The conventional rules of game criticism may not apply to Ubisoft’s Your Shape: Fitness Evolved – it may be at its best when you’re not having fun – but it’s at least a product that works exactly as intended. Your Shape is a functional title that provides a decent workout and if you’re only looking to shed a couple of pounds, it’s definitely worth looking into.
The gameplay in Your Shape is built around Kinect’s motion control technology. The screen depicts a virtual trainer doing a preset workout routine and your goal is to match the timing and motions of the instructor. The game tells you the percentage of the moves you execute correctly and in rhythm and it’s accurate enough to be worthwhile. If you can keep up and follow the instructions, you’ll burn calories and even tone a little bit of muscle.
That’s ultimately all that matters. Kinect’s potential as a hardcore gaming platform is yet to be tapped, but the hands-free hardware is perfect for this type of product and it pushes Your Shape well beyond Wii Fit. There are no cumbersome peripherals or controllers to contend with and having a full range of motion allows for a more authentic workout.
The result is a game that feels like a legitimate exercise tool instead of a cheap interactive gimmick. Your Shape has the official seal of approval from Men’s Health and Women’s Health – both magazines contributed a handful of routines to the game – and there’s room for improvisation with weights depending on your skill level. Dumbbells may not come with the disc, but they’re a sound investment if you’re serious about getting into shape.
Fortunately, the game works well regardless of your chosen tools. There are a few minor consistency and recognition issues, but they’re easy to overlook because the only score that matters is the calorie counter, and that will still go up even if your timing is off.
The exercises themselves are basic techniques that use body weight to generate resistance. Squats, lunges, jumping jacks, and punches are the main order of the day, and while these may not be the sexiest activities, they are effective and will get your heart rate going.
The primary focus is on Personal Training, which is the exercise equivalent of a career mode. Your Shape will ask you a few questions about your weight, lifestyle, and stated goals and then recommend some appropriate routines and track your progress. The game records the total number of calories burned, as well as the calories burned during every exercise routine and daily session, and watching the ticker climb ever higher does provide a certain healthy satisfaction.
You can choose to emphasize toning, cardio, or sculpting, and there are dozens of options spread across three difficulty settings. The average routine is only four-to-ten minutes long, but the menus are easy to navigate and you’re encouraged to string multiple routines together. There’s more than enough variety to keep things interesting – you can try everything from the Sleeve-Busting Arm routine to After Baby Toning – making Your Shape at least worth it’s weight in exercise DVDs.
Sadly, that might not be true for the more physically fit, since Your Shape is tailored for a casual workout audience that won’t move without incentive. The Advanced workouts are the trickiest routines in the game, and they’d hardly be considered strenuous. If you’re an athlete – or even if exercise is just a regular part of your daily regimen – there’s probably not much for you here until Ubisoft rolls out some more intense DLC.
Turning to the other game modes, the Fitness Classes are as good as anything you’ll find in Personal Training, but the only options are Cardio Boxing and Zen, so the content is fairly limited. Kinect also struggles to recognize many of the more outlandish Zen postures, so matching the various yoga poses requires as much guesswork as flexibility.
The Gym Games, meanwhile, are a complete waste of time. You can play Virtual Smash with up to four players, but the workout value is minimal and a more conventional disc like Rock Band is infinitely more useful at a party.
Some of the Your Shape’s other shortcomings can be blamed on the limitations of the Kinect technology. The depth sensor can be fooled when your legs are behind your body, and you may find yourself contorting otherwise fluid motions in order to make Kinect recognize your actions.
The workout mat can also feel a little cramped, as colorful flower petals will start to appear whenever any limb protrudes outside the designated play area. It’s a helpful gameplay indicator, but it’s virtually impossible to stay centered while doing lunges, kicks, and sidesteps, so you’ll have to make constant adjustments in order to stay in frame.
Your Shape further features a somewhat absurd amount of locked content. The Personal Training Quiz will allow you to jump right to some of the tougher stuff, but you’ll have to slog through every tier of Cardio Boxing and you’ll be presented with a tutorial for every single new technique. It takes at least two sessions to work through all of the introductory material, making it tough to get into the flow of the program.
Finally, there’s hardly any mention of stretching, which seems like a significant oversight for a game devoted to healthy living. It might not work as a gameplay mode – Kinect does have a minimum height requirement – but a few tips would have been both advisable and welcome.
Despite the flaws, I’m inclined to be more forgiving of the technical shortcomings than I would be for your average first person shooter. Your Shape’s primary goal is to convince people to get up and get moving, so the game can still be fully effective even if you’re only approximating the actions and the design is admirable in that regard. Your Shape can’t make you work out, but it’s nonetheless a solid beginner’s title that delivers on the advertisements. If it ends up collecting dust with the rest of your discarded exercise equipment, you have no one but yourself to blame.