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The Wii was a cultural phenomenon that destroyed the stereotype of computer games as solo pursuits predominately played by young males alone in their bedrooms. For the first time since Pong families played games together, young and old, male and female. But once everyone tired of playing golf with granny and the family tennis doubles matches lost their competitive enthusiasm, it was Wii Fit that kept Nintendo's console in the mainstream zeitgeist.
The Wii U now has its own fitness title in the form of the not too imaginatively titled Wii Fit U. Like its predecessor, the main required accessory is a Balance Board that acts as scales and uses your weight distribution combined with an accelerometer in the Wii remote to track your movements. This time around you also have a small device that clips onto your belt called a Fit Meter. It's basically a pedometer with an altimeter and thermometer that's used to track your movements when you aren't playing the game.
When you start Wii Fit U, data from the Fit Meter can be synced by pointing it at your Wii U Gamepad and simply holding a button down. You can then see your activity displayed in clear, colour- coded charts and timelines that show how far you've travelled and how much of that you were walking, jogging or running for in clear, colour-coded timelines.
To encourage increased activity there are Fit Meter challenges that compare your stats to tangible real-world things and places, such as walking around the length of the Great Wall of China or scaling the Eiffel Tower. In essence, it's a simplified version of other fitness trackers such as the Nike+ FuelBand SE, Jawbone UP or FitBit Flex but with a more game-centric approach in the ways it rewards your activity.
Another way to monitor and record your fitness gains is by doing a daily body check using the Balance Board. It shows BMI and weight, but doesn't take body type into account. BMI isn't the most accurate way to measure if someone is overweight and without the ability to let the game know whether you are broad or muscular, for example, it becomes fairly redundant. Having said that, the graphs showing your weight change do provide a good frame of reference for your progress over time, just don't pay too much attention to its BMI assessment.
The actual activities range from yoga to repetitive exercises and mini-games such as boxing drills that really get your heart rate up. You can also custom make full workouts based on how long you want to exercise or how many calories you want to burn. None of these will prove too challenging for anyone with fitness experience, but they are all guaranteed to get you sweating and out of breath if you put your all into them.
A virtual personal trainer (male or female, it's up to you) talks you through each workout, offering encouragement and form tips. Besides this advice, you can use the camera on the Wii U's gamepad to ensure you are doing a good job of replicating the proper form for each exercise.
Wii Fit U will never be comprehensive enough to replace a gym and a proper personal trainer, but what it excels at is encouraging you to do some kind of daily physical activity. One of the ways is does this is with its online community where you can share stats with other users. Another is the constant rewards for playing everyday along with achievements for hitting certain milestones, whether it's challenges completed or weight targets accomplished, while the Fit Meter does a great job of making being more mobile a fun ongoing game rather than a chore.
Gym-goers who lift weights or hit the treadmill for extended periods aren't going to see any huge fitness gains (though they could always learn yoga from the comfort of their lounge). But if you're intimidated by going to the gym, can't afford a membership or would prefer not to venture out into the harsh winter weather to train, then Wii Fit U is an entertaining way to get active, and more importantly, stay active. Plus, what other games let you steer a sledge down a mountain by alternating pressure between each of your buttocks? Exactly.
The full version of Wii Fit U is available from the Nintendo eShop on a 31-day free-trial until the end of January.
Max was the head of digital content for Men's Fitness which worked alongside Coach between 2015 and 2019.