Nintendo's $90 Wii Fit promises to use your Wii video game console to make you sweat.
That may be a stretch, but there's no denying that this collection of mini-games, most of which use a balance board, makes getting some light exercise pretty darned pleasant.
The balance board is about the size of a folded newspaper, and wirelessly talks to your Wii console. It acts as a scale — ouch — and more important, measures tiny shifts in your weight and balance.
Onscreen, those shifts translate into everything from your balance in yoga poses to how you do crossing a tightrope between skyscrapers. The technology works well, in general, and is customized for the individual player.
Mini-games are divided into categories: yoga, strength, aerobics and balance. Each contains a few games that are open initially and more that open up as you spend time with the game or improve on existing mini-games.
The balance games include things like slaloming down a ski slope, using your body weight to steer between flag gates, or playing soccer goalie, shifting your weight to head off incoming soccer balls (and ducking to avoid thrown shoes and other objects).
Strength training includes moves like pikes, push-ups and leg extensions; yoga includes poses like tree, warrior, half-moon and forward fold.
Aerobics includes basic and advanced step aerobics; one- and two-player running, which creatively uses your Wiimotes as pedometers; and Hula Hoop, a hilarious mini-game in which you have to swivel your hips to keep hoops going and periodically lean in the correct direction to catch more.
The aerobics and balance games are a lot more fun (and less serious) than the strength and yoga poses, but you have to acknowledge the smart use of technology in every section.
You'll have to work to break a sweat, but in the same vein as other fitness video games, you always get out of it a workout in direct proportion to the enthusiasm and exaggerated movements you put into it.
The biggest handicap Wii Fit has is that it's relatively shallow. Though there are dozens of games altogether when you unlock everything, no one game is likely to command your attention for more than a few minutes. That's okay, if you plan to shuffle through everything that catches your eye in a single workout; even a selection of basic games with nothing unlocked can quickly add up to a half-hour workout.
But it shows how much potential the balance board has for future titles that take one idea and expand on it. In many ways, Wii Fit feels a lot like the Eye Toy: Play game that Sony released with the camera for its PlayStation systems. It's partly a demonstration of the capabilities of the hardware (in this case, the balance board instead of a camera), but slightly disappointing as a freestanding title.
That shouldn't stop you from giving it a try, however. It would be a fun alternative to a walk outside on a rainy day, and it might just entice your kids off the couch — and that's never a bad thing.
Finding Wii Fit can be a bit of a challenge, and you must already have a Nintendo Wii console to use it.