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The Best Exercise Games for the Xbox Kinect

Review of Your Shape: Fitness Evolved for Kinect

Posted by steve on April - 22 - 2011 with 2 Comments

Your Shape: Fitness Evolved

The best “pure fitness” title for the Xbox 360

A fitness title that shows off the immense potential of the Kinect for exercise. Innovative mini-games are both fun and provide great workouts, and the use of augmented reality to allow you to work out in real time “next to” your animated trainer and provide you accurate feedback is a first in video gaming. Highly recommended.

Rating by steve: 4.5 stars
****1/2

Review of Your Shape Fitness Evolved for KinectA few years ago, Ubisoft came out with the original game called “Your Shape” for the Wii. It was an unmitigated disaster. It came packaged with a cheap Webcam that purportedly “tracked your movements precisely” but in reality the camera had all kinds of problems. It was cool to be able to see your own video image on the screen, a first for the Wii, but the game simply did not track movements correctly. As a result, celebrity spokesperson Jenny McCarthy (or, I should say, the freaky cartoon version of her) would shout out irrelevant praises and reprimands as you desperately tried to do what she said.

I admit, having paid $70 to Ubisoft for that monstrosity, I was skeptical when I heard they’d come out with Your Shape Fitness Evolved. Boy was I pleasantly surprised. Your Shape is not just Fitness Evolved, it’s Your Shape Evolved. In other words, Kinect technology finally allowed Ubisoft to fulfill the vision they were probably going for with the original Your Shape game.

When the game starts out, you see a silhouette of your body surrounded by a bunch of colorful balls. What was cool was the silhouette is you—you can move around and to my delight, you can even kick the colored balls around. Just this little feature was a good sign to me that they really put a lot of thought into the details.

I was also happy that they decided to show a silhouette of your body versus an actual video of my body. Being somewhat bashful, I don’t want to post videos of myself on this site—on the other hand, as you’ll see in the videos, I have no qualms against hamming it up and showing off some funky dance moves as long as you can’t see my face!

The first thing you do is get instructions on how to interact with the system. You basically interact with the user interface by reaching out and pressing buttons, and then confirming your choice by holding your hand over a second button that shows up under it. As I mentioned in the last review, I’m not crazy that each game developer comes up with their own user interface standards—it would have been nice if Microsoft had defined and enforced standards so you don’t need to re-learn a new scheme for each game. That said, Ubisoft’s user interaction is pretty intuitive.

They do a “scan” of your body which is fascinating. It calculates with amazing precision your body dimensions and then points out different areas of your body. You enter your weight and gender manually (thank heavens it doesn’t try to figure out either on its own, or Ubisoft would probably be getting a lot of complaints!) You then take a picture of your face to identify you in menus.

There are three categories of exercises you can do.

Personal Training is the meat and potatoes of this title. In it, a virtual trainer will take you one-on-one through different training programs, just like you were in the gym.

First, Your Shape will take you through an preliminary fitness test. It’ll ask your age, annoyingly making you count one-by-one starting at age 25—no fun for us middle-aged folk. It’ll also ask your current level of activity.

Next, it’ll teach you about the virtual “mat” where your movements are tracked. In both the personal training and the fitness classes, you see and trainer working out on a “mat” to your left. Your job is to stand in the “mat” to the right and mirror his or her moves. What’s cool is that there’s no longer any guesswork as to whether you’re doing the moves correctly—if your silhouette is an exact copy of the trainer, you know your technique is on target. I was also very impressed when the system would tell me different things about my technique, such as my legs being too close together. It’ll also teach you how to maximize your score by following your trainer’s instructions on the screen.

After this, it’ll put together your fitness test. The first step is a “toning test”, followed by a “cardio test”. Once the test is over, it’ll ask you what your fitness goals are (to feel better, to improve your appearance, etc.) as well as your preference to a female or male trainer.

Based on all this, the system will pick programs for you, and just as importantly, tell you which programs are not recommended for you. As you scroll through the menu of different fitness, you’ll see a lot of exercise programs, some of them are ready to use, some of them locked, and some of them which require you to purchase them. Each set of exercises centers around a different focus, including cardio, toning, or sculpting.

The programs themselves are very similar to personal training you might find in a gym, where you just do reps of different cardio and callisthenic activities. The first few lessons are pretty elementary and quite short (I didn’t even break a sweat), but as you become ready for more intense exercises, the program should make the right adjustments.

Fitness classes are more targeted classes based around sequences of moves based around Zen and Cardio Boxing. There were other fitness programs, but again, I admit I was very disappointed to see that many were locked and required Microsoft Points to purchase—I mean, the game costs $50 to begin with, I don’t like this trend of companies using downloadable content to nickel-and-dime and squeeze every last penny out of us for what should be included in the game in the first place. Still, there were enough cardio boxing lessons to keep me occupied for now, so I’m good for now.

The video shows the most basic level, but they do get more intense as you progress.

Gym games are fun games that you can play by yourself or with up to four others. This is the “fun” part of the program. And compared the games in Wii Fit which are mostly balance games, most of these game do a better job of getting your heart pumping, especially if you play them over and over again. Here are the games that you can play:

Virtual Smash: In this game, you punch targets with your arms and kick them with your knees. The easy level is a piece of cake, but it’s a good way to get used to the motions (the first time I played it, I tried punching and kicking directly in front of me, before realizing you need to punch and kick across your body). Once you get through the easy level, you unlock the harder levels which really give you a pretty good workout.

Light Race: This game kind of reminded me of a cross between the game “Whack a Mole”, the old electronic game “Simon” and the Michael Jackson video “Thriller”. As panels lights up under your feet, you have to stomp on them. Be forewarned that this game requires a LOT of room. My Kinect is only about 6 feet away from me, and it was causing all kinds of havoc with this game. It got frustrating when I stepped on lights that didn’t register, didn’t step on lights that did registered as invalid, and that the ground kept moving. Neat concept, but too short and much too frustrating.

Stack ‘em Up: This was one for the “whoa, this is cool” department. It’s a great demonstration of the potential of the Kinect. In it, you hold a board with your arms and try to balance falling objects on it, tilting the board to dump the objects into the floor which opens and closes. Not much cardio with this one, but certainly a challenging and fun game.

Loop-a-Hoop: Any lack of cardio in the last game is more than made up with this one. For those of us who haven’t been able to spin a hula hoop since we were eight, this one will bring back all the magic. This one is definitely superior to the hula hooping on Wii Fit, because you’re not stuck to standing on a balance board, and the system picks up your hip action perfectly.

Your Shape: Fitness Evolved is not perfect, but it is impressive as the first “pure” fitness game on the Kinect (along with The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout, which I’ll be reviewing soon). In many ways, the Kinect is uniquely appropriate for fitness and exercise titles because of the very precise way in which it detects even the smallest details of your body movements. It definitely is head and shoulders above attempts on the Wii to do the same thing.

I give it four and a half stars, the half star taken away because frankly, a lot of the downloadable content you need to pay for really should be part of the core offering, because many of the exercises are just too short, and finally because situations such as limited workout space were not accounted for when they could easily have been. But despite these little nits, I definitely recommend Your Shape: Fitness Evolved if you’re looking for a pure exercise title on the Xbox and to start a regular workout regiment using your Xbox. It is the best out there for the time being.