I've had two motion gaming experiences lately that pretty much couldn't be more far apart. One was The Fight on PS Move, which I did not enjoy. The second was Your Shape Fitness Evolved on the Kinect. While I'm not trying to make a blanket statement about either technology, I was far more impressed with Your Shape Fitness Evolved and I'm definitely starting to feel more excited about Kinect's future as opposed to the Move's.
Anyway, that point aside, Your Fitness Evolved is a great game. I wasn't expecting such a fluid presentation and such a well rounded package. To top it all off, the game works, and works very well, which is more than I can say for most motion games on any platform.
Your Shape Fitness Evolved utilizes the Kinect in a very sensible and functional way. As soon as the game starts up you'll see the 'play area' or (virtual) mat beneath the silhouette of yourself. This is a rectangular box that appears beneath you whether you're in the opening menu or in any of the playable modes. This generously shaped box marks your boundary; if you start to move out of it, you'll see that portion of your silhouette pixelate and fade away, it's actually very cool. But besides looking good, that's the game's way of telling you you're getting out of the play area.
Fortunately, staying in the play area isn't a problem, first because of the Player Projection technology in use here but also because of the size of the box. I really liked having that view of what the game was seeing though and I think it's something that more Kinect games should look to include. Oh, and if you just up and walk out of the area, the game pauses, and it then resumes when you step back in -- a really handy feature. But if you have enough room to play most Kinect games, i.e., if you're seven or eight feet back, Your Shape works just great.
So I was impressed with that first little detail, the very next thing was the menu navigation which was excellent. True, there aren't a ton of menu options in the first place so you don't have go through as many menu screens as maybe some other games send you through. But I really like what Ubisoft did here -- your menu options appear off to the left and right of your shoulders. To select, just touch the option with your hand. When you do for a second, a confirmation button appears just below it which you have to touch and hold for about two seconds. It works extremely well, so kudos to them for making something simple and functional like that.
As you're firing up the game for the first time, Your Shape will scan your body and get some basic information from you. This is so the game can track the calories that you've burned. That done, it's time to choose between the three main modes: Personal Training, Gym Games, and Fitness Classes. I hopped into Fitness Classes first which include Zen and Cardio Boxing. Each of these includes multiple short and fun lessons that you go through to unlock the next lesson. When all lessons are unlocked, you can perform a full routine. Fortunately, the lessons are not snoozefest tutorials; you are going to learn on the fly and I liked that the game was both strict and yet also very forgiving and encouraging too. I had never done any Tai Chi or Cardio Boxing before, and you're not required to mimic motions perfectly, although if you do your score (and workout) improves.
Lots To Do
Moving on to the Gym Games, this section includes four games, some better than others, but all work great and are at least moderately fun. First up is Virtual Smash which has you kicking and punching through blocks. It requires good coordination and gets your heart rate going as it gets harder, and I thought it was fun. I didn't care as much for Loop Hoop which has you performing hula-hoop movements but Light Race and Stack'em are great. Light Race is like Simon Says meets DDR. Players are put in the center of a circle that is segmented into six parts. The parts light up randomly, sometimes two at once, and you have to touch each lit segment before it goes dark again. At first this seems pretty easy, but when you clear the Beginner difficulty things start to heat up. All the while, the game keeps track of your calories burned. Finally, Stack'em is the least intensive of the bunch but it's also probably my favorite. With Stack'em, players hold a long board out in front of them as blocks of various shapes fall from the top of the screen. The lower you have the board, the quicker blocks fall. On either side of you, the floor opens up after several seconds so that you can dump the shapes into the space created when the floor moved away. This is how you score, but you have to keep your balance and coordination going so that you maintain control of the blocks you have, dump them safely (i.e., without using too little or too much force) into the scoring areas, and watch out for new blocks.
I found the Gym Games to be great in between choices when I was taking a break from the Personal Training. The Personal Training is definitely the meatiest part of the game as it features a variety of Cardio, Toning, and Sculpting routines for you to learn and perform. The game will ask you several questions related to your current physical state and what your goals are (being able to walk up stairs without losing your breath, wanting better definition, etc). Depending on your answers, you are given goals and a series of routines. Your progress is tracked and you can even share it with others on the Your Shape website. Men's and Women's Health workout routines are included as well so there's plenty to do and I'm happy to say that it's actually very fun doing it.
What makes Your Shape Fitness Evolved so enjoyable is the simple fact that it works so well and it's presentation is gorgeous. I'm not saying that the game recognizes your movements perfectly, but it does an extremely good job. In addition to the Player Projection, play area, and menu controls, I was impressed with the detail the game was able to detect in every exercise, and how it informed the player of what it was seeing. While doing an exercise, you can see how many times you need to perform the exercise, the name of it, and what bonus actions might be available that exercise in the upper right corner of the screen. For example, when doing front knees, the game displays the count (in descending order) of how many I need to do and also reminds me that if I move my arms up and down and bring my knee up high, I'll net some extra 'points' (and calorie burning) that goes towards an overall percentage of that exercise. After one exercise is complete, a percentage pops up of how well you did, kind of like a rhythm game.
Speaking of rhythm, it's a very key component of Personal Trainer mode. You must keep track of your trainer and stay in sync with them or you will lose rhythm practically instantly and your percentage total goes down. It's easy to know when you are in rhythm and when you aren't though, thanks to visual and aural cues. I also liked that when you got out of rhythm, the game didn't freak out. The music keeps playing, your trainer keeps going, and all you have to do is take a sec and watch the feet of the trainer and get back into it. I found that when I kept my rhythm up to the pace of the trainer, my overall enjoyment and workout efficiency improved.
Continuing with thoughts on the presentation, I thought the narrator voice was great; I like the voice, I like the diversity of what she says, and she's also encouraging. The graphics are sufficient and I liked the virtual workout rooms, too. The timer on the left side of the HUD is welcomed, too. It's also great that Ubisoft didn't go with a bunch of crap licensed music and instead went with some smooth instrumental workout tunes.
Overall, Your Shape Fitness Evolved has really impressed me these last few days. As far as I'm concerned, this is the new gold standard in fitness gaming -- no Wii Fit shenanigans or holding controllers to deal with. Playing with Kinect, at least in this application, is simply far more intuitive and enjoyable.
To the summary...