Wii Fit Challenge: Man vs. 12-Pack
DAY 1: WII FIT ARRIVES AT C. GAMER OFFICES
The first thing I notice about the Wii Fit packaging is that the box features four of the happiest looking people I have ever seen in my life. Even that old guy is smiling. It reminds me of all those pictures that Nintendo distributed of ecstatically happy people playing the Wii when it first shipped. Are these people all having involuntary orgasms? I remember thinking. Or maybe they all have candy down their pants. Who knows.
I also notice the inch and a half in diameter warning label on the outside of the box. Maximum Weight: 330 Pounds. Of course it's there because Nintendo's lawyers made them put it there, but it's still tough to realistically imagine anyone, say, within a hundred pounds of that mark showing even a remote interest in Wii Fit. In other words, if you happen to weigh 300-plus pounds, surely you have other things on which to spend your money than this. Like, for example, a snow shovel that you can use to toss Cocoa Pebbles down your maw.
I haul the Wii Fit home with me on the subway. It?s heavier than I thought it would be. Thankfully, Nintendo had the foresight to include a handle on the box to make it easy to transport.
Ironically, the first thing Wii Fit does -- once I manage to sync up the balance board to the Wii -- is pronounce me obese. Literally, a mechanized voice says the word "obese" in a disappointed tone, and then it makes my Mii puff up like a blowfish.
Thanks, Nintendo. That's super. Way to make me feel great about myself.
Naturally, this being a Nintendo game, it doesn't take long for everything to get all cutesy. An anthropomorphized Wii Fit balance board waves and dances about, holding my hand and guiding me through the early moments of the game. Soon it's time to choose a trainer for myself. Suddenly, these two well-groomed mannequins who look like grown children from "The Village of the Damned" appear on-screen. I have to choose: woman or man? Woman or man?
I choose the woman, hoping at the very least she might do something vaguely sexual. Trust me, she does nothing sexual. Nothing. You can look at her from three or four different angles as she demonstrates poses. None of those angles are remotely titillating. In fact, this woman-thing has to be the least sexualized woman in all of videogames, second only to that poor life-jacket wearing marm who haunts your sailboat in Endless Ocean.
Once I wind my way through a few sets of exercises, which range in quality from "Annoying" to "Exhausting" (heed my sage advice: strength train at your own risk, my friends), I decide to start a new profile. Not for my girlfriend, or for my cats ? but for the recently purchased 12-pack of beer that I've just brought home from the market.
I label the profile "Twelver," then toss the beer on the Wii Fit balance board.
Twelver is eight inches tall -- the game asks me to input a height for him -- but the lowest height measurement the game allows is just over a foot, so I leave it at that.
I give Twelver a recent birthday, since no doubt he was "born" not too long ago in a brewery in Holland. I pick a trainer for him. (I give him the man, who promptly says to Twelver, "I'm looking forward to working with you!")
Twelver takes a few tests, on which he does surprisingly well. His balance is infinitely superior to mine, but when it comes to shifting weight from side to side, Twelver fails miserably at these tasks. Finally, Twelver is told that he weighs 14.8 pounds. That his BMI is 25.76. That he is, like myself, obese. And that his Wii Fit age is -- ready for this? -- 32 years old.
"Twelver, you need to set some goals for yourself," his man-trainer says to him.
The next day Twelver and I decide to work out again.
"Hello!" the dancing Wii Fit balance board says, waving frantically at me across my living room. "Training every day takes some real dedication! I'm impressed."
Gee, thanks Anthropomorphized Wii Fit Board. Then I get some bad news: My weight has somehow gone up a half-pound in the night to an even 217. What the hell.
I spend what feels like about an hour doing these weird push-up/twist things. I'm stretched across my living room so far that I have to move the coffee table out of the way. I'm exhausted, and for some reason also kind of angry. I get angrier when the game tells me that I've just earned "3 mins." for my Fit Bank. The Fit Bank is an anthropomorphized piggy bank. Every minute you spend training is a minute that goes into the Fit Bank. Bank enough minutes and you apparently can unlock more ways to not enjoy yourself.
"Three minutes?" I say out loud to no one in particular. "That's all?"
Once I'm finished, I load up Twelver's profile, then toss him on the board. I decide to start him off with some Yoga training. I click on "Deep Breathing." His man-trainer comes on-screen and does a demo. "Now you try it," he says to Twelver. "Breathe in ? and breathe out."
Twelver doesn't do anything.
"You're a little unsteady, Twelver," the trainer says. "Focus on standing still."
But after the exercise, to my surprise, Twelver is awarded the full 100 points (the most possible), four stars (also the most possible), and the title of Yoga Master.
And no, I'm not kidding.
Next up: Twelver does the "Half-Moon" exercise, another yoga pose that requires stretching from side to side. The male mannequin guides Twelver through the position -- "You're swaying a little. Use your core muscles to stabilize yourself," he chastizes him -- but again Twelver earns the full hundred points, four stars, and a Yoga Master rating.
"You've got great flexibility!" the male mannequin says.
Me? I don't know what to say at this point.
I've gained another half a pound, bringing me up to not-so-svelte 217.5. The Wii hasn't uttered the "o" word (obese) again, but I know that it's thinking it. I try the running-in-place exercise found under the Aerobics heading. Once I'm finished, my phone is ringing. It's my downstairs neighbor lodging a complaint about the noise.
"What the hell were you doing?" he asks.
"It's kind of hard to explain," I say.
Twelver, on the other hand, is down to a trim 13.2 pounds today. The fact that I should now be calling him Elevener (after a moment of sweet indulgence last night) may have something to do with this.
Once again, I toss Twelver (minus one) on the board.
"Hello, Twelver! I'm glad you're here! Let's start training," the pirouetting Wii Fit balance board says.
I decide to see how Twelver might fare at Wii Fit's bevy of mini-games. I click on "Soccer Heading." Balls are sailing at him. Naturally, since Twelver doesn't move, he only hits the balls that come straight on. Anything to the left or right, he loses points on. He winds up with a total of four points. Which is not bad, considering he really didn't do anything except sit there and be 11 beers.
Next, I sign him up for "Ski Slalom." In this mini-game, you careen down the side of a virtual mountain, leaning left and right as you guide your little Mii through pairs of flags (aka "gates").
Again, Twelver does surprisingly well, simply by barreling down the mountain in a straight line. He winds up missing nine gates total ? which really isn't all that much worse that my first try at the event.
I?ve let Twelver/Elevener "cool down" in the fridge overnight. Once he?s as cold as my carrots, I decide to reduce him to a Tener. Then a Niner.
Then an Eighter, a Sevener and a Sixer.
Yes, Twelver is fading fast. Buzzville. Population: 1.
Mostly what I feel is disappointment in Wii Fit. If a $13.99 12-pack of beer can score at least a few points in most of the exercises (who knew that inside the 12-pack beat the heart of a yoga master?) then really, what?s the point of this damn thing?
In the days after Wii Fit came into my life, as advertised, I did find myself becoming more aware of my posture. No more slouching, no more leaning against walls down in the subway looking like I?m auditioning for the role of "Tough Guy #4" on "Happy Days." And I was indeed more aware of what I ate, when I ate it, and how much of an impact it had on my weight.
While I do have a history of consuming more than my share of beer over the years, I visit the gym a few times a week, I eat salads all the time, and my cholesterol is ridiculously low.
Diva Alert: If I?m obese, lord help the people I saw shopping in Wal-Mart the last time I visited the Midwest.
Oh, and one more thing: The game features that almost nun-like "Where-have-you-been-for-the-past-three-days-young-man" tone that annoyed the hell out of me in Brain Age. (My answer, occasionally spoken aloud: "I HAVE BEEN OUT LIVING MY LIFE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.") There are also some design woes -- example: What the hell am I supposed to do with the Wii remote during exercises? -- that Steve Steinberg will no doubt address in more depth in his review.
As I finish Three-er, Two-er, then One-er -- so long, old Twelver, old pal -- I realize that for all the good karma and good press that Wii Fit generates, for all the right things it does for the medium, sadly, in the end it's still destined for the Hall Closet Hall of Fame, the place where all damned peripherals go to spend eternity.
Check out more Crispy Gamer features: