Review: Your Shape Featuring Jenny McCarthy

Your Shape Featuring Jenny McCarthy
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: ResponDesign
Genre: Exercise
Release Date: 11/23/2009

Once upon a time there was a game called Yourself Fitness for the Microsoft Xbox. This game featured a trainer named Maya who was programmed to show you how to do hundreds of exercises properly so that you could lose weight or tone your body in the comfort of your own home. This game was amazing and back in 2004, I was pimping this to everyone who would listen to me. Although the official website for the game is now down, you can still view the developer’s website and even pick up the game on Amazon for the 360, PS2 or PC. Sadly the game was underappreciated in its day and was lost to the sands of time. It’s too bad too, as it was easily one of the ten best games of 2004 in terms of innovation and creativity.

With the invention of the Wii, a funny thing happened. Because Wii Sports was a game that would force people to be active, people got the idea to make outright exercise games for the Wii. Unfortunately, 99% of those games have been complete crap. They have either given the ILLUSION of exercise or could even do more harm than good. Many of the exercises in snake oil flim-flam games like Wii Fit and EA Active will actually cause damage to your knees, ankles, joints and ligaments if you use them in the long run. You can read my reviews of both games by clicking on both names of the games and see just why you should avoid both of those big name titles that are little more than Nintendo and Electronic Arts grifting the average sedimentary gamer.

That’s not to say that there aren’t quality exercise options out there. Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout is the second best exercise game I’ve ever played after Yourself Fitness and it’s only $19.99. It’s seriously a must-buy for anyone who wants to get into shape or already is and wants a fun supplement. I use it regularly and it’s making my top ten games of 2009 list simply because it’s a budget title and does everything right. The second title is actually a Wii port of Yourself Fitness called My Fitness Coach and it’s just as great as ever. This game is also only $19.99 these days and Amazon has plenty in stock. Together My Fitness Coach and Gold’s Gym are the two exercise games people should have and you can buy both for 2/3rds of the price of EA Active or Wii Fit AND get actual proper instruction along with exercises that will actually do something in terms of caloric burn and muscle toning.

Now the latest exercise game has come out and it’s basically an upgrade of Yourself Fitness but with two big changes. The first is that the game doesn’t use any controllers for the exercises, but instead uses a USB camera. The second is Maya is gone and Jenny McCarthy of all people is your new instructor. Now, I have never thought of Jenny as anything but a third rate actress, bad MTV game show host and kind of unattractive playmate, so this inclusion of her as the spokesperson for the game gave me serious pause. On the other hand, it couldn’t be worse than say, the Jillian Michaels games and it uses the ResponDesign engine and exercise programs so it automatically had to be better than Wii Fit and EA Active, right? RIGHT?

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Let’s Review

1. Modes

I’m still in shock over the amount of options this game has. First off, you have a normal workout. You can customize this workout to be just about anything. There are over 400 exercises in the game, but many of those are duplicates of each other. For example, Right lunges and left lunges are counted as separate exercises. Either way though, there are far more exercises in Your Shape than in Wii Fit and EA Active COMBINED.

When you choose your workout, you can set the length of time for your exercise and even what part of your body you want to focus on. Your options are: Shoulders, chest, arms, glutes, back, abs, and legs. After you choose your body part for the focus on that day’s exercise you will have a choice between one to three styles: Burn, Strength Training, and Toning. Next up, you will be given a list of ancillary exercise equipment that you may or may not own. If you click on one, the game will incorporate exercises using things like hand weights. If you don’t have any, it’s okay, as the game will design a routine without any. This means you can invest as much or as little of your income into exercise tools as you like.

Besides these daily routines, you can also unlock extra challenges, do a daily workout challenge, get credit for outdoor activities you might have done or even choose one of four special challenges. These special challenges are exercise routines with a given a focus. Now two of the four are female-centric as I don’t know too many guys that would choose “Get Bikini Ready!” or “Active Mom Routine.” However the “New Year’s Resolution” and “Free Your Mind” options are still ones for both genders and quite helpful. “Free Your Mind” gives you all Yoga workouts by the way.

Overall, this is exactly what an exercise game should offer. No silly crap masquerading as workout routines or exercises. No running in place that is guaranteed to do damage to your ligaments. No ways to cheat by putting added pressure on the balance board or flicking the Wiimote in certain ways. This is an actual workout that will reprimand you for not doing exercises correctly and complement you when you finally get with the program and bend those knees or arms correctly. This game really is like having a personal trainer in your home and we’ll see why in later sections. Overall, I can’t give all the options and bells and whistles in Your Shape anything lower than my highest compliments.

Modes Rating: Unparalleled

2. Graphics

Graphics are hard to talk about here. A small part of the game is video footage of Jenny McCarthy talking to you with the backgrounds changing based on the time of year. For example, since many of you will first play this game in the winter, you get Jenny talking about holiday stuff in a house with a winter holiday theme. The rest of the game features a static purple background with pink highlights. This will not change and hopefully you are fine with the colours.

A digital Jenny will then do exercises ala an instructor which you will be mimicking. Now Jenny looks more like a graphically enhanced Maya but it’s still a decent virtual instructor as the body moves, bends and flexes like a real human would. It is very easy to understand what motions you should do and how to do them, but if at any time you are confused, you can pick up a Wiimote and press the + button for a more detailed description.

While Jenny is exercising in the left hand side of the screen, video footage of yourself is playing in the right hand side so that you can see how closely you are mimicking her and where you are doing things wrong. The camera requires you to have a lot of light and for you to wear clothes that are a different colour that what is in the background but the quality is quite good. I can see the ridges separating each of my abs even from eight to ten feet away from the camera, so it has a nice amount of detailing to it. Some people might not want to see themselves exercising, especially if they are ashamed of their body type, but to be perfectly honest THIS IS THE ONLY WAY YOU WILL IMPROVE WITH A VIDEO GAME. You don’t have a flesh and blood instructor to say, “You’re doing it wrong” and Wii Fit is so faulty that it’s super easy to cheat and get a strong score when you are actually doing nothing at all or even your body a disservice. That’s not going to happen with Your Shape. Here you’ve going to be confronted with your poor form and have to fix it instead of pretending you’re actually losing weight or getting in shape. It may be rough at first for some of you, but I have to say I love it. There are times when I caught myself doing something with a weak stance or form at the tail end of a thirty or sixty minute workout and both the game and I caught it. This forced me to improve in areas I didn’t realize I was being sloppy when tired and that alone makes this the best exercise game on the market.

The colour scheme might be annoying and virtual Jenny is nowhere near the graphical power of other games for the Wii, but the camera gives you a lot of detail and there is little to no delay with your movements on screen so you’ll get a perfect view of what you are doing and how it compares with what you SHOULD be doing. Awesome. Simply awesome.

Graphics Rating: Good

3. Sound

There are only two things to discuss when regarding the aural aspects of Your Shape: The music and Jenny’s voice. Now, I always found Jenny McCarthy annoying in Singled Out the few times I was forced you watch it, but that’s because she was either generally screaming or hocking a loogie. Here Jenny is very calm and has the correct voice and intonation for an exercise class. She enunciates clearly but fast enough to keep up with the tempo of the work out. She is quick to praise, but equally quick to scold and point out what you are doing wrong. It’s not angry commentary, but it is meant to snap you out of half-assing things. Overall, I still prefer Maya’s voice actress, but Jenny is a surprisingly fine substitute.

The music doesn’t have a lot of variety to it and you can’t pick a specific song to work out to. Rather you have to pause the game and choose “random song” which, well…gives you a random song. It’s hit or miss here. However, you won’t really be listening to the music as you’ll be paying too much attention to your workout, Jenny’s instructions and your visuals to care too much about the music.

I would have preferred song more depth to the musical selection, but overall this does a nice job in the areas a fitness game needs to have.

Sound Rating: Enjoyable

4. Control and Gameplay

This is really the most important section of the review because it’s what an exercise game will live or die by. Wii Fit sucks because the balance board is, quite simply, a piece of crap that doesn’t even come close to measuring the accuracy of one’s activity and it’s easy to trick with poor form and performance. EA Active is crap because a large portion of the exercises are actually bad for you and the resistance band that came with the game is cheap junk and nowhere near being a quality piece of exercise equipment. Gold’s Gym, on the other hand, is great because it uses two Wiimotes instead of a Wiimote-nunchuk combination that restricts full upper body movement.

With Your Shape you won’t have that problem. Here there are no controllers. It’s just you, a workout mat if you want to use one, some supplemental exercise materials if you have them and the USB camera. When you first boot up the game, the camera will scan you in to the game with a virtual representation of your form. It’s actually pretty accurate and this digital you will be shown at the start of every work out when you decide what to do. The game will also occasionally give you prodding as what to develop. For example, my shoulders, neck and glutes are way overdeveloped compared to the rest of me, so the game has yet to suggest me doing any of those. My abs are nicely developed, but I chose that as my core focus, so the game does suggest that regularly. It also suggest my arms and pecs frequently due to them being less developed than the shoulders and abs. These are the areas I should probably work on, so I occasionally take the game’s advice.

Once you are into your exercise routine for the day, you’ll notice the game gives you a series of exercises to do in rapid succession. At about the halfway point the game will start give you 15-30 second breaks between exercises, or even a one to two minute water break if you are doing a 30 minute or one hour session.

Of course the key here is on how well the camera picks up your movements and how well the game responds both in terms of advice and scoring you for accuracy. Well, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that the game picks up everything perfectly and the second you are out of form or start to do something wrong, it tells you. Not only do you get a verbal warning from Jenny, but the screen will flash with a red message regarding what part of your body is out of step. Once you start doing it right, you’ll get a blue-white happy message.

The game’s camera and motion detection is amazingly solid which is where the bad news comes in. Those of you living in the fantasy world where Wii Fit and EA Active actually help you lose weight or improve your body will be in for a world of shock with this game. Not only will you be sweating and tired after this, you will often be criticized for doing an exercise incorrectly, something that could be avoided due to manipulation of the Wiimote or Balance Board in either Nintendo or EA’s would-be exercise games. Here you do not get the luxury of fooling yourself and/or the game. Here you have to stare your mistakes right in the face and hear the game call you out for them. Many people will turn this around and blame the game instead of themselves. They’ll claim the detection is off. They’ll claim they were doing it right and the game wasn’t picking it up. They’ll whine that the game is an unforgiving taskmaster that consistently demands a high level of precision. The first two statements are excuses for one’s own suckitude. The last statement is actually fairly correct. The game is designed to act and react like a real professional trainer, which means it will call you out with the slightest degree of error, be it flailing your arms, not bending your legs at the right angle, or not keeping up with the tempo. Welcome to the real world of exercise, butterballs; it’s not going to let you press your girth into a white piece of plastic in such a way that the game misreads what you are doing. Here your every movement is digitized and evaluated. Instead of those eventual complaints that the game calls you out for being five to ten degrees off with your arm positions or that you are shaking when doing a plank instead of holding still I suggest you paraphrase one Mr. Ice-T: “Don’t hate the game; hate the playa.”

Seriously, there is not a better game on the market in terms of forcing you to do exercises right from the get go and making you do them correctly. I mean, that’s why you’re exercising, right? You want to do them correctly so you lose weight and/or have a better body, right? Then this is the game to get. You can’t sit in a chair and just swing your wiimote back and forth with the game giving you a “good” rating. No, here you have to work and the routines can get pretty intense. A 15 minute workout will generally lose you nearly 200 calories. That’s about comparable to a twenty to thirty minute workout with EA Active or Wii Fit. With a thirty minute workout, you’ll be losing nearly 400 calories. Again, Your Shape is the game for people that actually want to look and feel good. Those other two are for people who want to put in minimal effort and get likewise results. You’re probably better off using Your Shape if you already exercise regularly but can’t afford a personal trainer or gym membership, or maybe you just don’t have a gym close enough to your home. Those new to working out will find this a bit intimidating with the camera that forces you to watch yourself exercise and with the detection being pretty unforgiving, but it’s certainly going to be worth it in the long run if you’re serious about physical improvement.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Unparalleled

5. Replayability

As long as you are serious about working out, this is a game you can “play” until the end of time. Sick of working one part of your body? Switch to something else. Want to change it up even more? Go buy a step board or some hand weights and let the game factor those in. Too tired for something really strenuous? Well, there’s finally a game with yoga lessons that ENSURES YOU DO THE POSITIONS CORRECTLY. I can’t stress how important that is.

I also love that the game has specific month long plans for women looking for a certain body type or to get out of their current one. I wish the game had as much consideration for male gamers, but honestly, it’s nice to see a game treat the female demographic seriously and not as an afterthought. Giving women programs specifically for them will only help sell this game in a way other would be female oriented games are a tad bit insulting to the female gender.

The bottom line is that Your Shape ensures you are doing the exercises correctly and you will improve because of it. As long as you have the will and determination and you can live with the $70 price tag, this is one game you’ll have in your Wii on a constant basis.

Replayability Rating: Unparalleled

6. Balance

Look, you’re not going to find a more balanced exercise game on the market than ones using ResponDesign’s engine. However, as much as I love Yourself Fitness and My Fitness Coach, they both suffer from my biggest complaint about this burgeoning genre of games: You can’t tell that you’re doing things wrong to the point of bodily harm until after you’ve done it. I exercise regularly to the point where I probably do it more than gaming, but I realize for a good chunk of gamers playing these exercise games is your first real introduction to regular working out. That’s why I always have put the caveat on these games that there are no replacement for a real personal trainer or gym membership. They are merely SUPPLEMENTS. Your Shape not only gets rid of this problem by being totally USB camera based, but you know have the chance to correct your posture and performance and GET BETTER at exercising. This is something no other exercise game offers and I can’t begin to emphasize how important is to do exercises correctly. This option alone really makes Your Shape the leader of the pack and also the safest and healthiest option.

One of the other great things is that this game really forces you to exercise properly. There’s no more doing one set of reps, having loading times to get out of the exercise, choosing another exercise, loading that and then doing it. There’s also no more doing an exercise for a three minutes than walking away for an hour or three and doing one more and calling it a day. No, you’re doing full routines based on 15 minute intervals and the game will tell you when you can stop. There are assigned rest periods in each routine, so if you tire before one, then it just says you’re out of shape, son. Unlike previous exercise games save for Gold’s Gym, Your Shape really gives you the feel of what it’s like to be in a medium impact exercise class. I’ll admit some of the 60 minute routines put me through the ringer and this is the first game I can say that about. I woke up the next morning with that nice burn in my muscles that comes from having had a solid and CORRECTLY done work out, rather than the ,”Oh my god, I know this is one of the worst things I can do to my knees and yet I keep playing this game for the sake of a well-informed review rather than my own physical well-being” feeling one gets from EA Active.

This my friends is the best exercise simulation on the market today. Your upper body can have its full range of motion. You won’t whip yourself in the face with the cord between that connects the nunchuk to the Wiimote. You’ll be able to see what you are doing wrong. You be able to correct what you are doing wrong. You’ll get better and eventually this will lead to a healthier and toned body in additional to weight loss instead of joint and ligament damage hidden by the joy of slight weight loss .

If you’re even remotely serious about using the Wii to exercise with, this is a must have because of how well put together it is.

Balance Rating: Unparalleled

7. Originality

These days, exercise games are getting pretty common. I can think of a dozen alone for the Wii. Hell, I can even think of two for the Nintendo DS. It’s a market that exploded quicker than 2-D fighters after Street Fighter II. Of course, this particular genre is littered with more Pit Fighters and Time Killers than King of Fighters ’98. Nearly all of these games promise more than they deliver and generally the bigger the title is marketing, the worse the game actually is for your physical well-being.

Your Shape is the first exercise game where you can see what you are doing. I probably sound like a broken record but this is really important. Let’s take something simply like a sit-up. If you them wrong and then do them repeatedly with those same errors, you can eventually tear an abdominal muscle or injure your back or shoulders. Without anyone to show or tell you what you are doing wrong, you won’t have any idea and thus are crusin’ down that road to accident city. It happens even to the best of us. I once bruised several of my vertebrae because I did a single set of sit-ups incorrectly without even realizing it. I usually do between 500 and 1000 situps a day, but I had one off day and bam; I had to stop exercising for a month and a half until that healed. Now think about the vast majority of people who play these Wii exercise games and have no knowledge of human physiology or how to do these things correctly and they start from the very begin with poor habits and posture. It’s strain, tearing and injury waiting to happen.

The camera based readouts can’t make you stop doing exercises incorrectly; that’s up to you. bBut at least you have the ability to see both your errors and the correct way to do things. This is both innovative and revolutionary, and this needs to be the direction this genre goes. Yes there are a lot of these games these days, but there are only three on the market that do it RIGHT and only one that goes that extra mile and lets you see and then fix your mistakes.

Originality Rating: Above Average

8. Addictiveness

We generally define addictiveness here at Diehard GameFAN in regards to how hard it is to put down the controller once you pick it up or how often you return to a game. With an exercise game, things aren’t that cut and dry. You probably SHOULDN’T play one of these games for hours straight and the games themselves will tell you that. As such we can’t look at the first aspect of addictiveness. What we can look at is the second.

One of the nice things about this game is that you can use it to design your exercise plan for weeks and even months at a time. Although very few people will ever do this, it’s nice to have that option. You can also move dates around based on your schedule, so if something comes up you can move your workout to the follow day. Perhaps the only down side is that you can’t pick and choose specific individual exercises. You can only pick a body part for a focus and a style of exercise. Then the game designs your workout for you. This may disappoint some, but the truth is this is how exercise classes actually work. You sign up for one based on a topic and the instructor, with their background, experience and knowledge selects the exercise they feel are best suited for the class at large, rather than someone without any real understanding picking things at random because they think it might be fun or because they can get a higher score on one since they find it easier than others. That’s not how you get in shape.

If you can stick to a routine and can give up a large degree of control and customization that games like Wii Fit and Ea Active offer, then you’ll probably stick with this for a long time as it WILL become a great supplement and your exercise game of choice. This is definitely the hardcore exercise option and so it’s really only meant for those that want to take getting in shape seriously.

Addictiveness Rating: Above Average

9. Appeal Factor

Oddly enough, the people who should be using this game are the people who are least likely to pick it up. One of those groups are the ones who erroneously bought into EA Active or Wii Fit and are now used to their inaccurate exercises and practices. You can’t blame them, especially as they’ve probably purchased the $70 starter and then the expansion disc. Still, ignorance is no excuse and if you’re one of those who purchased either of those games, it’s time to start over and do things right from the ground up this time.

The group are people that are either ashamed of their body shape or would feel embarrassed to see themselves exercise. Maybe it’s low self-esteem. Maybe they don’t like the way they look. Maybe they just can’t watch both sides of the screen and do constant compare and contrasts. However, if you’re picking up exercise games because you don’t like how you look and want to lose weight and/or get in shape that’s all the more reason to pick this up. The truth is no one is constantly happy with their looks. Everyone is their own harshest critic with the ability to look in a mirror and say, “Well, I wish body part XYZ looked better.” If you are serious about getting in shape but don’t feel comfortable doing it in a gym for whatever reason, this is your best option. Much like workout videos, you can’t get proper feedback from other games that just base things on pressure or poor motion detection. Here the game not only gives you feedback but you yourself can see how you are do and more importantly, improving. It might sound on, but you will feel confidence and encouragement when you see yourself doing the exercises right, especially if it is one you’ve struggled with. You can ensure you are doing things right. You can pick a particular body part to focus on. All these things and more are going to help you become a healthier person and hopefully, a happier one as well.

It doesn’t matter if you are morbidly obese, scrawny as hell, or a body builder, Your Shape will have something to offer you. You might not like the way you look now, or you may be a complete narcissist, but being able to correct poor exercise habits is fundamental to getting in shape and now there’s a finally an exercise game that will let you do just that.

Exercise games aren’t for everyone, and this one is pretty hardcore compared to the third-rate products already. If you’re going to blame a game and motion detection for your poor skill level and follow through, this isn’t a title you should invest in. If you’re not willing to be told, “You’re doing it wrong” when you’re even slightly off compared to the, “You’re doing it right” attitude of say, Wii Fit, even when you’re doing it horribly wrong, then this isn’t the game for you. If you don’t think you can do thirty to sixty minutes of exercise straight with only small very quick breaks inserted here and there instead of crapping around between three minute exercise reps, this isn’t the game for you. If, however, you are serious about your physical well-being and getting in shape, this is the only exercise game you should invest in. If you can stick to a routine and are willing to admit you have room for improvement with your form and tempo, this is a game you need to put on your Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa/Cthulhu Rises From R’yleh Day IA! IA! List. Sadly most of the “exercise gamers” out there fall into the first category and would prefer to keep lying to themselves. For the rest of you, at least there’s finally an option you can get behind.

Appeal Factor: Decent

10. Miscellaneous

Okay, I’ve just hit the five-thousand word mark, so I’ll make this quick. Your Shape is the next generation Yourself Fitness and it shows. It’s very much an upgrade of the original and if you already have My Fitness Coach you may want to stick with that. For those that have neither, MFC is only $19.99 and until now, was vastly superior to any other exercise game on the market. Your Shape is fifty dollars more, but you’re getting more exercises, routines, special challenges and most of all, the ability to see yourself and correct your mistakes which ensures you will be getting the maximum possible benefit from this game and preventing any injuries, tears, or strains. If money is no object, than Your Shape Featuring Jenny McCarthy is easily the best exercise game on the market. Otherwise you can just invest in My Fitness Coach for less than a third of the price and work your way up to this, Either way you’re investing in ResponDesign rather than crap and snow jobs like Wii Fit and EA Active, and that promises more high quality exercise titles like this in the future.

UPDATE ON 01/04/2010 – Happy New Year everyone. I’m really happy to see how popular this review was and I’m even happier to tell you that Ubisoft was blown away by everyone’s commentary and questions here. As a gift, they’ve graced Diehard GameFAN and you, our readers, with the exclusive code to unlock the extra challenges. This code nets you a two week set of 15 minute high intensity workouts. Please comment below and I’ll email you the password! -Alex

Miscellaneous Rating: Unparalleled

The Scores
Modes: Unparalleled
Graphics: Good
Sound: Enjoyable
Control and Gameplay: Unparalleled
Replayability: Unparalleled
Balance: Unparalleled
Originality: Above Average
Addictiveness: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Decent
Miscellaneous: Unparalleled

Short Attention Span Summary
Unlike nearly every other exercise game for the Wii right now, Your Shape Featuring Jenny McCarthy actually teaches proper exercise techniques while giving you the chance to both see and learn from your mistakes. Of course you also can’t cheat and trick the game into thinking you’re doing an exercise correctly (or at all) like you can with Wii Fit or EA Active. Gamers tend to throw around terms like casual and hardcore rather freely when describing games these days, so if Nintendo and Electronic Art’s titles are for the casual gamer who wants to give themselves the illusion of exercise and weight loss all while doing things that can actually do more harm than good over the long term, Your Shape is the hardcore option. It’s more intense, more of a high impact workout, offers far more exercises than both those games combined, and most importantly it teaches correct techniques and offers a pretty innovative USB motion detection camera that tracks your movements with amazing accuracy. The only downside is that the game is a bit of a taskmaster compared to other exercise game options and it demands constant precision and accuracy from you. However, that’s exactly what a real professional trainer would ask of you, so this is only a real downside if you’re not ready to see how out of shape you really are. This is easily the crown jewel in the current exercise gaming fad, but because it lacks the budget of EA and Nintendo’s vastly inferior but far more marketed titles, only the truly health conscious will end up knowing about this game, much less picking it up. Bottom line, any other exercise game on the market pales horribly in comparison to this.


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