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The Biggest Loser Ultimate Workout

"When I lapse into negative thinking, I go out and drown myself in positive friends who will make me laugh."

So speaks someone who clearly has yet to realise drowning oneself in gin and kebabs is much more effective. And who is American. No, I'm not being racialist - those words appear on a loading screen in The Biggest Loser Ultimate Workout, which is based on a US TV show. The premise is that contestants compete to win money by losing weight. Because as everyone knows, the true secret to happiness is being rich and thin.

Ultimate Workout is a fitness game in the mould of Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and EA Sports Active 2.0. It's not as sleek, white and French as the former, nor as technically flawed as the latter. It's a decently put together contribution to the genre, despite the slightly naff presentation.

And despite the fact it features the worst avatar creator in the history of the world. Instead of a pictorial list of options you're presented with a series of sliding bars, and no indication as to what they mean.

Say you want to choose a new hairstyle you must slide the bar along by tiny increments and wait for each hairstyle to load before you can see what the options are. You might think they'd put the short hairstyles at one end and the long hairstyles at the other, because that would be logical. You'd be wrong.

But Ultimate Workout isn't really about character creation. It's about exercises, of which there are more than 120, including upper body reps, yoga positions, cardio boxing and all that sort of thing. You can try them out in Freeplay mode or take part in the Challenge mini-games.

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'Never, ever give up on the thought of a thin you. Always have the thin-you vision in your head.'

These are often nonsensical and frequently hilarious. The moves you must perform have nothing to do with the action happening on-screen. For instance, the Light Cycle mini-game shows your character pedalling an exercise bike to power light bulbs. But to make the character do this, you have to do things like jump up and down on the spot and lift your arms at right angles. Why?

The best thing about Ultimate Workout is the personalised fitness programme. Before you can begin this you must take part in a pretty serious and lengthy series of tests, including a full body scan and a questionnaire. Then there's a fitness test - it's advertised as being 30 minutes long, but actually the exercises get progressively harder and the test stops as soon as the game detects you're struggling.

Then you're given a programme of exercises suitable for your fitness level, and a virtual diary so you can tell when you're supposed to work out and track your progress. It's a good system which gives you the motivation to keep going over time.

When it comes to the actual workouts you can choose from two personal trainers - soft-spoken Bob, or shouty, intolerant Jillian, who looks like a sort of angry Julia Bradbury.

"Try to land your feet softly, don't stamp," whispers Bob. He's clearly met my downstairs neighbour.

"Quitting on me is quitting on yourself, and that's NOT what the Biggest Loser is all about," barks Jillian. She seems to believe it's about yelling at people so hard the fat seeps out of their pores and runs away in fear.

Sometimes the trainer will ask you a direct question, like whether you want to stop for a drink of water. Three multiple-choice answers will appear on-screen and you're supposed to read out the one you find appropriate think Mass Effect with voice recognition and more lycra. It's a neat idea which would be much more impressive in practice if Kinect could hear better than my grandmother in a wind tunnel.

Other features unique to Ultimate Workout include the Health and Lifestyle Browser. Here you can find a selection of healthy recipes. Some of these sound all right but others display a fundamental ignorance of culinary truths, such as warm avocado is always wrong and lasagne made without pasta ISN'T LASAGNE.

You can also check out those motivational weight loss tips all in once place. These range from the obvious ("Don't eat junk food any more") to the quite mad ("If your calories for the day don't allow you to eat an entire piece of cheesecake, eat half of it. Then pour salt on the rest to avoid temptation").

There are some video clips too, in which glossy, sculptured Californians try to sound like they're excited about tofu milk and soy hot dogs. But really, the Health and Lifestyle Browser is just there as an excuse to advertise the thousands of self-help manuals and recipe books published under the Biggest Loser brand.

You'll probably want to give those a miss. But if you're looking for a Kinect fitness game which provides more motivation than Your Shape and is technically sounder than EA Sports Active, and if you can put up with the relentless cheeriness, Ultimate Loser is a decent choice.

7/10

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