November 08, 2010
I have a confession to make. A few years back, before I entered the games industry, I used to have an active lifestyle, playing numerous sports and always keeping myself in fairly good shape [Me too 'sigh' - Rich]. Since then I’ve been thrust into a life behind a keyboard and a controller, and so finding time to keep myself in what I consider optimal shape hasn’t been easy. I personally don’t believe in spending £30 a month on a gym membership and the only time I get to hit the streets are late at night, which is hardly safe. The truth is though, I get lazy. I don’t push myself. I like to keep record of how I’m doing and that in itself proposes another potential problem and I easily lose my way. Your Shape: Fitness Evolved has opened a door for me personally though, and as Kinect has obviously opened the doors for such fitness orientated games on the Xbox 360, I think it’s safe to say that the device has started off on a high with Ubisoft Montreal’s debut Kinect outing.
Your Shape as you can probably guess is Kinect’s first true fitness game, designed with a clean and slick interface, and looks to offer fitness fans of all levels the workout that they crave. The first thing that will instantly grab you is the crisp white interface, and the spiritual and almost tranquil environments that the game throws your virtual avatar into, but it’ll be the personalisation that will keep you wanting to break a sweat.
Kicking things off in the Personal Trainer aspect of the game, Your Shape will scan your body, ask you various questions regarding your age and height, and then will look to tailor a program to your specific requirements. Whether you want to lose weight through various cardio exercises, tone various muscles or sculpt and concentrate on specific regions, the opening of the Personal Training looks to see what you want out of your experience with the game. However, at any time you can choose to change your workout focus if you’ve chosen to follow the pre-selected program route, allowing you to even run the tests and analysis again at any stage.
Of course, if you want to pick and choose your own regime on a daily basis, that option exists, and you can pick from various cardio regimes that will have you doing star jumps, squats galore and more adventurous moves, or even head straight to combine the experience with weights.
The beauty of Your Shape is its ability to track your progress across all the game modes, with it not only telling you how many calories you’ve burnt in the main menu since its purchase, but how many you’ve burnt in your current workout or on that day. You can even track your progress online over at yourshapecenter.com and set yourself goals and challenges, and there are said to be events coming as well. However, it all seems a little glitchy with that at the moment, with challenges I set online disappearing within 10 minutes of posting them.
The Personal Trainer experience is designed to ease you into the affair, with the exercises getting more advanced and workouts getting more strenuous as you go on. More assistance in recommended daily goals would have been handy, but the voiceover does a good job in keeping you motivated, making sure you’re doing the exercises right, and also, reminding you the advantages of why you’re putting your body through this exertion.
That’s all well and good though, but does it work? Simply put, yes. It’s not long before you start to feel the burn during the exercise regimes; and watching that calorie counter tick up and you starting to feel healthier by the day is a testament to the software’s capabilities. Your Shape even prompts you to take rests, drink water and learn the moves on-screen; resulting in downtime between the exercise regimes themselves, which in itself is a blessing. Copying the moves of your on-screen personal trainer and listening to the voiceover commend you on timing or offer you advice, keeps you fighting through and concentrating on the finish line. It’s almost addictive, watching the calorie counter going up, thinking how beneficial this type of exercise is for your body and mind.
If you want something to warm-up or warm-down with, you can delve into the game’s Fitness Classes, which consist of various Zen (Tai-Chi and yoga essentially) and shadow-boxing classes. The Zen mode is a great warm-up and warm-down tool, and not only offers an exercise in controlling your breathing, but also looks to fuel and refine your flexibility and grace. There’s something very tranquil about following the actions of your on-screen instructor in the middle of this picturesque environment of crisp white plains with its crystal clear pond and accompanying lily pads, overarching Japanese Black Pine and explosion of colours stemming from your movements. Shadow boxing on the other hand is a little more cardio intensive, but not to the same level of the Personal Trainer sessions, thus, making it a great warm-up/warm-down tool.
If you want to have a little more fun than running yourself ragged, you can always try the four mini-games: Virtual Smash, which has you punching and kicking blocks; Loop-a-Hoop, which has you scoring points from hula hoop combos; Light Race, where you score points by stepping on lit up pads; and Stack ‘Em Up, which is Your Shape’s version of Tetris, where you have to balance a board, catch blocks and then dump them into an opening and closing trap to score points. The mini-games themselves are a great addition and definitely offer you plenty of fun, the problem is that with only 4 mini-games, it won’t be long before you’ve had your fill and moved back onto the Personal Trainer sessions and Fitness Classes.
From a technology standpoint and how Your Shape and Kinect combine, it’s both astounding and disconcerting at the same time. As far as response rates and reaction times go, Kinect copes superbly, mirroring your actions on screens at almost a 1:1 ratio – there are the odd occasions where it seems that the tech is running too many processes and falls ever so slightly behind. On the other hand though, you have to stand incredibly far back – more than any other game we’ve tried to date – and even at 2 metres away from the device, it’s not always certain that you’ll be far enough back... especially if you have to lunge forwards or backwards. In other words, clear the room, this bad boy needs some space.
The achievements themselves are a bizarre bunch to rate and basing the score on the achievement list themselves, I think it’s safe to say that it’s one of the most mundane repetitive lists in existence. However, by making 23 of the 33 achievements based on calorie burning – from 100 to 10,000 – it does something else that no other game does... and that’s give you a real world reward for unlocking achievements. That in itself makes the list worthy and if you needed an incentive to lose a little weight, what better one is there? The real reward is burning off 10,000 calories and the achievements are just a nice token to mark your success. The other achievements are fairly decent, spread across doing well in various mini-games, getting involved on yourshapecenter.com and unlocking various modes.
Your Shape is truly Fitness Evolved in not only name, but in nature as well, and it presents a great opportunity for people to workout in their own homes with their own fitness tracker and personal trainer. I find it hard to believe that it will replace gyms and your general workout regime for anyone who is currently active already in these fields, but it makes a perfect supplement, and for those who want to do more, this is the perfect tool. It’s another title that does suffer from play space issues, as it asks you stand a couple of metres away from the device if you’re six foot like myself, and aside from the odd issue with it not picking up your actions, Your Shape is most definitely fitness evolved.
The beats to workout to and keep in rhythm with don’t ever outstay their welcome and the voiceover work is remarkably well implemented.
The clean slick interface is what makes the game so unique, with an almost futuristic and tranquil vibe stemming from its core. The Zen mode sums up the visuals of Your Shape perfectly: and that’s impressive. It does suffer from a few camera issues with your on-screen avatar though, which is a shame.
Aside from the odd issue with it not picking up your actions and how far you need to be away from the console, Your Shape is the future of fitness games.
Your Shape could have done with a little more substance in terms of mini-games as well as more interaction and feedback from your personal trainer, but otherwise, it can’t be knocked.
Usually, for a list with very little ingenuity like this, I would tank it and give it a 20. However, because the achievements are designed to get you off your couch and burning calories, we have to recognise what you get from going for them: and that’s a healthier lifestyle. That, we support.
With the freedom of Kinect and its “You are the controller” mantra, Ubisoft Montreal have taken perfect advantage of this, creating a fitness game that feels like a workout and doesn’t feel out of place in your home. There is the odd issue with it tracking all of your actions, a distinct lack of mini-games and not enough personal trainer direction, as well as space becoming an issue once again, but other than that, Your Shape is most definitely Fitness Evolved. Your Shape may not replace conventional gyms and intense workouts, but it’s as good as we’ve seen from a video game console and certainly sets the bar high for its competition.