The Ubisoft fitness gaming series Your Shape: Fitness Evolved has been a very serious, bland experience from the beginning. These exercise titles had no discernible character of their own, nothing that made them stand out from the other games on the market. This seems to have been the motivation behind Shape Up – where the company has opted for a more unique and quirky take on the workout genre.
Throughout Shape Up, traditional exercise routines are mixed in with mini-games and unusual workouts. For instance, there are training sessions of three minutes, involving skiing or skating actions, interspersed with 90 second mini-games which may see you punching ice cubes or bench pressing an elephant. Although they don’t sound very serious, all the activities have been designed around real fitness techniques, so your voyage to the moon will see you performing squats, or throwing cross punches and raising knees to smash melons.
You can choose to take on these challenges one at a time, or play the main meat of Shape Up wherein you challenge different champions in weekly workouts. Choose the Luchador for example, and you will need to workout for fifteen minutes three times a week, on muscle-centric routines to get the chance to challenge him in a boss battle at the end of the week. This will earn you fitness badges and count your calories burned, time played etc – and track your progress.
Longevity may be a bit of an issue for the title however, as there are only two bosses to go up against on-disc, and any further ones must be bought as DLC. Their challenge quests each last for four weeks, and involve largely the same routines over and over again – so players will likely get a bit fed up with some of them after repeat workouts. There is a feature where you can create your own routines, but this involves signing up to a paid subscription service, which is sad as this feels like a feature that should have been included for free in the main game.
The Kinect sensor does a very good job of following your actions, with only a few moments when it lost track of things. The camera projects your own visage on-screen at all times, so you can follow the instructor’s actions and really see where you are going wrong if you have difficulty. Some of the movements you have to perform are quite quick and precise, and considering that, I didn’t ever feel I was unable to get the movements nailed down, after a little practice.
Your instructors are a bit hyper, but that fits in with the slightly crazy overall theme. With their instructions, and short tutorial videos for each activity, it is usually easy to get going. Although the games and routines are all given a light-hearted theme and are presented in an 8-bit visual style (complete with chip tune renditions of popular songs, such as Eye of the Tiger), Shape Up provides a good workout and will certainly leave you sweaty and tired. These are real workouts, simply disguised as games.
It even features some very basic social online gaming. There are a selection of eight or so one-off mini-games from which you can send challenges to your friends. Play the mini-game, set a high score and upload the video of your performance to send to your friend. Then, when they play their mini-game, your video will actually appear on-screen alongside their own likeness, like a ghost car in a racing game.
This mode sadly falls apart if no-one else you know owns the game – as you can’t challenge strangers – but thankfully there is also local simultaneous two-player across all modes, which does make all of the routines much more amusing and provide the extra challenge of trying to beat one another while trying to improve your fitness. You will of course need to clear a larger area for both of you to get the full range of motion needed to play side by side, but Kinect performs admirably at following the actions of both participants.
Despite the cheesiness of the notion, Shape Up does indeed manage to take keeping fit and make it into a fun but challenging game. The arcade-like pixel aesthetics and quick-fire mini-games certainly keep things from getting boring. By keeping high scores and letting you challenge your friends, as well as tracking repeated weekly workouts, it also gives you more reasons to keep coming back and maintain your routine. Shape Up definitely won’t be for everyone – and having to pay for more activities once you have exhausted those on-disc is annoying – but this is a good title for those who usually find keep-fit a little boring.
Workouts are fun and effective
Kinect body tracking is well-implemented
Bright, vibrant art style
Paid subscription required to create your own workouts
Online multiplayer is limited to friends only
Disappointing variety of workouts included on-disc