In 2006, Nintendo introduced the Wii — the world’s first motion-controlled home videogame system. Instead of asking players simply to twiddle their thumbs and press buttons, the Wii required them, at minimum, to wave a remote-control pointer at the TV. In more extreme cases, they had to swing their arms through the air. Players were actually being asked to move.
Nothing like it had ever happened in the home entertainment industry. Long seen as the hobby of couch potatoes, videogames suddenly had an active component, and the reaction of the mainstream media helped make the Wii a phenomenon. Before long, videogame companies realized they had to live up to the hype. And so, Nintendo invented Wii Fit.
Wii Fit weighed me, gave me instructors with soothing voices who taught me yoga and strength training, let me jog through a Mario-esque cartoon landscape, and gave me health and fitness tips as it monitored my weight-loss efforts. But even though I played it for 75 hours, I never really lost any weight using Wii Fit. Still, there was something compelling about the idea of a videogame asking me to change my body in order to control the game. Nothing that exciting had happened in gaming since “Charades.”
Wii Fit has long since been superseded by other fitness games, most recently those designed for the Kinect, the Xbox 360’s full-body-sensing device that requires no controllers at all. But the Wii is still the granddaddy of motion sensitivity, so I thought it would be worthwhile to see how the old system was doing when it came to fitness. Besides, summer is starting and I’ve got swimming trunks to get ready to wear.
Despite mentioning the Wii Balance Board on the back of the box, ExerBeat is really an old-school Wii game, which means that almost everything can be done with one or two basic Wii remotes. This limits the type of exercises the game can monitor to upper-body workouts. The Balance Board isn’t even used to calculate weight. For that, I’m on the honor system.
ExerBeat tries desperately to get me to use more than just my upper body. “Use your whole body!” the onscreen characters enthuse as they bounce, march and swing their legs to the music. But I quickly discovered that I performed the game’s exercises just as successfully while sitting down — which is to say, I performed terribly.
ExerBeat may have the worst motion-sensitive programming ever.
Most Wii games can be faked out just by jerking the remote at the correct time. Occasionally a game checks to see if the remote is actually moving around the room. But ExerBeat seems to have done none of these things. I couldn’t score points by moving the remote whether I engaged my entire body or just sat around. Eventually I discovered that swinging the controllers around by their safety tethers scored me just as many points.
THE GOOD: The in-game fitness trainers move their mouths out of sync with their words, making ExerBeat look like an unintentionally hilarious Asian martial arts film, but with boxercizing instead of kung-fu.
THE BAD: I played this game.
THE BOTTOM LINE: ExerBeat it.