When Kinect launched last year, it immediately seemed uniquely suited to fitness games, and Ubisoft was one of the first publishers out of the gate with Your Shape: Fitness Evolved. The title did a decent job of getting users off the couch and making them break a sweat, but there were a lot of rough edges due to a brand-new IP being paired with freshly launched tech. A year has passed, and Ubisoft is back with the unoriginally named Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2012. How much have they improved on last year's content? While there are plenty of new exercises to go around, the title's structure and movement detection accuracy just don't measure up.
The first thing returning users might notice about Your Shape is that the menus have been streamlined and made much more friendly to navigate. Workouts are grouped by body area targeted or overall fitness theme, so if you're just looking to work your abs or your glutes, it's easy to find the appropriate fitness routines. Also, new content such as dance classes and a dedicated yoga workout provide a bit more flexibility than before, giving you exercise options for those days when you really don't feel like sweating through a cardio class or doing push-ups until your arms feel like they're going to fall off.
Your Shape also does a good job with what I like to call "trick fitness," which are activities that look and feel like games but actually offer a pretty substantial strain on your muscles. I remember having a really sore core the day after I played Wall Breaker for the first time and couldn't understand why I was hurting. Then I remembered that the minigame required a lot of twisting and leaning while throwing punches, and suddenly, it made sense. Getting in shape while having fun: What a novel concept!
Run the World attempts to provide a similar experience, taking users on tours of famous cities and pointing out fun facts about historic landmarks as you jog past. The method isn't terribly effective, though, as the buildings in question share no characteristics with their real-world counterparts beyond having the same general shape. I would have loved trotting through a realistic representation of downtown New York City or Paris, but instead, you're given environs that look like a bad virtual reality simulation from 15 years ago.
While Your Shape does a great job providing variety and a number of exercise options, it fails miserably at helping you create a balanced and sustainable exercise plan. When starting up the game, you can create a fitness profile and lay out some generic goals for yourself, but the options are fairly vague. Once you've set your goals, the game gives you calorie and workout length targets, while also tagging specific workout routines or activities that it thinks will be most beneficial. The downside is Your Shape doesn't differentiate between activities you've already unlocked and those you haven't, so many of the exercises it recommends up front are locked away until you've done a number of lower-level activities first. Making matters worse, "non-preferred" exercises don't count toward your overall goal, so even though you may spend and hour and burn 300 calories trying to gain access to the tagged workouts, none of that energy counts toward achieving your objectives. If you're thinking that it sounds like that makes it hard to stay motivated, that's because it is.
Furthermore, Your Shape does absolutely nothing to help users create balanced workouts or exercise at a sustainable pace. While you're free to choose any exercise routine you'd like, it often means that users will gravitate toward a few specific exercises they enjoy while avoiding everything they don't. While having fun is an important element of fitness, sometimes you need to participate in activities you don't like in order to promote total-body health and maintain a balanced workout. Any good trainer or gym will force you to "eat your exercise vegetables," but Your Shape is more like a buffet, letting you pick and choose what you want while ignoring everything else. While this may seem like a crowd-pleasing move, it also substantially undermines the very premise of a fitness title.
Last, but perhaps most important, Your Shape doesn't ever bother to teach you the moves required in each workout, and the Kinect sensor still doesn't seem to be accurate enough to correctly read your movements. Instruction in each move amounts to little more than watching an animated figure perform the act on a loading screen for a few seconds before the exercise begins, and once it does start, the title does nothing to adjust if you're having trouble. Not only is this irritating, but it's also dangerous, as continually performing exercises the wrong way is a surefire ticket to injury.
Finally, even though Ubisoft claims that it has worked hard to improve Kinect's accuracy in floor-based exercises, I've yet to see anything supporting that claim. I'm still waiting for the title to register even one push-up done correctly regardless of the fact I'm exactly mirroring the trainer on-screen. Also, the sensor seems to have trouble tracking fast-moving exercises, so be prepared to be told often that you're doing it wrong, even though you probably aren't; even if you are, the game isn't going to bother telling you how to fix it.
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2012 has plenty of variety, but it's also terribly frustrating, and that is the kiss of death for nearly any fitness game. The lack of direction, spotty fitness tracking and inaccuracy of the Kinect sensor all combine to create a package that just doesn't provide compelling reason to come back for more. The only way fitness games work is if they're more fun than actually going to the gym, but Your Shape fails that test on nearly every count.
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