Around 5 months before writing this article, our household welcomed a new addition; an Xbox 360 complete with Kinect sensor. After splashing out on every game we could find, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved soon became the most played.
We'd heard that this was the new best way to lose weight, and keep it fun, but can you really lose weight by using the Kinect? Let's find out, as I review both the game itself and the results from playing it.
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved gameplay
There are 4 gym games, each designed to give you a different kind of exercise. Each game has multiple difficulties that must be unlocked, but each round lasts only around 5 minutes making these perfect for playing as a group or if you struggle with the harder modes.
Cardio boxing and "Zen" classes sound easy. On the contrary, while cardio boxing does start out fairly easily it soon has you working up a sweat. Zen classes are designed as a cooldown exercise at the end of sessions, but many people at first have trouble with the balance and posture needed.
The personal training sessions are really the main appeal of Your Shape: Fitness Evolved. The first time you play, the game will scan your body and ask you to enter information such as your exercise habits and your goals (overall weight loss, lower body etc), and your answers affect the training program that will be offered.
The training program consists of various classes which you can attack in any order as and when you feel like it, but very few of them are easy. You must keep time with your trainer, which can be very difficult when you're already half collapsing, and it's no good trying to cheat as you might with an exercise DVD because that trainer can "see" you and will let you know when your squats aren't low enough or they're otherwise displeased.
One problem that some people find, especially with the personal training programs, is that they are unable to stay in time with the trainer due to the Kinect sensor not picking up a certain body part correctly (usually the feet). If you're particularly tall or are playing in a smaller space you could run into issues, one excellent fix for this is a Kinect wall mount.
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved interface
This was the first Kinect game that I had seen where the presentation of the game actually lived up to the "futuristic" appeal of the Kinect technology. Everything is light and minimal, while the music is relaxing without being distracting.
The game area is marked on the screen as a box which you must remain inside while playing. If you move outside of this area, your avatar on the screen will start to disintegrate. It's actually pretty cool watching yourself float away into nothingness.
The menu system can unfortunately be slightly picky at times, scrolling through game modes often happens too fast and you can find yourself either waiting for the options to go around again or tentatively trying to scroll through one option at a time in the manner of someone adjusting the shower temperature one hundredth of a degree at a time.
Finding a particular workout in the menu system can also be complex and unintuitive, though this is something you'll soon get used to (if never be 100% happy with).
On the main menu screen, you're able to see a handy bar showing how many calories you've burned while playing Your Shape: Fitness Evolved. Unfortunately this is a running total since the beginning of the game, and the only way to view results for one particular session or time period is to use the Your Shape Center website.
It does display how many calories were burned during a particular activity each time you complete it, so perhaps the desire for more statistics available is just my love of graphs coming to the fore.
Can you lose weight/become fitter by playing Your Shape: Fitness Evolved?
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: As with any form of exercise, you get out what you put in. Playing for 10 minutes once a week while eating pizza with one hand will not give you a result. I have actually played with pizza in one hand, don't judge me!
Depending on your fitness level, all of the game modes but especially the personal fitness training can get results. Personally, I'm towards the higher end of "average" weight for my height but I am very unfit so the basic beginner personal training had me completely exhausted. After my first session, I could barely walk for two days, so it definitely works!
At first, I stuck to a reasonably sensible diet (only one pizza allowed per week!) and played Your Shape for about 30 mins every other day. That isn't much, I know, but that's how low my fitness level was. I almost immediately noticed a difference in stamina and physical ability, from being able to climb the stairs to my flat without wheezing to being able to keep up much better with the trainer next time round.
I also lost around half a stone (7 pounds) during a couple of weeks of this new routine, but then moved house and stopped playing for a while so I can't be sure what the overall rate of weight loss would have been. I plan to start the schedule again now that we're settled into our new home, and will update with any significantly different results.
Is Your Shape: Fitness Evolved for everyone?
No. While the exercise routines are amazing for someone like myself, those of you who are already very fit and active and require something extremely challenging will not find it here. The workouts are relatively short and give plenty of time for gasping a few breaths, grabbing a few mouthfuls of water and regretting ever deciding to exercise in between them.
For most of us, however, the activity level of the game should keep us occupied for quite some time. The gym games are great for parties and it's much more difficult to "cheat" than with a non-interactive workout like an exercise DVD. Not to mention you get achievements, which should make any gamer want to burn calories.