I don't know about you, but I was pretty optimistic about Wii Fit leading up to its release. I coughed up a pretty penny to welcome the Wii Balance Board into my household, from the software to a yoga mat to avoid getting dirty on my hardwood floors. And within a month, I realized that while yoga and strength training are nice, they can't sustain the software alone. In my opinion, Wii Fit's biggest weaknesses were the lack of tech savvy (really, you can't go back and re-enter those four hours you spent on a dance floor last Saturday?) and the unintuitive implementation of games. Wii Fit Plus seems designed to at least remedy the latter complaint, even if I know little about how Nintendo will fix the former.
During Nintendo's Tuesday morning press conference at E3, the world got a glimpse at the next evolution of Nintendo's landmark title. Since Wii Fit, there's been no lack of cash-ins on the fitness craze, as Ubisoft's marketing guru Tony Key pointed out during one of the myriad awkward moments of that publisher's press conference. EA's in on the action with EA Sports Active. Ubi has a new fitness title forthcoming. Majesco has fortified its swimming pool full of Cooking Mama cash with more dough from Jillian Michaels' Fitness Ultimatum. In short, everyone's trying to build a better mousetrap than Nintendo.
Nintendo seems to have replied by reinforcing its mousetrap with steely new accoutrements. I didn't get a glimpse at any of the newly promised yoga exercises, but I saw a litany of fun-looking balance games that should replace the clunky minigames of the first title. At least, I hope. If nothing else, they seem inspired by familiar video games, which is a good sign.
As I stood at Nintendo's booth, I watched numerous people, from Japanese businessmen to lithe game reviewers, leave their shoes next to the board as they flailed and flapped their way through one of Wii Fit Plus' quirky new exercises, which resemble some familiar games. For example, one minigame forces you to flap your arms like a seagull as you stand on the balls of your feet. As you stand on your toes and wave your arms, it's much easier to get a nice gliding trajectory. That's what you'll need as you hone in on a target out in the water. More than anything, this minigame echoes the likes of "Monkey Target" from the Super Monkey Ball series.
It also appears that the jogging minigame is getting an update. Running is out, and bicycling is in. Your remote is no longer a pedometer; instead, Nintendo is incorporating both the balance board and remote into an exercise in pedaling and steering. There’s also an awesome obstacle course that’s completely inspired by the shifting platforms and moving hazards seen in games like Super Mario Galaxy.
Perhaps my favorite of Wii Fit Plus’ minigames was "Perfect 10." In this minigame, the camera takes a birds-eye view as your Mii is surrounded by numbered orbs. You must sway your hips to hit enough orbs to add up to 10. It’s a lot more fun than the hula hoop exercises, which got a bit annoying after a few weeks of play.
Overall, I was impressed by the way that Wii Fit Plus incorporates more gamer-friendly elements into the fitness mix. My biggest issue with the first game was that it never felt like a cohesive package of fun exercises. Sure, the yoga and strength training were fine for what they were, but the balance games felt unintuitive and poorly implemented. These new minigames point to an approach that feels less like software and much more like games. Nintendo’s already won over non-gamers with its fitness titles, and hopefully Wii Fit Plus can hook loyal fans.