If there's one thing the Wii has proven to be lucrative, it's the market for fitness games. Unfortunately, nothing quite nailed a proper fitness regiment. Wii Fit Plus is good for some yoga and balance games but lacks a cardio segment, of which EA Sports Active did an admirable job but was ultimately hindered by its tether to the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. So, a programme that requires no controller but is still able to give feedback while providing a reasonable exercise regime in your living room sounds perfect for Kinect. Ubisoft's Your Shape: Fitness Evolved does a lot to prove the peripheral's prowess in the field, and although it's not quite the be-all solution it thinks it is, it's a good first step.
Your Shape hits the big bullets of fitness software well up front through what seems like an awful lot of available exercise programs, gym classes, fitness games and calorie tracking. After answering a series of questions about your goals and activity level and then undergoing a neat body scan, your profile is set up and ready to work out.
And there you are, projected as a slightly amorphous jelly person, smack dab in the middle of it all: the bright and encouraging environment with lots of strong colours floating through whites and greys, light and bouncy music, and spherical menu options floating around, following you. Like all other Kinect games so far, Your Shape has its own take on navigation: instead of holding your hand over the menu item for a while, you reach your arm out over a sphere that a new sphere apparates beside, acting as the confirmation button. It works a bit better this way, mostly because your body is always the centre of the menu and your on-screen representation makes your selection process very transparent.
There are three main workout components: Personal Training, Fitness Classes and Gym Games. Personal Training is the core of the program, where you select the type of workout you'd like (such as cardio or toning) and are guided through a series of predetermined routines supposedly tailored to your profile. Programmes are quite diverse and pretty much cover any type of workout you'd need, even including a couple for post-pregnancy, but if you want to tailor your own then you're out of luck as there's no such option to be found.
Once underway, the trainer will guide you through the exercises by both performing them on screen and reading your body movements to see if you're in rhythm and actually completing them. Having your own body represented right next to the instructor at all times is possibly the most helpful contribution Your Shape makes to fitness software, simply by allowing you to easily compare your own stances and movements to how they are supposed to be performed. If your balance is off or you're out of step then you can actually make useful adjustments quicker than before. That's not to say body recognition is perfect, as from time to time the game will misread, say, your leg stance and tell you to adjust when you're actually doing just fine.
To mix things up there are two types of fitness classes: Cardio Kickboxing and Zen, which is a mix of Tai Chi and Yoga movements and is pushed as cool-down sessions after workouts. Classes are broken up by difficulty, each with two parts in addition to a "full" segment. Cardio Kickboxing works much like the personal training sessions, but Zen's slower pace and focus on stance brings a wireframe overlay on your body that glows green when you're in proper position. The wireframe is a good guide but can be a bit finicky, with the same gestures and stances read differently from time to time.
Just like a gym, classes don't stop if you're doing poorly, so the wireframe oddities never get in the way and slow things down. On the other hand, since each class and segment is locked behind completing them in order, you can't skip ahead to Gold level classes if you happen to be a Zen master or Cardio Kickboxing champ. For the majority of people this will likely not be a problem, but those more advanced in these activities will have to trudge through at least a half hour of the easy stuff before even approaching a challenge.
Up to four players can mess around in the assorted Gym Games involving balance, punchin', hip shakin' and light steppin'. They're pleasant enough diversions, but that's about it.
Apart from the inability to create your own workouts and lack of real cool-down sessions, Your Shape gets the actual exercise parts down fairly well but drops the ball in actually motivating you to do so. There is no proper built-in calendar to plan your workouts with, although it does keep track of how many calories you've burned each day in the past week. No nutrition information is included to encourage healthy eating apart from a reminder to drink a lot of water.
You can't actually set goals on your Xbox 360, and in order to do so you have to register for a uPlay account and log on to YourShapeCenter.com or use the upcoming iOS app. The Web site tracks your progress and allows you to create and receive challenges from friends and subscribe to events, although neither of these features were available at the time of publication. There doesn't seem to be a real reason why these things couldn't have been accomplished with just the disc other than a rush to launch, so we hope to see the inevitable sequel include these features.
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved makes a strong case for Kinect's capabilities as an exercise aid, although it doesn't really hit its promise of being the ultimate fitness software. It offers a solid exercise program but definitely has room for improvement when it comes to encouraging you to actually stay healthy outside of its workouts. If its eventual sequel addresses these shortcomings then it could quite possibly be the best of its kind, but for now Your Shape is merely good.