Since we upgraded to the Wii Fit Plus disk last month, I’ve been back in the saddle on the Balance Board again. They’ve brought out new versions of Table Tilt and Balance Bubble, which are two of my favorites from the original. They’ve added an obstacle course and a Segway impersonator, which have challenged and exasperated me.
But my current infatuation has been the bicycle ride. You steer by manipulating the remote and you generate forward progression by stepping on the Wii board. Unlike the running activity, in which you can only go where the game chooses to direct you, with biking you’re free to explore Wuhu Island as you wish.
I’ll never forget I’m doing all this on a cartoon island projected on my television while I manipulate white, plastic props, but I do enjoy the realism they have injected into the experience. When you ride through grass or sand, to maintain your speed you have to step noticeably harder (faster?) than when you’re on a paved road. Sound effects that resemble cruising through sand or on grass provide audio reinforcement to further drive home the sensation.
When you’re going up a steep hill, you can ease the effort by weaving back and forth just as you would on a real bike. (Though with the rather awkward steering mechanism you must be careful you don’t send yourself careening off the side of a mountain.) Little beads of sweat fly off your character, bolstering the biking impression.
When you pick up speed going downhill you can stop pedaling (stepping) and just enjoy coasting. And if you start going too fast and are in danger of veering off the path into the stream below, they have provided front and rear brakes on a couple of the buttons.
It’s always bright and sunny on the island. And after I had cruised around for a LONG TIME looking for that last flag (SPOILER ALERT: The one in the sand pit beyond the tunnel you come to after you’ve crossed the two skinny bridges was the one I spent ages looking for) I’m not sweating profusely but I’m feeling pretty warmed up. So I was really amused when, after ascending a steep and challenging hill, my path led me into a shady tunnel. I instantly had the perception of feeling COOLER, a refreshing break from the fierce rays of the sun. But unless Nintendo has found a way to tap into my house’s HVAC system, I know they’re just messing with my mind.