Move the coffee table to one side and stack the chairs, Ubisoft’s Your Shape: Fitness Evolved has taken over the lounge and with panting, sweaty, squatty thrusts it showcases what the Kinect is capable of in the fitness market.
With five of the 19 launch window titles being exercise-oriented Kinect is making a bold claim for the active market and Your Shape leaves all others to drown their sorrows in a tub of ice cream.
The application of the Kinect’s real-time motion capture abilities is impressive. Using what it calls Player Projection, Your Shape places you inside the game. Those who’d rather not stare at their likeness mid-groin stretch can also select from a range of visual effects that disguise any glaringly personal aspects of their body.
Player Projection instantly throws up a problem for those of us who feel three push ups and a brisk walk to the beer fridge is fitness enough – there's no cutting corners here. The pre-Kinect generation of fitness games typically involved holding a remote and swinging it about actively. This doesn’t pass muster with Your Shape. If you’re not performing an exercise properly the game knows. Like Big Brother, it is watching you muscle and bone, and it’s as merciless as a real trainer.
This is most noticeable when you start your physical assessment. There’s no guess work as the Kinect scans your body to measure things like arm and leg length, chest size, waist and hip line, and after you plug in your age, weight and usual workout routine (cough) along with an overall fitness goal, Your Shape produces a personalised workout programme.
In effect this means that you will find the tag “recommended” applied to routines best suited to your goals.
Your Shape is divided into three major areas: Activities, Gym Games and Classes. Your personal program and the bulk of the exercises can be found in Activities which offers up routines with great names like “Sleeves busting arms workout” or routines perfectly suited to postnatal women.
Gym Games involves four mini-games to play in the “gym” area. Light Race produces a circle of boxes on the floor around you. These segments light up at random and you must stand on them as quickly as possible.
In Virtual Smash you punch and knee blocks that pop up on screen and in harder settings you must also duck a swinging pendulum.
Stack ‘Em Up is all about balance and has you holding up a board while trying to catch falling blocks which you must tip into virtual holes on either side for points. At harder difficulties some of the blocks are on fire and you must stand on one leg to release water and douse the flame.
Loop a Hoop is the final game and will bring back memories of Wii Fit humiliation in the form of a hoola-hoop game. This time you must also flail arms as you get hoops up there to go with your pelvic thrusts. As with so many Kinect titles, curtains are hurriedly drawn.
Classes are much simpler and offer two choices: Cardio Boxing and tai-chi both with increasingly challenging routines as you progress.
For all the measuring and scanning Your Shape puts you through it’s a shame that the only measured workout statistic is how many calories you have burned. You can find discarded exercycles from the Stone Age capable of this sort of measure so if your goal isn’t weight loss there is nothing very meaningful for you to monitor.
There is also no way to quickly select individual exercises based on specific body parts outside of pre-prepared programs. This means you can’t make your own workout routine or see which exercises are a part of which program.
But where Your Shape may let you down the most is its inability to make exercising fun: You know you’re doing a workout and there's no real attempt to hide the calorie burning behind a gaming experience. If you’re going to spend your money on a fitness game you can rightly expect it to create an environment that makes you want to come back.
That said, the technology on offer in Your Shape: Fitness Evolved is often outstanding and if you’re self-motivated, you’ll be able to overlook that problem. Besides, summer usually sees us all making crazy resolutions and making use of the technology available could very well help you to reach your goals.