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  • Jean-Pierre Pellissier - Leader of the Pack

    Leader of the Pack

    When Kinect released the first bunch of exercise titles in 2010, I had raked them all up, tried them, and soon realised that almost none could deliver a substantial exercise programme yet. I would like to say that now with Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012 (YS 12) we are getting close a standard people who want to exercise at home will feel satisfied with. Still a few wrinkles to iron out, but at this point your safest bet in a well-rounded Kinect exercise title is YS 12.

    Firstly, for those who have never gone to the gym or tried any kind of "real world" exercise program--failure to follow through with an exercise program is guaranteed if exercising is not in your blood. Those lean, athletic shaped bodies you see on the cover of the game are people who live and breathe exercise, almost like a job. The majority of us use the word "health" and "exercise" every year in our new year's resolutions and then quickly forgot we ever said that. My point is that you will--and like I said that is almost guaranteed--suffer exercise fatigue in that you will not feel motivated to get up and put the disc in the Xbox and do you daily routine. That's human nature for the majority of us and it does not mean that Kinect sucks or that the game itself is weak. Therefore, I have found the best way to keep it going is to have more than one Kinect exercise game and alternate between them every few weeks or months.

    Secondly, for those who have owned the first Your Shape Fitness Evolved from 2010. Though that game was one of the better titles on Kinect at launch date, it did feature major glitches that were very off putting. The first was the method of navigating around the menus. You had to hold your hand out to a tiny little bubble on the right and wait a few seconds to select. Move a little and it will deselect and restart the thing over. Moreover, just to get to your daily exercise routine took almost 5 different menus of selections; and often you're not even sure if you are on the right menu. This is all gone with the new user interface which is in my opinion, the best yet on Kinect. Not sure if YS 12 took their cue from the new Windows 8 / Xbox Dashboard / Windows Phone Mango approach, but selection is now grouped into colours (representing different styles of exercise) and then divided into nice, big tiles. Hover your hand over these tiles, push forward like you are pressing an elevator button and voila: menu selected.

    The other serious issue was that of progress tracking. In the original game if you started work out on your abs in one programme, you could not exit that programme and try the Zen programme for instance. Doing so would result in resetting the initial abs programme, meaning you had to start again from square one. Have you tried completing a full programme without doing anything else on the original game, you would know that 9 continuous days of ab training quickly gets boring, if not counter affective as it's completely against all exercise principles to exercise the same muscle day in and day out. It was on this point purely that I had traded my original Your Shape Fitness Evolved in. Learning from their mistakes, this glitch is now something of the past and you can swipe your hand freely over the menu tiles, select different programmes, stop, pause, continue and the game will remember what you've done and what not. So, I'm back on YS 12 and I'm hooked.

    Overall, before venturing into the exercises themselves, I would like to comment that when you analyze how this game has been made you clearly realise that the developers had spent a lot of time in determining what had worked in the previous game and what had not. This YS 12 is a product of research and trying to bring to customers something that works on Kinect and works well. I'm sounding like a sales person now, but as an avid Kinect supporter I find it enthralling that games like these do get Kinect right. I stand by my earlier point that the menu is the best yet out at this moment--logical, easy and fluid.

    Other reviews here have clearly set out what YS 12 does in terms of exercises. There are three groups. The first--orange group--focus on "light-hearted" exercise, fun and warm ups. Don't make a mistake, warm ups are often more exercise themselves than actually getting you ready for the major exercises. The second--red group--are specific muscle focused, like your bum, legs or abs. Select one of these and it will open the exercises related to this part of your body that will help you with your goal. Exercises here are like the original game, just structured better. Those who have never played Your Shape Fitness Evolved: exercises are executed in a beat like fashion where you follow the beat and on-screen coach by moving from left to right, and then performing routines that will strengthen the muscle group you have selected.

    The last group--the purple group--consists mainly of downloadable content from the first Your Shape Fitness Evolved like the Bollywood Dancing, and including some new routines, like African Beats (dancing to African beats). The idea in this section is activity focused, like yoga, dancing, etc, and not necessarily a muscle group. Call this the "aerobics" section of YS 12.

    From an exercise point of view you cannot go wrong choosing this title. Yes, if you are 100% unfit, it may be very harsh from the get go, but maybe stick with easy exercises and do them over and over again before you move onwards. Also, choose smartly--newbies shouldn't jump into weights or push ups, I suggest classes like the dancing to kick-start your journey. Intermediates can jump in anywhere and enjoy this game.

    Like all Kinect titles, YS 12 does suffer from not recognizing certain moves at times. It especially fails in the yoga programme--which is kind of weird as the movements in yoga are super slow. One would expect YS 12 to pick those up easily and have problems with the quicker movements in faster classes, but it often appears to be the other way around. Missing a movement when you do Latino dancing on high speed is acceptable, but it does bring your mood down when it cannot pick up an entire session in a yoga class and you sit with a 0% score.

    I've mentioned beginners before and I think would quickly like to elaborate on that. Many owning Kinect are not athletes per se and actually purchased Kinect because going to the gym is a schlep. Bearing that in mind one could easily deduct that the majority of buyers should be beginners or unfit customers--and naturally games on Kinect should be primarily designed to entice this group to pick up the disc and exercise more. For this, they should include levels for beginners which are more guided, and work at slower progression levels. This is not only a problem with YS 12, but in fact all other titles out there: they go too fast too serious too soon for the average person. I hope someone can notice this and include more basic routines in exercise games in the future. Just like all sports you will find a big base playing it for fun, with a few dedicated ones at the top doing it professionally. Exercise boils down to the same thing, but if your programme becomes too demanding too soon, your bigger base at the bottom soon drops out.

    Enough blabber. To summarise:

    - not enough basic routines for beginners
    - tracking fails seriously on a few exercises (luckily they are in the minority)
    - moves tend to get repetitive once you've master a specific discipline, e.g. African Beats (why don't they have more African Beats with different melodies and a few changes in choreography?)
    - warm-up exercises are extremely limited and often not true to form warm ups
    - still no co-op play--the wife and I have little time at night to practice at night, so we prefer doing it together, like Dance Central 2 and even The Black Eyed Peas Experience. As I cannot see any big difference in movements between YS 12 and DC 2, it would be nice if she and I could exercise together. Sadly, YS 12 does not offer this option resulting in us having to take turns.

    = no selection of coaches
    = after each exercise you "punch" your calories away with your fist--though this probably has significant symbolic value it becomes unnecessary after 3 weeks

    + incredible selection and navigation menu system
    + different types of exercising disciplines clearly defined and grouped
    + glitches from the original Your Shape Fitness Evolved ironed out
    + excellent support with downloadable content (DLC)--already 2 new routines you can buy upon posting date of this review
    + the running/jogging programme presented really well and running through the virtual cities keeps your mind active and motivated; especially with the info titbits thrown along the way

    I was surprised this Christmas period by the lack of pure exercise titles released for Kinect, the only other one being My Self Defence Coach. It does not appear that other games from the past year are planning to release new versions, which is a pity as they all need serious fine-tuning. YS 12 shows what can be done if you listen to your users and approach the game from a practical side in its presentation. At this moment YS 12 is definitely a step above the rest and definitely the title to start with if you haven't gotten any yet.

    If you are looking for an exercise title that will give you a good work out and plenty of exercise options to choose from then Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012 is the thing for you. All you need now is commitment, dedication and perseverance...things that unfortunately do not come included in the box.

    In the end, ignore the ratings at the top, as I don't wish to score a game, but purely provide information for people who are interested in buying the game and do not know what to expect. In that regard please leave me a comment if you have any questions and I'll try and answer them.