Review: Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout (Nintendo Wii)
by Alex Lucard on April 27, 2009

Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
Genre: Exercise
Release Date: 03/31/2009


A year ago, Nintendo released a game called Wii Fit. At the time lazy people rejoiced. Now they good play video games and lose weight all at the same time. Of course, by now everyone but the deluded and ignorant know that Wii Fit is the 21st century equivalent of snake oil. It’s a horrible workout program that can actually injure more than it helps you. Without someone to watch you do those yoga positions the first time, you can strain or tear something if you are repeatedly doing them wrong. As the balance board only goes by pressure rather than form, a gamer can develop horrible habits that can lead to physical ailments and arthritis down the road. When Wii Fit came out, would-be gaming journalists who have had little to no exercise slobbered over the thing because they wanted to share in the delusion that it actually worked, making millions of gullible lazy sheep looking for a quick fix to their weight issues hand over dump trucks full of cash to the Big N.

Of course, I reviewed the game with the helper of a professional yoga instructor, a long distance runner, and an aerobics teacher. Together the four of us were shocked by how bad the game was for you and how stupidly people were praising this waste of money and space. Alas as the lone voice of reason and experience in a field of journalism populated by the ignorant but loud and the opinionated without research and fact-checking, my comments were lost in a cacophony of stupidity. Thankfully as the weeks and months passed, people started to realize that none of the game’s claims held true and those chubby oompa loompas looking for the next quick fix(How’d Atkins work out for you?) quickly dropped their Wii Fit after they realized they’d have to spend a good chunk of their free time playing this game with some sort of regular routine (in addition to changing eating habits and probably dropping a vice or two). Too bad the damage was done and we were beset with a flurry of horrible games that had jumped on the exercise bandwagon.

I’ve played every exercise game on the market, and in all my years of gaming and maintaining a fitness routine that is the exact opposite of what one thinks of in regards to a professional in the gaming industry, there has been only one game that is actually helpful at what it claims to do: My Fitness Coach, although I played it under its original release name of Yourself!Fitness for the Microsoft Xbox. That thing was amazing and the port is just as good.

Now yet another exercise game is on the market. To make matters worse, it’s a licensed game using the Gold’s Gym logo and trademarks. Although skeptical about the quality, I still wanted to give the game a try because I would love an exercise game for a current system to live up to its promise. After a few days of doing 3,000 punches, my arms, back and abs are sore and burning. Now, is it from a well done exercise routine that promotes good habits and actually fitness, or is it from doing things that hurt rather than help?

Let’s Review

1. Modes

Gold’s Gym is a boxing game. Let’s get that out of the way. 99.99% of what you will be doing is boxing. There are some mini games that you can unlock that allow for a bit of variety (such as Jump Rope), but they are the exception to the rule. So if you’re not into cario boxing, then walk away now.

There are three main modes: Shape Boxing, Boxing Examination, and Exercise. Shape Boxing is the core of the game and the majority of where you will spend your time. You have options between Basic, Intermediate, Advanced and Expert level exercises. At the Basic level, you’ll be learning to throw punches (Hook, Cross, Jab, and Uppercut), along with dodging and weaving. At the Intermediate level, you’ll be learning how to put together combos, and with Advanced and Expert, you’ll be doing flurries of punches. These workouts are quite long, as they will be between thirteen and twenty minutes long, with a break in the middle to catch your breath, get a drink of water, or so that you can run away and do something else because your arms aren’t strong enough to handle a few minutes of exercise. At the end of each exercise you get a score, a punch count (how many punches you threw) and gold to spend in the Gold’s Gym store.

With the Boxing Examination, you take a test on your Boxing skills. You start at Level E and work your way up to A and then finally Expert. You have to beat each level to unlock the next difficulty. Each exam is about six exercises with four reps each. If you score a certain level of points (based on timing and accuracy), you get you certificate of success, more gold and some items unlocked. This mode is very short and there isn’t a lot to it, but it’s item unlocking central and the tests are quite fun.

Finally there is Exercise, which is a set of six mini games. You start off with only two unlocked, but as your total punch count grows from hours and days of playing, you’ll unlock the other three. To be honest, the games here aren’t that interesting, so I generally avoided these. I wanted exercise after all, not faux jump rope or dodging robot punches.

Finally there is My Data, where you control which trainer you are using, the look and costume of your character, your total punch count, your daily punch count, and the store where you can buy things.

In all, for a $19.99 game, there is a lot to do. You have dozens of punching exercises, all of which are great. The Boxing Examination is a cute add-on to help someone judge their progress and the exercise games, while not my cup of tea are well done. I was shocked at how many options and how deep the content was for the price.

Modes Rating: Great

2. Graphics
Like most Wii games, Gold’s Gym doesn’t make use of all that the Wii is capable of. Instead, it chooses to pattern itself after a lot of mini-games collections and Wii Sport‘s visuals than being graphically impressive. Still, the visuals works. The trainers are defined enough that you can mimic their actions and tell exactly what kind of punch they are throwing. The icons for punch throwing are crisp and clear and the only chance you ever have of being confused is with the cross punch and jab having similar icons.

The backgrounds are quite nice, but you only have three options: beach, forest, and gym. All three are nice, but I tend to go with the beach just because it’s the prettiest. Again, the backgrounds don’t make full use of the Wii’s potential. The graphics are nice and you can tell what your location is supposed to be, but really, the focus of the dev team is on gameplay and the Wii motion controls.

Graphics Rating: Decent

3. Sound

The voice acting in the game is surprisingly well done. You start off with a choice of two trainers, but can unlock up to six. Each trainer has their own distinct voice and the actor or actress does a great job. They’re full of energy, encouragement and quite clear with their instructions. They’re also a lot nicer than a real personal trainer.

The only sound effects are punching noises. This makes sense, as what other sound effects would you need or expect to hear?

The music is the game is…interesting. You’re either going to hate it or love it. They are all licensed tracks, but the only one I recognize is “Eye of the Tiger.” However, none of the tracks have any vocals. Again,t his might annoy some people, but this is done for a reason. When you’re sitting there trying to exercise in time with a beat and pay attention to specific punch combos, the last thing you need to be doing is singing along with the words to a song.

All the tracks are fast paced with a proper BPM for a solid workout. Although you probably won’t choose any of these tracks to download on to your Ipod, they work great for a short workout. Most of you will most likely take “Eye of the Tiger” since you recognize and you’ll have a Rocky vibe going on throughout your time with the game, but the other tracks are fun as well. Give ‘em a try.

Sound Rating: Good

4. Control and Gameplay

This is what matters most. After all, Wii Fit was awful in this regard as it was far too easy for slackers, the lazy and the weak to cheat with the balance board. It also promoted awful habits. I was really worried that Gold’s Gym would lead people to throwing punches in a way that would strain or pull muscles in their arms or back. I’m happy to report this isn’t the case. In fact, I’m shocked that a budget title put out by a third party blows a first party Nintendo title out of the water.

You can always access the description of a punch, how to throw it and watch the trainer do the punch. Even better each punch requires you to move the wiimote in a different way, and it is VERY hard to fool the game by just moving the wiimote slowly. You’re actually going to have to throw these punches. Even better, if you throw a jab rather than say, an uppercut, the game will give you some credit for the punch and then say, “Let’s just stick to jabs.” Nice! This is exactly what people new to cardio boxing need. The game’s AI is paying attention to your motions and correcting you. Of course, the game will also say, “Let’s just stick to jabs,” when you switch from say, a hook combo and shift to a set of jabs, so that can be confusing the first time that occurs.” One of the other things I love is that the game constantly reminds you to use your back and hips to properly do punches and if you just do a light motion like trying to flick a wiimote instead of a full punch, the game will also correct you. Again, the trainer in Gold’s Gym is everything Wii Fit‘s should have been.

There are two control schemes you can use. The first is the Wiimote and numchuk set up. This works okay. Like with any punching game, the numchuk just doesn’t have the detection ability of the Wiimote, so this can be annoying at times. Still it’s better than with other, bigger-budget games, where you have to flick both controllers rapidly. The nice surprise was the ability to use two wiimotes and your control scheme. WOW. This setup is amazing and the only time I had any actual detection issues was during my A level boxing examination…and the batteries in my left hand Wiimote died and I was unaware. I was going, “I threw that bloody uppercut! DETECT! DETECT!” Good to know it was on my end rather than the game’s.

The only complaint I can give about the controls or the gameplay is that the Jump Rope mini game utterly sucks. Ignore it and move on.

I can’t emphasize enough how impressed I was by the controls. I was expect your typical third party buggy mess that was yet another scam ala Wii Fit and Jillian Michaels. Instead, I was blown away that this game provides a spot-on cardio boxing experience with solid controls and instructions that are about as good as a video game can get. Let me state that as good as this game is, it’s still better to have a Trainer there to correct your form, posture and swing. After all, the AI for a game is only so good. It can’t notice if you’re slumping or you don’t have your hands at nose and chin level. It can only do so much. Compared to everything else ever released with the “exercise gaming” craze, Gold’s Gym is now the gold standard for this genre. It’s not perfect, as rapid ducking or weaving can be somewhat problematic to detect, but it’s still better than everything else available for the Wii right now.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Great

5. Replayability

Okay. Please do not be insane like me and throw 3,000 punches a day. I have a pretty intense workout routine normally and so I cranked up how much I did because I could A) handle it and B)I wanted to churn out a review. 3,000 punches is only about an hour and a half of exercise, but 90 minutes of straight punching every day left my back and forearm tendons a bit sore. If you are new to cardio boxing, or exercise in general, stick to a nice 15 minute workout each day (about 500 punches) and work your way up to 1000-1500. Doing this every other day will really help with your arms, lumbar region, and even a bit of abdominal toning.

As this is the first real quality workout routine for the Wii, you can spend every day (or every other day) getting a nice workout. It all comes down to willpower and the actual desire to exercise, tone your body and lose weight. Wii Fit sold like hot cakes but infinitely failed because the people that bought it either didn’t have the follow through in them (God forbid you actually have to exercise!) or they realized the game didn’t actually work the way it was supposed to. For those in the first category, this will be player two to three times before they realize that, yes you’ll need to exercise and yes, it is hard work. Boo hoo. For those in the latter category who just wanted a nice alternative to a gym or a supplement to their normal workout, Gold’s Gym is a great addition to your Wii library. At $19.99, it’s almost crazy not to buy it.

There’s a lot of content in this budget title and there will always be a reason to play it.

Replayability Rating: Unparalleled

6. Balance

With four difficulty settings in Shape Boxing and six choices in the Boxing Examination, you’ll be able to play an exercise routine that fits your skill level, experience and endurance perfectly. With each step up the difficulty ladder, you’ll find the pacing, amount of punches thrown per workout and the variety of punches increases. The game also lets you take a break at the halfway point in the routine, so if you’re out of shape, it can be a half an hour between seven minute segments, or it can just be a bathroom break and time to rehydrate.

As Gold’s Gym focuses almost exclusively on boxing, your routines will become well, routine after a while. From then on, it’s not about the difficulty of following the routines, but just doing them for the sake of toning and staying in shape. In this regard, the game does its job perfectly. Just remember to not doing a high intensity long-term workout every day, or you’ll start to do more harm than good.

Balance Rating: Good

7. Originality

Exercise games have become the latest casual gaming trend, especially on the Wii. However, it didn’t start there. There have been exercise games since the days of the NES power pad, and even DDR is used as an exercise supplement by many. There are also a few boxing games out for the Wii. Wii Sports , Wii Fit and Punch-Out! all use the Wiimote and numchuk for punching. However, none of these games have you use the Wii’s controls in conjunction with proper punching techniques or for proper cardiovascular training. In this respect, Gold’s Gym is one of a kind. Thankfully, it’s also a well done game.

Yes, this is a licensed game and yes, it’s going to be lost in the shuffle of all the other exercise games out for the Wii, but it’s the best of those games by leaps and bounds. Although it’s one of many, it’s the one that does things right, for a fraction of the price you have to pay for Wii Fit, and as such, it’s the one you should get.

Originality Rating: Mediocre

Addictiveness

Have I mentioned I threw 3,000 punches each day I played this? Sure, part of it was because I wanted to get the review churned out quickly, but the other part is that I’m a bit of an exercise addict. I like working out. I like jogging. I like activities that combine exercise and something else. Thus I got into Gold’s Gym very quickly, especially as I come from a wrestling/martial arts background. This was like sweet, sweet smack to me.

For other gamers though, this will probably be a curiosity. I mean, would you rather shadowbox in time with music, or would you rather play Halo 3 or a new Final Fantasy game? For those actually looking for supplemental workout or a way to actual dip their toe into the exercise pool for the first time, this will be a fun way to spend 15 minutes to half an hour every day (or every other day). The game is solid and it’s actually fun. Hell, you just might catch yourself yelling, “Shoryuken!” when you have to do uppercuts. What? I’ll admit it. I’ve had Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 on the brain for some reason…

It’s quick, it’s good exercise, and it’s actually a fun game. If you’re serious about adding some exercise to your daily life, but you don’t want to take the plunge into a gym membership, this is the best you’ll find when it comes to gaming. You’ll quickly find it becoming part of your daily routine.

Addictiveness Rating: Good

9. Appeal Factor

To be honest, Wii Fit only sold like it did do to hype and the fact that the average gamer is a pretty gullible sheep that’s been trained to purchase whatever they’re told is awesome by TV commercials or bigger but far less scrupulous websites. Games are sold by hype rather than the inherent quality of the title. Wii Fit burned a LOT of people and it sits in a box in the corner of their living room or in a closet, unused since that initial purchase. Horrible workout games followed and the smarter gamers amongst us quickly learned that exercise games are more a cheap scam preying on those looking for a quick fix plan rather than putting real effort into changing their lifestyle from slovenly into healthy.

So what happens when we FINALLY get an exercise game that bloody works properly? Especially when it is both a licensed game and with budget pricing? Well, it won’t get noticed. It’s that pretty simple. Amazon.com is pimping it pretty hard and that’s actually how I discovered it. I’m glad I took the bait, as this is up there with Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers and House of the Dead: Overkill as the best games released for the Wii this year.

Perhaps with the release of EA Active, we’ll see a renewed interest in the exercise genre for the Wii, but more than likely, even if EA Active rocks, Gold’s Gym will still be lost in the shuffle. Pity.

Gamers who actually like to exercise or want to start adding a routine to their lives will have a lot of fun with this. Everyone else will probably want to stick with punching via button mashing instead.

Appeal Factor Rating: Bad

10. Miscellaneous

Gold’s Gym pays lip service to the balance board, by allowing several exercises to be Balance Board compatible. To be perfectly frank, I suggest you ignore these options. The game works fine, but the balance board really isn’t suited for proper exercise. It’s pressure based rather than positioned sensitive, so it’s better used with games like Raving Rabbids TV Party than for the exercise games it was conceived for.

One of the nice surprises with the game, is that it comes with a week’s free membership to any Gold’s Gym in North America. This is such a wonderful idea, I can’t applaud this enough. As fun as the game is, you need to have a personal trainer or someone with experience and expertise observing you when you first begin a routine in order to prevent bad habits and posture. If you keep doing an exercise in a way that is harmful rather than helpful but you don’t have anyone to point it out, you’re going to end up injured. With a person watching you, they can teach you the correct way of doing it. Now I’m not saying join a gym. I’m saying, use this sucker. Spend a week at the gym in real cardio boxing classes, so that you can get your form and technique down properly. Get that advice, training and help, and then walk away and go back to this game knowing that you know have that expert advice. Unless of course, you really liked the gym experience and WANT to have a full paid membership after your exposure.

I realize the game is basically a commercial for the Gold’s Gym franchise and that the week free is an attempt to get you to buy a membership, but why not exploit it to do yourself some good and be able to stick to this game as your supplemental exercise? Turn the tables baby!

It’s well made, it’s exceptionally cheap, and it comes with a chance to get professional expert advice rather than sitting on a balance board doing a yoga position incorrectly and straining your back and legs. Buy it already.

Miscellaneous Rating: Unparalleled

The Scores
Modes: Great
Graphics: Decent
Sound: Good
Control and Gameplay: Great
Replayability: Unparalleled
Balance: Good
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Good
Appeal Factor: Bad
Miscellaneous: Unparallele
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary
At only $19.99, Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout is an unbelievable deal. It does everything right that Wii Fit got spectacularly wrong. The game teaches you proper techniques, gives you a great assortment of working with multiple difficulty settings and best of all, it gives you a chance to actually talk to a real life professional to make sure your technique and posture is helpful for toning your arms and back, rather than doing harm. Out of all the exercise games released for the Wii, I can safely say that this is the only good one of the lot. For those of you actually looking for a well designed and practical workout to supplement your current routine, or those looking to start adding exercise to their lives, Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout is the only choice worth making. A good licensed game for the Wii? How often does that happen?



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