Wii Fit Review: An Identity Crisis

Following in the trailblazing footsteps of titles like Nintendogs and Brain Age, Wii Fit is another brainchild of Shigeru Miyamoto. The game was inspired by the practice of weighing oneself daily and, according to its creator, is more about self-awareness than it is about weight loss. The game that comes packed with a Balance Board peripheral doesn't worry about plot or graphics or even new concepts in play, instead it focuses intently on motivating gamers to get on that board.

Wii Fit is in many ways the next step in Wii Sports, a title that boils gaming down to it's most rudimentary elements of interaction and fun. But can even Miyamoto make tracking your BMI and doing Yoga interesting?

Loved

Fun Balance Games: I enjoyed testing out Yoga and I know that both Strength Training and Aerobics are probably the best for building muscle or endurance, but it's those Balance Games that were the biggest hit in my family. Who knew standing could be so much fun?

Excellent Balance Board Peripheral: For something that is essentially four sensors, the Balance Board can do an awful lot and it's ability to test movement is amazingly precise. The peripheral performed well in Wii Fit, but what really excites me is the potential of using it in games like Shaun White and Skate It.

Great Motivator: Before Wii Fit my parents had no interest in the Wii, now they're one of those countless prospects cruising the local Best Buy and Target daily in hopes of landing a Wii. My wife, an avid non-gamer, is even intrigued and my son and I actually take turns to see who can make it the furthest down the river in Balance Bubble. If nothing else, Wii Fit is an amazing motivator and a fun way to track your progress when doing other exercises. It sure beats weighing yourself on a bathroom scale.

Hated

Idiotic Unlocking Method:I have come to terms with the fact that games, almost all 40 or so of the games it seems, force you to do stuff to actually get to the whole game. Unlocking content through gameplay isn't that big a deal to me, usually. But when you release a collection of mini-games and then make most of them unlockable by measuring the time spent playing, well that's bad design. What makes it worse is that many of the games in Wii Fit take less than three minutes to play, some less than two and a few less than a minute. The games can be fun, but I just don't want to play Hula Hoop THAT many times.

No Online Support: I really dig how you can compare your progress in a non-demeaning way (aka no weight shown) with your family and friends who also play Wii Fit. But why limit it to just those who play on your machine. It would have made a lot of sense to let me, for instance, use those abysmal friend codes to share my scores with my mom and step-dad who just bought the game, but live two states away. Heck, I'd even settle for using the Wii's messaging system.

Lack of Modes: Why can't my son hop onto the Wii Fit board and play a Balance Game right after I do? Sure he can try to use my profile, but it seems that the Balance Board compensates for weight, making it nearly impossible for him to get a reaction. Instead he has to back all the way out of the game and choose his own profile. It seems that the developers should have included a multiplayer mode. The same is true for those who want to use Wii Fit for actual health reasons. While the game suggests workout combinations that include different mini-games, you cant pre-select them and then run through them back to back, like a real workout. Instead you're forced to go through the tedium of moving around in a menu to select the games.

Last week I had a chance to sit down and talk with Nintendo's Cammie Dunaway about Wii Fit. I was convinced it was a game that was doomed to a week of play and then lots of dust. While Dunaway disagreed, I've come to realize that it probably doesn't matter. Wii Fit may be a game enjoyed or one tested and put away, but more importantly, it's a way for Nintendo to sneak a Balance Board into millions of homes. Already several developers have new games in the works for it, and I suspect that may have been the plan all along.

While the Wii Fit kit is intriguing, the software suffers from a pretty big identity crisis: Does it want to be a game or does it want to be something used to improve a person's health? This indecision on the developer's part led to a game that is more interesting than it is fulfilling. I want to like Wii Fit. I want to use it everyday to help obtain physical balance and keep an eye on my weight, but the frustrations of play, the tedium of menus prevents me. I'll still use it and enjoy it, but these slight design flaws have relegated the game to curiosity rather than crown jewel.

Wii Fit was developed by Nintendo Entertainment, Analysis and Development and published by Nintendo. Retails for $90. Available on Wii. Played single player for a week, daily for 30 minutes to an hour. Watched son, wife, mother and step-father all play it over a week.