Wii Fit Plus's driving range. I never would have guessed that perfecting my swing could be so addictive. Again, my only complaint is that there isn't more to do here. There are three clubs to play with, but no matter what, you're still at the same driving range. I'd have loved to take this control scheme to the actual golf... fields, or courses, or whatever they call the places where people play this thing.

Hey, I told you I don't like golf.

Basic Run Plus

Basic Run Plus is another game that's an extension from one found in the original Wii Fit, but unlike Balance Bubble Plus and Table Tilt Plus, this is really a correction of the original Basic Run. There are still problems, but the game is lot more effective now at its goal: to distract you while you exercise. 

Now, as you run, you'll pass by more interesting stuff: Wuhu Island landmarks, moles from Segway Circuit, cats, dogs, flags, Super Mario Bros. Goomba sprites -- that sort of thing. You have to keep an eye out for this stuff, because after your run is over, you're tested on what you saw. The run itself is also more interesting and "game-y" now. You aren't stuck in the world of reality; you now can run on the roofs of buildings, through caves, and so forth. 

Running is still done off the balance board, with the Wii Remote acting as sort of a primitive pedometer, which makes little sense to me. It won't matter to everyone, though. One fitness nut friend of mine skips the whole jogging thing entirely, and jump-ropes with the Wiimote in his pocket instead. I guess he burns a hell of a lot more calories that way, and he says he still feels like he's "playing" the game, even though he's basically just jumping rope. I guess that is proof that, like a lot of the actual exercise portions of Wii Fit Plus, Basic Run Plus is as good a workout as you choose to make it. 

Skateboard Arena

This may be my favorite game in Wii Fit Plus. It's got the most "depth" from a gameplay perspective, and it offers almost as much action and 3D exploration as my other favorites (Segway Circuit, Bird's Eye Bulls-Eye, and Obstacle Course). 

At first, the controls take a little getting used to. You need to really put some force into it as you kick off the ground to get your "board" moving. The game won't recognize it if you just gingerly step off the balance board with one foot and then step back on. You really need to kick in order to get things moving.

It may not sound like fun, but it really works to make you feel like you're the one who's skating. Your other moves -- jumps, grinds, tic-tac, and wheelies -- also require real effort on your part, and as such, you really feel that player/character connection that makes these games work.

The courses are also pretty well designed. After the first few tutorial stages, half-pipes, hurdles, and ramps pop up everywhere. As well as being one of the most fun games in Wii Fit Plus, this may also be one of the hardest. The game is played on a strict time limit, and you really need to get a good flow going to get the points you need before running out of time. 

Conclusion

Many of Wii Fit Plus's games are an honest-to-God evolution of full-body motion controls as we know them. There is a lot more exploration of 3D environments and simultaneous use of hands and feet this time around, and less "lean left and right and win!" game design. This makes the majority of the games here feel a lot more interesting and fulfilling to play than other blaance board games. Over the course of my two-week routine with Wii Fit Plus, I found a few games that I don't care to ever play again (Perfect 10, Tilt City), and others that I got seriously addicted to (Skateboard Arena, Obstacle Course, Bird's-Eye Bulls-Eye, Driving Range, Balance Bubble Plus, Big Top Juggling, and Segway Circuit).

I can't say that people that hated the original Wii Fit are going to like these new entries, but if you almost liked it, but felt the games there were a little too shallow, then some of the stuff here might make you happy. These games are almost as big a leap forward from the original Wii Fit as Wii Sports Resort was from Wii Sports, but not quite. We'd need Wii Sports Resort's "stamp" achievement system and sheer size to make that claim.

Still, this is the best balance board game I've bought since Wii Fit came out, which says a lot for how well Nintendo understands their own hardware, and how little third-party developers have really tried to utilize the thing. I truly hope that third-party devs play Wii Fit Plus and put the lessons here to work on future balance board and Natal games. Skiing, snowboarding, and soccer goalie need to take a break from the board for awhile.

Oh yeah, I did lose weight by playing these games for two weeks -- about 1.5 lbs, with no other exercise, no change in diet, and not much noticeable discomfort. Not a big deal, really, but people seem to care about this stuff, so there you go.

Score: 8.5 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)

Review: Wii Fit Plus photo
Review: Wii Fit Plus photo
Review: Wii Fit Plus photo
Review: Wii Fit Plus photo
Review: Wii Fit Plus photo
Review: Wii Fit Plus photo
Review: Wii Fit Plus photo





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