I’m not a fitness nut, but I really do enjoy getting a Kinect workout now and again. If I’ve been too lazy (or insecure) to get my butt to the gym, or better yet, when I was recuperating from a dislocated knee last year, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved is a proven and trusted winner in my books. I’ve been able to get strenouous workouts done at whatever time I want, right in my living room. My only complaint? After three or four months, the game and its couple of workout modes got very stale; I stopped at the 10,000 calorie mark simply because that was the last achievement I needed in the game. So this year, has Ubisoft has worked out the teething-problems of its fitness franchise and made improvements in Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2012?
Straight-out, yes. There are improvements in leaps and bounds, here.
Let’s get straight into innovations, the biggest of the bunch being floor-tracking. The first Your Shape was desperately missing proper ab workouts, and to be honest when I was doing deep squats in personal training, I ended up freaking Kinect out to the point where I was unrecognisable to the poor camera. This year, as long as you’ve got your head and feet pointing in the right direction during floor work, both Kinect and the game handle you just fine. There are dedicated abdominal workouts, plus a thwack of different variations of the push-up designed to give your chest and arms a once-over. They’re all fantastic, and some of them are (rewardingly) hard!
In addition to the floor-tracking, which opens up a wide array of exercises not possible in the first Your Shape, Fitness Evolved 2012 has a far greater number of exercise modes to try. From basic warm-ups you can progress to muscle-group targeting strength or toning classes, to dance classes, to basic cardio and endurance classes, to boot camp or a “run around the world” mode (we’ll get to those last two in a second). The menu system has been tweaked a bit to speed up navigation, but its true delight comes when you get to punch away the calories you’ve burned after finishing a class. With the classes you’ll of course encounter exercises you’ve already performed in another mode, but the sheer amount of variety and presentation will keep things very fresh for a while down the track. That’s a good thing: this year, you’re going to have to sweat out 200,000 calories to pick up all the achievements in-game (which yes, is a bit ridiculous. I guess Ubisoft wants you to hold on to your game rather than sell it, eh?).
The “run around the world” mode is like the running in Wii Fit (lift those knees!), but each running course is set in a world-renowned city like New York. While you’re not going to be mock-running through a life-like and accurate map of each city, the game keeps things interesting by setting up several landmarks and challenges as you run; you learn about the history of Times Square, for example, while you’re trying to lift your knees as high as possible for 25 seconds. It’s a nice touch.
Boot camp mode is my instant new favourite. Your trainer demonstrates moves and expects nothing but sheer perfection, insulting your efforts as you progess through the class no matter how well you’re doing. I found myself trying to do better just to prove him wrong—clearly, the design of Your Shape‘s boot camp works. The other nice touch is that if you’re doing well and progressing along the class, the background of boot camp slowly adds in military-themed rope courses, helicopters and oil barrels just to add atmosphere. If you keep it up, you then get random explosions littering the background while you sweat it out. Seriously, it makes you feel bad-ass.
As far as negatives go, the tracking is much improved, but still isn’t 100%. I know I’m doing a move properly, but the camera doesn’t pick it up right and I get unhelpful comments from the personal trainer like, “make sure you lift those arms; they’re at your sides!” when my arms are about as high as they could possibly be. It’s frustrating — and a bit discouraging — when you’re giving it your all and the AI decides you’ve started to slack off.
In a sort of back-handed compliment, the variety of Your Shape 2012 is a great thing, but also a bit overwhelming at times. I know it’s going to keep me playing the game for a far longer period of time than I did the first, but sometimes when I pop into the game for a quick workout, I get stuck trying to choose what I feel like doing. Still, it could be worse, right? I should throw up the Twitter “#firstworldproblems” hashtag here. That being said, the game offers a mode that helps you choose your workout goals and then recommends specific programs if you can’t decide what to do.
Is this game worth a purchase? Well, that depends. If you’re looking for a great way to workout at home, utilising exercises that will target specific muscle groupings or generally tone all-over, then absolutely. If you’re a gamer that prefers to keep his gaming couch-based with a beer at close range, then of course not. To that latter group, think of Kath and Kim — shouldn’t you be getting a little “huffy-puffy” going on in your day? It’s a great way to get some exercise, and especially in lieu of gym memberships, is a very cost effective way of toning up. Achievement hunters can also benefit if they find a cheap copy of the original Your Shape; your counted calories stack and count across both titles. What more do you want?