Wii Fit U review: glass joe

Wii Fit U is too lightweight to be a contender.

Game Info
Platform Wii U
Publisher Nintendo
Developer Nintendo EAD Group No. 5
Release Date Nov 1, 2013

Wii Fit U wants to be a gateway drug for physical fitness.

This unintimidating fitness product is targeted at families who want to start getting active. With a friendly interface, a useful tool for tracking fitness outside of the game and an impressive selection of activities, it offers a baseline incentive for people looking to get off the couch.

But constant inaccuracies and other problems mean Wii Fit U can't compete with a more professional training program. The actual exercise benefit here is uneven at best.

Upon starting up, Wii Fit U calculates your BMI and tests your balance — info that's used to calculate your Wii Fit Age and provide example goals to achieve. From there, you can choose individual activities, each of which ends in burned calories — visualized as coins going into a bank — or progress toward other fitness goals. Alternatively, you can check in with a Fitness Meter — a sort of supercharged pedometer that tracks steps, calories, and even altitude.

A whole range of activities — from yoga to aerobics to dance — is available either as one-off sessions or in routines. Yoga and strength training are the best bets for people who actually want to work out. There are a variety of simple yoga poses, all painstakingly explained, with a focus on correct posture and breathing. Strength training consists of simple calisthenics — push-ups, planks, squats and the like. These are similarly well-illustrated, and contain the most real-world exercise benefit.


Aerobics events offer light cardio in the form of step routines, boxing drills and running. But outside of the step routines, the balance board and Wii Remote set-up is ill-equipped to provide real feedback. Running in Wii Fit U is not only a weak exercise but potentially dangerous; running in place for extended periods of time can be bad for your joints (without the benefit of, well, actually running).

Running in Wii Fit U can be bad for your joints, without the benefits of actual running.

The dancing and balance games are more colorful versions of existing exercises — the ski jump is a more extreme version of squats, for example. With wacky premises that kept me on my toes — often literally — these are the most imaginative options in Wii Fit U. Of course, they're also the least effective exercises. Swaying and stomping can make for an entertaining distraction, but they're not proven fitness techniques.

Every activity in Wii Fit U comes with a METS (metabolic equivalent) rating — which corresponds to intensity of the activity and calories burned. The game keeps track of progress across activities — calories burned per day, BMI over time and so on. This information is competently set up and well-presented, but it's wasted on a game with limited options when it comes to real exercise.

Some activities — like the scuba search — have a fun premise, but the actual exercise value is low — you basically stomp on the board and wave the gamepad to move through an ocean world with poor 3D controls. It's not a good workout, nor an interesting game. And stomping around in place for an extended period of time is more likely to lead to a repetitive stress injury than actual improvements in health.


Wii Fit U Outside

The most successful aspect of Wii Fit U is the Fitness Meter, which tracks steps, calories, intensity and altitude in your out-of-game activities. In game, you can watch your progress by selecting "courses" like a seven-mile walk around a Hawaiian island, and check out your Mii's progress day by day. I took the Fitness Meter on an intense, hilly eight-mile run to put it through its paces, and it performed admirably — with far better accuracy than most of the game proper.


Any wannabe workout enthusiast would be better served by buying actual fitness equipment

Even activities that have the potential to be beneficial suffer from fuzzy input accuracy. I wanted to enjoy soccer heading — which has you dodging cleats and protecting a goal — but the balance controls are so touchy that I found it almost impossible to succeed. The driving range activity is even spottier; the game almost never read my Wii remote in the correct position. Even the otherwise useful Fitness Meter caused headaches when it sometimes refused to sync with the gamepad.

Many of these issues are due to the unreasonable number of peripherals you need to get the full Wii Fit U experience. Besides the console and the game, you'll need a Wii balance board just to get Wii Fit U up and running, a Wii remote plus dongle for most of the aerobics, dual Wii Remotes (or Wii Remote Plus controllers) for many of the dance activities and a Wii Fitness Meter to track your steps outside of the game experience. While the Fitness Meter is a useful addition, I found the clutter of plastic gadgets annoying. Any wannabe workout enthusiast would be better served by surrounding their floor with actual fitness equipment.

Wrap Up:

Wii Fit U is too lightweight to be a contender

Wii Fit U does a fair job easing players into exercise with its accessible beginner activities, but too much of the game lacks any real physical benefit. Even if I could get past the inaccuracies in how it reads movement, this game promotes poor exercise habits at its worst and merely fools people into thinking they're getting healthier at its best. Wii Fit U isn't a meaningful solution to getting active and in shape; it's a half-assed stepping stone at best.

Wii Fit U was reviewed using downloadable code provided by Nintendo. You can read more about Polygon's ethics policy here.

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