Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Review of Walk it Out for Wii by Konami

5 out of 5 stars

Konami hits a home run with Walk It Out, a low-impact aerobic game which make walking in place a ton of fun.

Reviewer: Nutwiisystem
February 16, 2010

The first thing to know about Walk It Out is that it’s not a “video game” in the traditional sense of the word. There are no puzzles to solve, no targets to shoot at, no time limits, and no levels to conquer.

What it is is a very rich and in-depth virtual environment where you walk around and explore, unlocking different parts of the world as you go. The virtual world is stunningly beautiful, with parks, beaches, ocean views, buildings, and trees. The time in the virtual world matches the real world time: during the day you can admire the vast blue skies with beautiful cloud formations; at night, you can walk under a starry sky.

In many ways, Konami was brilliant to focus just on walking as exercise. While this may not sound very exciting, keep in mind that studies have shown that sustained walking is one of the very best forms of exercise. 67 million Americans walk regularly for exercise, whether doing step exercises in a gym, walking on a treadmill, or just walking outdoors. With all the Wii fitness games out there, it’s a category of exercise that hasn’t really been done very well. All other games focus on things like boxing and running. Wii Fit Plus’s “Rhythm Parade” is good, but too short. Its “Step Aerobics” is also good, but just much too short.

Starting up the game is very simple. You first create a profile, choosing from a male or female character, and then customizing the color of his or her hair, skin, and clothes. I would have preferred to use my Mii character, but their anime-style character was good enough. Next, you input your birthdate, height, and weight. For the more bashful among us, you can also protect this information with a password. I was disappointed that Konami did not build in balance board support to measure my weight.

You then select the controller you want to use. You can choose one of three options: a Wii Balance Board, a Dance Dance Revolution Dance Pad, or a Wii Remote and Nunchuk.
  • The Wii Balance Board is the most straightforward controller. You stand with one foot on the left, one foot on the right of the board, and you just march in place to the rhythm to make your character walk.

  • For me, the best choice for a controller is the Dance Dance Revolution Dance Pad. Like the Wii Balance board, you march in place on the dance pad to make your character walk. What’s nice about the dance pad is that it provides more flexibility. You can position your feet on any one of the six buttons on the dance pad, and you can even “mix it up” by moving your feet around to one of six positions. Unlike Dance Dance Revolution, you don’t have to stand on specific arrows: you can march on any button on the dance pad.

  • The Wii Remote and Nunchuk can be used if you want to give you arms a workout or if you don’t have a dance pad or balance board. Just wave your right hand and your left hand to the beat to make your character walk.
You start out the game in a stadium on a track, where a tutorial will teach you how to interact with the virtual world. A soundtrack with upbeat music will play throughout your game, and you basically need to step in time with the rhythm (by default, you’re stepping to every beat, but if it becomes too fast for you, you can configure it to step to every other beat). There’s a visual indication in the upper left-hand corner of the screen of each beat, and every time you step exactly to the beat, you’ll see a “great” or “perfect” message, and you’ll collect a “chip”. Like Dance Dance Revolution, you need to be precise in your steps to get credit, but unlike that game you don’t need to place your feet on a specific spot; as long as you step anywhere on the mat you’ll get credit. Every time you miss the beat (or stand still) you start losing chips.

This is where the fun starts. You goal is collect as many chips as possible, and to use those chips to unlock various things in the virtual world, each one costing anywhere from 10 to 400 “chips”. As you walk through the world, you’ll see icons with a point value. If you have enough points, clicking on the icon will replace the icon with the actual item. If you click on an icon before you’ve earned enough points, the icon will be moved to the top of the screen and will be unlocked as soon as you earn enough points.

Among the things you can unlock:
  • 120 songs
  • 69 route branches (arrows that open up new parts of the map for you)
  • 3346 town elements (ranging from trees to fire hydrants to cars)
  • 24 magical clocks (which allow you to change the time in the virtual world, regardless of what the time in the real world is)
  • 12 zodiac signs (constellations which appear in the night sky)
  • 7 rainbow spheres (which will make a rainbow appear in the day sky when all are collected)
As you step, your character will walk through the island. As you come to crossroads, you’ll see arrows that point you in different directions, which you can point and click (or use the Wii Remote arrow button) to take. Certain arrows need to be unlocked before you can take them.

As for the music, throughout the game you need to click on icons that look like CDs to unlock new songs. I find that I wanted to use all my first couple hundred points on unlocking enough music to avoid the music from repeating. There’s a great mix of licensed songs from artists like The Black Eyed Peas, Demi Levato, and Ne-Yo, as well as a number of the kind of generic-yet-peppy stock songs from Japanese composers you might have heard on Dance Dance Revolution. As each song is playing, you’ll see the name of the song and its tempo in the lower left-hand corner of the screen.

After unlocking all the music I could find, I spent the next couple hundred points on unlocking parts of the map. I then became obsessed with unlocking all the scenery. Some of the scenery adds beauty to the scene, while others are actually functional (for example, unlocking street lights will brighten up the scene when you’re walking at night). With thousands of items to unlock, that’s a lot of steps you have to take. But the thrill of “earning” your points and then spending them to create your own little world really does make the time go by quicker and more enjoyable than if you were just walking on a treadmill staring into space.  Konami did a good job of taking elements from video games (collecting points, cashing them in, building your interactive world).

Throughout the experience, your virtual trainer will pop in to give you training tips (for example, if you overdo your exercise, she’ll tell you to slow down), give you instructions, and shout out encouragement.

So bottom line, is this a good title for exercise? My answer is an emphatic yes. It won’t give you the kind of high-impact, heart-pounding aerobics that a title like EA Sports Active or My Fitness Coach will give you, but it is a nice way to mix things up and add a pleasant, enjoyable component to your Wii fitness regimen. It’s the perfect way to work out for rainy days or days when there’s 20 inches of snow on the ground outside!

By the way, thanks to Karen and "L" for posting comments on the Best Wii Fitness Games page to tip me off to review this great game! :)