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After 18 months, and over 20 million copies sold, Wii-Fit has managed to kick start the entire genre of exercise gaming. It wasn't the first, but it was the first one to hit the big time, occupying the Wii sales charts for months at a time. It has bought the idea into the mainstream complete with endless media coverage, and in the process has spawned a number of imitators. With the exercise game revolution in full swing I thought it was about time for a rundown on what's out there.
Originally known as Yourself! Fitness for the PlayStation, which predated Wii-Fit by several years, MFC is essentially a 21st century version of a fitness video. Your virtual fitness instructor, Maya, takes your through a workout based on your current fitness, and your priorities, and makes use of fitness gear you might have such as dumb-bells or a balance ball. MFC packs a good cardio workout into a short time, but lacks feedback, other than occasionally asking you how you are doing, as it makes no use of the Wii's controls to detect your movements.
Packs a good cardio workout into a short time.
Pros: Fits good routines into a short time, great for burning off the calories.
Cons: No feedback on how you are doing, there are no "games", this is all about the exercise.
Best for: When you want to keep it simple, but want an upgrade from the same old fitness DVDs. Great for experienced home exercisers who have all the gear and know the moves.
Wii-Fit bought us the balance board and made exercising fun. The emphasis is on balance and core strength (so-called "eastern" fitness), rather than burning calories ("western" fitness), although there are some cardio workouts. While Wii-Fit was well received, there has been criticism. The lack of routines means you have to constantly switch between games, wasting a lot of time.
However, if you have a little more time Wii-Fit can definitely make a difference. Wii-Fit's emphasis on gaming and fun is especially good for those who find exercise about the least enjoyable pastime imaginable, and people just starting out on their road to fitness.
Wii-Fit can definitely make a difference
Pros: Plenty of entertainment value, lots of games across the range, lots of feedback through the balance board and controllers.
Cons: It's hard to get a good cardio workout in a short time, limited scope for multiplayer.
Best for: Beginners, people who find it hard to get motivated to exercise, or those more concerned about toning, balance and core strength than burning calories and losing weight.
This is the new kid on the block, the current top selling game worldwide, and my personal favourite. Unlike Wii-Fit, Active is mostly geared towards cardio fitness and muscle work rather than giving you good balance or doing yoga. It builds you routines designed to really make you work, in-fact beginners may find it a bit hard going at the start but the effort is worth it.
The routines pack a great deal into a short period, making it perfect for those of us with not much time. Active strikes a good balance between cardio activities, muscle workouts, and occasional games to break-up your sessions. As well as supporting the Wii-Fit balance board it comes with a leg holster for the nunchuck controller and an elastic resistance band for muscle workout, together these allow Active to record your movements much more accurately, and make the muscle exercises more intense.
Active also features multiplayer support, letting you to workout with a friend, but you will need another leg holster and resistance band which can be bought separately.
Perfect for those of us with not much time.
Pros: Well constructed routines that pack in a lot of cardio and muscle exercises in a short session, and ensure you burn lots of calories in a short time. A wide range of different exercises keep it varied, ensuring you won't get bored easily.
Cons: Balance board support is limited to a handful of exercises and it can't be used to weigh you. Possibly a little intense for beginners.
Best for: When you want to lose weight, especially when you are short on time, or you want to do it with a friend. When you have out grown the Wii-Fit.
I've included this only because it is being heavily publicised at the moment, both online and in shops. It is a classic case of "Famous Name Syndrom", where a famous person (Michaels is the fitness instructor from the US show "The Biggest Loser") puts their name to a game that has little else to recommend it.
There are exceptions to this rule, such as Tony Hawk skateboard games, but Fitness Ultimatum is not one of them. It has low production values, bad graphics, a tiny number of poorly constructed exercises, and badly executed controls. It has been roundly panned by professional reviewers, averaging around 50%, and absolutely blasted by Amazon reviewers who currently give it between one and two stars. A poor effort given the competition it is up against.
A poor effort given the competition.
Pros: Jillian Michaels gives authority to the advice given in the game.
Cons: Almost everything else.
Best for: When there is nothing else in the shops.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: