Friday, June 17, 2016

Wii Fit U Part 1 - The Game Itself

Wii Fit U does a lot of things right.  After each workout, it gives you a score based on how well you did during the workout.  Any gamer who sees a score is naturally going to want to make that score higher.  Video game numbers are better when they're bigger, after all.  This basically tricks the player into getting fit as they try to beat their high scores.

At its core, Wii Fit U is a set of exercises, categorized into Yoga, Strength Training, Aerobics, Dance, and Balance Games.  It gives you a variety of ways to meander about its set of exercises.  The simplest one simply just has you select an exercise, and then when you're done, it suggests two more and you pick one.  This is probably the easiest way to get acquainted with the exercises themselves, as you always have the option to go back out to the menu and manually choose another exercise even if it isn't one of the ones being suggested.  It's also the way to unlock longer, more challenging versions of the exercises.

If you'd rather have the game decide for you, there are two options.  One of them categorizes the exercises into various aspects of your life or physical wellness you might want to improve.  I honestly haven't tried this option.  The next is the Personal Trainer.  Here, you select either the amount of calories you want to burn, or an amount of time you want to work out for, and it picks the exercises to fit the goal you set.

Finally, once you become acquainted with the exercises available in the game, you can go into My Routines and set up a maximum of three exercise routines, by simply picking exercises from the list and moving them around until they're in your desired order.  Doing one of your routines is really simple, you just select one and hit the nice big button that says Start.

My only gripe about My Routines is that you can't unlock the more longer and more challenging versions of exercises while you're doing one of your routines.  The game still tracks your high scores, but My Routines goes for as little "press A to begin" and as few dialog box confirmations as possible, so you don't actually get presented with your high scores and any dialogs it does show will auto-advance.  I guess I'll just have to go back out and select exercises individually to unlock those longer and more challenging versions, and--hey waitaminute, this is another way the game tricks you into getting fit, because you'll end up wanting to unlock something, so you go and select that exercise to unlock whatever you can, and you get more exercise in the process.  I see what you did there, Nintendo...

When you start up the game, though, one of the first thing the game wants you to do is the Body Test.  This is basically a check-in sort of thing where it assesses your progress so far.  My only gripe with it is that it makes me too aware of my current weight.  I'd much rather just play the game and only check my weight every couple of weeks.  At the same time, it's nice to be able to see the gains and losses so you can try to equate them to things you either did or didn't do.  If only it would present its graphs with unlabelled axes.

The game has a calendar, and every day you do the Body Test, you get to put a stamp on the calendar.  After a while, the game unlocks additional stamps for you to use, which is neat from a graphical variety point of view, as well as from a "keep the player coming back" point of view.

In addition to the Balance Board, the game also uses a Fit Meter that clips onto the waist of your pants or whatever waist-level garment you happen to be wearing.  It tracks various things like steps taken, altitude change, and calories burned, and every time you play the game it'll have you transfer the data over so you can update all your graphs and whatnot.  There are two minigames relating to the Fit Meter, the Walking Challenge and the Altitude Challenge, where your number of steps and whatnot count towards walking around or up various cities or landmarks.  I don't know what metric they're using to convert the number of steps into distance covered, but they're neat regardless.  The Fit Meter's purpose is obviously to encourage you to be active outside of when you're playing the game, and every aspect of its design makes it suitable for that.  I often forget I'm wearing it.

An annoyance for me, since I do my workouts at 1 or 2 in the morning, is that the game really wants me to change one of its settings.  It has a setting that controls when it ticks over to a new day, and you can choose between midnight and 3 AM.  Well, considering that I'm often still doing my workout at 3 AM, and that logically speaking, the date changes at midnight and no other time, I'm leaving it at midnight, but the game just. won't. shut. up. about. it.

I don't necessarily advise you to use the Personal Trainer right away, especially if you're not very physically fit.  Some of the Yoga and Strength Training exercises are marked as "For Advanced Users Only", and require a lot of flexibility and body control that you're just not going to have if you aren't already physically fit.  Trust me, I had one ill-fated Personal Trainer run that had about six or seven of these, it wasn't very fun and I didn't really get a lot out of it.

If you're new to all this, or you're like me and buying the requisite console as well as the Wii Fit U box that comes with the game, Balance Board, and Fit Meter, you'll need two Wiimotes.  A fair number of the exercises will have you hold at least one Wiimote so it can use motion tracking or button presses or whatever.  Some exercises can also use the Nunchuck if you happen to have one, but anywhere a Nunchuck can be used, you can also use a second Wiimote.  I find a second Wiimote to be the better choice, given that not all exercises use the Nunchuck.  If you're going the Nunchuck route, you'll have to plug it in and unplug it as necessary, which I can see being a hassle.

I'm not sure why you'd want to play the game multiplayer, but some exercises (mostly the balance games) have two-player versions available.  Also, it's not just a single-user game, you can let someone else play on a guest profile, or have them register another profile so they can track their stats.  They'll need to buy their own Fit Meter, though.

One thing the game alerts you to straight away when you run it the first time is the existence of the Wii Fit U Quick Check application.  It's a small download that enables you to transfer over your Fit Meter data or do a Body Test, but not enough time for a full workout.  I generally don't use it, but I've got it there in case I do ever need it.

Overall: Wii Fit U is an excellent way for someone like me who's overweight and into video games to get fit, and we'll see what happens.  In my next post, I will cover my personal experience with the game in greater detail, and go on a bit about the psychological aspect of losing weight.

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