Our man in Japan looks at the first game to take on Wii Fit which he also looked at for us back in December of 2007.
Okay, so it has the gamer-baiting “Family
” in its title and it also mentions a “Trainer
”, which is just one syllable away from “Training
”, a term that has in the space of two years gone from being the symbol of boundary-breaking innovation in games to a byword for “unfettered crapness”. But you can’t really blame Namco Bandai for daring to bring another ‘fun for all’ game out at the party - even though all of the cool people have by now left the party and staggered home. Why not? Because Bandai, you should know, got there first.
Yes, Family Trainer
is turning up on the Wii now and will be seen as a cash-in on Wii Fit’s succe$$, but this is in fact a sequel to a series of games Bandai released more than 20 years ago.
That series was called Family Trainer
, of all things, for Nintendo’s 8-bit Family Computer (the NES). So you see, nothing is really new; it’s just been freshened up to look presentable this year. The original Family Trainer
game was bundled with a mat accessory in 1986. In 2008, it’s again put together with a mat for you to run, jump and ‘be active’ on. Only this time around, everyone is doing this sort of thing. So you needn’t feel quite so silly about it.
The Family Trainer
mat is nowhere near as clever as Wii Fit’s
Balance Board, though. It’s just like any number of dance game mats, really, and it’s not even a wireless device. Instead, a bit cheaply, the mat plugs into one of the Wii’s GameCube controller ports.
The Japanese version of Family Trainer
arrives in a big cardboard box, which contains one of these mat thingies and a sheet of stickers to use as slip-prevention tools. If you don’t mind having the mat stuck on your living room floor, these are okay – but even a moderate amount of activity can cause them to become unstuck.
Another downer is the size of the mat which, at 95cm by 85cm, seems oversized and impractical, especially after months spent with the relatively dinky (yet much more stable) Balance Board. The Family Trainer
mat is just a bit ugly, too.
So, the 'hardware' isn’t up to much, but you’ll be happy (or possibly indifferent) to learn that the Family Trainer
software is a shiny disc of fun.
The interaction between mat and game is all to do with the timing of your steps – there’s none of the pressure-sensitive leaning or body-tilting you get with Wii Fit
– and the challenges packed in Family Trainer
end up more like rhythm-action game outtakes than examples of a serious exercise program.
When the game tells you to run, it’s actually telling you to tap your feet, so for the best times (and Fitness Points, which Family Trainer
doles out as rewards) you’ll end up sprinting like a cartoon character, emphatically stamping your feet as rapidly as possible – and possibly swinging your arms at the same time, just for effect.