Monday, January 5, 2009

Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2009: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Recently I did something I almost never do - I traded in my copy of a Wii game while it was actually still worth some money. The game in question: Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2009. I really like Wii Fit. I was hoping that Fitness Ultimatum would be another fun exergame. Unfortunately I did not find that to be the case.

The Good
Fitness Ultimatum was not all bad. It did have some attractive features. Rather than choosing exercises one by one as in Wii Fit, this one set up workouts with a series of exercises. The workouts I did alternated between walking/running through the woods, and a variety of other activities. At the end of each walk, you could choose the left or right path. One path would say which exercise it went to. The other was a mystery.

Each exercise began with a tutorial screen that showed how to move the Wii controllers and move on the balance board to complete the exercise. It is also possible to access the exercises in the middle for a refresher on the instructions. Jillian Michaels was a constant verbal presence in the background. She was not annoying as I'd feared though. I watched a couple of seasons of The Biggest Loser. I do not believe that I would ever want to work out with Jillian in real life. In the game though, she simply made a lot of positive comments.

As I completed workouts, I unlocked a number of fitness and nutrition tips. Those I largely ignored, so I can't weigh in on the quality of their information.

The Bad
I love the balance board. Having said that, there are times when it is useful and times when it is not. During every workout I did, I spent half my time running through the woods. Since I have a balance board, the game wanted me to stand on the board and shift my weight back and forth to make my character run. You can't actually run on the board itself, hence the weight shifting. This makes much less sense than Wii Fit's approach to running - get off the balance board and run in place.

My second major problem with Fitness Ultimatum is that the verbal feedback had no relationship to what my character was doing on the screen. There was one exercise I just could not figure out how to do. I was supposed to hop from tire to tire. Instead my avatar just stood there. I looked at the instructions a number of times. I tried different movements with the Wii controllers and different movements on the balance board. None of them worked. Every time I got that exercise I tried to do it, but my avatar would not move. It would have been nice to get some sort of feedback about what I was doing wrong. "More left", "More right", "faster", "slower", anything to get me moving in the correct way. Instead Jillian just kept making inane "you're doing great" comments. I certainly didn't feel like I was going great!

The Ugly
The graphics in Fitness Ultimatum were uninteresting. Given that during a exergame, there's not a lot to keep one's mind occupied. I think they should have taken greater strides to make the game visually appealing. I didn't particularly care for the music either.

The developers of Fitness Ultimatum really missed an opportunity. Wii Fit has sold tons of copies, and can barely stay on store shelves. The market is ripe for another fitness game. This one really missed the mark.