When Nintendo first announced Wii Fit, no one quite expected a game that relied on a humungous balance board to set a precedent for a whole new genre of lifestyle titles to emerge onto the market, taking advantage of the only console that could translate your sweaty movements into a semblance of burning calories and toning bums and tums.
Now with all three major hardware players all offering their own motion-sensing solutions, the fitness game genre is about to explode all over again.
So far on Kinect we’ve seen Mel B’s Ultimate Fitness, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and now a new offering from THQ based around the American TV show “The Biggest Loser”.
“The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout” uses the Kinect Motion Sensor to ascertain how successful you are at following a set of simple exercises, designed to gradually increase the amount of effort you put into a daily workout routine.
We’ve documented just how successfully other fitness programs do this, so offering the same review structure for The Biggest Loser seems sensible. Just how successful and accessible is it? Dive in and find out.
My Little Homunculus
Getting straight into a quick warm up and workout in The Biggest Loser is so easy, that it makes me wonder why more of these fitness programs don’t feature a quickstart mode. The program asks your weight, then begins with a simple set of warmup exercises designed to loosen you up in preparation for a workout.
Following the on-screen instructor, you can see how successful your moves are by looking at a bizarre little graphical representation of how Kinect “sees” you, down in the right hand corner of the screen. This strange little clay-like homunculus looks like a blocky 3D representation of you (in my case, even down to a rather large nose and two bizarre flappy mandibles which I later realised were the ties on my hooded top). It’s a strange sight to behold but it’s an effective visual marker for how well you’re doing. Hopefully the figure will follow the instructor’s movements but it helpfully starts to turn red if at any time you’re seen to be lagging behind and not picking up the slack.
Once a proper workout begins, you’ll also start to see the all important calorie counter ticking away in on the status displays. Again, having a constant reminder of how well you’re doing and how many theoretical mars bars you’ve burned off during a workout is pretty much essential in any fitness suite.
I must, I must, improve my bust
There are at least 120 different exercises in The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout, and having the suite constantly chop and change what you work on is a very good idea. As with most fitness programs, you can customise and design your own 8-week workout schedule and fit it around your own lifestyle.
As with any form of exercise, a little self discipline goes a long way and the only way you will ever successfully lose weight or get fit with one of these suites is to make a concerted effort to use them as regularly as possible. Structuring The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout to your own needs is one of its strengths and it’s also a very nice touch to be able to set up multiplayer fitness challenges with your friends via Xbox Live. Working together to achieve a set of goals or a certain weight with your friends makes a huge difference.
There were a few elements that could do with a tweak for the (inevitable) sequel or add on pack though. Cute (and fugly) though the bizarre graphical representation of your moves is, it would probably have been better to go with the Dance Central idea of just having a silhouette mimicking your movements rather than the 3D blob-monster.
In all aspects of the actual exercise program the game is fairly non-laggy but working your way through the menu system can be a trial at times. Though this is something that I’ve noticed is a bit of a trend with Kinect stuff sometimes rather drunkenly interpreting your hand movements, meaning you spend a lot of time selecting menu items you didn’t mean to. Voice-activated stuff that pops up during a workout is a nice addition though and works really well. Telling the instructor to tone things down a notch, or ramp up the difficulty simply by using voice commands is a very nice design touch.
Other than these nitpicks, there are enough interesting elements in The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout” to make it a strong early contender in the Kinect Fitness stakes.
Having some familiariy with the TV show this is based on will probably influence your decision on whether you choose this or any of the other titles hitting the market to cash in on the pre-christmas Kinect sales boom, and the post-christmas guilt over needing something to help you shift all those excess pounds piled on by eating too many mince pies, turkey sarnies and After Eight mints. It’s definitely a very strong product though, and if you’ve just stepped up from owning a Wii to owning an Xbox 360 and Kinect, you’ll find a raft of improvements using a controller-less workout solution over snarling yourself up in a Wiimote and Nunchuck cord as you go through your machinations.