When announced by Nintendo, many weren’t sure what to think of the Wii Balance board. While the Wii remote inspired the imagination with thoughts of new fun forms of gameplay, the Wii Balance board was less inspiring. It wasn’t that the Balance Board wasn’t well made – the foot-controlled, floor-based controller simply had harder to imagine applications. Well, here I am with a Wii Balance Board after a price drop following the release of Wii Fit Plus. After putting off the purchase for quite a while, I decided it was time to give it a try.
My first impression of the Wii Balance Board from a previous E3 was unlike any other I’ve had for a Nintendo accessory. I felt little excitement – almost a sense of dread, to be honest. From the look of it, the Wii Balance Board was just a strange peripheral to muck up the controls in an otherwise great game. It struck me as highly experimental and difficult to develop for. The game demos shown at the E3 expo were cleverly made and did look fun, but I just couldn’t visualize many other uses for the unwieldy, unorthodox controller.
Fairly hefty and very durable- the Wii Balance Board is the heavyweight of the Wii accessories. It shares the sleek, white material and style of other Wii accessories and, admittedly, looks pretty nice ascetically as an addition to the collection. The topside material is comfortable to stand on and the ‘On’ button is smartly placed right on the front of it. As usual, Nintendo has done a great job with the design.
Before I get to the games, I should point out one serious issue I’ve had with my Wii Balance Board. Put simply- battery life. Four AA batteries are required and, oh my goodness, does it seem to eat them quickly. Now I know what you’re thinking- AC adapter or rechargeable battery, right? Tried both- neither did the job. Both would randomly disconnect and shut off the board. Word of advice- if you plan on frequently using your Wii Balance Board, make sure you horde plenty of AA batteries and try not to leave them inside when you’re not playing. Now its time to move on to the Wii Balance Board compatible games! Remember, I’m limited by the games I can critique- I only have so many that are compatible.
To me it seems the Wii Balance Board was made entirely for this game. This pack-in title for the board controls amazingly. The Balance games are all extremely well-designed and honestly highly addictive. The most impressive games, control-wise, would be the Ball Maze, Penguin Iceberg, and -though frustrating- the Tightrope Walk. All three perfectly exemplify the capabilities of the Balance Board. Rhythm Boxing comes in as a shining example of how to properly utilize a variety of the accessories- the Wiimote, nunchuk, and balance board are all in use. Of course if you really want to see what it can do- just try the Yoga sessions. The game tracks your movements accurately and advises you on how to improve your stance and posture. The one area where Wii Fit suffers is the low number of genuinely fun games- though Wii Fit Plus fixed that little issue.
Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll
As a fan of the Super Monkey Ball series since the original on the GameCube, I was really looking forward to the sequel to Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz. All I can say is… wow. How disappointing. The main game is a serious chore to play with the Balance Board- downright unplayable on later levels. It’d be less frustrating if the game wasn’t so excellently controlled with the Wiimote and nunchuk. Basically, you’re just committing suicide by picking the board control scheme. The other problem worth mentioning is that the game has less than half as many mini-games as its predecessor and they’re not nearly as fun.
This I’ll keep brief because only one game mode supports the Wii Balance Board. The Drum Set Mode allows you to play with the Wiimote and nunchuk as the drumsticks, and the Balance Board as the pedals. The Drum Mode controls fairly impressively- I’ve never played the drums before, but I’ll say its very fun and a great piece to the Wii Music package.
Like Wii Music, Punch-Out Wii doesn’t do too much to push the boundaries of gameplay. You lean and Little Mac does so as well. It controls decently, but shares the same problem as SMB: Step & Roll. You’re just better off with one of the superior control schemes. Novel, at best.
There isn’t much to say as I only got a little time to try this one. You shift your body atop the Wii Balance Board to control an attack copter. It was… unresponsive, to say the least. This Wiiware title is already mediocre with overpriced DLC- play it with the Balance Board and it becomes a chore.
I’d almost forgotten the robust package that is Tetris Party contained a Wii Balance Board mode. Every gamer is familiar with Tetris, but have you ever played with your body? It’s surreal to lean left and right to move the oversized Tetris blocks around. It isn’t the tightest control scheme for playing Tetris, but it is entertaining for a little while. In the end you’ll probably stick with the traditional play style.
Overall, I’ve gotta say the Wii Balance Board isn’t yet worth a purchase. While Wii Fit is definitely a killer app for the peripheral, it’s not going to go much further than being a haven for fitness fanatics or a gaming curiosity for those with extra cash. While Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll was poised to be the second killer app to release for the Wii Balance Board, it ended up being mediocre at best. Unless you plan on being a dedicated fitness gamer or have a gaming library overflowing with Wii Balance Board compatible games- I’ve got to suggest a pass on it.