Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Release Date: 05/17/2011
Although exercise games have been around since the days of the NES and its Power Pad, it never really became a genre until this console generation. We’ve seen flim-flam games that actually do more harm than good in titles like EA Active and Wii Fit. We’ve seen the genre evolve into using a camera so that you can see how you are doing the exercise instead of just assuming you are doing it correctly with titles like Your Shape Fitness. We’ve also seen quick cash grabs that are horrible in every way like Walk it Out. So far the two best games in the genre have been Gold Gym’s Cardio Workout and Get Fit With Mel B.. The former is a budget game that is a wonderful cardio boxing title and the latter is far more expensive due to needing Move in addition to the game, but it does everything wonderfully. Namco Bandai has brought us Exerbeat. While it doesn’t use a camera it does do the one thing that all exercise games NEED to do and yet only Gold’s Gym has done so far, and that’s have a motion controller in each hand of the player. Couple that with an insanely low price tag of $19.99, Exerbeat sounds almost too good to be true. Is it?
For only $19.99, Exerbeat packs a ton of options into this little disc – more so than a lot of full priced exercise games. You have a whopping 155 exercises split between eight categories: Hip Hop Dancing, Salsa Dancing, Aerobics, Cardio Boxing, Karate, Karate Forms, Yoga/Pilates and Stretches. Nost of the categories has roughly twenty different exercises to them. You start off with basic exercise routines and as you perform them and/or get medals for doing exercises correctly, you’ll unlock more and more exercises to do. For example, in Karate, you start off with simple white belt middle punches. Eventually you’ll unlock enough to get 15-30 minute combo routines. The game unlocks exercises based on how well you are doing with a particular category as well as how much you are using one. This customizes the game to an individual’s preferred style and makes for a nice experience across the board.
As well, the game also has various other options besides picking exercises one by one. You have a “Daily Challenge” that you’ll have the option of completing, a heart rate workout that combines a series of exercises from the different categories, a personalized exercise program where you tell the game what sort of goal you are looking to complete (such as “lose weight” or “tone my abs”) and eventually you’ll even unlock the ability to customize a workout plan where you’ll choose exercises from all that you’ve unlocked and make a seamless routine that cuts down on loading times. There is even a set of exercises called “family fitness” that are more party games geared for kids. They’re not my cup of tea, but if it gets your portly children up off the sofa and getting some exercise, than they serve their purpose. Finally, after each exercise, you are given a “world travel” options, where a Mii traverses the globe based on how well you exercised and for how long. At each stop, you’ll get a bit of world history and/or trivia. So you learn something and get exercise to boot! How awesome is that?
Across the board, Exerbeat offers more exercise options than even the 70-90 dollar ranged exercise games and considering this is a budget game, that’s pretty damn impressive. All the exercises are fun and because there is such a wide range of options, there is something here for everyone. For options and diversity, this is easily the best Wii exercise game on the market today. It has pretty much everything you could ask for and without any of the exercises that do more harm than good such as running or jumping in place (I’m looking at you EA Active!)
Modes Rating: Unparalleled
There are three things I look for in an exercise game and none have done all three yet. The first is to have footage of a real human trainer doing the exercises. So far only Get Fit With Mel B. has done this properly. The second is to have a camera connected with the game so you can make sure you are doing the exercises correctly. So far only Mel B. and Your Shape have done this properly. Finally, there is need to have a controller in each arm so that the left and right sides of your body are being measured independently of each other. So far only Gold’s Gym and Exerbeat have gotten this right.
Although Exerbeat only meets one of my three “most wanted” criteria, it makes up for the first one by having graphics featuring lifelike human trainers as well as a class of other exercisers for you to watch as well. Even better, the characters in the game are animated wonderfully and you can make out all the movements you need to do for the exercises correctly. Obviously I’d prefer real people doing them and from several camera angles, but again only Mel B. does that so far. Out of all the Wii exercise games released so far, Exerbeat offers the most humanlike exercise models to follow and some of the best demonstrations of the exercises.
Oddly enough, as good as the human models are to exercise with, the game’s graphics do present a slight problem when you exercises – at least at first. The movements you need to complete are shown on the screen. However they come at you in a 3-D fashion and with quickly occurring reps, it can be hard to tell which motion is actually coming at you first and/or faster. This will only throw you off the first two or three times you do an exercise in the game and then you will mentally adjust to what the game is doing. Just a head’s up here.
Graphics Rating: Enjoyable
There’s really not too much to talk about here. There are a lot of tracks in the game’s music collection, but they are all pretty much elevator music. They are quietly playing in the background and you’ll be paying more attention to the reps and commands your trainer is calling out for you to do. The music is non offensive and each track corresponds to the exercise you are doing correctly, but you won’t catch yourself humming along with them like you would with say, “Eye of the Tiger” in the Gold’s Gym boxing game.
The gamer offers a different, fully voiced, trainer for each type of exercise. Each trainer sounds believable and more importantly, like they care about your progress. They give constructive criticism when you mess up and praise you when you do well. This is not a game with tough love style drill instructors and because exercise games are geared for people new to incorporating a daily workout routine into their lives, this is definitely the way to go. I enjoyed each trainer for what they were, and that’s what counts here.
Sound Rating: Enjoyable
4. Control and Gameplay
Exerbeat offers many different control schemes which makes the game exceptionally customizable. You can use Wiimotion Plus if you have it, but it’s not needed to play the game. The same holds true for the Wii Balance Board. Only one exercise requires both and as it’s a party game rather than a true exercise, it’s not a big deal. The game also lets a player use either one or two Wiimotes, although anyone serious about exercising should use two. As well, the game even allows for two players to exercise at once, each with their own set of Wiimotes. This made me far happier than it should, but this is the only exercise game I can think of that allows two people to work out at once, so it is actually a big deal.
There are a few problems with motion detection in the game, but they depend on what type of exercise you are doing and how you use the Wiimotes. For example, Karate, Boxing and Yoga are nearly flawless and wonderfully done. Things like Stretching and Aerobics however have noticeable detection issues and it’s very hard to get a medal in these, much less a silver or gold one. The problem tends to be when you are doing two movements at once, one with each hand. This is especially true if both arms are doing very different (or mirrored) movements from each other. The game simply won’t detect them, leaving you frustrated at first. Because of these continuing issues I just started to ignore the Aerobics and Stretching sections of the game and focused on the ones that functioned properly. Six out of eight isn’t bad I guess. However, if you are interested in these sections, just remember it’s about the exercises themselves and getting in shape – not any sort of score the game assigns you when you are done.
The other issue is one that plagues all exercise games – you can cheat them if you really want to. As the Wiimotes are in your hands, you can just stand there with your legs and still get points. However that cheats you just as much as the game, and although this is a flaw that could be correctly by using a camera to track your movements (ala Move or Kinect) it’s not one many people will exploit because – what would be the point?
Overall, Exerbeat is enjoyable, if not flawed. It sucks that you can see if you are doing the exercises correctly, but if you’re seriously about getting in shape with a video game, you should have a full length mirror somewhere nearby to check yourself out while exercises. After all, bad form or doing exercises incorrectly can lead to injuring yourself, so you need to make sure everything from your stance to your posture is correct with every set of reps you do.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Enjoyable
With 155 exercises to choose from, the ability to customize your own workout, daily challenges and the ability to let the game program an exercise routine for you based on your mood and goals is wonderful. Add in the bonus of the “world travel” mini game after each set of exercises and you have a work out title that you can play endlessly and get a secondary reward besides caloric burn. There really is something for everyone in Exerbeat and it’s definitely a game that will be living in my Wii rather than being picked up off a shelf and toyed with every so often.
Replayability Rating: Unparalleled
Because Exerbeat revolves around unlocking harder exercises for you as your progress through the shorter and easier ser of reps, the game ensures that a gamer won’t overestimate themselves and try say, a thirty minute workout set that will leave them sore strained. After you play the game for a while, it unlocks the ability for the player to customize exercises and routines. I’m actually glad this isn’t open from the get go, as this ensures the person playing Exerbeat will only have access to this when they are skilled/ready enough for it.
I also like that each of the different exercises in the eight different categories is noticeably different enough from each other so you don’t feel like the game is mostly padding. With the longer preprogrammed workouts you will notice certain reps repeating from earlier, shorter exercises, but this is to be expected as it would happen with any real life instructor as well.
Even with some motion detection issues plaguing the game, Exerbeat is exceptionally user friendly to people of all levels of physical fitness. Even people like myself who are in pretty good shape and exercise every day will be happy with the longer routines that you can unlock or the ability to customize your workout.
Balance Rating: Good
Exerbeat will no doubt be lost in the shuffle of exercise games that have flooded the Nintendo Wii in the past few years. This is especially sad as many of those games are horrible. Even the high budget releases with second rate overprices accessories are subpar when compared to Exerbeat, but that doesn’t mean Namco Bandai’s foray into exercise game is all that original. It offers a lot of exercises, it’s the only game I know of that offers Karate exercises or salsa dancing, but the two big standouts here are the ability to wield dual Wiimotes and the ability to have two people exercise together at once. The rest of the game is pretty standard fare for the genre. It’s just you’re getting a lot more exercises than you do in most of these games and a budget price point to make it all the easier to get into.
Originality Rating: Mediocre
I had a really hard time putting down Exerbeat. I love to exercise and this quickly replaced Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout as the supplement to my usual routine. I’d find myself playing longer than I normally would because I was OH SO CLOSE to reaching a checkpoint with my Mii’s journey around the world, or I’d unlock a new exercise and I’d want to give it a try. My time spent with the game went up slowly each day, as did my Rhythm Points score and more importantly, my caloric burn. I even learned that it was fun to watch me play this game and I’d get requests to do the Hip Hop Dancing exercises as it was supposed hilarious to watch me do so. Hmmph.
Exerbeat has some gameplay flaws, but I found myself more concerned about having the option to try different exercises than I did about the score. I’d just note which exercises had detection issues and remind myself I actually did better than what it was saying. I went into reviewing this game completely unaware of Exerbeat‘s existence and highly skeptical of yet another exercise game being added to the market and ended with me honestly believing that this is the best game in the genre in terms of what one pays compared to what one gets.
Addictiveness Rating: Good
9. Appeal Factor
I realized Exerbeat had the potential to be something special when my girlfriend said she wanted to play it after watching me put the game through the motions. She dislikes every exercise game on the market so far, whether it be something like Dance Dance Revolution or something as intense as Get Fit With Mel B.. Yet something about the variety or the presentation of Exerbeat appealed to her in a way all the others have not. I have a feeling that anyone who has picked up crap like Wii Fit or EA Active will end up overjoyed that they can get a better overall game for a fraction of the cost here. Even people new to exercise gaming will hopefully see the combination of quantity, quality and sticker price and snatch this up just to give it a try. Exerbeat is one of those rare exercise games that is not only well made, but also fun to play. If you’ve even thought about getting an exercise game for your Wii, then this should be your number one choice. Trade in the others with exercises that can cause ligament and tendon damage and go with this one. You won’t be sorry.
Appeal Factor Rating: Above Average
Eight categories, 155 exercises, dual Wiimote capabilities, balance board functionality and all with a price tag of only $19.99. All this easily adds up to the best exercise game for the Wii in all ways possible, but also the best exercise game of this console generation in terms of what you are getting for the sticker price. This is awesome. Simply awesome.
Miscellaneous Rating: Unparalleled
Control and Gameplay: Enjoyable
Appeal Factor: Above Average
FINAL SCORE: VERY GOOD GAME!
Short Attention Span Summary
Let’s make this short and sweet: Exerbeat is easily the best exercise title for the Wii so far and is the best exercise game across all console in terms of what you are getting for the price tag. Exerbeat gives you 155 different exercises across eight different categories and is the most customizable game in the genre so far. Best of all, it’s only the second exercise game out there to let you wield a motion controller in each hand, so that both halves of your body are actually being checked for accuracy. If money is no problem, Get Fit With Mel B. is still the crown jewel of exercise games, but you can purchase TWO Exerbeats for the cost of Get Fit and you don’t have to purchase a Move Controller and EyeToy as well. At only $19.99, Exerbeat should be the first choice of anyone who is even remotely interested in exercise gaming. Pick it up and see why.