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Hot Potato

Wii Fit invites gamers to get off the couch and get physical

VIDEO GAME peripherals typically have life spans similar to those of home exercise equipment: Once the novelty wears off, the overpriced gadget finds a permanent home in the back of the closet. (Remember the DK Bongo or the Power Glove? Didn't think so.) But Wii Fit, a fitness game released last week for Nintendo's popular Wii system, might well have staying power as both an entertaining pastime and a workout tool.

The Fit is the brainchild of Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto—he's the 55-year-old genius behind the hugely popular Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda franchises—and centers around the Wii Balance Board. (The game-board bundle retails for $89.99.) This pressure-sensitive pad is both game controller and diagnostic tool. A player standing, sitting or lying on top of it sees the slightest shifts in weight reflected by his on-screen avatar. The Balance Board is also a scale: It measures the user's weight and center of balance and calculates his or her body mass index.

The Fit features more than 40 exercises in four workout modes: yoga, strength training, aerobics and balance. Yoga offers surprisingly challenging tests of balance and flexibility. Strength and aerobics put the user through more traditional exercises such as squats, jogging and rhythm boxing. But the balance activities stand out as highlights—the hypersensitive Balance Board is most impressive when the user is heading soccer balls, walking a tightrope or skiing a slalom. In all modes the Board also keeps detailed logs to track players' progress toward their fitness goals.

Wii Fit is definitely fun, but can a video game really provide a good workout? Professional trainers will no doubt say no game is a substitute for a workout routine. They're right, but Nintendo's audience isn't the triathlon set. If the Wii Fit can get gamers moving, especially the next generation of American idlers, it will have already done more than that ThighMaster under your bed.

The Pop Culture Grid