More than two years ago, gamers were introduced to the idea of keeping fit while they played games. Thanks to Wii Fit we danced, boxed, stretched and generally looked like idiots as we flailed in front of our TVs for the sake of our health. With Microsoft’s Kinect now convincing gamers to get up off the sofa and use their bodies to play games, Ubisoft have introduced the next generation of exercise games in the form of Your Shape: Fitness Evolved.
As a regular gym-user, I had come to terms with the fact that games of this genre aren’t going to have me cancelling my admittedly extortionate membership. It would, however, be nice to have an easy home solution for when I don’t feel like going out, especially as the cold nights draw in. Fitness Evolved also presents an extremely appealing entry point for those of us who want to become more active but don’t want to commit to a gym contract, or would like to gain more confidence by beginning their exercise regimes in the comfort of their own homes. The big test, however, is whether or not Fitness Evolved has enough to really function as an exercise alternative. It is a game after all – if it doesn’t look good and play well then it might as well join the ankle weights and exercise bike in the loft.
Visually, the game is out to impress. Some may feel that the UI is too sparse, but I enjoyed the quasi-futuristic workout space, filled with floating geometric shapes and peacefully glowing surfaces. The game presents a comfortable environment where I could happily work out free from the usual distractions and muscle-kissing poseurs that crowd the mirrors at my usual gym.
On your first login, Fitness Evolved scans you, giving you fun scraps of information such as your inside leg measurement or how high you’re holding your hand from the ground and creates a virtual representation of you by taking the live video feed and adding a stylised overlay. You can also choose to turn this off, but the live image is relatively low-definition and clashed with the minimalist surroundings. While I was initially impressed with my on-screen representation, I came to appreciate that it won’t be for everyone. Self-conscious gamers looking to improve their fitness may find their avatar a little too realistic for comfort and it’s a shame that Ubisoft didn’t see fit to include an option to use Xbox Live avatars as a stand-in for those of us who don’t feel like watching ourselves flail about while we get sweaty.
And sweat you will! The numerous workouts, including some arduous sessions sponsored by Men’s Health and Women’s Fitness, do, by and large, produce results. Equally satisfying and entertaining are the fitness mini-games (that can be shared with up to three friends) and the calming yoga and zen relaxation modes are a tranquil way to warm down. If you’re looking for bulging biceps and a toned six-pack, I’d still suggest investing in a gym membership (especially seeing as no routines involve you going lower to the ground than a deep squat) but the workouts and other modes are certainly a more active way to spend an evening in front of the TV.
Unfortunately, the experience isn’t exactly flawless. Kinect has issues and some of these are magnified by how picky Fitness Evolved can be about where you place your hands and feet. I found myself arguing with my usually helpful virtual trainer that no, actually, I did hit that last block correctly (they won, of course). If your fashion choices err on the side of baggy, you may need to invest in some closer fitting workout clothes as well. The game failed to recognise where my arms and legs were when I was wearing loose sweatpants, and any kind of dress (I’ll leave that one to your imagination) is a definite no-no.
When the tracking does work, however, the feedback you receive from your trainer is excellent and I found my technique improving far quicker than when I had to balance to keep a dot centred in Wii Fit. Further encouragement comes with the Your Shape Center, an online resource that connects your Uplay and Windows Live ID to the game and allows you to track your progress and share your fitness goals and achievements with friends. This makes it feel a lot more like a personal trainer program and provides clear markers that allow you to keep track of your fitness goals – essential to ensure you follow and understand your fitness regime.
With a rich list of features and some surprisingly tough workouts, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved may just be enough to push Wii Fit into second place. However, it does come with some caveats and you must be willing to put up with a picky sensor, potentially embarrassing avatar and the limits imposed simply by the size of your play area. Fitness Evolved may not turn you into a ripped Adonis, but it’s a good first step in the right direction.
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