Ah, the New Year. Nothing says bright, shiny reboot like those perennial resolutions to “lose weight” and “stop using the stationary bike as a clothes rack.” Happily, the Wii console has created a flourishing new fitness market, with videogame makers churning out titles that promise to work you out without making you brave the crappy weather and short sunlight. Not sure which title to pick up (or get your pudgy partner)? Here are our top picks from this year.
EA Sports Active
The Stats: Closer to a hardcore workout video than a video game, EA Sports Active incorporates a leg strap and resistance band in defined workouts that blend cardio (kickboxing, running obstacle courses) and strength training (reverse crunches, bicep curls). The heart of the game is a 6-week challenge in which workouts get progressively harder and longer as you go.
The Muscle: As you gasp and sweat post-workout (and you’ll do plenty of both), you can analyze your calorie burn per exercise and carefully track your offscreen activities. A nice mix of competitive games for two players.
The Flub: Juggling the Wii remote, numchuck attachment, and leg strap definitely has a (short) learning curve.
Try It If: You want structure and serious sweat
Your Shape featuring Jenny McCarthy
The stats: Perch the included video camera atop your television and this game will project your image onscreen, so you can watch your form–and get corrected–as you power through aerobics and toning routines.
The Muscle: Being able to lay down the Wii remote is a huge boon to introducing other props, such as stability balls and hand weights. And the soundtrack was surprisingly good (hello, Rihanna!).
The Flub: Interested in watching yourself sweatily flop around onscreen? Me neither. And Jenny is uber-chatty: “You’ve got great stamina” is encouraging only the first time.
Try It If: You don’t want to touch the tech.
The Biggest Loser
The stats: Choose your favorite character from the popular TV show and then sweat your way through similar (ridiculous) physical challenges and drills.
The Muscle: Just like the show, this game breaks down the basics of both exercise and exercise, including a daily caloric goal and some recipes (culled from The Biggest Loser cookbook).
The Flub: Considering how easy it is to customize personal avatars in every other game, it’s weird that you’re stuck playing as a morbidly obese real-life person, no matter your actual size or fitness level. And the head-to-head competitions between two players? Less than thrilling.
Try It If: You’re a big fan of the show and dream about Jillian kicking your butt.
Wii Fit Plus
The stats: Ok, you can probably burn some calories if you’re playing the run-in-place games, but who are we kidding? It’s the balance games (sliding around an iceberg as a tubby penguin, slaloming down the slopes) that have you logging on again and again. There’s a section on yoga, aerobics (hula hooping! Segway circuit!), and strength training, as well as an easy way to combine short exercises into a full-on routine.
The Muscle: Everything is just so gosh-darn cute–you can create a pet profile to track Fido’s weight!–that we actually looked forward to tracking our weight and stats daily. Did we mention you pick a daily calorie-burn goal based on an equivalent food item? (We couldn’t meet the goal of burning a flan each day, but did quite nicely with a slice of American cheese, thanks.)
The Flub: As fun as this might be to bust out at a dinner party, Wii Fit should be considered the icing on an already established exercise routine. It alone isn’t going to move the scales.
Try It If: You’re into posture, flexibility and balance
The stats: Mirror the onscreen character’s dance steps as they shake it to everything from hip hop to ’80s rock to classic New Kids on the Block. The gamemakers used professional dancers to set the scores, so it’s as much about rhythm and transitions as it is about hitting the steps.
The Muscle: Squaring off with another player is pretty hilarious fun and probably the only way I’d ever play. I don’t need a console to jam to Cyndi Lauper solo.
The Flub: Whether this actually will help your dance skills remains suspect.
Try It If: as the title suggests, you want to just dance.
Gold Gym’s Cardio Burn
The stats: The country’s largest full-service gym isn’t into silly backdrops and fantasy games. Here, it’s all about bringing the gym to your home, with boxing and running drills and strength training drills.
The Muscle: A clever motivation boost: As you rack up points from boxing lessons and drills, you can then “spend” that credit on better clothes and kicks for your avatar.
The Flub: Having to slog through a bunch of lessons before you’re able to let loose in the games was a minor annoyance. But once you’re “trained,” the gloves can fly.
Try It If: You’re into boxing. A lot of boxing.