When the current owners of Makoto USA saw the game that would become Makoto at an arcade in 2002, they immediately realized its potential to provide both physical and mental fitness for anyone, from athletes to the elderly to folks in rehab. The SNEWS® team first saw a Makoto at the Health & Fitness Business show in Denver several years ago and, after playing it (over and over, we must admit), we had to get one for the office.
The Makoto is a triangular arena with 6-foot-tall steel towers on its three corners. The arena’s frame is formed on the floor with steel beams. Each tower is six feet from the other and each tower is electronically wired to emit sounds and lights from each of 10 colored squares at different heights -- three on each side, three in the front, and one at an angle at the top of the tower. These target squares illuminate randomly during a programmed game, and the tone emitted -- if it is chosen -- varies based on target’s height, forcing users to focus on the sound as they play to help them locate which target is on. The targets that go on, the order in which they go on, the speed in which they go on, and which towers are “in play,” depend on which game is selected. And that’s the fun…and challenging part.
On the company website, Makoto explains the meaning of the word “makoto” like this: “The word makoto comes from the Japanese, and is literally translated, we are told, as truth or sincerity. The usage, however, carried an important meaning within the samurai tradition, which is difficult to translate in just one word. The meaning is something like this: If one's motive and effort are pure, or sincere, one's action (and sword fighting) will also be above reproach. The goal is to have 'makoto’ in every part of one's life, in both thought and action. To effectively play a game of Makoto a player has to be fully focused on the game itself. Even a momentary lapse can cause a player to miss a target!”
There are numerous games that can be played, either solo or with a partner. Players use their hands, feet or a staff with rubber ends and respond to the visual (lights) and audio (tones) prompts and then attempt to whack, kick or hit the target squares that are illuminated as quickly as they go on. Think “Whack a Mole,” but a lot higher-tech and vertical instead of horizontal. The faster and more accurately players get the target, the more points they gain.
This is reason enough for making the towers out of steel -- you really do give the game a true beating when playing. Targeting a light with your hands, feet or a staff is not for the timid who resort to tapping. No sir -- we’re talking resounding whacks and beatings here -- most satisfying on so many levels. Reaction time and accuracy (actually hitting the lighted area) are measured electronically, so one can compete with oneself or others. The speed of the lights going on and off -- or if one is actually shut off for an additional challenge -- is easily adjusted using the control panel located on one of the towers.
The amount of time a target will remain illuminated and eligible for a whack ranges from three-quarters of a second (blistering fast, we can tell you) to up to three seconds (downright pedestrian for most adults or athletic sorts). Most games involve one player at a time; however, two or three people can enter the arena at one time to do single or multi-tower games simultaneously, and tag-team games for children can accommodate group PE classes. (We did not test the multiple player options.)
A typical individual workout is comprised of several games lasting anywhere from one to four minutes, depending upon one’s stamina. One of our testers got hooked on the sudden death version of one game, with the light speed set a tad too slow, and after five minutes of no misses, finally had to give up since his hands had fatigued and he could not continue to hold onto the staff. That same tester has really enjoyed playing a number of games using his hands to strike lights on two towers in the arena (with the third turned off). One in particular works on his reaction time and strengthening his balance and core with lunges toward each tower from the center of the arena. One can also do one-tower games while standing on a balance board or other balance-challenging disc.
Tech-oriented, pre-teens seem particularly drawn to Makoto; we have seen kids at trade shows spend hours at the Makoto booth. But a 20-something, who tends toward hiking and other solo endeavors, who tested the SNEWS model, found the arcade-like bleeping and booping sounds and colorful lights annoying and disturbing. Granted, it was fun, she said, but not something she’d choose frequently. Another baby boomer female tester found the strength of whacking required when using a hand rather than a staff so powerful that she needed to don weight gloves to not hurt her hand. Also, although a fun diversion, particularly for somebody competitive, this was not the fitness activity she’d choose daily. Other testers alternatively found the game either addicting or at least intriguing, depending on their personality or interests. In fact, the rather competitive SNEWS team at a recent show became entangled in a Makoto smackdown with every spare moment spent in the Makoto booth to see who could get the best score or nail the fastest reaction time.
No, it is not cheap ($7,000 at full retail for the home version), and it is most definitely not small (we have the SNEWS headquarters' Makoto set up in a garage), but if you have kids, friends or neighbors and need some entertainment to motivate your fitness regimen, it is a wonderful option. Best location would be a basement, rec room or a garage. It is particularly recommended for schools, community programs, sport training facilities, personal training studios or even corporate workout rooms.
SNEWS® Rating: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $7,000
For information: www.makoto-usa.com