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Nintendo DS Review: The Biggest Loser

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This Nintendo DS (NDS) game has many practical applications in a portable format featuring large chunks of interactive exercise and diet information. Appearances from the popular television show include expert trainers Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels with host Alison Sweeney and eight previous contestants, presented as player competitors, most notably Ali Vincent.

Players enter their personal information within four levels of activity ranging from sedentary (little or no exercise) to heavy, then create an avatar, which changes according to weight loss or gain entered. The manual contains a recommended fitness quiz before players start a planned program.

The camera option for the Nintendo DSi allows players to put their face into one of the eight contestants. Body mass index (BMI), basal metabolic rate, and suggested caloric intake also factor into the establishing profile (up to three available). Players can review the information and edit profiles any time.

The text-heavy content is well organized into the convenient, portable NDS console where players enter information daily as well as take part in the more interactive aspects. The touch options work wonderfully because the interactive areas are large enough where you can select the icons, file tabs, or checkmarks with your finger instead of the stylus.

Optional voice bits from the show's stars spice up the information flow, though these excerpts miss the mark in the beginning stages. Even with the voices on, the text remains on the screen at all times so players catch every instruction.

The four main modes include accomplishments, The Biggest Loser Challenge, exercise, and a healthy eating handbook. The accomplishment list updates in a check mark format when players lose weight or complete challenges, suggested exercises, quizzes, recipes, new activities, increasingly active exercises, and make beneficial food choices. Players can also manually check off any accomplishments they might complete on their own.  The exercise mode lets players browse exercises, start a routine, or edit routines together. The healthy eating handbook contains six areas: choices, quick tips, cookbook, calculator, quiz and calorie counter.

When starting The Biggest Loser Challenge, players choose a beginning, intermediate, or advanced level, which includes a four, eight, or 12 week plans and which are automatically saved. The menu then changes to offer calendar and progress modes as well as the exercise and healthy eating handbook.

The developers have incorporated several previous show contestants into individual tips which appear before accessing the calendar mode.  These seem to exist to give players another area to check off any accomplishments they may have completed.

One of the biggest potential issues in the fitness game genre is that players usually operate on the honor system. The game does not regulate player input on calories burned (activities done or manual entry amounts) or calories eaten (calorie counter or manual entry) for each day. Players can also enter a maximum scale weight of 699 lbs, so wild entries can yield wild results.

 

There is also a weigh-in challenge game.  It entices players with an obvious system, which promotes ongoing improvement where players effortlessly get to the final week without getting voted off.

BMI, weight, and the current week within the challenge time are conveniently summarized in the top screen of the program. Visual icons for help, progress, exercises, and calorie counters appear in the left column with the calendar in the bottom screen.

Each exercise routine ranges from 15 to 35 minutes depending on the amount and type of one or two minute individual exercises choices. Timers help players pace their exercises while minimal visuals and considerable text relay instructions.

The cookbook mode contains helpful; informative; and, yes, entertaining ways to strengthen your cooking skills with ingredients, directions, and nutrition for each recipe categorized as breakfasts, hearty snacks, sweet snacks, sides and salads, main courses, and sandwiches/soup. The cookbook also has separate quiz and choices modes to test player knowledge.

The cookbook recipe content makes a strong case against fast food showing dining out options from 30 different popular restaurant chains. Omitting the widely available McDonald’s restaurants seems surprising however.

The choice mode in the healthy eating handbook features a two option format where players pick the healthier food. This mode could be better by expanding the content and graphics, following the quadrant format in the menus to offer a four choice challenge as well, does not avail itself of this possibility. Even so, the developers have synthesized and organized the health information in a usable way.

NDS technology improvements could greatly improve the interaction the user has with the program. For example, a voice recognition audio option that would recognize spoken words would reduce scrolling through the helpful, but lengthy itemized lists. This could save time in exercise selection, cookbook recipe selection, and calorie counting.

The “edutainment” elements herein appeal more if players enjoy the television show. The tools, exercises, and challenges are great, but all depend on one factor – will the player actually complete them? Users get easy navigation throughout all modes and can choose exercises and recipes they enjoy the most, but that still doesn't mean that they'll use it.

The Biggest Loser Nintendo DS version provides great informational functions for practical, portable, use, but more entertaining mini-games involving the player challenges seen on the show might boost the lagging entertainment elements.

The Biggest Loser is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for alcohol references. Also available on Nintendo Wii.


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