My Fitness Coach

Unlike most Wii games, My Fitness Coach doesn't make much use of the controllers. For once the developers haven't allowed themselves to get carried away with the technology. Making full use of the motion-tracking technology doesn't always make sense, and sometimes a better experience can be had by going back to basics. This is more like a customised fitness DVD than a game with fitness elements tacked on.

The personalisation starts with quite a detailed fitness evaluation. It's not just a matter of entering your age, weight and height. You also need to take pulse readings and several measurements, and then perform a few basic exercises. It's thorough. This evaluation is repeated every 10 sessions, so you can track the changes to your fitness and body size on a graph.

Once this is done Maya, the animated coach, suggests a programme. This includes how many days you should work out for and for how long, your long term goal, and your daily focus. You can override all of these if you like.

The workouts themselves begin with a warmup, followed by a number of other exercises that follow one after the other. After this period of intense exercise, and a brief period of rest is introduced after each excercise. Finally the session ends with a cooldown and stretches, although these typically don't get much emphasis. A scrolling bar across the bottom of the screen lets you know what's coming up. There's also a timer and a difficulty rating for each move. Tutorials are sometimes available, which is useful for those times you can't watch the screen and perform the move correctly at the same time.

During a workout Maya regularly asks for your feedback, and adjusts the exercises accordingly. This means that after a few sessions My Fitness Coach learns to give you a workout at the intensity you need. What's more, it gradually introduces new moves into the routines to keep you challenged and interested in the long term. It features over 500 exercises, so there's a lot to work on.

Maya's banter is another thing that's designed to keep you coming back. When you slack off and miss a session she will mention that she missed you, but her chat is always very encouraging. There's a lot of it, as well. That's always good for keeping you focused through a tiring workout.

Further incentives come in the form of unlockable music and workout environments. All you need to do to get these is turn up and take part in a certain number of sessions without taking a day off. This is about the closest My Fitness Coach comes to resembling a game. There's no question of winning or losing, and because none of the exercises use the wiimote or nunchuck all the tests are self-evaluated. You can even award yourself credit for exercise you do outside the programme, like going for a swim. This is a serious title for people who want to get in shape, and it's up to the user to make the best of it. If you tell it you can do 60 crunches when you can't manage more than 10, and that on a good day, then it simply won't offer you the most effective workouts. You can cheat as much as you like, but there's no point.

You can spice things up still more by using equipment. You can incorporate hand weights, a step, a stability ball and a heart monitor. None of these are essential. However, if the upper-body routines seem a little too gentle for you then hand weights can make an appreciable difference.

My Fitness Coach may look unassuming. It may lack the bells, whistles, and motion-sensitive minigames that adorn many similar Wii games. But don't be fooled, because it's actually a very solid title with a lot to recommend it. Attention has been paid where it matters, on designing a fitness programme that's safe, stimulating and well-balanced. Thanks to its wide range of exercises and detailed personalisation options this is a long-lasting fitness tool that's a real pleasure to use.