Losing weight and getting active isn't always an easy task. The motivation, patience and willpower it takes to make a healthy lifestyle change is one that many find daunting, and so there is an entire industry built around making the idea more palatable. Using games consoles to try and get you up off the couch may seem like an unworkable contradiction, but there have been enough success stories in the past to keep a flow of software coming. Fit Music for Wii U — just Fit Music in North America — will certainly get you up and moving, though it's far more likely to send most towards the power off button.
Taking a surprisingly serious approach, O2 games has consulted with health and fitness professionals to help bolster the standard template of modern fitness software; the title combines exercise with some side-activities, but there’s more of a focus on realistic training. This includes the use of ''European fitness champion'' Patsy Salviato as our voiceless personal trainer, who never directly interacts with the player but will demonstrate each dance or exercise and pose all over the menus. It’s the first disconnect of many, as she wears a variety of off-putting bodysuits that even early 2000’s Britney Spears would have turned her nose up at. It feels unnatural and uncomfortable, especially when she’s posed in front of some pretty shoddy green-screen backgrounds for the entirety of the game. What's surprising is that she was deliberately chosen to help players build a relationship with their 'real' trainer. To do this, it might have been nice to include some of her own advice or make things seem a bit more lively and personable, but instead it’s unfortunately more like an eerie android is watching.
The super-slim elephant in the room here is certainly Nintendo’s own Wii Fit U, and the two don’t compare favourably when it comes to pure entertainment. Fit Music has focused on professional training regimes and a more no-nonsense approach, but a severe lack of polish means that while it does offer a variety of exercises there just isn’t a satisfying experience here, overall, that will keep you coming back as regularly as they’d like you to. Menus can be jammed by hammering the button repeatedly, the music loops are shockingly noticeable and the whole thing comes off as inconsistent, even cold.
On start-up, you’re asked to provide a variety of stats which will help to create a fitness profile to match your Body Mass Index and lifestyle. This is a great idea in theory, and it does alter the intensity of the exercises, but with little explanation at how this works or what the different sliders specifically mean, it feels unfinished. After being initially classed as ‘extremely obese’ — this writer most certainly is not — we tested some different weights and sizes only to be given the exact same result every single time, no matter where the sliders seemed to be placed at any extreme of the scale. It’s an awkward introduction to an interface that doesn’t get any less muddled or non-intuitive. There’s a real need for some kind of beginner’s walkthrough so starters can learn the benefit and structure of their workout, but whatever simplistic information there is must be dug out from a menu each time.
Gameplay is broken up into four distinct sections, though some of which are much more substantial than others. Warmup exercises usually involve little more than a simple stretch and steady breathing, while Training mode matches your skill-level and sets a workout for you to get through. These are the most straightforward, with our third option being a fairly useless Calorie Counter mini-game, of sorts. The GamePad displays two different types of food and you must guess which has the higher amount of calories. Instead of teaching the player how to improve their diet and explaining why one food is worse than the other, Fit Dance simply wants you to know that broccoli is better than cake.
But clearly with the inclusion of our fourth and final game mode, Fit Dance, the focus is on the music, something completely absent in Wii Fit U and a potential selling point for the title. If a balance had been found between the fun accessibility of the Just Dance series with some structured progression in aerobic exercise, it could work great. However, cracks show as soon as you take a look at a sample from the song list.
- Inspiration (Special Version) by The Creatures
- Do You Care About Me by Orlando Johnson
- Two Can Make It Better by Orlando Johnson
- Wally by Deep N Chic
- Zimmer rmx by Ike Terry
- Lunch Box (Tokio Trade Mix) by API aka EMIX & D.Lewis
There are 15 in total, of which only 5 are immediately accessible and none are recognisable. These aren’t the high-energy pop songs you’d find in a gym or a dance game, so they fit in with neither. Their quality is subjective of course, but it should be noted that there’s little to no instant appeal here to attract players. Each of them are also rated by difficulty which causes another problem in the form of replayability. Once you’ve moved on to some 3-star routines, there’s very little reason to go back to the simple head-bobbing of earlier dances. This essentially eliminates the first few songs due to a lack of difficulty, cutting down on an already meagre selection.
Your fitness level is improved by how well you perform in each dance or training exercise, so it’s a pity that the controls are so unreliable. The motions are repetitive by nature and some can even hilariously involve standing totally still, but the scoring is inconsistent regardless. With some routines bringing you down onto the floor or tucking the wiimote into your waist, it feels frustrating to have the movement ignored by iffy pickup. Some dances can even be completed with a respectable score by doing nothing at all, defeating the whole purpose of getting results by putting the effort in. The GamePad is a non-entity here as well, relegated to the usual menu-navigation (leaving a gigantic picture on the TV of a pouting Patsy Salviato staring into your living room for all to see) and showing a timer counting down how long there is left to the song.
Like other titles, there's the option to play alongside up to four friends and compare results, which is probably the most fun you're likely to get out of the experience. O2 games made the decision to focus on making its title a real training program, and this direction is admirable in this regard. It's a shame that it falls down in almost every aspect that makes it a game, but it could be used as a makeshift workout DVD or minor inspiration for the truly determined.
Fit Dance For Wii U really wants to be perceived as a serious piece of fitness software, but it's buried beneath a pile of technical and aesthetic issues that has it struggling to keep up with the competition. Games consoles have somewhat bridged the gap between fitness and fun before, but this really doesn't take advantage of the medium and ends up without a solid direction. The thought of returning to this game for your daily dose of exercise is enough to send us running to the hills, so it may help shed a few pounds after all.