FriiBoard Review

Although initially designed as a fitness peripheral, many gamers have found their favorite sports putting Nintendo’s Wii Balance Board to good use. From games like Shawn White Snowboarding: Road Trip and World Stage and EA’s Skate It to We Ski & Snowboard, Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground and more, the Balance Board gave players a limited feeling of how it was to shred a slope or grind a halfpipe. While a fun addition to a game, the Balance Board’s flat surface left something to be desired – a sense of realism and a source of feedback. Which is where Swiit Game Gear’s Friiboard comes in.

The Friiboard is a housing for the Balance Board – literally the Balance Board sits atop the product, and works as a pivoting center to give gamers a better sense of immersion. The design of the FriiBoard is fairly simple: a convex, shell design that fits snuggly to the bottom of the Wii Balance Board, offering a gentle, rocking feedback during play. In particular, the FriiBoard gives the player an excellent ‘feel’ of their on-screen counterpart, making the game feel that much more real. Any initial concerns I had about being tossed around the living room like an amateur bull rider were quelled by the soft curve. It’s obvious the FriiBoard’s designers, Gail and Tom Stewart, put a good bit of time into finding the right amount of give and take.

There’s a very slight learning curve associated with the product, mostly¬† because unlike the Balance Board itself and several other products on the market, the FriiBoard actually allows the player to tilt the Balance Board in an accurate fashion. Again, it’s not so over-the-top that you’ll fear tumbling off and breaking furniture, televisions or even yourself, but just enough to really get you into the game.

What separates the FriiBoard from its competition is the unparalleled feedback it gives. Unlike the Balance Board which is simply an elevated step lacking any fluid motion, the FriiBoard really lets you feel which way you are leaning. This is the true benefit over the static Balance Board, as it gives the gamer a more realistic sense of motion, as opposed to trying to guess with which foot you are applying more pressure. The FriiBoard does not interface with the Balance Board in any technical means, and thus does not allow for more accurate measurements, but it does seem to amplify the player’s awareness and, in that sense, gives the impression of better control.

The only minor design tweak I would suggest on later iterations of the brand would be a fifth means of support. The Balance Board sits in four molded cups to keep the entire product in place, and they work exceptional well. However, when “bouncing” (not jumping, as you’re often reminded not to do) in games like We Ski & Snowboard and Skate It in order to get your character to jump, there’s just a little more flex than I would like. That is in no way meant to imply the FriiBoard is a flimsy product – it’s an extremely solid product that supported my weight very comfortably. The FriiBoard is rated to the same grade as the Balance Board: a hefty 330 pounds. ¬†But a fifth support piece, built right out of the center to alleviate the flexing and give more support to the Balance Board and the gamer on top would perhaps belay these subconscious worries.

Swiit Game Gear’s FriiBoard really does live up to its motto, by “making Wii more real”. The FriiBoard is a well-designed, well-manufactured product that lives up to even the heartiest stresses placed on it by gamers who really get into their games. Concerns about open space between the FriiBoard and Balance Board can be overlooked, though the flexing in the product might warrant a design tweak. But it’s a slight criticism, and one I give lightly, compared to the realistic experience the product offers. I would definitely recommend the FriiBoard to anyone looking to amplify their Balance Board gaming experience.

[xrr rating=4.5/5]

GamerSyndrome: 4.5 out of 5

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