With the success of Nintendo's Wii Fit release for their Wii console last year, it comes as no big surprise to see them release a fitness title on the DS system as well. Personal Trainer: Walking takes the simple task of walking and builds an entire DS title around it, allowing you to record and analyze every step you take each day, even tossing in a few fun minigames built around this very same principle. So does this unique fitness title offer enough value to warrant its $50 price tag, and can a DS title built completely around something as routine as walking end up being an enjoyable gaming experience?
Included in the Personal Trainer: Walking package is the DS game itself, two Activity Meters, and a clip for each to attach them to your belt or your pet's collar. That's right: even your pet can take part in the game. Each Activity Meter is carried somewhere on your person or pet and it will constantly measure any walking you do step-by-step. You then simply pull up the game on your DS system and when prompted, press the button on the Activity Meter in order to download your walking stats directly into the game wirelessly. Then the program gives you a wealth of options for you to crunch this data.
When you begin the game you're asked to create a profile. You can create multiple profiles, but you'll need an individual Activity Meter for each profile as once a meter is synched with a profile, it cannot be used with another profile until the old one is deleted. You'll then be asked some information such as your name and birthday and you can then either create a custom Mii using the game's simple interface or import a Mii from your Wii console wirelessly. You can even customize the new Mii with your own unique clothing and color styles. Once you've created your profile, you can then begin carrying around the Activity Meter and have it record your walking stats and begin making use of the game's two main modes, Check Your Rhythm and Records.
The Check Your Rhythm mode is where you'll spend most of your time as this is the portion of the game that allows you to download your walking stats from the Activity Meter, requiring nothing more than a simple push of a button. Once your data is transferred you'll get a running calculation of your daily activity rhythm, from the start of the day to the current time that you download stats from the meter. The clock will even show you minute-by-minute when you were active and when you were inactive; it even keeps a running tab of the number of steps you've taken in total up to that point.
Your main objective each day is to reach your Step Goal: you can set this at any number of steps you feel comfortable with and each time you download data, the game will show you how many steps you still need in order to reach your target for the day. You can even check the Activity Meter itself when you're out and about by looking at the color of the light blinking. A red light indicates that you haven't yet reached your Step Goal and a green light indicates you have hit your goal. At the end of the day you're asked to stamp the calendar with one of three types of stamps: Bad Day, Good Day, or Great Day. They each have their own smily face stamp to indicate what type of day you had. The game will even toss you a Mini Target every so often such as telling you to "enjoy your meals" or other small goals that really don't have anything to do with walking itself.
The Records mode is where you'll get to track larger scale statistics and put your walking data to use in playing some of the various minigames. It's basically broken down into four individual modes: View Records, Play with Records, Rankings, and WI-FI.
The View Records option is where you can really dive into the actual stats of your daily activity. You can view details such as periods of activity, inactivity, and individual step totals on a daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly basis. There's an almost endless amount of data to crunch in this mode and you can analyze your walking stats in just about every way imaginable using these various menu options.
When you select the Play with Records mode, you'll finally get to put all of your walking activity to good use in two of the package's unique minigames. Walk the World presents you with a mystery picture and you have to figure out what it is by walking around the world and drawing a picture with your footsteps. The catch is, your Mii will only take as many steps in the game as you've taken in real life. This provides good incentive to continue walking each day in order to acquire more of the picture to identify it, and with over 100 pictures to solve you'll have to walk the equivalent of a trip around the world in order to identify them all. There's also the Illuminate game that allows you and everyone else who has a profile on your game to use their total number of steps to hop on an electricity-generating treadmill in order to light up a room in the house. The more steps you've all taken, the more electricity will be generated. You'll even be further rewarded for walking together as this will generate even more electricity when the steps registered in the game's data are taken in unison. This is obviously to encourage you and your family and friends to take walks together.
The Rankings mode is fairly self-explanatory and basically allows you to keep an ongoing ranking of stats such as: Days Stamped, Step Targets Reached, Most Active Walkers, Most Steps in a Day, and even Total Steps Taken. You can even use the Wi-Fi to see how you stack up against other players from around the world. You can also take part in a game against online players called Space Walk, where everyone around the world has their steps tallied up in order to take that many steps through space. Needless to say, it can be a very staggering number of steps when you're talking about every player from all across the world.
The musical and visual elements of the game don't play a major role in this program, but being able to see and make use of your Mii is a nice touch and adds some flair to the visual parts of the game. Even the music that plays throughout various parts of the game is adequately done, making the overall presentation appealing to those who take part in it. In all honesty, there's only so much you can do visually with a bunch of charts and graphs, but at least the minigames do offer some eye candy for those who feel the need for it.
Everything about Personal Trainer: Walking is simple and easy to use. From downloading the data into the DS game to using the various modes of the game to analyze and toy around with the information. What makes the game so much fun is that it offers tons of incentive to keep using the Activity Meters with its fun mini games and silly statistical musings. Sure, there's not a lot of flashy visual effects or an overly deep gaming experience, but that's not what this package is all about. It's about getting yourself into a more active walking routine and having fun doing it and for that, this game's control setup and menu system are efficient and enjoyable. About the only complaint is that the gaming portion of the package feels a bit shallow given that there are only a handful of mini games to play, and those that are present are a bit lacking in the depth department; it might have been nice to have a few less statistical options and a few more games to play.
Personal Trainer: Walking is yet another fitness game that does exactly what it sets out to do. It gives players an incentive to lead a healthier lifestyle by allowing them to set walking goals each day and offering up fun ways to keep the entire process interesting. The games aren't terribly deep and it certainly would have been nice to have more of them, but they do offer up just enough of a fun factor to make you want to keep carrying around your Activity Meter in order to reach your daily goals. This is certainly not a title for everyone, but if you're a fan of the recent barrage of fitness titles showing up on various game systems lately, you'll likely get a kick out of the simple, yet uniquely enjoyable features this DS title has to offer.