Having recently shaken my groove-thing to Dance Central and got my sweat on with Your Shape, I boldly decided I was well prepared for another fitness game – not just physically, but, to a more certain extent, critically.
Both the aforementioned dance and fitness games brought something new to the market from Limb Feedback in Dance Central to Player Projection in Your Shape.
Don’t expect such innovation from EA’s cross-platform offering.
At no time does it feel like this game works well within Kinect’s controller-free environment. Menu icons are tiny and hard to select and indeed it’s much more expedient to keep an old-fashioned controller nearby.
During the actual workouts the motion control is seldom anything but infuriating. Active 2 is easily capable of recognising larger movements like jumping but it quickly loses the plot when you have to do anything more nuanced.
Floor workouts are an exercise in futility as the camera often loses track of you entirely, decides you’ve given up and logs you out. To add insult to injury when the game finally spots you down on the ground it is typically unable to evaluate your movements correctly. Having the game inform you that you’re the one performing poorly is sure to get your heart rate up faster than any exercise.
On the subject of heart rates, Active 2 comes with a heart rate monitor. Attach it to your arm and it relays this information to the game. It’s a great idea that allows the game to help plan your fitness routines, but unfortunately the monitor occasionally states that your heart rate is considerably higher than it actually is. You’d think something that substantially increases the asking price of Active 2 could complete the simple task of counting heartbeats.
Graphically, Active 2 is underwhelming. Create an avatar for yourself and they will workout around a series of cutesy-pretty, almost cartoony environments. Give me the minimalist future-suave of Your Shape any day.
While this all seems highly negative, when Active 2 finally works, it really works. You’ll sweat and groan and feel like you have really earned that coma. To start the game asks you to enter some personal statistics, after which you’re given the option of two trainers, either Niki or Devon, both with a different personality and motivational method.
You can create your own routines from the wide range of exercises or have your trainer create one for you. The second option is generally the best as if I could choose not to do things like bent arm side planks, reverse crunches or... working out, I would.
At least Active 2 attempts to throw some fun into your workout by integrating a variety of sporty games into your regime. Soccer penalty kicks, basketball jump shots and a mountain biking game – to name a few – are all enjoyable and can briefly help you to forget or ignore that you’re working out. Having them thrown into your workout instead of simply selecting them from a menu is a great way to inject some fun into an otherwise painful experience.
The game also comes loaded with fitness tools to help track your progress and reach your goals. These include a workout calendar, a nutrition guide and online functionality where you can form fitness groups with other Active users. Local two-player is also supported.
Where Your Shape monitored your body, to such a degree that at times you felt violated, you’ll often get the strange sensation that you’re watching an elaborate workout video in Active 2. Combine that with poorly executed motion controls and a steep retail price and the transient fun is quickly forgotten.
If EA plans to get a firm share of the Kinect exercise market they’ll need to invest a bit more time in creating a more user-friendly experience.