Version tested: Wii
Is Family Trainer an attempt to cash-in on the Wii Fit phenomenon? The game's title hints there may be some kind of exercise involved, and it comes bundled with a peripheral you stand on. But Wii Fit is made by Nintendo - new, sophisticated, lifestyle Nintendo. Family Trainer is made by Namco-Bandai. Let's explore what this means in practice.
The Wii Fit box features pale grey silhouettes of female figures performing yoga poses. The Family Trainer box features a mainly orange photograph of an over-excited family. It looks like it was taken from the MB Games image archive (folder: "Twister box art 1992 - 94"). The Dad is wearing jeans that are too short, white socks and no-brand trainers. He hasn't shaved. The little boy has a haircut that would get him nailed to the climbing frame in any self-respecting British playground. The Mum looks dead inside.
The Wii Fit box features no text other than the title of the game in discrete grey and green type. The Family Trainer box has the title of the game in giant orange letters. It also has the same message displayed in six different languages ("INCLUYE UNA ALFOMBRILLA ESPECIAL DE JUEGO!"). There are some stick shapes that look like they're pretending to be the kanji figures for Family Trainer, but have just been made up.
Inside the Wii Fit box you will find the balance board: a sleek, white, wireless peripheral that looks and feels like it is the end result of serious technological research and development. Inside the Family Trainer box you will find an extra-large dance mat covered in blue and orange. It features paragraph-long safety warnings (again in six different languages) about the dangers of playing while drunk or on drugs, plus what to do if the mat becomes "wet with sweat or other liquid", and a 2-metre long cable. The sound it makes when you step on it suggests it's filled with crisp packets.
So while booting up the Family Trainer game disc, you suspect you're in for a different experience. Sure enough, you're greeted with a huge fanfare of electronic trumpets and some intro music so jolly it would make Santa jealous. The screen is filled with sky blues, apple greens, pillar box reds and Lucozade oranges, and it feels like everything's going to be all right.
There's no weighing or height measurements, no blathering about BMI or your fictional body age. The single-player mode does have an "Exercise Training" mode, but all this means is you choose which part of your body you want to "exercise" and you're presented with a relevant mini-game.
There are 15 in total, which isn't a huge selection - but unlike with so many Wii mini-game compilations, they're not just four basic ideas wearing different hats. Highlights include Mole Stomper, which is Whack-A-Mole except you use your feet to hammer those little round heads into the ground. It's very silly and a lot of fun. In Pipe Slider you sit on the mat, using your hands to steer left and right as you avoid obstacles and aim for speed boosts. Watching me play this alone, Eurogamer's MMO expert Oli Welsh suggested it looked "spectacularly lame", to which I suggested it's more fun that it looks and anyway shouldn't he be punching rats with a hammer in the mines of Nerzzerzzaroth.
Kayak Attack involves standing up and lifting alternate legs to steer your boat while swinging the remote around like an oar. This can be quite tricky, and it's a bit disappointing when you're trying to paddle furiously round a bend and the game warns you that you're "swinging the remote too hard". Still, it's fun, especially when you go over the rainbow bits at the side of the river and it makes your boat go all fast.
Most of the games revolve around running, jumping or a combination of both. In Sprint Challenge you just run on the spot, except you're not really running, just jiggling your feet as fast as possible like Michael Flatley after too much orange squash; the best part is the bit at the end where it informs you of your top speed (I am proud to say I can run 75 miles per hour).