Helpful arrows and combo system let you know if you're doing things right; 150+ exercises culled from unorthodox fitness
Spotty motion detection; unskippable congratulatory screens
Another fitness game, you ask? Isn’t Wii Fit Plus enough? For that matter, wouldn’t you rather just play Wii Sports Resort for hours on end to achieve the same effect? According to Namco Bandai Games, the answer is a resounding no– and ExerBeat, its latest fitness offering, fulfills it. While Wii Fit may have focused almost exclusively on working out and Wii Sports Resort might have tried to hide all that exercise under a mask of fun, ExerBeat combines the two. The game has few aspirations of being anything other than a fitness game, and yet it manages to be entertaining. It’s a trick that only Nintendo-developed games like Wii Sports have managed to pull off consistently, and Namco Bandai should be proud.
As the game begins, you’re asked by this game’s Balance Board stand-in (a musical note appropriately named Rhythm) to type in your usual credentials– name, age, weight, dominant hand. You’ll go through a short tutorial, which is when you’ll do your first warm-up exercise. Exercises in this game are led not by a mysterious teal stranger a la Wii Fit, but rather by characters that actually have faces. That doesn’t sound important, but it is– if ExerBeat wants to do just one thing, it’s to bring real-world workouts home.
Your instructors encourage you, count for you, and zealously keep track of your movements, though they’re predictably over-positive about it. Of course, considering these instructors only live on the television screen, it’s difficult to correctly pull off the moves just by looking at them. To help, ExerBeat provides dotted arrows that roughly estimate where your arms are supposed to go, a technique used before in games like We Cheer that I’ve always found very helpful. (Are you listening, Just Dance?) As you use one or two Wii Remotes– the instructors recommend two, if only so they can make sure you’re doing things with both your hands– and wave your arms around to faithfully recreate your instructors’ movements, you receive positive reinforcement not just from the instructors, but from your Wii Remotes, which rumble pleasantly after every correct motion. Consequently, often it’s as though you’re watching a somewhat colorful Tae Bo video, except that you actually have feedback as to whether you’re doing something correctly. Or at least, recognizably.
Colorful arrows make sure you’re moving your arms just so.
Which leads me to the next most prominent part of ExerBeat. Fellow fitness game addicts have been saying ExerBeat is, in fact, a disguised version of Namco Bandai’s We Cheer series– which as far as I can tell is true. After all, while ExerBeat follows Wii Fit in a line of home fitness games for Wii, it does so in somewhat original ways. The game encourages players to exercise through martial arts, yoga and pilates, “boxercising” and dance-exercise, all of which are exactly what they sound like. And while you wouldn’t want to go to a martial arts tournament throwing the punches you learn in ExerBeat, even with Motion Plus capabilities, these sections certainly differ from other fitness offerings. Dance-exercise, for example, contains workouts from aerobics, hip-hop dance, and Latin dance (the last of which supports the Wii Balance Board, for all that hip movement); yoga workouts, meanwhile, give Wii Fit a run for its money, even surpassing it considering the greater degree of motion detection that ExerBeat offers.
Unlike Wii Fit, the game also provides a warm-up and cool-down session, making sure you don’t somehow injure yourself while playing– which sounds hilarious considering we’re talking about a Wii game, but might actually be possible considering you can set an uninterrupted full workout. Nevertheless, though ExerBeat certainly tries to bring the fitness gig home, you’ll never forget you’re playing a game rather than legitimately working out– especially when there’s a combo system that keeps track of how many moves you’ve gotten down in a row. Not to mention a Dance Dance Revolution-style progress bar at the bottom of the screen. Hey, it’s still a workout.
Don’t have time to travel? ExerBeat sympathizes and lets you travel within.
ExerBeat also adds in the usual fitness-tracking capabilities, i.e. calorie-tracker, calendar, graph, though it also throws in a heart-rate monitor and even a personal trainer. Interestingly enough, some of these perks have to be earned through consecutive days of playing, rather than unlocked from the get-go, which both a) encourages daily fitness and b) lends credence to the We Cheer 3 claims. It’s always pleasant to see a window pop up after a workout telling you you’ve unlocked something, though, and the game even provides an ETA on your next unlock. ExerBeat does this with its “Around the World” mode, a feature that pops up after every workout that shows your Mii walking across various countries. The further you go, the more checkpoints you’ll reach, and the more fun facts (and unlockables) you’ll get. It’s an interesting way of visualizing unlockables, especially to a casual audience, though I wish the screen was skippable– it shows up after every exercise, and considering the number of exercises you can do in a day, walking around the world becomes less exciting every time.
And of course, there are minigames. This, along with the combo system, is the feature that most breaks ExerBeat’s facade of being a fitness-only game, as you use a (hopefully Motion Plus-equipped) Wii Remote to slash at pirates or throw virtual pizzas. But considering the high level of nonstandard fitness in ExerBeat, these minigames just seemed superfluous to me. Dancing or pretending I was Bruce Lee to work out amused me enough already, and in fact encouraged me to play ExerBeat more than I’d ever played Wii Fit. However, assuming dancing and other nonstandard fitness activities are ExerBeat‘s main draw, I found myself constantly wishing the motion detection was better. Perhaps it’s that I didn’t do the motions correctly, but even when doing the simplest of stretches one of my Wii Remotes would invariably not rumble, causing me to lose my however-many combo streak. I suppose the point of ExerBeat isn’t to rack up combos for a high score, but rather to actually work out– but unsurprisingly, old habits die hard.
That said, if fitness games are measured by how much they encourage players to work out, ExerBeat gets a high grade handily. Its creative methods of getting players off the couch, as well as its low price tag ($29.99 USD), outweigh spotty motion detection, and even encourages more traditional video game enthusiasts into the fitness realm through its combo system. But just as with any fitness program, it’s up to the players to decide how much they want to put into the game– and while the instructors on ExerBeat won’t know if you’re playing from the couch, that Balance Board will.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.