Review: Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 (Nintendo Wii U)

Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013
Developer: Blue Byte
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Exercise
Release Date: 11/13/2012

For the past four and a half years, exercise games have become their own little niche market thanks to Nintendo’s push of the game Wii Fit. Of course, the genre actually started in its current form back in October of 2004 with the release of Yourself!Fitness on the original Microsoft Xbox, but the genre has been around as far back as the old 8-Bit Nintendo with the Power Pad. Still, it wasn’t until Nintendo’s Wii Fit that developers, publishers and gamers alike realized this could not only be a full genre unto itself, but a money making one as well. The irony of course is that Wii Fit is a terrible game in terms of both doing exercises and doing them correctly. Besides Wii Fit, we’ve seen other terrible snake oil style “exercise” games hit the market like EA Active, Adidas MiCoachand Walk It Out, but we’ve also seen some truly excellent exercise games as well, like Exerbeat, Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout and the crown jewel of the genre – Get Fit With Mel B.. The original Your Shape proved to be one of the better games, as it provided a web cam that projected yourself alongside the trainer (a digital representation of actress Jenny McCarthy) so you could see that you were doing the exercises correctly and correct your form and posture to prevent strains or pulls. It was successful enough that two sequels, both for the Kinect, were released. Like the original game, they used a combination of web cam footage and motion tracking to ensure a person was doing the exercises correctly. Now, the fourth game in the series, Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013, has come back to a Nintendo console as a launch title for the Wii U. Unfortunately it’s jettisoned everything about the previous games that made it both successful AND a quality product. Instead we have a game that does just about everything wrong that you can do with an exercise title, and it ensures that casual or newcomers to trying to get in shape will end up doing things incorrectly, or worse, hurt themselves. This is not a good product.

So what’s exactly wrong with the game? Well, the entire way it handles exercises and the complete presentation. While the game DOES give you a lot of options to choose from exercise-wise, ranging from cardio dance and kickboxing to Yoga and routines for specific body parts, it doesn’t do any of them right. First off, you can’t put exercises together to form your own routine. So if I wanted to do, say a set of warm-ups, a set of abdominal exercises, go to some “Zen Flow,” then work on my butt and end things with a cool down, I have to do all of that manually, which means going into a menu, picking an exercise, doing it, going out of the exercise, searching for what I want next and repeating until done. That means not only dealing with some long load times, but you lose your heart rate, adrenaline and focus. MOST exercise games allow you to customize a workout by combining sets or even mix and match specific reps. Your Shape Fitness Evolved does not.

The game does offer the ability to create your own program, which is a one to four week training schedule that is tailored to your desires by having you choose a goal and a preferred exercise style. This is a nice idea, but again, it’s very poorly implemented AND pretty much every other workout game on the market does it better. This game’s program just takes two of the already made exercise sessions and slaps them together (complete with a long break for loading between them). You see the same few programs over and over again, so it’s not really customized. Worse yet, it just throws you into the two exercises without a warm up or cool down stretching. Exercising without a warm-up set of stretches can be really bad for you. Hell, even the manual for this game states, “You don’t want to train without warming up first”. So why doesn’t ANY combination in program mode start the player off with a set of warm ups? This is not only a horrible design flaw, but it’s going to lead someone inexperienced in exercising to hurt themselves because of it. Again, every QUALITY exercise game lets you have far more control over your program, and even bad ones start you off with warm ups. The fact that Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 doesn’t…well, that’s a sign you should run screaming from this game unless you are an avid workout buff, and even then, there are still things wrong with this game that will be immediately apparent to those gamers, and they will drop this like a bad habit.

Next we have the visual presentation. Like a lot of exercise video games, Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 uses a digital trainer. There are several skins, both male and female. This means the person guiding you in the exercises is not human. This is okay, as several exercise games have digital representations instead of actual footage of human beings. That said, Get Fit With Mel B. has footage of a real person (said former Spice Girl) doing every exercise in time with the gamer, which ensures that not only is the trainer doing the exercise correctly, but so is the human. I can’t stress the importance of the trainer, be they virtual or footage of a real person, doing the exercises correctly. If the trainer doesn’t do it correctly, neither will the player, and again, this all leads to injury. This has been seen before with games like Wii Fit where the trainer model not only didn’t do the exercise correctly, but the character model didn’t actually move or bend like an actual person. So there was a litany of issues that resulted from people playing that game. Unfortunately the newest Your Shape suffers from the same problem. The in-game trainers not only look kind of crappy, but you’d never mistake them, OR THEIR MOVEMENTS, for human. So you have trainers that not only don’t move correctly, but don’t do the exercise correctly. This is another huge red flag. It also doesn’t help that the animations for some exercises are so poorly done that you can’t make out movements. This is rare and tends to involve small motions of the foot going up and out or back and away, but I still was shocked some of this made it past quality control. It’s even worse when you realize the original Your Shape was in answer to the terrible trainers in Wii Fit and Ea Active where they, and some of the “exercises,” did more harm than good. This was the game that first introduced video footage of the player themselves on the screen to ensure things were done correctly. Fitness Evolved 2013 is a slap in the face to the original game and it’s sad when the first game in the series does things so right and the fourth game breaks every cardinal rule about the visual presentation the genre currently has. Besides the issues with the trainers, the background graphics are just weird. They do look like they’d be more at home with the Wii instead of the Wii U, but the visuals are distracting and just plain weird at times. You’ll have brick walls collapse or trees shoot out of the ground. All sorts of strange stuff going on behind the trainer that only serve to distract and, once again, push players to doing exercises wrong and thus hurting themselves, no matter how minor. I just want to shake the individual members of the dev team and ask them what the hell they were thinking here.

The audio might be the worst part of the game. Now the odd thing is that the voice actors for the trainers are actually pretty good. They have calm, soothing voices that sound pleasant enough. It’s what they are SAYING that is the problem. Sometimes it’s just a complete error, such as referring to a stretch of movement as a “block.” This would be appropriate in Kickboxing or Zen Flow, but not in cardio dance or back exercises. Where the game really goes south is in talking to the player. The trainer might tell you that you are doing a good job or how many reps are left, but there’s no commentary on how you are actually doing. A lot of games will say, “Raise that arm higher” or “kick harder” or at least something to explain how and why you are doing an exercise wrong according to what it is detecting. Not here. As well, there are plenty of exercises where you are not facing the screen. Sometimes it is to the side and for some, you’ll be on your back or stomach. Again, you won’t be able to see the screen. GOOD exercise games (including previous Your Shape releases) will help you with that by having vocal commands. “Now the left leg. Now the right.” Something to that effect. It will also keep time with you since you can’t see the exercise, so you can at least get the rhythm of the routine correct. Not with Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013. Here the game just keeps going without any inclination of what limb you should be on, what speed you should be moving at, or if it’s time to get up. The only way to make sure you are in time with the game is to have your head watching the screen. This is going to lead to bad form, doing the exercising incorrectly and really straining your neck. This is just terrible and it’s a potential injury that could be easily prevented had Blue Byte actually bothered to try with this game. Instead you have a terrible mess of a title where it’s not a question of IF you are going to strain something, it’s when and what.

Gameplay is equally as bad as the rest of the game. You can generally tell a good exercise game from a bad exercise game by what they use to track your movements and how they ensure you are doing an exercise correctly. A bad game uses only a single Wiimote/Move controller, or they use the terrible Wiimote/nunchuk combination. With the former, you’re only tracking a single arm, not your legs or the other arm. It’s a terrible setup, and any game that does this is basically saying, “I am a bad exercise game.” The Wiimote/nunchuk combination lets you track both arms (or an arm and a leg with EA Active), but the cord between the two is far too short to let you have full motion on your arms. Meanwhile, a good game either uses two Wiimotes/Move Controllers (one for each arm) or it uses a motion controller in conjunction with some sort of web camera. Both of these are the best assurance that you are doing the exercise correctly. While the previous three Your Shape titles were wonderful in terms of gameplay (they all tracked you by camera/Kinect), Fitness Evolved 2013 just has you using a single Wiimote and has completely eschewed the camera aspect that made this series popular and critically acclaimed in the first place. The end result is a game that can’t accurately track your exercises for most of your body, and thus just hands out scores arbitrarily. This means if you doing an exercise perfectly, you can get an “O.K.” while you can just flick your wrist on some and get an “Awesome.” The game only has three results for you too: Awesome, Good and O.K. You get an O.K. even if you sit there motionless, and as the game doesn’t try to correct you, newcomers to exercising will have no idea what to improve or even how to. Quality games in this genre (again Get Fit With Mel B.) provide footage that you can watch before or even during the rep, where you can see the routine being done without having to do it along with the trainer. There’s no such option here, and the game just launches into exercises without any explanation of what to do or how to do it. Again, this is going to frustrate and stupefy gamers, regardless of exercise level. Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 does everything wrong an exercise game possibly can and absolutely nothing correctly. It is mind boggling that the series could do such an about face like this. I have no words to describe how truly bad this title is on all levels. There is nothing positive I can say about the gameplay. It can’t actually track what you are doing, you can’t see how you are doing, the game gives you no chance to simply watch the exercises and at no point does it offer an automatic warm-up or cool down cycle, like every other quality (and even most bad) games in this genre. I guess if you want to have the illusion that you are actually exercising while not actually doing anything beneficial, this is the game to go for! Perhaps the strangest design decision is that up to four people can do exercises at once, but it only lets you create a single permanent profile. So if my wife wanted to regularly use the game, she’d have to share my profile, which is set for my weight, height, workout intensity level and exercise preferences. MOST exercise games let you have multiple profiles. The fact that this doesn’t…is not good.

Now, if you just use this as a loose guideline to help you work out, and you don’t care about your score or paying attention to how bad the trainers in the game are, there is some replay value. After all, you can come back each day to do more exercises, complete another step in a program and most importantly – earn in game coins! You get ten coins for every calorie you burn. What can you do with those coins? Purchase new exercise routines and outfits for your trainers! Whee! Actually, I like the idea of unlocking new routines as well as rewarding gamers for exercising, but the new trainers and outfits is just silly to me. I don’t get the point in that. If the game actually did something correctly, I’d applaud the addition of unlockable routines, but as the visuals, audio and gameplay all suffer horribly, all you’re doing is spending time with a bad game to unlock more pieces of a bad game. Ick. Still, ignorance is bliss, and those that aren’t aware of what separates a good exercise game from a bad one will find a lot to do with Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 – although not as much as some other cheaper (and better) exercise titles out there.

So what is Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013? Well, it’s basically a blueprint for how NOT to make a good exercise game. Hell, it’s a blueprint that wouldn’t even get you a half-assed one. A lack of customization? Check. Long load times to ruin your heart rate and adrenaline? Check. Poor trainer models? Check. Exercises not shown properly or clearly? Check. A distinct lack of audio cues for exercises when you can’t look at the screen? Check. Only a single Wiimote to track movements instead of one for each arm or a camera? Check. Poor tracking with the one Wiimote? Check. This is just about as bad as it gets for an exercise game. You could buy several Wii games that are better done (and better for you) for the same cost as this one. Good thing the Wii U is backward compatible in that respect, no?

Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 doesn’t even make quality use of the Gamepad. All you do with it in choose between menus – something that could be done with just a Wiimote instead. During workouts all it does is display calories burned and time left, something that could be on the actual TV screen. Really, there’s nothing about Fitness Evolved 2013 that feels like a Wii U game. It feels like a bad Wii game that was quickly shoveled over to be a Wii U launch title as well as the first exercise game for the system. Too bad it’s a terrible one. The game also cajoles you into Ubisoft’s terrible U-Play network, which is a mini Trophy/Achievement system in the game. You can earn U-Play points for achieving one of four specific actions and then use those points to unlock two more trainers and routines, even though there’s already a coin system in place. Worse yet, U-Play involves you having to go to your computer and log in, as well as give Ubisoft personal information AND let your Wii U send them information as well in order to earn the U-Play points and unlock U-Play specific content. Yuck all around.

The only positive thing I can say about Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 is that the game has a pretty good cookbook. Of course, you can’t really use it unless you transcribe the recipes onto paper. Are you really going to bring your new GamePad into the kitchen where something can happen to it? No, you’re not an idiot. Unlike the really awesome cookbook/cooking game hybrids for the venerable Nintendo DS, the cookbook in this game doesn’t have an audio option where it reads things out loud to you so you can protect your expensive electronic gadget and still use the recipe. Just another example of how Your Shape Fitness Evolved can’t get a single thing right.

By now, you should know NOT to buy this game. If you have, I hope you kept your receipt. If you know anyone that is thinking about getting this game, send them a link to this review. Now, I’m not just being harsh to be harsh. I love the previous Your Shape titles and I have a solid reputation in the industry regarding reviewing exercise games. Hell, you can check the online stats for this game and see that I’m listed in the Top Ten for the entire world at it. So I’ve obviously spent a lot of time with this game, and can say without hesitation that Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 is not only the worst game in the series, but it’s one of the worst exercise games ever, and arguably the worst launch title for the Wii U. Kind of sad when you consider this is one of the three titles I was most looking forward to. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that either 2014 is much improved, or that they simply don’t make one. This is pretty much an embarrassment to the genre and to Ubisoft in all ways possible.

The Scores:
Modes: Bad
Graphics: Poor
Sound: Bad
Control and Gameplay: Dreadful
Replayability: Mediocre
Balance: Dreadful
Originality: Bad
Addictiveness: Mediocre
Appeal Factor: Poor
Miscellaneous: Worthless

Short Attention Span Summary
Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 is not only the worst game in the series – it just might be the worst exercise game yet. With terrible rendered computer models as trainers, exercises that don’t show you how to do them first, routines without any warm ups or cool downs and a truly terrible tracking method that can easily be fooled, it’s not a question of IF someone new to exercising will hurt themselves with this “game” – it’s a question of WHEN and HOW. Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 is a perfect example of how NOT to make an exercise game and does so many things terribly that you have to wonder how such a drop off in quality from the first three games is possible. Pretty much the only reason to buy this is if you want to try and sue Ubisoft for a torn, strained or pulled muscle.



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