(My review on the latest craze.)
As we pre-ordered it a month ago, Jen was able to pick up our Wii Fit today. (A side note to Google's News service: if you're going to feature an article about a sci-tech product every day for a week before its release, it's not news, it's advertising. Now stop it.) There was a mild annoyance at how Nintendo had previously touted a release date of the 19th, but it turned out that was only for the Nintendo Store in Manhattan.
First, let's look at the price. $90. Wow. It's a bit high, especially considering that the Wii cost $250 in the first place. But as games normally cost $40, you're really paying $50 for the Wii Balance Board, which is basically two scales (one for each foot) and the wireless hardware needed to connect to the Wii. My only concern is how well it will stand up to daily use, especially by someone on the larger side, such as myself. A plus note is that some future games plan to use the board, so there's extra value.
Let's look at the box. Like any gym or diet ad, it has nice healthy people who don't need to get in shape all over it. It's like Lane Bryant - the chicks who actually shop in the store don't look anything like the ones in the catalog. Understandable, but it's always nice to point out how the advertising machine works.
Let's fire it up. Aw, there's a cute little marshmallow version of the Balance Board talking to me. I enter my height and my age, and then it weighs me. Now it tells me that according to my BMI I am obese, and inflates my Mii (my Wii character) up like a balloon:
OK, I AM obese, I admit it. However, it told Joe the same thing, (although his BMI was about half of mine) which devastated him. The kid isn't skinny, and I'm all for being honest and facing reality, but in no way could he be characterized as obese. Adults can take such things with grains of salt, but it's harder for kids.
Let's take a moment to talk about BMI. According to the Body Mass Index tables, Russell Crowe and George Clooney are also obese. It doesn't take muscle into account at all, so a body builder would share the same BMI as Rerun from What's Happening. In short, it's a load of... Well, let's just let Penn & Teller explain. (WARNING: naughty language!)
OK, so before we get on to the actual games, let me bitch about one more thing. Look at the game case: it says "Check your BMI and Wii Fit age every day to Keep tabs on your health and work towards a more fit you." The first thing I noticed was that the "k" in "keep" was a capital letter. (Is that one of the secrets to the location of the Holy Grail?) The second thing is that even though it says BMI and not weight, the BMI is based solely on your weight (an adult's height isn't going to change,) so it's basically the same thing. It's not a good thing to check your weight every day. Your weight fluctuates with what you drink and eat and what you excrete, and it shouldn't vary much from day to day. Overweight people can get very obsessed with that number, and a slight rise, along with a little on-screen character chiding you for it, can send someone with a delicate disposition into fits. I would suggest checking once a week or once every two weeks to get an accurate idea of how you're progressing without becoming obsessive and depressed.
Onward. First, the program tests your balance, and gives you a "Wii Fit Age" based on you're result. While my real age is 35, my Wii Fit Age is 46 - 11 years out of balance. Other Wii games do that as well - Wii Sports gives you an "age," as does Big Brain Academy. The cool thing is that you can actually see on screen where your center of balance is, and adjust appropriately.
Pick a trainer. You can either choose the (literally) white guy, or white girl with ridiculous looking balloon-boobs. Being a male chauvinist pig, I pick the girl. Eh, cgi women don't do anything for me. (I never had a Laura Croft or Samus Aran fetish.) Let's switch to the guy. Better. I'm surprised you can't download additional trainers.
Let's start with Yoga. I can do the breathing exercise ok. Half moon? No problem. Cool - it shows my center of balance, so I can try to keep it in the center. Warrior pose? A little harder, but doable. Tree pose... wait. You want me to jam my heel against my testicles and balance one one leg? Uh uh. Let's go on to strength exercises. Most of these I can do, except the side planks. Aerobics? I can run in place (but if I just shook the controller up and down, you wouldn't know the difference) Hula Hoops are annoying. Basic Step is cute, kind of like "Dance Dance Revolution." The Balance games are nothing spectacular. The only one I really like is is Table Tilt, where you lean the different ways you want the platform to tilt, and try to get the marbles in the holes.
OK, this is all cute, but I have one big complaint. You're just given a bunch of exercises. There's no training program, per se, although the more exercises/games you do, the more become available. The game doesn't give you a schedule, or start you out with very easy things and have you work your way up, or give you tests before moving you on to a next level. This really disappoints me. Perhaps it was a legal decision - they didn't want anybody suing them because they had a heart attack or broke a toe doing what the Wii fit told them to. But I did feel that such a training program was implied.
To sum up. It's fun, costly, make your own sort of schedule, and don't let the BMI thing bother you, or become obsessed with checking your progress. Also, it's nice outside. Go for a walk.