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Wii Fit: Does calorie burner make the grade?

Nintendo’s Wii Fit is designed to get gamers off the couch and burning calories. We weigh in on the new — and already wildly popular — exercise platform

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Wii Fit

WII FIT
(Nintendo, Wii, Everyone)
Thanks to its gesture-based interface and a roster of gyration-inducing games, the Nintendo Wii has always offered the added benefit of a low-impact workout. Now there?s Wii Fit, a $90 software-and-hardware bundle, the noble purpose of which is to get gamers to shed those unwanted pounds. The crucial component in the package is the Wii Balance Board, a hefty white-plastic slab that?s roughly the size of two bathroom scales and connects wirelessly to your Wii console. With its clean, minimalist design — it only has one (side-mounted) button — the board looks almost too nice to step on. Once you do, it can detect your weight and its internal accelerometers are sensitive enough to register the slightest shifts in your balance.

While it?s tantalizing to think about future games that will take advantage of this innovative interface (surfing, American Gladiators tie-ins, magic carpet rides, and sobriety tests immediately spring to mind), Nintendo was a bit more pragmatic with what they put onto the Wii Fit disc. Less a videogame than an interactive fitness coach, it begins with an initial weigh-in. It determines your weight, center of balance (important for good posture), and body mass index. Your BMI — which will come as a horror to 90 percent of you — is relayed via a graph and an annoyingly perky synthesized voice. (You?ll also be given an opportunity to set a weight goal, tracked via on-screen calendar.) After a couple of brief balance tests, Fit will also tell you what your ?Wii Fit Age? is, but it?s a pretty bogus figure. The problem with the Wii Fit Age calculation — besides the suspenseful, stressful drum roll that leads up to the massive number flashing on the screen — is that some spurious methodology results in wild fluctuations. It could be plus-20 over your actual age one day and minus-10 on the next depending on which tests you perform. Our advice: don?t sweat over your Wii Fit Age.

NEXT: Working up a sweat

Far more valuable are the wide variety of exercises and games (some that need to be ”unlocked”) presented to you after your daily weigh-in. The yoga and strength-training activities feature a virtual personal trainer (there?s a male and a female; both have the everyone?s-a-winner temperament of Mister Rogers) who instructs and helps you maintain proper form. Yoga is pretty conventional. Even if you?ve never busted out a Half-Moon or Warrior pose, you?ll get up to speed without much trouble. While some of the strength training bits are a bit of a stretch in the way they use the board — some involve doing push-ups and sit-ups — they?re all useful and can make even the most hard-bodied of gym-rats sweat a bit.

Fit really hits its stride with its collection of mini-games, which are commendably innovative in the way they utilize the Balance Board. There?s a ski-jump game in which you need to squat on the board, then spring to your tippy-toes when you zoom off the ramp. There?s also a soccer challenge in which you bob your virtual noggin left and right to head incoming balls (and dodge the ocassional shoe). Best of the bunch is the Penguin Slide game that makes you bob an iceberg up and down to steer a hungry penguin into the path of flying fish. As a nice touch, the Mii characters you?ve created for other games make cameos, mostly as spectators in the various mini-games.

If there?s one problem with all of the 40-plus activities in Fit, it?s that each one lasts a scant few minutes. Even if you do them in succession, it?s hard to believe people will sweat enough to deflate all those spare tires. Wii Fit works better as a supplement to whatever physical activity you normally do. And if you don?t work out at all? Well, some activity is better than none, and Wii Fit will at least make you sweat more than playing another level of Super Mario Galaxy. Time will tell if this thing ends up collecting dust alongside your Sweatin? to the Oldies tapes, Bowflex machine, and mountain bike, but give Nintendo credit for, once again, trying something new while giving gamers — a mostly sedentary lot — the chance to burn calories rather than add them. — B

EW.com writers Michael Slezak and Annie Barrett try out four events — and fail miserably — in the video below.