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The Best Exercise Games for the Xbox Kinect

Kinect Sports Calorie Challenge PackOn our list of the best Kinect Fitness games, we put Kinect Sports right up there at spot #1 for good reason: it’s a ton of fun, it showcases the capabilities of the Xbox Kinect, and many of the activities provide a great cardio workout.

Of course, there’s one thing that’s a bit odd about naming Kinect Sports as the best Kinect exercise game: it’s not an exercise game. Well, that’s not what it was primarily designed for, anyway. There are plenty of those, of course: Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, The Biggest Loser Ultimate Workout, Zumba Fitness, and a thousand and one more coming down the pike.

With Kinect Sports, you can get a great workout, but there were some challenges about using it for exercise. First of all, while you could get a lot of exercise playing against the Xbox’s artificial intelligence, eventually you might hit a difficult level that you simply couldn’t get past.  Secondly, some exercises tended to be too short to get your heart pumping for a sustained 20-30 minutes (the time you really need for cardio to become effective).

Microsoft did something clever. Using downloadable content (DLC), they created an add-on to Kinect Sports that adds a lot of fun and a some new game elements that let you use Kinect Sports for working out. It’s called Kinect Sports Calorie Challenge Pack. You can’t buy it in a store, you’ll need to download it on Xbox Live (it’ll cost 320 Microsoft Points, which comes out to about $3.95 if you buy 1600 Microsoft Points at Amazon.com for $19.75.

I’ve never been a real fan of DLC. I’ve often feared that game companies would develop a game, and then purposely withhold pieces of it and bleed customers’ wallets dry by nickel-and-diming them for game features which should have come with the game in the first place. Your Shape: Fitness Evolved is a good example of this. For some of the workout routines on that game, they give you a paltry number of workouts, and then they expect you to pay and download to get more.

However, I was a big fan of what Microsoft did here. In this case, the add-on pack represents something that is truly extraneous to the original concept, and which truly adds new value (instead of filling in missing value). To me, this is the right approach to DLC.

When you install the add-on pack, you get a new game called “Calorie Challenge”. In it, you’ll compete against a whole new set of characters, each shaped like a different food. They are:

• Steady Celery (26 calories, 5 minutes)
• Blazing Banana (63 calories, 10 minutes)
• Mighty Milk (91 calories, 15 minutes)
• Super Soda (129 calories, 20 minutes)
• Chunky Chocolate (177 calories, 25 minutes)
• Peppy Pizza (238 calories, 30 minutes)

Basically, each food represents a number of calories (and the number of minutes you need to work out to burn off the calories. When you “challenge” one of the foods to a game, they become your opponents in mini-games. You play as many mini-games as needed to burn off the target number of categories, in approximately the time listed.

As you proceed through the challenges, you’ll see the time elapsed, as well as something that wasn’t available in the original Kinect Sports–the  calories burned as you do workouts.

The mini-games each work out a different part of the body (lower body, upper body) and have different levels of intensity, so you get a great variety of exercises to work with. And they’re a ton of fun to boot.

All in all, if you’re looking to use Kinect Sports for working out, the Calorie Challenge Add-on Pack is a must-have.