Fitness games on the Wii are quickly becoming a dime a dozen. Since the advent of the Wii Balance Board, it seems that everyone wants to jump into the ring to get people in shape with video games. Jillian Michaels' Fitness Ultimatum 2010 is the second effort from Collision Studios at making a fitness game for the Wii. This year's edition has smartly decided to ditch events like jumping between logs on a river, opting instead to have the on-screen characters mimic your movements. The developers have created a game that centers entirely on workouts and their associated benefits. The end result is an effort that feels simple, but it has a solid foundation to build on so that the Fitness Ultimatum series can make a dent next year in the genre leaders of Wii Fit and EA Sports Active.
Fitness Ultimatum 2010 starts off well. You're greeted by a video of Jillian on a tropical island telling you that you've come to the right place to try to lead a better, more healthy lifestyle. That's about where the production values end for the game, as you're then greeted by a bare-bones menu system that feels at home on the Super Nintendo. Half of each menu screen is taken up by a low-quality picture of Jillian, and the options in the menu systems make you feel like there isn't a lot of material here.
There are actually a lot of areas to head into, but it quickly becomes apparent that the game is stretching the truth on how much it has to offer. There are many options that don't go anywhere or result in anything remotely useful, and most of the options are simply a slight reworking of another option. The worst offenders are Single Exercise and Island Tour, both of which result in the exact same thing: doing one exercise in an island setting. The only difference is that Island Tour has the difficulty reduced to easy. I can change the difficulty setting in Single Exercise, so why did Island Tour mode have to exist?
As far as what you can do with the game, you can go through one of 18 different single exercises, or you could set up a circuit of exercises to run through. There are several premade circuits if you have no idea what you're doing or aren't feeling creative. The big final option on which people will likely spend most of their time is Resolution mode, where you get a weekly regimen of exercises. Once entered, it cannot be altered until you have finished the resolution. A resolution takes between one and six months to complete, and it's supposed to get the player to commit to getting into better shape. Again, there are several pre-made resolutions available, or the player can create his or her own.
For the sake of this review, I chose a one-month resolution that was supposed to focus on my arms, chest and legs. The game set up a schedule where I was to attempt a resolution four days a week, with a series of exercises that took anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes each time. Setting up a resolution and making sure to start up the game every day ensures that the game gives you some motivation to keep going. When you go to Resolution mode and you already have one set up, the game will tell you that "You have a resolution waiting to be completed," in an attempt to get you to tackle the resolution.
All of these elements come together to create the basics of a workout program. It's a step up from a workout video simply asking you to pop in the tape tomorrow. The game reminds you to come back and play because it's something that you've scheduled.
Of course, any of this becomes completely and utterly useless if the game doesn't serve as a decent tool for getting some fitness into your life. The game doesn't fail here, but it seems to strive for mediocrity. The focus for this year's edition of Jillian Michaels' Fitness Ultimatum seems to have been to get a very solid control scheme in place. Instead of trying to analyze your every movement, the game relies on a quadrant system to let the player know how he's doing. Everything ties into how quickly the Wiimote seems to be moving and which of four quadrants the remote seems to be located. It's incredibly simple, easy to pick up and easy to get feedback. The game lets you know if you're doing it completely wrong, sort of right, or if you're on target with a red-yellow-green signal on top of the four quadrants. It's great that you can jump in and know what you're doing and easily tell if it's right or wrong.
Unfortunately, that's about it for user interaction. It's especially bad if you don't have a Wii Balance Board. Users without one are going to find themselves out of luck with this title, as the majority of exercises rely on the Balance Board to give you feedback. You can still do the exercises without the board, but without feedback, you're just sitting there and watching a virtual version of Jillian Michaels demonstrate how the exercise should be done. It is the equivalent of watching an exercise video with some slight feedback other than the video instructor cheering you on.
It doesn't really help that a video might have been a better background demonstration than what's actually going on while you exercise. The budget clearly wasn't there, and you get a sense of what the development team was going for when it created the game environments, but they fall flat and fail to impress or engage at all times. The island environment is supposed to remind players of the kind of stuff seen in many workout videos, with lots of physically fit people working out in a tropical paradise. This can even be accomplished with the graphical shortcomings of the Wii, but what's present in this game is disappointing. At least the animations that show you what you need to do are spot-on, even if Jillian's character looks rather pixelated.
The audio tries to evoke the feeling of a workout video, with upbeat songs that try to get the player into it. The music actually works and sets the mood a little bit. Workout videos aren't known for having memorable music, and Fitness Ultimatum 2010 nails that right on the head, with music that fits the situation but is forgotten the instant the game is turned off. There are some generic nature sounds and occasional comments from Jillian, who yells at you to tell you how you're doing mid-exercise.
This would be great, as she dons the brutal trainer personality well, but her comments are extremely limited and the sound mixing is done so poorly that it's almost impossible to hear her sometimes. When I say her comments are extremely limited, I really mean it. During some exercises, I've heard her say the same thing more than five times over the course of a two-minute stretch. At least she has comments for both ends of the spectrum, yelling things like, "You want it!" when you're doing well and resorting to verbal abuse when you're doing terribly.
Jillian Michaels' Fitness Ultimatum 2010 is not bad, but that doesn't make it good, either. It's still building the foundations, and at some point in the future, this has the potential to be a terrific workout game. The production values and options currently aren't there, but the control scheme is fantastic and will probably help fitness novices, but the cheap approach to just about everything else will likely deter people in a hurry. With only 18 exercises that largely ignore users without a Balance Board and a solid foundation that gives feedback without any real depth, the game just doesn't hold up for very long. The list of fitness games for the Wii is quickly expanding, and while Fitness Ultimatum 2010 is a vast improvement over the original title, it's not enough to make a solid dent in a market where other titles currently have a firm grip. There are decent ideas here, but if you want a fitness game for the Wii, you'll want to go with the best, and Fitness Ultimatum 2010 isn't it.
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