Jillian Michaels takes her personal training expertise to the video game sector in a tepid Wii exclusive debut that’s a bit below average. Understandably, the main goal in Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2009 is getting people to get fit and have fun without thinking too much. You can get a wide range of activities under your belt without leaving your house. The developers' goal was to make the actions entertaining so you really get into the experience and forget you’re working out. However, overall entertainment value is lacking here. Yes, you’re supposed to be getting in shape, but a fitness simulation game should make you forget you’re working out and let you have fun in a way no other media can.
The free flowing game format is set in a nature camp atmosphere. You begin with a fairly limited character creator and customize your age, outfit, shoes and head gear. You can also customize the workout by choosing from an activity cache including handcar pump, tire trial, monkey bars, log walk, boxing, cannon attack, rowing (my favorite) and running. Some events mirror the Olympics, but developers missed opportunities for more escapist activities like climbing/repelling, lumberjack activities, or ice skating. Parachuting or para sailing to your next event (steering with your arms) could work as a reward activity and would work within the game’s outdoors theme. You can unlock several elements in the cafeteria, though the game doesn’t notify you, prompting frequent visits to see what’s new.
The controls work well, but there seems to be a response delay in the game, so getting the timing right can be a challenge. The cord between the nunchuk and Wii remote became an issue as well. In the example animations, the cord stays out of the way, but you might want to get a Velcro strip or twist tie to tame that whip. You can’t enter your weight without the Wii balance board, but the balance board can’t be used in the multiplayer mode. You also choose right hand or left hand preferences before going toe to toe with Jillian…well, you don’t actually get to compete against her here, maybe in the next installment. Competing against Ms. Michaels as a fitness standard would add more depth to the festivities, but she can motivate at times and offers helpful information.
A simulated workout saves you the trouble of environmental stresses, though you can compromise the physical benefits because you have the ability to take shortcuts. For example, in the log jump, you can totally bypass any leg movements by just making the arm movements without jumping. The game’s AI doesn’t recognize this shortcut, so don’t expect an entertaining thrashing from Jillian. In fact, in all the activities involving weight loss, interval training, strength training or hill climbs, you never get a thrashing even when you’re doing terribly. You only get good doses of Jillian’s personality in her unlockable video segments and encouraging audio mantras like “finish strong”.
The tutorials and in-game help is a bit lacking. For example, the game presents you animations of each activity, but the silhouette figure moves so fast you can’t really get a good look at the way the controls are held. A hands close up to show specific control orientation would be helpful would help here, especially when it takes so much trial and error to figure out some of the activities. The best in-game assistance is pretty basic – a green fill bar in the lower left corner. The log walk balance indicator above your character doesn’t seem to register correctly with the controls and dodging punching bags isn't so easy.
The fast paced music features five different genres of songs including country, which can be toggled during activities. The basic graphics don’t really give you a real in-depth sense of the experience. The main statistics display your results in weekly, monthly and even yearly charts, so you can track your progress. Overall, this game has good intentions with pretty normal results. If this series continues, developers should add an optional distance/statistic display for extra motivation to break records. Every player is different, so displaying your current distance/statistics can be a great motivator, especially if they’re close to their record. It would also be more convenient if the game informed you when you unlock an event.
Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2009 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for mild lyrics.