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Still the best "pure fitness" game you can get for the Xbox Kinect
, November 10, 2011
This review is from: Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012 (Video Game)
The original Your Shape: Fitness Evolved provided an excellent showcase of what the Kinect was capable of in regards to fitness and exercise. Its motion detection was revolutionary in terms of how well it detected how well you were performing exercises, and the mini-games it included were both tons of fun and moderately good exercise.
I'm happy to say that Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2012 does push the platform forward, in an evolutionary if not a revolutionary way. Still, it is by far the best "pure workout" game that you can get on the Kinect.
When you start out the game, you see a blue screen which adjusts the sensor and detects who you are. You're then brought to a home screen, where you see a stylized cartoon image of yourself. That's right, there's no need to create an avatar, because you ARE the avatar. This little change was a huge improvement over the first version, where you played as a brightly colored silhouette. It makes a world of difference, because now you can see your limbs and your body position much clearer than before and match them against the on-screen trainer. More on that below.
The home screen shows a number of different counters: medals won, badges won, and percent of content you've played through. On the right you can see the total number of calories you've burned playing the game. I do like the fact that there are clear milestones and targets to aim for, which will keep you coming back to the game. (One question a lot of people have is--did Ubisoft fix the annoying bug from the first version where it'd lose track of which sessions you've finished in a given routine. The happy answer is yes--now, no matter what order you do the exercises in the system will keep accurate track of which ones you've completed).
At the main menu, you have a variety of choices which are color-coded into categories. The blue icons represent your tools. You can keep track of your overall progress, set objectives and take a fitness quiz so the system can recommend specific workouts for you, or go online to share your progress with the community. I do like that they made the fitness test optional in this version, so those who want to can just jump into the exercises.
There are three remaining categories: Yellow icons represent "Activities", which are mini-games. Red icons represent "Workouts" which are traditional generic calisthenics and strength building exercises of the kind you might find at a gym. Finally, purple icons represent "Classes", which are essentially themed Workouts.
Under the yellow "Activities", you have the following mini-games:
1) Wallbreaker: This is essentially the same game as "Virtual Smash" in last year's version. In it, you have to punch across your body to hit blue blocks that appear next to your virtual character's body. The more blocks you punch accurately and quickly, the higher your multiplier will go up and the more a grid behind you will fill up--fill it up completely and it'll collapse. As you get to higher levels you'll have to kick blocks as well and avoid red blocks and giant anvils swinging at you. Even though this is basically a rehash of last year's version, it's still immensely fun, and the fact that you're controlling "you" and not just a silhouette of you adds a certain dimension to the game. I'd rate this one a 4 of 5 for workout intensity and a 5 of 5 for fun.
2) Stack 'Em Up: This one is essentially the same game as the game from last year's version called..."Stack 'Em Up". This is the one where you're holding a plank and trying to catch and balance blocks that are falling from the sky. There are some new twists this year--to make your bar longer you have to raise a leg in the air. Also, the blocks come in different sizes, and they can even turn into ice or catch on fire (you need to kick a giant water drop to make it rain). Interestingly, I found the graphics of last year's version much clearer than this year's, especially when it tells you where to drop your blocks. This one gets a 3 of 5 for workout intensity and a 5 of 5 for fun.
3) Run the World: Ah, finally something brand new. This is an activity where you "run in place". But there's a twist. You can choose either New York or London and basically "run through" the city from landmark to landmark. When I first heard about this one, I was excited--I thought it might be a virtual reality experience where you could literally run through actual streets (if this sounds outlandish, remember that the technology is already there with Google Maps and Bing Maps, not to mention driving games that have mapped out those cities' streets). But in reality, the experience was much less impressive than that. You basically just run in place on a blank white screen following a line of stylized "yellow dots" on the road. As you run, you do see buildings to your left and right, but they're just generic grey outlines. As you "approach" a famous landmark you'll see that building's distinctive outline, see a tiny photo of the building, and read some trivia about it. Note also that the distances you run are not literal--I'm quite familiar with downtown New York, and there's no way you can run from 40 Wall Street to the Woolworth Building to City Hall in 5 minutes. Still, I did like how the system was able to detect how fast I was "running" and how at least captured the feeling of running through a city. Overall, this activity definitely made what was otherwise a tedious activity pretty interesting. Workout intensity of this one was a 5 of 5, but for fun I give it a 3 of 5.
4) Jump Rope: This is another new activity, and it's a winner. It's a twist on jump rope. You start out by holding your hand as if you're holding a jump rope, and an energetic beat will start playing. You'll see icons of two feet under you, and need to jump to the beat while matching the pattern of feet (either two close together, two far apart, or just the left or the right). Even on Easy mode I was wiped out after this one, but I found it immensely fun. 5 of 5 for workout intensity, 5 of 5 for fun.
5) Stomp It: This game is very similar to "Light Race" from last year's version, where you stand in the middle of something similar to a "Simon" game and move your feet to correctly hit the colored panels under your feet. This year, they've improved it by matching the colored lights to a beat and give you a visual cue of which panel will light up next, so it's more like a step aerobics exercise (versus last year's version where you were just randomly stomping). You still need a ton of room for this one, and if your Kinect doesn't have a clear view of your feet at all times it's not going to be fun for you at all. This one was a 4 of 5 for intensity, and a 4 of 5 for fun.
"Workouts", represented by the red icons, are basically traditional calisthenics, cardio, and strength building types of activities that a trainer would do with you at a gym. The workouts are categorized by the part of the body or the exercise goal you want to focus on. They include the following (the number of exercise routines under each is in parentheses):
1) Arms (12)
2) Abs (13)
3) Cardio (10)
4) Toning (9)
5) Back (12)
6) Sports Preparation (8)
7) Glutes (12)
8) Health (3)
9) Legs (12)
They've got all the basic exercises covered pretty well. For example, when I selected the first workout under "Arms", the exercises were knee push-ups and slow mountain climbs. A typical exercise under "Abs" will have you doing all kinds of crunches, from basic crunches, to V knees to the chest, to up and down planks.
As in the first version, to the left of the screen you'll observe your virtual trainer doing the exercise, using the proper technique. You'll see an image of yourself to the right of the trainer. I really liked how the cartoon trainer and the cartoony you looked very similar, both in terms of size and visual style. As I said, new to this version is the ability to see your arms and legs clearly, so you can work on matching the trainer's body position and moves precisely. There are also visual cues that'll show you exactly where your head should be and where your feet should be. Finally, there's music so that you can time your reps to the beat perfectly (you'd be surprised at how many workout games just play random music and don't bother to match it to your reps).
A woman's voice will talk your through all the exercises, calling out instructions and encouragement. Regarding the latter, I found that she tended to err a little on the "overly encouraging" side--even when I wasn't doing the exercises right, she'd be shouting out compliments and encouragement. Happily, the motion detection is definitely spot-on--after the workout you'll see precisely what percentage of the workout you nailed, and I found it to be remarkably accurate.
"Classes", represented by the purple icons, are very similar to workouts. You go through a series of set exercises, you have a virtual cartoon trainer who will demonstrate the proper moves, and you'll control the cartoony "you" standing next to him or her as you try to match the moves. The difference is that while "workouts" were like generic exercises you might do at the gym, "classes" all follow a specific theme, such as a certain style of dance, a boxing training session, and even a military bootcamp. Here are the options and the number of routines in each:
1) Africa Rhythms (12)
2) Boot Camp (6)
3) Hip Hop (12)
4) Cardio Boxing (14)
5) Destination: Bollywood (12)
6) Yoga (4)
7) Latin Dance (12)
8) Zen Energy (8)
I tried the boot camp one first. Sure enough, you and your virtual trainer (a gruff drill sergeant) are in the field of a military boot camp complete with a helicopter and occasional explosions happening around you. Even at the easy levels, you're taken through a grueling set of exercises, from running to "Olympian squats" to "stun attacks" to push ups. The trainer stays in character throughout, shouting instructions to you amid various random interjections ("you're tired? I don't care!", "does it hurt? Good!").
I also tried the Bollywood one. Like the rest of the dance-themed classes, it had different levels with names like "Learn it", "Rehearse It", "Speed It Up", and "Show it Off". I tried the beginning level, and it brought me through some very authentic Bollywood dance steps with names like "Bolly Arms", "Aarti Step" and "Blossom Step". The moves were very authentic. I wouldn't say this part of the game is exactly Dance Central, but it's not bad either.
Overall, I'd say this is a worthwhile purchase if you're serious about using your Xbox for fitness and exercise. Those who purchased last year's version (especially if you purchased a lot of the DLC) may find a lot of what's in this year's version redundant. But I'd say there are enough improvements to make it a worthwhile purchase. I loved the improved avatar, enjoyed the new activities they added, and appreciate the fact that they didn't skimp this year on the number of exercises you can do before resorting to purchasing more as downloadable content. From the title, I'm assuming Ubisoft intends to release one of these every year; here's hoping that they continue to innovate the series moving forward and don't get lazy and rest on past laurels.
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