Review: Wii Fit Plus (Wii)

A worthwhile upgrade or just Nintendo milking its new cash cow?

Wii Fit's runaway success seemed to take even Nintendo by surprise given the number of times Satoru Iwata has publicly stated he never thought he could sell millions of bathroom scales as a new kind of fitness product. It's probably not much of a surprise to see them testing whether not lightning can strike twice with a title that's basically a slight upgrade to the original rather than a full-blown sequel. It's replacing the original Wii Fit program as the Balance Board pack-in title, so if you haven't purchased Wii Fit already this is the one to get, but if you already have Wii Fit is this upgrade worth your time?

The original Wii Fit was groundbreaking both by the degree of its success and the inclusion of a peripheral that can measure your weight and balance. Purchased as a separate piece of software, Wii Fit Plus completely replaces your original Wii Fit disc as it includes all of the activities from the previous game and automatically converts your original Wii Fit save data into Wii Fit Plus data. Visually it's not much different, though there is a decent amount of new content in the form of games that have more of a fitness angle than those found in the original as well as a handful of new yoga and muscle-training exercises.

Those with Wii Fit save data will be provided a quick intro by the anthropomorphic Balance Board showing what's new in this edition and then highlight other new bits on the way. The first thing you'll notice are a couple of new icons in the "lobby" area for registering pets and children under 3 (apparently the two are equivalent) and a multiplayer icon for playing the balance games with more than one person, rather than simply giving someone else a go using your profile. These new icons also feature in the new Wii Fit Plus Channel which replaces the old one and is one block larger (121).

Cosmetically the game is much the same, but the entire experience is a bit more streamlined. If you just want a quick weigh-in or to play with the balance test mini-games on their own you can do so without going into the main game menu. If you click "START" you'll still be asked if you want to hear fitness tips, but if not, simply click once and go straight to the main menu without having to click through another screen of text first. The character models for the trainers have been changed a bit and both are now wearing green outfits instead of blue (they change to yellow when the activity is part of a custom routine). The manual makes reference to Wii Fit Plus events taking place on Wuhu Island (in a nod to the setting of Wii Sports Resort) and includes a handy map, though it makes little difference where you virtually jog.

You'll now find six options in the Training menu: Training Plus, Yoga, Muscle Training, Aerobics, Games and My Wii Fit. Training Plus features a decent mix of games with a fitness component and ones that are just for fun. The only purpose of having this separate category seems to be drawing attention to these new activities, but they really should have been placed in the existing Aerobic and Games categories instead; certainly newcomers to Wii Fit Plus won't see any sense in this arrangement. There are also two new graphs in the personal data recording area, Waist and Steps, so you can track your waist measurements and number of steps you're taking (though there's no direct reference, this is presumably a tie-in with Nintendo's DS walking program).

By far the biggest change is the new My Wii Fit menu. This is where you'll find the Favourites selection which now allows you to view lists of activities that have been most-played, most-recently and least-recently played; as well as a couple of options for training routines and viewing the calorie content of food items (data sourced from the Food Standards Agency in the UK). When playing through events individually you'll find not much has changed; you still need to calibrate the balance board before every event, though afterwards you will no longer be told about other activities that can be performed to complete a "workout." Instead you can try one of several set routines combining different activities which are accompanied by a total time and estimated number of kcals (calories) burned.

The major benefit is a more streamlined approach. You'll only have to calibrate the Balance Board once at the start of the routine and the only advisory screens seen will be those for one-legged activities, which will automatically dismiss themselves. Yoga poses that used to take 3 minutes, like Sunrise Salutation, have been shortened by reducing the number of breaths per pose, allowing for more activities to be performed in a routine of minimal length. The set routines aren't that easy to sift through due to putting them into arbitrary categories like "Lifestyle, "Youth" and "Form" that seems to be a step backwards, but overall this is a welcome improvement over the original Wii Fit release. Even better than the canned routines is the ability to create your own workout — a major omission from the first edition. Disappointingly, it's compromised by restricting your choice of selections to yoga and muscle training exercises; given the presence of aerobics and games in the pre-generated routines it's a complete mystery why Nintendo chose to limit user choice in this way. Nevertheless, being able to create a routine of varying length from 5-60 minutes makes doing your regular routine easier and you can always bookend it with some of Nintendo's canned routines for variety.

Whilst it's nice the issue of routines has been partially addressed, it's quite disappointing that Nintendo hasn't sorted one of the more public complaints about the original Wii Fit: limiting long-term goals to achieving an ideal BMI based upon height and weight rather than allowing players to set their own. Your short-term weight-loss goal can now be adjusted week-to-week, but it's not the same as having a weight-based long-term goal, which would also be a draw for people on programs like Weight Watchers. A more minor issue is that people in the UK are still limited to Imperial measurement for height/weight — more user choice is a good thing, Nintendo!

On the technical front, the left-right Balance Board sensitivity seems to have been adjusted a bit so you'll find some of the yoga poses a bit more forgiving than before. The new and old activities still have some technical issues though, with motion detection issues in the new skate park event and punching in the boxing aerobics being the biggest issues. Taken in the context of 65 activities on offer those problems are minor and fun new events that see you wearing a chicken suit to fly between different islands or the platforming obstacle course demonstrate the Balance Board technology at its best.

Conclusion

Whilst the failure to fully address issues from the original Wii Fit is a bit of a disappointment, Wii Fit Plus is still a good exercise program with a large array of fun activities that will appeal to a broad range of Wii owners. If you already own Wii Fit, it's definitely an upgrade worth getting.

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