Review: ExerBeat

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I must admit, that when a copy of ExerBeat showed up last week my immediate inclination was to dismiss it as more shovelware for a rapidly fading console. But as soon as I slid the game into my Wii, my attitude went from doom and gloom to bright and cheery, and after my first exercise I was hooked. A week later, every day spent playing / exercising for at least 15-30 minutes, I now find myself committed to a steady video game workout regimen. I can’t say the same thing of any previous fitness game that I’ve played, of which there are too many to count.

Modeled after the motion control engine established by the We Cheer series, ExerBeat is a fitness club and a dance game all in one. Namco Bandai’s rhythm-based Wii wellness program consists of more than 150 different exercise routines spanning eight main categories — aerobics, hip hop dance, Latin dance, boxercising, karate, karate forms, yoga/pilates, stretching – plus a handful of fun ‘Party Fitness’ mini-games, like swimming, pizza tossing and a pirate attack challenge that has you deflecting cannonballs with angular swings of a sword.

Whether you’re dancing up a storm, karate chopping, or stretching out those flabby muscles of yours, completing exercises involves following the in-game fitness gurus’ instructions and performing the correct Wii Remote gestures as prompted by the on-screen arrow guidelines, staying in rhythm with the background music to earn points. Two players can workout together simultaneously, each needing only one Wii remote. However, the game does support the use of two remotes per person, and that really is the way to go for optimal calorie burning results.

Regardless of how many remotes you have on hand, the exercises are simple enough for users of any skill level to comprehend. Sure, the phony-baloney trainers can grate on the nerves sometimes, but their instructions are direct and easy to follow, and the gesture indicators provide clear visual cues for you to mimic.

During some of the dance and aerobic numbers that require a lot of sweeping hand and arm movements, though, the motion tracking can be a little too finicky. At first I thought it was a game flaw, but it’s actually just a matter of certain exercises being very particular about how they need to be performed, and if your wrists turn at an incorrect angle or you break rhythm, your movements won’t register. But like any form of athletic activity, you shouldn’t expect to be able to jump right in and master all of the techniques without some degree of a learning curve. The intensity of each exercise is clearly labeled as well, that way you can identify the early warm-ups from the more advanced routines. And if you don’t care about scoring rhythm points to begin with, you can play in ‘Workout Video’ mode, and simply follow along with the trainers, no controllers required.

Another minor complaint I have is with the game’s minimal support for Wii MotionPlus and the Balance Board. ExerBeat is obviously a budget conscious product, so I can appreciate the game not requiring the use of extra peripherals – extra peripherals would only inflate the cost for many users who don’t already own them. But only a tiny fraction of the game’s exercises put these accessories to use at all, and it just seems like a missed opportunity to take things one step further. I’m particularly disappointed by just how underutilized MotionPlus continues to be, because the games that do take advantage of the technology have proven to be far more accurate.

Other than that, ExerBeat is one feature rich game, complete with all the basic necessities you could want from a fitness game. Your workout progress is logged on a calendar, and you can monitor your daily, weekly, monthly and yearly exercise data using the provided graphs. You can also create a regimen of your favorite exercises, or if you need serious help you can consult a personal trainer, who will customize a routine to target a specific problem area you may have or to help you achieve a specific personal goal, such as relieving stress, burning fat, maintaining health and so on.

ExerBeat also does a phenomenal job of keeping you engaged with your workout and motivated to stick with it, dangling a steady stream of unlockables in front of your face like a carrot on a stick. Weekly and daily challenges provide you with specific goals to work towards, and medals are awarded for performing well and showing commitment to regular workouts.

Additionally, the entire game is built around an ‘Around the World’ mode which converts your performance data from each exercise into miles. After completing an activity, you are taken to a world map laid out sort of like board game, and the miles you’ve earned dictate how far your Mii avatar travels across the globe. Checkpoint nodes are placed around the map at notable cities and landmarks, and as you hit these checkpoints new modes, options and exercises become available. You’re also treated to a ‘Did You Know?’ fact at each stop along the way, which was Namco Bandai’s clever way of sneaking extra educational value into the game for youngsters.

Motivation and dedication are more important than anything else in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and this constant flow of rewards and achievable goals does its part to inspire both. But do you know what the best part of all is? A lifetime membership to the ExerBeat fitness dance club will only set you back $20. That’s a tremendous value for all the perks and all the rewards that come with it, and a small price to pay to get in shape…and have fun doing it!

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Pros:
+ Fantastic exercise/dance variety
+ Constant stream of rewards keeps you motivated
+ Trainers and exercise guides are clear and easy to follow
+ Robust feature set and workout data tracking
+ Excellent value at $20

Cons:
– Remote tracking is overly picky with certain exercise movements
– Wii MotionPlus and Balance Board barely supported

Game Info:
Platform: Wii
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Namco Bandai
Release Date: 5/17/2011
Genre: Dance & Fitness
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-2
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!