Crispy Gamer

The Wii Balance Board Looks to Shed Its "Peripheral" Status

The history of videogames is littered with odd and weird-ass peripherals -- bongos, maracas and more. They're generally one-use gizmos that gather dust once you get tired of the game with which they came bundled. (I did, however, enjoy using the Sega Bass Fishing fishing rod Dreamcast controller to kick friends' butts in SoulCalibur and Dead or Alive.) Thankfully, Nintendo and some third-party developers are making sure your Wii Fit balance board doesn't wind up in Maracaville the moment you get bored of virtual hula-hooping and competitive yoga.

Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party
Move over, virtual yoga.

According to Nintendo's PR folks, there are close to a dozen balance board-using games on the horizon, and while most of them are still in the early stages of development, there were a few that I got to test-drive in the past couple of days.

There's some cool stuff heading your way.

Nintendo is using the board as part of its Wii Music game. While the gist of the action involves simulating various instruments using the Wii remote and Nunchuk, a drumming side-game has you using the board as a drum pedal. Once you get a feel for the way the hand and foot controls work together, you can start putting together some serious beats. The dude from Nintendo put me to shame when he took over for me on the drums, but I was able to get a rise from the virtual crowd in the game.

While there wasn't a playable version of its Shaun White Snowboarding game available, Ubisoft did unveil its Raving Rabbids TV Party. A fall release, it's slated to be a collection of some 50 mini-games, half of which will use the board to play. A sledding game has you sitting on the board and controlling the speed and direction by leaning in various directions. It was decent, but I was blown away by a hoverboard game that -- within seconds -- had me feeling like I was the Silver Surfer. The control and responsiveness were dead-on and delivered an amazing feeling of freedom and flight. Forget the other 49 mini-games -- I would buy the thing for the hoverboard deal alone.

Skate It Wii
The balance board will mean big hair, big air,
in Skate It.

Last year, EA took the skateboarding crown from Tony Hawk and Activision with its stellar Skate. Later this year, it hopes to win over Wii owners with Skate It. While the game can be played using just the remote, keying your movement to the balance board took things to another level. Like the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions, there's a slight learning curve, but after a few spills, I was able to start nailing some decent moves. As with the Ubisoft release, the board was very responsive and having to control my on-screen movement with my actual movement added an extra layer of simulation to an already strong skateboarding sim.

Other games that look to keep you firmly planted on your balance board are two fitness games -- one from EA and one from Majesco featuring "Biggest Loser" trainer Jilian Michaels, Yoga Wii from JoWooD, and All-Star Cheer Squad from Gorilla Systems. Even Don King is getting into the act. The Wii version of 2K's Don King Presents: Prizefighter will include some balance board-based mini-games that'll stupendify your equilibriumocity.

Nintendo was mum about the possibility of selling the board as a standalone product for a few bucks less than the $90 Wii Fit price, but with plenty of first- and third-party support behind it, this may be a peripheral that'll still be getting plenty of use long after your Rock Band drum kit joins your Donkey Konga bongos in the closet.

Point/Counterpoint - Russ Fischer thinks the Wii Balance Board might spell the end of accessibility for the Wii. Check out Nintendo's Peripheral Play.