Version tested: Wii
In the latest edition of Iwata Asks, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata and Shigeru Miyamoto discussed the sequel to Wii Fit. Except it's not a sequel, according to Miyamoto. "It's not number two! It's not what you'd call a sequel with a regular game - it's actually an enhanced version of the software," he said.
"A sequel is when users who were basically satisfied with the original software have the chance to purchase additional data that follows on from the original. But in the case of Wii Fit Plus... I want to say: 'With this, you'll transform your Wii balance board into something even better!'"
Sadly that doesn't turn out to be a hoverboard. Wii Fit Plus has been designed to transform the balance board from what, for many people, it has become - a big, dusty reminder of the fact you're so lazy you can't even be bothered to do exercise when it involves virtual hula hoops.
Even Miyamoto admits people stopped bothering with the original Wii Fit after a while, telling Iwata, "There was a certain amount of inconvenience the user had to contend with. That's why I thought that if we could just improve the ease of use, we could get people to keep using it."
So that's the thinking behind Wii Fit Plus. At first glance it looks just like the original title - it's got the same clean, stylish interface, range of exercise types, trainers recruited from the village of Midwich and emphasis on measuring your body mass index. Any data recorded during previous Wii Fit adventures will be transferred over and you can replace the Wii Fit Channel on your home screen with the Plus version. All the exercises from the original can be selected without having to swap discs, and any you didn't bother unlocking last time round are now available from the start.
There are three new yoga positions and three new muscle exercises, which seems a bit mean. Those who have managed to stick with the programme all this time might have been hoping for a few more additions to keep things interesting. The good news is there are 15 more balance games, which were the most enjoyable thing about Wii Fit anyway.
Three of them are variations of games which appeared on the first disc. Jogging Plus is like regular jogging except you have to chase a cat and there's a silly observational trivia quiz at the end. Balance Bubble Plus is Balance Bubble but harder. Table Tilt Plus is an enhanced version of the Marble Madness-style original, complete with new additions such as bounce pads which spring your ball over barriers. It's the best of the three. They're all decent enough, but you probably won't spend much time on them if you've already exhausted the Wii Fit versions.
Some of the best new games require you to use your brain as well as your body. In Tilt City, for example, the aim is to guide falling red, yellow and blue balls into the appropriately coloured tubes. You do this by angling three platforms - one controlled by the tilting Wii remote, the other two by shifting your weight on the balance board. It's the most complex game in Wii Fit Plus, requiring you to think ahead while using both your arms and legs. Or, as Ed Tudor-Pole would say, it's a physical as well as a mental challenge.
Other highlights include Rhythm Kung Fu, where you must perform kicks, punches and simple combos in time to the beat. It's simplistic but fun. The same goes for Skateboard Arena, where you turn the board sideways and shift your weight to go faster, perform jumps and so on. It's unlikely to give Tony Hawk a run for his gigantic piles of money but it's an enjoyable alternative for the young, old or drunk.
Then there's Snowball Fight, where you lean left and right on the board to pop out from cover and use the remote to fire snowballs. It's Nintendo's answer to Time Crisis, in other words. The controls work well and it's a great choice for those at the more hardcore end of the spectrum as it feels more like a proper videogame.
So does Obstacle Course, which is essentially a platformer - you run and jump on the balance board, avoid giant balls on swinging chains, leap over gaps, negotiate moving bridges and so on. With its bright cartoon visuals and silly premise it's more reminiscent of Family Trainer than the previous Wii Fit, but that's no bad thing.
A few of the games seem to be more about making you look stupid than getting you fit. The best of these is Bird's-eye Bull's-eye, where your Mii appears dressed in a chicken suit. You must flap your arms to fly, landing on targets to score points along the way. Think Pilotwings meets It's a Knockout. Fun for kids, hilarious for adults and a surefire route to sore arms.
Not all the new games are worth more than a few plays. Cycling is really just Jogging except you step on the board instead of running on the floor, using the Wii remote as a set of handlebars. Segway Circuit is just Cycling except you don't even step. Rhythm Parade, where you are the leader of a marching band and have to step and wave your arms in time, doesn't work too well - there's a bit of lag and between your movements and the action on-screen.
But the majority of the new games are original, enjoyable and great for turn-based multiplayer silliness. Which begs the question, why aren't they all available in the new multiplayer mode? There are only nine games to choose from and less than half of those (Driving Range, Obstacle Course, Snowball Fight and Bird's-eye Bull's-eye) are new. You can't even choose some of the better games from the first Wii Fit, such as Penguin Slide.
The multiplayer mode is limited in other ways too. You can only register a maximum of eight players in the Wii Fit Plaza, so unless you're willing to delete data you can only ever play as one of those eight Miis or a Guest. Plus there's no option to design your own programme of mini-games, so there are menu screens to deal with at the end of each player's turn.
There are some neat touches. While you're navigating the Obstacle Course, for example, a ghost of the previous player is shown so you can tell whether you're beating them. There are leaderboards and the Mii who is doing best is depicted with a crown on their head, which is good for smuggery and jeering.
But whenever you quit out of multiplayer mode all the scores data is erased, so everyone starts from scratch next time around. It seems odd that there's no option to store this data for the sake of longer-term competition. The Wii is able to remember how much time has passed since you last played Wii Fit (has it really been 558 days?) and how much you weighed back then (what have I been eating in the last 558 days to put on two pounds?). So why can't it recall who won Bird's-eye Bull's-eye yesterday?
The multiplayer mode is so limited as to seem a bit redundant, especially now it's much easier to change Miis while playing in the regular mode. The new "switch player" button avoids the need to quit out and muck about with different menus, as you had to do with the previous title, and gives you access to the full range of mini-games.
To be fair, Nintendo has never promoted Wii Fit as a multiplayer game. In fact it's never referred to as a game at all, but a piece of software designed to promote good health and well-being. If you're more focused on fitness than fun, and looking for an enhanced solo experience, Wii Fit Plus has new features for you too.
For instance, it's no longer all about your BMI and Wii Fit age. Those are still assessed, but WFP also shows you how much energy you're using. This is worked out with a system involving Metabolic Equivalent Tasks, units used to measure the intensity of an activity. One MET equals the energy required to sit still. By performing a complicated calculation (METs x your weight x time spent exercising x 0.48), Wii Fit Plus can tell how many calories you're burning.
There's also a Calorie Count feature which presents you with a list of foods, ranging from herbal tea (2 calories) to sausage and chips (920 calories), so you can work out how much exercise you need to do to burn off your dinner. The example Wii Fit Plus gives is that a person weighing 9 stone 6lbs would need to play Super Hula Hoop for 30 minutes to burn off 126 calories. That's roughly equivalent to two boiled eggs, depressingly.
The list isn't very extensive (what no pork scratchings?) and you can't enter data for the amounts of food you're eating, so the calorie counting feature is more of a novelty than a serious tool. If you're after the latter you could try an online or iPhone app like Shape Up, which lets you set portion sizes and access a huge database of different foods.
Another new addition is the introduction of Wii Fit Plus routines. You start by choosing which area of the body you want to work on (tummy or arms, for example) or the effect you want to achieve (relaxation, better posture, etc.). You're assigned a set of exercises accordingly. If you want to relax, for example, you get given two yoga exercises and a game of Rhythm Parade. The addition of these routines does give Wii Fit Plus an advantage over its predecessor as exercise sessions are structured and aren't punctuated with menu screens. Plus, it's more motivating to feel you're working towards a specific goal.
The new My Routine feature lets you customise your own workout, choosing which exercises to do and the order to do them in. However, you can only select from the yoga and muscle exercises - there's no option to throw in a bit of skateboarding, say, just to liven things up a bit. This seems like an odd decision, especially as the preset routines include plenty of balance games. Why limit users as to what they can choose?
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about Wii Fit Plus isn't to do with what's new, but what's been left in. You may recall the controversy which kicked off last year over Wii Fit allegedly labelling children as fat. In Wii Fit Plus, adults can still be told they're "obese" according to the BMI index. Which can't be too much fun in a room of family and friends, even if you're a grown-up.
When the data entered indicates the user is a child, the ratings only go so far as "overweight". However, regardless of age, WFP adjusts the physical appearance of each user's Mii according to the results of their body test. So if the Wii decides you're fatter than you thought, you have to watch your Mii being inflated to potentially Father Christmas proportions. You then have to play all the games as what looks like a caricature of an overweight person, all big round belly and little stick legs. This can't do much for a child's body image - or an adult's, for that matter.
The question of how much this sort of thing will bother you comes down to individual sensibilities, and only you know the answer. So putting that to one side, let's deal with this question: is Wii Fit worth investing in?
Yes, if you've already got a balance board, enjoyed the first title and think 20 quid is a reasonable price to pay for a few new features and some more mini-games. The selection here is great, offering plenty of gems, few duds and lots of variation. Despite the limitations, the new multiplayer mode and the switch player option make WFP a better party experience than its predecessor.
Think more carefully if you don't already own Wii Fit. With a suggested retail price of 90 quid (more likely 80 quid if you shop around), the Plus bundle is still at least as expensive as the previous iteration. This seems a bit excessive considering the price of hardware components is likely to have come down in the last 18 months. In terms of software, that price doesn't get you an awful lot of new content, and what's new isn't enough to ensure you'll still be switching on that balance board once the novelty has worn off.
Wii Fit Plus is indeed an enhanced version of the original, as Miyamoto said. It's just a shame those enhancements aren't expansive or extensive enough to guarantee long-term value, or to justify the higher SRP.
7 / 10