E3 2007 Preview
Nintendo’s message is loud and
clear: they want more people to play games. They believe that the key to growth
is getting the oddball market (women, parents, grandparents, etc.) to not be so
odd. Hence, the creation of a peripheral that looks and sounds odd but is
absolutely brilliant: the Wii Balance Board. Part of the fitness game known as
Wii Fit, The Wii Balance Board is a heavy-duty piece of equipment that senses the
pressure of your body weight.
Knowing how effective the Wii remote
has been, I assumed that the Wii Fit trailer was more than a goofy hype machine.
Still, I couldn’t be certain that it wasn’t a gimmick until I tried the device
myself. When that time came at Nintendo’s E3 exhibit, the first mini-game I
tried was a balancing challenge where you have to lean on the board
to adjust a movable platform. The platform is suspended in air and, when the
player leans to the right, it’ll tilt in that direction. Your goal is to lean in
any direction necessary until the ball rolls into the hole. The second level gives you a
two-ball challenge, and the game only grows from there.
You can predict the rest, but this
thing is more than a four-way directional device. The board is immensely
sensitive. I leaned to the left, slightly up and shifted my body weight to the
other side. As I did this, the on-screen platform moved perfectly in-synch with
my leaning. I couldn’t believe it. I expected big things from the Big N, but had
no idea that a balancing board would ever make its way into gaming. It wasn’t
even something I thought of in my wildest dreams.
Step on the board, bend your knees,
lean forward, and try to stay in this position for a couple of seconds. When you
reach the ramp, quickly shift your body weight away from the board (don’t jump,
just stand up quickly). The resulting jump is pretty impressive. It sounds easy,
and really, anyone can play it. But if you’re out of shape or out of balance,
Wii Fit won’t hold back in letting a player know. Ski Jumping accuracy is judged
by a circular icon floating within a measuring area. If you can keep the circle
toward the center of the area, that means your body weight is centered. And if
you can shift that weight forward while keeping it centered, you’ll gain speed
— just like a real ski jumper.
Care to further test your body’s
ability to stand still in an unfamiliar position? Wii Fit has some interesting
(and surprisingly effective) yoga games that tell you where and when to lean,
and when to inhale and exhale. The game provides a virtual model to show you how
it’s done, and you can change the camera view to match whichever angle seems
most effective for demonstrating a yoga exercise.
The yoga challenge I experienced
asked me to stand straight, hold my arms up, and lean the top half of my body
slightly to the right. I had to hold the position for a few seconds and breathe
in and out as shown. After being allowed to return to my upright standing
position, the game pulled a reversal and asked me to lean to the other side. The
demo ended after the second part was completed, followed by a rating scale that
showed exactly where the soon-to-be-infamous red circle wound up in my measure
scale. My right side, which I thought felt a little off, was pretty shaky, but
my left side seemed stable. This tells me something. If I were testing for my
center of gravity, the game might suggest that my posture is off. Not by much,
but certainly enough for the game to notice.
By far the best new game and
peripheral combo of the show, Wii Fit and the Wii Balance Board have great
potential in expanding the game market. But it’ll be a while before that happens
— Nintendo has yet to announce a release date.