The ultimate threat to Wii Fit U is … cookies. Delicious, fattening holiday cookies. I thought I’d test how well Nintendo’s latest fitness game works by playing it over the holidays, the toughest time to keep the pounds off, and, well, I saw mixed results.
No, I didn’t lose any weight. But I did feel better about eating that second chocolate snowman even if it did take me a day’s exercise session to work him off. And I just felt good getting off my butt (especially when it meant I didn’t have to go outside in the freezing Pennsylvania cold).
I’m not the only one who indulged a little too much this season. Now that Wii Fit U has hit retail (it released digitally late last year) and Wii Sports Club is available on the eShop, you have plenty of ways to burn those extra calories. Below are the best features and minigames the two have to offer.
If you enjoy posting on the Miiverse — arguably one of the best features of the Wii U — then you can join a virtual gym with other like-minded exercise fiends or even create one of your own. Afterward, other Miis show up on your screen, and you can tap on them on the GamePad to view their latest activities and training history.
If you’re feeling lazy, browsing other people’s posts and drawings — or sharing your personal accomplishments — on the Miiverse can provide support, motivation, and sometimes entertainment. Like when you see stick-figure drawings of a guy with bulging muscles and googly eyes accompanied by the words, “I lost 300 lbs!”
Yoga in Wii Fit U is a great way to stretch away stress while totally getting your butt kicked. The strength-training exercises serve as a great complement to these poses, too. I liked to switch between them to tone my muscles and then cool down with by stretching.
Not all yoga exercises are easy, and the Balance Board’s measure of your weight on each leg makes you painfully aware of how wobbly you are (or if you cheated and put your foot down). I’m still hesitant to try advanced moves like the Spinal Twist and Grounded V, which sounds like some sort of torture maneuver. Bring out a yoga mat if you’ve got one for extra comfort.
The Body Test takes about a minute to complete and acts a helpful reminder that you’ve been slacking or, if you’re particularly awesome at staying fit, doing really well. Standing on the Wii Balance Board (required for Wii Fit U) measures your weight and any BMI changes as well as your center of balance. You also get to take a quick pic of yourself for your calendar, which tracks progress day by day.
The Hosedown is fun because you get to spray a hose of water at mud monsters. Mud monsters. Other Miis throw mud balls at you, some of them hiding in windows while others charge the field toward you.
Pressing your foot down on the Balance Board like it’s a gas pedal changes the water pressure, so you can really blast them. But that uses up your meter more quickly, which means you’ll have to wait a few seconds for it to recharge before you can soak anyone else.
In addition to the Balance Board, you’re going to need two Wii ReMote Pluses (or hook-on extensions) to do any dancing, which is a pity because I doubt most people do. But these exercises are worth it. Some styles, like Hula and Jazz, are relaxed, but once you get into Hip Hop, Locking, and Flamenco, the workout gets a lot more intense. If you’re as uncoordinated as I am, prepare to feel stupid as you mix up which of your arms and legs go where as the dance instructor lies to you that you’ve “got this down.” And the best part? You get to see your Mii dressed up in awesome outfits.
Rhythm Kung Fu
Rhythm Kung Fu is probably the closest you’ll get to all the dance minigames if you don’t own two Wii Remote Pluses or accessories. It’s delightfully simple: Just memorize the other Miis’ moves — stomp, kick, punch, and so on using the Balance Board, Wiimote, and Nunchuck — and repeat them when your turn comes around. It’s kind of like if Nintendo made PaRappa the Rapper but you had to master all the moves through sheer physical power, not button presses.
Running and Island Cycling
You might sound like you’re about to stomp through the floor, but the different running (or cycling, which is highly similar) exercises are surprisingly good if you want to jog in the comfort of your living room but hate running no matter where you’re doing it (outside in the park, on a treadmill) or what music you’re listening to.
I’ve never been a runner, but there’s something soothing and peaceful about watching your Mii run through a sunny virtual world as she passes other smiling characters and pets, which keep pace beside you. My cat — yes, you can make a profile for your dog or cat on Wii Fit U — even showed up, which officially makes him a better version of my actual cat, which is surly and annoying.
The Dessert Course makes the least sense out of all Wii Fit U’s exercises. Why Nintendo would make a minigame where you balance delicious-looking pastries and other sweets on a tray is beyond me (if anything, it makes me want to bake brownies), but it’s fun anyway.
The shape of the dessert (or multiple treats) you’re carrying affects how you have to tilt your tray with the GamePad, but moving around with it as you try to reach the guests you’re serving is what makes it tricky. Bump into the other Miis, and they’ll shoot you a hilariously dirty look.
Routines are your bread and butter: They’re what you’re going to want to assemble and use every day to stay fit and challenge yourself. My Routines lets you string together exercises of any type (yoga, strength training, aerobics, dance, and balance) to reach calorie or time goals, and you can make up to three different sets in case you get bored. Wii Fit Routines categorizes exercises by their benefits, so you can choose whether to focus on lifestyle or health, for example.
Lastly, the Personal Trainer puts together workouts for you and shows you their snack food equivalent: Vanilla soft-serve is equal to 190 calories of hardcore butt-busting, apparently.
Fit Meters are extra accessories that are basically glorified step counters. They can measure other things, like altitude changes (not that most people are going to use that), but they’ll record any calories burned when you’re not playing Wii Fit U so that you can transfer that data into the game later and get credit for it. The really cool part: They display a Tamagotchi-like portrait of your Mii.
Park your butt on the Balance Board and start rowing back and forth with the Wiimote. This is one of my favorite exercises because A, I’m actually pretty good at it, and B, it gives me the illusion that I could have this awesome of upper-arm strength in real life. Rowing Crew works your abs surprisingly well, so you might be pretty sore by the time the race is over.
The Body Breakdown feature shows you which parts of the body you’ve been focusing on most — chests and arms, back, abs, glutes, and legs — so that if you’re slacking in other areas, you can select workouts to improve them. Adding exercise minutes to each type changes your overall rank: You could be a “Muscle Master” or “Abdominal Monster” in the making.
Wii Sports Club isn’t as intensive as Wii Fit U, so you probably won’t get much of a workout playing the tennis, bowling, or golf minigames (baseball and boxing will be available later). My favorite out of the three for tennis was Tennis Moles, where you whack the ball into a bunch of (you guessed it) moles and let it bounce around for points. The other minigames let you hit balls through different-colored rings or play against a robotic duck for distance points.
Tilt City is basically color-matching meets pinball. You hold the Wiimote horizontally to control the upper paddle and balance on either leg to tilt the two lower paddles left or right. You’ll need to do both methods simultaneously to guide the balls into the same-colored Mario-style pipes, which gets tougher as you have to manage more balls. Fireworks explode in the night sky with each point you score.
Balance Bubble is one of the prettiest parts of Wii Fit U — and there aren’t many. You guide your Mii, who’s floating helplessly in a bubble, down a colorful and cartoonish river by balancing and tilting as you float forward. It’s one of the tougher balance games — even harder than Perfect 10, where you shake your hips in one of four numbers to solve math equations. And I suck at mental math.
I wasn’t huge on the golf games — mostly because even my lightest swings were too hard or totally in the wrong direction. Pro Putter lets you aim for the cups while Chip-In Bingo challenges you to land the ball on huge scored bingo panels for extra points. I liked Driver Challenge the most. You have to hit the ball through goalposts and onto a giant circular target board out on the water. Think Super Monkey Ball, only you’re not playing as the ball and there aren’t any cute animals (you have Wii Fit U’s Bird’s-Eye Bull’s-Eye chicken minigame for that).
(Wii Fit U features a Driving Range game, in case you want more options to choose from.)
Rhythm Boxing and Free Boxing both consist of the same basic moves: punching and blocking (with both feet on the Balance Board and the Wiimote and Nunchuck in hand). They’re virtually the same, but Free Boxing is better if you just want to switch solely to the GamePad and mindlessly follow instructions as you watch some television. These two activities are great for working your arms in case you get tired of the exercises in yoga or strength training.
In Scuba Search, you dive into the ocean and explore its crystal-clear depths. You can snap screenshots with the R button and view those pictures later in your Album. Stepping in place — and turning in all 360 degrees — makes you swim forward and left or right as you hold up and peer through the GamePad. But you can also earn points by collecting treasure and discovering fish by swimming through them, and you get a bonus for returning to the boat before your oxygen runs out. Sure, you won’t burn many calories doing this, but it’s cool anyway.
I found bowling the most fun out of the three main Wii Sports Club activities. Spare Pickups and Tricky Pins have you knocking down any remaining pins, including those laid out in special patterns, but 100-Pin Pro is my favorite. You get a few tries to wipe out as many of the 100 pins as possible, so your initial approach to their giant arrangement can make all the difference. There’s a little room for creativity with this one.
Wii Fit U features asynchronous local multiplayer for 14 different games, and the personal leaderboards rank your performances so you can try to beat each other’s scores. Wii Sports Club, on the other hand, includes both local and online multiplayer. If you really hate exercising, you can always write both titles off as party games. Just try not to eat too much chips and dip.
It all adds up to this …
I’m nursing sore muscles as I write this, which is good proof that yes, you’ll get your money’s worth out of Wii Fit U if you actually use it. It’s an investment in more ways than one, though — the cost adds up fast considering you’ll need to buy the game, a Balance Board (unless you already have one), some Fit Meters if you want to count calories on the go, and a couple Plus accessories for dancing if you don’t own those, either. But Nintendo crammed in a lot of content, and Wii Sports Club is a nice (if relatively simple) side addition.
I don’t plan on stopping here. Wii Fit U has become a fun and rewarding way to break up my day and burn off calories and stress. It doesn’t take much of workout to get an energy boost that can last all day.
Wii Fit U won’t help you with one thing: your diet. It can’t make sure you eat right or drink water instead of soda, but it can make you more aware of how much those late-night snacks are sticking to your ribs. And, hey, I’m going to need the head-start while I can get it. The holidays may be over, but Easter is coming — and I see a whole lot of jellybeans in my future.