Video games reflect wider society’s desire for the perfect body. Having children only presses this issue home and means I’m pickier about the shape of our video-game protagonists.
However, I have been happily surprised then to see how Wii Fit U handles this. Rather than focusing on a "one size fits all" weight loss regime, it offers a flexible pick-and-mix approach that addresses fitness rather than shape.
The latest iteration not only extends the exercise routines to the Wii GamePad but also introduces the Wii Fit Meter to get you out and about as well. All this is wrapped up with the usual Nintendo attention to detail that makes my family as keen to use it as our more traditional games.
I've been keenly following our series of Wii Fit U diary videos looking at a real world experience of Wii Fit U. Seeing how a normal person gets on with the program (rather than the already perfectly-toned individuals usually seen using it) has highlighted that you need to adjust your approach to Wii Fit U to get the most out of it.
Unlike other fitness games, it’s really not designed to be played through in order. There are a variety of ways for you to group an appropriate set of activities for your goals. While this does involve a little more effort (both mental and physical) it offers something that lets each person in the family use it in their own way to suit their own body.
Linking this to our family Miis (which the children still spend hours tweaking) to create a separate profile on Wii Fit U further underlined the personalised approach the game takes. I thought this may make the family a bit too competitive — seeing how they were improving compared to each other — but the way Wii Fit U keeps these separate seems to avoid too many comparisons and lets us each get on with working towards better health in our own different ways.
Rounding this off are some nice little touches that make a big difference. Firstly, the game now highlights the muscles you are using as you do each exercise — not only a nice incentive, but it also makes sense of where you feel the “burn”. Also, being able to use the camera on the Wii U GamePad to see myself exercise in a mirror mode meant that I could see how accurately I was performing each activity.
Finally, the Wii Fit Meter got the kids keen to go out and about to increase both their number of steps and the number of feet they had climbed. What with this and the various 3DS consoles used for StreetPassing, we had quite a haul of kit with us on walks (which I’m sure added some calorie-burning benefit).
If you've not used Wii Fit before, then Wii Fit U is well worth a look – particularly in a family of (inevitably) varying shapes and sizes. If you have used the older version you can import your progress and take advantage of the new routines.
As our Wii Fit U challenge draws to an end (catch the full series playlist here) it makes me wonder if us gamers really deserve the sedentary reputation we have. Beyond the novelty of motion gaming, titles like Wii Fit U are imaginatively encouraging everyone (not just gamers) towards a better understanding of their bodies and exercise habits.