Monday, December 6, 2010

Jillian Michaels: Fitness Ultimatum 2011 (for the Wii)

I love working out with my Wii, so I was really excited to try out Jillian Michaels: Fitness Ultimatum 2011, a new workout game that includes not just a training element, but a mission mode to make the work out fun.

I ended up with mixed emotions about the game. On the plus side, the exercises were challenging and made me work hard. I could really feel my body working while I was doing them, and after doing the game for three days, I was so sore it hurt to sit down. I consider that to be a success.

Fitness Ultimatum has a Wii MotionPlus and Wii Balance Board option, although you don't need to have that equipment to use the game.

However, the thing that was most frustrating for me was that the interface was hard to work with. It was hard to tell if it was tracking my movements, even though there is an onscreen green/yellow/red tracker that is supposed to show how well you are keeping your form. It didn't seem to really correspond to what I was doing.

This was not so bad in the training section of the game—where you can choose circuits or individual exercises to work out to. Missing a few reps, or having the game not recognize your movements didn't make much of a difference. As long as you kept at, you could do your workout and be fine. (Although if that's how you're going to do it, you might as well do Michaels' 30-Day Shred exercise video instead. That will also make you sore. Trust me.)

There are five built in training circuits: two whole body and three that focus on upper body, lower body, or abs. There are also five slots where you can create your own circuit. They were good circuits, but one of the reasons I like to work out with my Wii is because it varies the exercise regimen without me having to program it. I like workout games that will switch up the exercises for you, so you don't get bored doing the same circuits over and over.

What I was excited about was the mission mode. In mission mode, your avatar is out to defeat the evil Cureall Corporation, which produces fast food out of one side of the factory and medicine to treat obesity-caused illnesses out of the other. I was hopeful that this would be a fast moving and fun way to make me exercise without realizing I was exercising.

There are ten missions, which you can unlock in sequential order. The first couple, which is as far as I've gotten thus far, are recon missions, meaning that Jillian Michaels has tricked me into doing a circuit training workout mixed in with stretches of running in between.

Very sneaky, Ms. Michaels.

It's actually a great workout, but here's where I got frustrated. In mission mode, if you don't do the reps fast enough, you will fail the mission and have to start over from the beginning. That's all fine and good if you can't do it fast enough, but the problem comes when the game doesn't "see" that you are doing the exercises. For example, when you do 30 jumping jacks or 18 squats and the game only recognizes three of them and then says you failed your mission, it gets really annoying.

There were times that I spent more energy trying to position the remote correctly than do the exercise correctly, which is not a good way to prevent injury and get the most out of your exercise.

Honestly, when it worked, it was really fun and I loved the missions. The interval-style training is great for your body and really keeps you moving. When it didn't work, I wanted to break my television.

Considering that every time the game uses the balance board or the Wii MotionPlus, it makes you recalibrate (only a few seconds, but still a little bit annoying), it seems like it should be better at tracking your movements.

One other thing that bothered me a little bit about the game in both training and workout mode is that there were no audio prompts for doing the movements. This meant that when I was doing an exercise, I had to make sure I could see my TV to make sure the timing was right, especially on the mission mode. For some exercises, craning to see the TV is awkward and not conducive to the exercise.

Things that I liked about the game, other than the fact that it is a great workout, is that you can choose your intensity level, plus as you unlock the missions, you also unlock fitness, wellness, and diet tips.

So. I guess my final assessment of the game is that it is a fantastic idea and I love Jillian Michaels' workouts, but I wish the execution were better. I will probably still mix this game in with my other Wii workouts, but will do my main exercising with my standbys, like EA Sports Active, which is still my favorite Wii workout game.

Honesty Clause: I received a review copy of this game at no charge. List price is $39.99.