Platform: Wii U
Written on November 28, 2012
The Your Shape franchise is one of those franchises that’s been either hit or miss over the years. The original Your Shape for the Wii in 2009 was quite dreadful; Ubisoft tried to beat Microsoft to the punch by introduce a Kinect-like tracking system to the Wii, with unspectacular results (and the cartoon Jenny McCarthy still haunts me in my dreams). On the other hand, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved for the Xbox, introduced in 2010, was one of the better workout games for any system.
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2013 sort of falls in the middle. There are parts of it that are brilliant, even revolutionary, but there are also some glaring weaknesses.You start out with a video of people having fun with the game. While the video was your typical fluff piece with people who are a little too beautiful having a little too much fun, what struck me was the crisp, high definition video quality. This is not your grandfather’s Wii.You start by creating your profile. I’ve played many, many Wii fitness games, and by far this was the most pleasant profile creation I’ve ever done, as it’s all done on the GamePad. So, for example, instead of clicking an eternity to get to my weight and age (which is always a very humbling process for me in both cases), I just had to swipe my finger to enter information about myself. You can also choose your fitness level: couch potato, aspiring gymnast, semi-professional, and Olympic legend. Not sure why they couldn’t have just said “light, moderate, hard, and advanced”, but I got the gist of it.
As much as I liked the setup process, there were already some less-than-optimal things. First, you can’t use the Balance Board to input your weight, which is one of the things the Wii can do that no other system can do. Second, they ask for your height in inches. Why not ask for my age in months? Finally, they have you take a picture with your GamePad camera, but don’t tell you until later that your face will be plastered all over the world if you sign up for online access.
You then get to the main menu, where your options are “Play”, “Profile”, “Medals”, “Store”, “Options”, and “Fitness Pal”. When you press “Play”, you’re immediately asked if you want to sign up to use online features; once you do this you can work out together with friends by comparing your records to theirs. I do like that Ubisoft is embracing social features in their games; one can only hope that they don’t end up abandoning it like EA Sports did.
The Play menu itself has a few choices:
1) Activities – There are two types of activities you can choose here.
The first is dancing to hit tunes. Your initial choices are Born This Way (Lady Gaga), Party Rock Anthem (LMFAO), She Wants to Move (NERD), and SOS (Rihanna). Each song has two versions: an easy “rehearsal” mode and a more challenging “performance” mode. As you earn coins (the internal currency of the game) you can unlock more songs. This part of the game seemed awful familiar and for good reason: it’s almost identical to Just Dance. I’d accuse Ubisoft of ripping them off, but since Ubisoft publishes both I suppose they get a pass. As with Just Dance, you hold the Wii remote in your right hand and have to mirror the on-screen dancer’s moves, and you’ll get points and accolades if you do. The main difference is that the choreography here is much more carefully designed to provide you a full aerobic workout vs. the dances of Just Dance that balance style and exercise. As with Just Dance, you’re pretty much on the “honor system” in terms of whether you move any body part outside of your right hand. But those who are tempted to “cheat” to get a high score probably should be buying this game in the first place.
The second activity is a really interesting one. It’s called “Zen Flow“, and provides some fascinating relaxation exercises. I tried the first one “Lotus Seat Position”. You’re told to sit on the floor crossing your legs, and then to hold the GamePad up to the screen. Then, while soothing music plays you move the GamePad to follow a pattern of light that’s displayed on both the GamePad and the TV. The whole time, a voice will instruct you on how to breathe and relax. I admit I was skeptical at first, but at the end of one session I really did feel relaxed.
2) Classes – These are your typical calisthenics-type workouts, with an aerobics instructor talking you through classes which range from about 7 minutes to upwards of 30 minutes for advanced classes. There are different styles of exercise, including “Be Groovin'” (Aerobic dance), Kickboxing, Cardio dance, Zen Zone, Zen Arena (martial arts), Cardio, and Power Training (strength and conditioning).
Motion controls are a little suspect. They’re not as bad as in the original Your Shape for Wii, but when I waved my Wii remote randomly, I got just as good a score (or in some cases better) as when I tried to match the on-screen instructor perfectly. If you’re content to work out to the classes (which are excellent) and don’t really care too much about your score, you’ll be fine.
One very cool thing was that the GamePad gave a continual readout of the time remaining and the calories burned. I like how the main screen wasn’t cluttered with that stuff, but anytime I wanted to see how much time was left in a workout I’d just need to glance at the GamePad.
3) News – This section is oddly named, as there’s no “News” here, there are just reports of your progress and your friends’ progresses if applicable. You can view high scores and achievements you’ve unlocked.
4) To Dos – There are many features throughout the game that try to incentivize you to play the game every day, including earning medals (achievements), earning coins (which can be used to “buy” things in the Store). This is one of the better motivations. Every day, the system will give you three “challenges” to play (such as scoring at least 90% in a kickboxing workout, completing a specific song with a certain number of points, etc). If you complete all the challenges you’ll be rewarded with a lot of coins.
5) Program – This is another cool feature that lets you set up a recurring workout for up to four weeks. You use the GamePad to set a fitness goal (just for fun, lose weight, reduce stress, improve stamina, build muscles, tone upper body, and tone lower body). You can set the number of weeks (1, 2, or 4), the number of sessions per week (2-4), and your “favorite style” (e.g., dancing, fighting, zen). A training plan will be put together. They kept it pretty simple, which I actually liked; instead of setting up a calendar with dates they just show you a chart of workouts you’ve completed and workouts you have left for the week, and its up to you to do them as convenient for you.
Back at the main menu, you have the option of going to the “Store” where you can “buy” dance songs, new workouts, and trainer outfits. I appreciated the fact that they used all in-game currency that you need to earn by working out rather than charging real money.
Now, I’ve always felt that the single silliest feature of Wii fitness games from the past were when they gave recipes; did they really expect you to take your Wii into the kitchen? But with the Wii U it makes all the sense in the world, as . In the main menu, their recipes are under an option called “Fitness Pal”. You can choose a goal (build muscles, child-friendly cooking, lose weight, improve stamina, reduce stress), and you’ll be served up menus of very tasty-looking food that you can cook. And because you have the GamePad, you can bring it into the kitchen (and even play some Wii games as you’re waiting for your water to boil).
Overall, I was very impressed by the Wii U features of Your Shape, such as the use of the GamePad to set up profiles, to display status, and to use as a cookbook. As for the workouts themselves, I was impressed by some things but not so impressed with others. On the positive side, the relaxation exercises are definitely groundbreaking and make good use of the GamePad. On the not-as-positive side, the workouts themselves didn’t seem to be much more revolutionary than what we saw even in the original My Fitness Coach, and the only real “fun” part of the game was a copy of Just Dance (which begs the question, why not just get that instead?). I was hoping to see the kinds of “activities so fun you don’t realize you’re working out” types of activities they built for the Kinect version, but I didn’t see any of that.
If you have a new Wii U and don’t already have a workout game with great cardio and fitness exercise, I’d say this is a worthwhile purchase. For me, I’d probably wait for the price to drop a little before buying this one, or at least wait to see if the upcoming Wii Fit U moves the bar any better than this one.