Goji Play promises fun gym workouts (hands-on)

The $99 Goji Play uses iPads to transform gym equipment into gaming machines and make sweating less of a chore.

Brian Bennett Former Senior writer
Brian Bennett is a former senior writer for the home and outdoor section at CNET.
Brian Bennett
3 min read
Goji Play
The Goji Play lets you play games during gym workouts Blue Goji

Who says video games can’t be good for you? Start up Blue Goji firmly believes that’s hogwash. Founded by the ingenious people behind Guitar Hero, the company has focused its acknowledged game creation talents on the world of fitness and personal health. Called Goji Play, Blue Goji’s $99 product strives to remove the drudgery from gym workouts through interactive arcade action linked to real-time physical movement.

So what does this really mean? Essentially Goji Play is a mobile gaming system which attaches to common gym equipment, specifically treadmills, bikes, and elliptical machines. The setup then lets you dive headlong into what Blue Goji hopes are addictive and fast-paced game titles on iPads and iPhones. Goji Play requires your motion as an integral part of gameplay, but Blue Goji claims you’ll be too busy smashing virtual blocks or punching out boxing opponents to notice you’re sweating. I recently played a few rounds on the Goji Play system and found the platform surprisingly compelling, not a word I typically use to describe exercise.

How it works
The Goji Play kit includes three main physical parts: two game controllers and a small motion tracker. Each of these components communicate with linked iOS devices over a Bluetooth wireless connection.

Equipped with soft fabric straps, the controllers slide onto the cylindrical handlebars you usually see on elliptical machines and exercise bikes. Each controller sports two big color-coded buttons as well (one labeled X and Y, the other A and B).

The Goji Play’s tracker has a boxy clip-style design no doubt inspired by popular Fitbit gadgets. You can either attach the tracker to belts or simply slip it into your pants pockets. Two short batons are also included if you prefer treadmill runs minus handlebars.

The other side of the Goji Play equation is an iPad or iPhone running a corresponding mobile app. With the free Goji Play application installed, users have multiple games to choose from (12 in all) with which to spice up their gym time. Standouts include Fisticuffs (a Victorian-era boxing game), Smash the Blocks (a 3D Sonic-style runner), and Super Moto X (think Tron light cycles meet Excitebike).

Once you’ve got your games loaded, controllers set up, and tracker clipped, just plop your iPad within view, then fire up your game of choice.

Goji Play
Fisticuffs boxing is entertaining and sweat inducing. Blue Goji

I gave the Goji Play a try on a connected iPad with the controllers hooked up to an exercise bike. I found the system to be a lot more entertaining than I figured it would be. For example, playing both the cooky Smash the Blocks game and racing title Riptide GP (really a port of an existing Android game) was engaging and certainly distracting, especially with the time limits needed to finish each course.

My favorite was Fisticuffs, though, since I’m particularly partial to fighting games. I found the combo of handlebar mustaches and old-school stances to be perfectly ridiculous. The fact that punching power is directly tied to how much you peddle works well to get your legs pumping too.

Of course I see some challenges with Goji Play, the biggest being sound. If you plan to use this in a crowded gym, I suggest you strap on a pair of headphones unless you want to annoy other people. That brings me to my next issue with the Goji Play: practicality. I don’t know about you, but when I go to the gym I want to carry as little as possible. Having to tote an iPad, controllers, a tracker, and even batons to your workout seems like a headache -- and an easy excuse to wimp out. That said, I can really see the Goji Play adding a fun angle to home exercise on personal equipment. Perhaps it’ll even get you to dust off that old treadmill and get moving.