Thursday, June 11, 2009

Personal Trainer: Walking review

Nintendo ups the peripherals (and the price) on the Nintendo DS with their latest entry into the Personal Trainer series, Person Trainer: Walking.

The main feature of Walking can be seen through a plastic window on the box itself, the "Activity Meters", which are pedometers made by Nintendo to be specifically used with the game. Each pedometer has a button, a blinking light, and an infrared port on it. The button and infrared port are used to transmit and receive data with the game via Walking's infrared DS game card, which looks black but is actually a dark, clear red, and clearly distinguishable to the typical gray DS cards. The light on the device will normally blink red with every step, however, if you achieve your step goal (which I'll get to later), the light will blink green to indicate that you've reached your goal.

The Activity Meters are pretty well built, and are durable. I've been wearing mine daily since I bought the game, either clipping it to my waist when I go outside, or leaving it in my pocket while I'm at work. Though I do have one issue with it, out of the box, the meters do not have their clips attached, instead requiring you to unscrew the original back-plate, and replace it with the included clip plate. It's easy to do, but it just seems like a waste to me, because it's not as if the clip gets in the way when you don't need it, as the meters are pretty much the size of a matchbook. But because the game comes with the two meters, extra clip backings, and the fancy infrared game card, the game prices in at $50, certainly a big step over the $20 that Touch Generations titles are usually priced at.

Despite the pricetag, there isn't much to this "game" in terms of gameplay, as the attention is on the Activity Meter devices. Instead, the game does it's job by reporting and analyzing your walking data, and allowing you to do some things with said data. And if this game sounded to you like it was aimed at the Wii Fit crowd, then you'd be glad to know that it's all hosted by a personified Activity Meter, just like how Wii Fit has the Balance Board guiding you through the game.

When you first register an Activity Meter (you can register up to 4 per game, though only 2 devices come with the game), you will be asked some questions, such as age, rate of activity, etc. You can then set the device for a human, or a dog; yes, the officially makes it the first handheld game that dogs can participate in. Selecting human will allow you to either make a Mii directly in the game (a DS first), or connect to your Wii and transfer a Mii via the Mii Channel (also a first). The creation tools on the DS work just like the Wii, although now you can select between 6 different outfits. Those looking for the same fun creation tools for dogs though, will be disappointed, as you can only select from the randomly assorted dogs in the game, and you can't customize them to match your own pooch.

But enough about Miis, lets get to where the game is focused, walking. For me, the game seemed intriguing because I personally do a lot of walking, more so when I was living in the city; but I never had a clear idea of how much I was actually walking, so I figured this would be a fun, new way to find out. After doing my daily walking around, I just open up my DSi, start the game up, choose "Check Your Rhythm", press the button on my meter, and BAM, all my data for the day instantly on my DS. What's neat is that the game will show you how active you are ever hour, minute, and if you check your Records, you can also check steps and rhythm by weeks, months, and even year once you get there.

However, if charts and graphs aren't your thing (not sure why you'd get this to begin with then) there's the "Play with Records" option. Here you can play the "Walk the World" mini-game that chooses random world locations, and will draw out pictures of worldly objects with your recorded steps. Once completed, you'll get some facts and maybe even sound clips of the object you've drawn; exciting, I know, but there's over 100 things to draw so at least it's something to do. The next option is "Illuminate" which uses your steps to run a virtual generator to light up a town, however, once you reach 10,000 watts (which took me about a week) the steps generated won't do anything more, making this option pointless. There's also rankings for you to compare various stats with other users on the game.

The last option is mildly neat however, and that's Nintendo WiFi Connection support. Here you can upload your daily step data online, for participation in two events: the Space Walk, and World Rankings. The Space Walk aggregates steps uploaded by players around the world (only 1,311 at this point, sadly) counts them towards a walk a across space. As of writing this review, we're about a 5th of the way to the Moon, with Neptune being over 6 trillion steps away; no idea if it'll be anything like Noby Noby Boy's reaching for Mars, but I doubt it. None the less, it's a neat feature and I'm curious how long it will actually take to complete. The World Ranking works much like the offline Rankings, although now it's obviously everyone's steps and not just your family's; but there's some different sorting options for those that care.

Overall Thoughts
Other than the nice readings, and tacked on mini-game like features, there really isn't much to Personal Trainer: Walking in terms of gameplay, which may make the $50 pricetag sound intimidating. But if you're someone like myself who does do a lot of walking, and are interested in a better understanding of how much you actually walk, the game, and it's well built Activity Meters are certainly a fun, simple way for DS owners to do so. Though I do question the game's title, as it never actually "trains" you to walk, it just tells you how do. Perhaps this shoud've been called Personal Analyzer: Walking instead.

Overall Score: 7/10

For more on Personal Trainer: Walking, check out Nintendo's official website for the game.


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