Update: check out our first impressions of the new Nintendo Wii U console here: Hands on: Nintendo Wii U review

From the cheesy ads and the mocking YouTube parodies, you could be forgiven for thinking that Nintendo's Wii Fit and Balance Board would be overly-worthy, not very entertaining, or just plain silly.

But, of course, it's made by Nintendo, a company which is fast becoming a master of turning mundane of tasks into fun activities (accompanied by vast amounts of profit).

The Wii Fit pack contains the software, the balance board and four AA batteries. Set-up is dead simple: load the Wii Fit disc, sync the board with your Wii (as you do with Wiimotes, switch the board on and you're good to go).

Body Mass Index

When you first use Wii Fit, it works out your body mass index (BMI) and then suggests what your ideal BMI should be based on your weight and height. This becomes your new target BMI, giving you something to aim for over the course of your Wii Fitting, with various graphs enabling you to follow your progress.

This portion can also be stored as a Wii channel so you can perform daily measurements without constantly having to load the Wii Fit disc.

Wii Fit's activities are split between Aerobic Exercise, Muscle Conditioning, Yoga Poses and Balance Games. The Balance Board is neatly integrated in that it monitors your stance during yoga, for example, and measures reps during exercises. You could perform most of the training without it, but it wouldn't be quite as engaging.

But naturally it's with the games that Wii Fit really shines. Mastering a ski slalom with your feet is way harder than it sounds, and provides a challenge the whole family can enjoy. It also levels the playing field: teen joypad junkies are just as likely to be rubbish as Mum or Dad who've never touched a videogame before. (And if the old man's a keen footballer, he'll probably have better balance and control than his rotund rug rats.)

Ski jump

The Balance Board is used ingeniously, too. Alongside the obvious balance-related games – steer the ball across the wobbly platform, walk a tightrope – there's a ski jump game. You have to crouch as the skier starts his descent, then stand up sharply at take-off. By maintaining your balance, you remain airborne for a greater distance. It's bizarre, you look an idiot doing it, but it's totally effective and maddeningly addictive.

Ultimately, how much you get out of Wii Fit depends on how much you're willing to put in. Some people get utterly addicted to Brain Training, for example, while others tire of the repetition after a week or so. And this is supposed to be exercise, remember.

Certainly a family playing Wii Fit together will have more fun competing for a lower BMI rating and higher game scores than the solus player simply going through each workout.

But the short answer is: it works, it's fun and after building up a real sweat jogging round a virtual park, there's no reason why it shouldn't help to make you fitter and slimmer – assuming you don't celebrate every session with a bar of Cadbury's finest.

Footnote:

In all honesty, the score is of little real relevance because you either already want Wii Fit – in which case you've pre-ordered – or you've no real interest. Which is fine, because on launch day there won't be any stock anyway.

Despite going up against GTA IV, Wii Fit is pretty much already sold out. At the time of writing, of 17 major retailers only four were still taking pre-orders; the rest were out of stock. And analysts expect stock to be in short supply through till 2009. The Nintendo Wii: license to print money.