Video games and the overall fitness of the gamers that play them has been a topic of serious conversation for many years now. People in important positions of power (ie government types and parents) were becoming increasingly concerned that gamers wanted to spend a lot of their time sitting in front of screens, playing games. Then came the broad concept of motion controlled gaming and the much narrower concept of exercise video games. Whilst many a gamer embraced motion gaming and enjoyed the idea of pointing at the screen or waving their arms around, the exercise games which offered much more physical activity, with workouts available that are comparable to a full gym session, seem to have become a sub-genre that interests only those that would be likely to go to the gym in the first place. The main failing of exercise games is that they are not really games as such, and are not all that much fun.
So, on one side you have video game fans that want nothing more than to twiddle their thumbs and press some buttons. The other side consists of the exercise game fans who want to work up a sweat and see no benefit from making Mario reach a flag at the end of a level. Wouldn’t it be interesting if these two groups of people could be brought together in some way?
Well, that’s what Blaze Europe though when they created the U-Move Motion Controller with built-in pedometer. This replacement Nunchuk for the Nintendo Wii offers some interesting functionality that could get the regular gamer off the couch and the fitness gamer playing fun games. What could be better?
Endorsed by both Mel B and Fitness First, the U-Move controller comes out of the box resembling a slightly chunky white Nunchuk. The main difference that can be seen is the small screen above the thumb stick. The main body has a number of grooves, possibly to enable more grip during times of sweatiness, and the C and Z buttons are much larger than usual. Plugging it into a WiiMote allows the controller to be used exactly as any other Nunchuk whilst playing video games. But the magic happens when the player presses the small button just beneath the screen.
This turns on the “active mode” of the Nunchuk and is when things start getting physical. Quite simply, the player needs to move to make the thumb stick work. The movement sensing technology built in to the controller is quite sensitive and some jogging on the spot will soon get things working. If the player stops moving then the thumb stick gradually ceases to function. The screen above the thumb stick monitors the number of steps taken and also shows the number of calories burnt during any given session.
Obviously, with the endorsement by Mel B and Fitness First, the U-Move controller will have an instant fan base amongst the fitness gamers and offers this added functionality ot fitness games such as WiiFit, NewU and EA Sports Active. But what is perhaps more interesting is the way that regular gamers can use the controller with any game that uses the thumb stick for movement.
We first tested the controller out by monkeying around in Donkey Kong Country Returns. Using the thumb stick to move Kong left and right along the screen, I found myself having to keep jogging on the spot. It is almost like the movement “charges” the controller up, allowing it to function and stopping movement causes the power to slowly drain. It is important to note that Kong does not stop suddenly when the player does, but rather stops gradually. This is important as the constant movement is difficult to keep up and suddenly stopping in front of an enemy would be unfortunate.
The actual amount of movement that is required is surprisingly little, thanks to the high sensitivity of the movement sensors in the controller, so fairly light jogging on the spot is fine. It also senses the movement of the arms, but using the thumb stick becomes rather difficult whilst flailing the arms up and down. It does take a little getting used to, there is a certain amount of multi-tasking involved with controlling your on-screen character whilst ensuring that you keep moving, but overall the controller works well.
We tried the controller on a few different games and the unit itself works just as well from one to the next. There are, however, some problems with certain types of games. Games that require precision use of the WiiMote for pointing at the screen, such as shooters, will obviously suffer from the fact that the player is moving, adding a certain amount of shake to any aiming that is needed. That being said, the “active mode” can be turned off at any time to allow the player to rest, or for particularly precise parts of the game.
Could the U-Move controller be the antidote to couch gaming? Quite possibly. If the gamer has absolutely no interest in adding some activity to their gaming sessions, then the U-Move Controller will do nothing to change that. But if you are the kind of gamer who just doesn’t like the look of fitness games, then this controller will introduce a certain amount of physical activity to some of your favorite Wii games, and the activity is actually quite intensive. The fitness gamers too will get a kick out of being able to play games like Super Mario Galaxy 2, Resident Evil 4 and Metroid Prime 3 with the excuse that they are exercising.
Non-gamers will tell you to go outside and get some proper exercise. But they don’t understand our passion for gaming. Blaze Europe obviously do, and their U-Move Motion Controller with built-in pedometer, which has a reasonable price of £19.99, offers a way for gamers to get active with their favorite Wii games. Fitness games need be boring no more!
The U-Move Motion Controller with built-in pedometer, from Blaze Europe, is available for £19.99.