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YourShape: Fitness Evolved

The Shape of things to come?

Stack 'Em Up is a balancing game. You hold up a board and try to catch falling blocks, which are tipped into holes either side, once they open, for points. At harder levels certain blocks are on fire so you must stand on one leg to release water to douse them.

It's a clever example of the augmented reality potential of Kinect, but I really have no idea what it's doing in a fitness game.

Finally, Loop A Hoop breaks new ground in becoming the most humiliating activity I have ever engaged in with a videogame. If you thought hulahooping in Wii Fit made you feel foolish, try watching your actual self on screen rolling hips around in nothing but underpants, twirling another couple of rings on your windmilling arms. If this is the future I want no part of it.

At which point, I should say that, yes, for those of you so inclined, you really could watch yourself exercising naked. Just remember: what is seen can never be unseen.

With Ubisoft's brilliant use of the Kinect technology, YourShape really ought to be the definitive fitness game. But it isn't. And that's because the game around it feels unstructured, basic and, most significantly, fails to offer sufficient motivation.

For all the data Kinect appears to capture when you are scanned, and for all the detail it is tracking you in, your progress is measured in – and Achievements are awarded based on - calories burned. Which is fine if your goal is weight loss, but it's a basic stat games have been recording since DDR incorporated a calorie counter yonks ago.

Your Shape features mini-games but they're not 'fun' in the Wii Fit sense of the word.

There's also no easy way outside of pre-prepared programmes to go in and quickly select individual exercises based on specific body parts. Why can't I customise my own workout plan from scratch? Why is there no straightforward way to see which exercises feature in which programme? Where is the sense that I am working towards meaningful goals which compel me to return against my urge to slob out?

EA understood this with Active. Its team looked at Wii Fit and saw that Nintendo's great achievement was to make exercise so much fun it didn't feel like exercise at all: it was stealth exercise.

Wii Fit kept people coming back because it was engaging and fun to play together, not because it was a workout. EA, in making a more serious fitness product, borrowed Nintendo's tactics and turned some of the most punishing regimes into videogame-style levels to distract from the pain.

But the most important feature in Active was the 30 Day Challenge. It was a clearly defined, manageable goal; a reason to switch the game on every day; motivation for people who, for whatever reason, were not exercising, weren't happy with their bodies and wanted to do something about it.

I could marvel over the technical achievement of YourShape all day – and it is for me the most impressive demonstration of Kinect's features out of all the launch games I've played. And as an aside, the development team deserves huge credit also for its excellent gesture-based navigation solution – which is far less annoying than Microsoft's.

But I want a fitness game to make we want to come back day after day, give me a hard but enjoyable workout, and be flexible enough to accommodate my fitness whims.

An unexpected triumph is the game's slick, gesture-based navigation.

This PR puff on the official website sums up the problem: "The better you perform, the more you are rewarded with interactive effects such as paint, water, light, ink, confetti, and more. You'll stay motivated and excited – you never know what's going to happen next!"

If that's motivation, I'm off to KFC.

Ubisoft is supporting the game via an online community that will live at, where you will apparently be able to track your progress and compare notes with friends. At the time of writing it's "coming soon". As are the downloadable features in the online UPlay service accessed via a menu I only found by accident it's so buried away in the game.

There are also iPhone and iPad apps coming as well as a push on Facebook. All of this is commendable and could certainly help to engage users with the product.

But as it stands on US launch day, YourShape revolutionises fitness gaming with its amazing use of technology, but fails to back that up with a game that does enough to encourage you to be active. Which is ultimately the whole point.

The good news is that the foundation is here to create a product that could well supersede EA Sports Active as the definitive fitness game. But it looks like we'll have to sweat it out for the sequel to see that.

6 / 10

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