Being one of the first (if not the very first) consoles to popularize motion-control in gaming, the Wii has a fair heap of fitness titles in its library. The basic premise focuses on the console’s ability to track your movements and compare them to those of characters in-game, so you can be rewarded for synchronicity or punished for your clumsiness. While the health benefits of such games can be debated, it is probably fair to say that the physical activity offers at least some benefit to the player--particularly those accustomed to sitting on the couch tapping a traditional controller. Whether these fitness-style games actually offer any real fun has also been a point of contention, and Exerbeat isn’t exactly a shining example of the genre’s potential.
Exerbeat is centered on the value of accessibility for the whole family. As we all know, this can be tricky to achieve. Little Susie might want to bust a move with a pop music star while adolescent Timmy might prefer to sit mesmerized before an array of scantily clad female dancers. Naturally, Exerbeat leans toward the safe side in its content. Nothing here should be considered terribly offensive, unless you’re on the ultraconservative end of the spectrum. If anything, players may find the game a bit too childish or feminine; admittedly, this does represent a significant chunk of the demographic, or so we’re led to believe. The presentation is vivid, simplistic, and dappled with pastoral color. More neutral tones might have prevented male players from feeling too awkward, but at least this can be played in the privacy of one’s own home. Dancing to music isn’t exactly an activity everyone wants to share with their friends, anyway.
Hip hop and Latin dance are available as musical accompaniment, bearing their own unique style of movement. There are actually eight separate routine categories available, some executed better than others. Exerbeat has a vaunted 155 exercises in its routine range, but given the simplicity of some of these moves, it is doubtful how impressive one may find the variety. The game will track your calorie burning throughout the routines, among others, so you have at least some health-oriented focus throughout the workout. There is a feature that allows you to focus on “problem areas” of your body, but the feasibility of such an option is dubious at best, since weight loss tends to occur on a total level.
Not all the workouts emphasize musical routines, of course. Aerobics, yoga, and even karate help diversify the workout type while maintaining a superficially beneficial façade. This could be a refreshing change of pace to many players, whether the developers intended it or not. The music in the game tends to get repetitive very quickly, dulling down the overall workout experience. If you thought lame music could annoy you in a standard video game, try it in one that already puts you into repetitive movements as part of the gameplay. The result is a play session that gets tiresome quite quickly. This is something that would be difficult to repair without the extended budgets of higher-level fitness games we’ve seen in the past, causing Exerbeat to seem more like a cheap imitation.
Your ability to match the designated cadence is essentially how your score is determined. Some characteristics in the assessment don’t make a great deal of sense. For example, the Wii hardware apparently is not very adept at ascertaining your success in yoga. By and large, the game does certainly offer the physical challenge that casual players will be looking for. Special “party” game modes are even offered for younger players, as part of the supposed integration of family play. However, too many pitfalls make Exerbeat an easy pass when other fitness titles have managed to go a great deal further.