For a game with quite a lot of things wrong with it, ExerBeat is curiously addictive. It's an all-round workout game featuring dance, aerobics, martial arts, body conditioning, stretches and party games for one or two players. In some ways it's very well designed, and in others it's laughable, but not necessarily in ways that will make you want to stop playing.

First of all you set up a profile so you can track your progress and graph calories used, time spent playing, and so on. As you play you unlock more and more of the 155 exercises. One of the first unlockables is a round-the-world mode, which takes you on a virtual tour of the globe as you rack up points. Each time you do an individual exercise there are bronze, silver, gold and perfect badges to attain. There's also a daily challenge where you aim to get a certain percentage, which goes up according to your past performance, and there's also a weekly challenge you can set yourself. So when it comes to goal setting and replay value ExerBeat scores very highly.

Exercises are done using one or two Wii remotes, or none at all if you choose the Workout Video mode and you're not concerned with scores. There are also a few Latin dance exercises that use the balance board for lots of hip-swaying moves. You play by following the arrows that come up and matching your movements to them. In the karate and boxercising this is really easy so long as you can keep pace, but most of the other exercises demand that you also point the remotes in the right direction, and it isn't always obvious which way this is. There's a party game where you smash walls, for instance, but the avatar wears boxing gloves so it's anyone's guess which way the remote should point, and it matters. I found all the party games and aerobics especially difficult because they demand a lot of precision, often without clearly showing which way your hands are meant to be pointing. Latin dance suffers from this problem to a lesser extent, but the main trick here is to make small, subtle motions rather than flailing your arms about, and this is exactly what the instructor tells you.

Oh boy, those instructors! The first thing I noticed was how plastic they look, with no texture to their faces and puppet lips that flap up and down the same way, no matter what they're saying. This looks cheap, but it doesn't affect gameplay. However they're all really, really annoying and ridiculous, and they never seem to shut up. The karate guy comes over all macho with "the way of karate is fast and deep," and the Latin dance woman squeals at every opportunity. The hip hop guy is clichéd, the hippy pilates/yoga woman says "think of this as a conversation with your own body" once too often (i.e. ever), and even the stretching woman takes too long to repeat her assessment of how you're doing. All of them talk too much and interrupt the workouts with their blather so you have to stop moving, and there's no way to fast-forward past them. Some of the voices are slightly less annoying in other languages, but as a workaround changing the console language isn't going to suit everyone. The other thing you can't skip is the world tour, which comes up after every single exercise, like it or not, unless you do a longer personal trainer routine when it only appears at the end.

The activity level is quite low to start with, and it takes a few goes to unlock more demanding routines. I'd say the game as a whole varies from easy to moderate workouts, but the flap-mouthed instructors and world tours mean that there are frequent breaks. The exercises last from less than a minute to around fifty minutes, and it's only with these longer routines that you stand a chance of working up a decent sweat.

It may seem like I'm not too keen on this fitness game, but that's not the case. It's got problems, and the instructors are dead silly, but the routines are varied and there's plenty of content to go at. Although it's aimed at more casual exercisers rather than serious fitness enthusiasts the workouts are well designed and it has a good range of activities. And there's something so fiendishly satisfying about getting that complete set of gold badges and "perfect" crowns.

4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson