It’s quite amazing to observe just how briskly the world’s videogame developers have picked up on Kinect’s huge potential as a must-have fitness accessory. Even Nintendo’s massively successful Wii Fit peripheral (which is now just under three years old) didn’t inspire developers to catch on this quickly, and despite the fact that Microsoft’s new peripheral has only been available for a little over two months, it’s already got some utterly stellar fitness software available for it. With Christmas now firmly in the rear view mirror, there is no better time to take a look at four of the best examples that are currently available….
Probably the most authentic and involving fitness game currently on the market, EA Sports Active 2’s biggest success is probably the inclusion of its accelerometer peripheral. Thanks to this ingenious device, you can track your pulse in detail at all times; which also helps the game to determine things like when to suggest that you take a break, or when to offer up tips on how to improve your general level of stamina. EA Sports Active 2 is really all about scheduling, as you’re encouraged to build your own workout, and the game will chart your progress and success rate (and the number of calories burned) over the course of a period of your choosing. The excellent online component of the game lets you keep up to speed with the progress of friends and family, and even allows you to assign group goals for you all to tackle together. Although presentation is bright and breezy, EA Sports Active 2 is actually a serious bit of kit, and is an ideal piece of software for those who are looking to take their fitness as seriously as possible.
Kinect Sports has never been officially referred to as a fitness title, but that might just be one of the cleverest things about it. Many of the games that are present on the Kinect Sports disc (and the mini-games in particular) are capable of administering one hell of a workout. In addition to being neither overtly masculine or feminine – with an even split between activities like Football and Beach Volleyball – it also has an extremely amiable presentation, and so Kinect Sports is the perfect cocktail for anyone who may be looking to covertly get a friend or family member fit on the sly. Because of the shrewd inclusion of scoreboards, some of the game’s most strenuous activities; like the ridiculously compulsive goalkeeper mini-games; never really lose their appeal. Make no mistake, the emphasis here is placed squarely on fun, but because so much of the most enjoyable material here on the disc involves a sizeable amount of real exercise, it’d be daft not to recommend it accordingly.
Perhaps the most purely entertaining game on this list, and another example of a game that has never been referred to as a fitness title, but unquestionably fits that bill rather beautifully nonetheless. Crafted by the rhythm-action geniuses at Harmonix (who are responsible for the masterful Rock Band series) Dance Central is a huge step forward for the popular dance game sub-genre. It requires both adept timing and focused agility, and yet it somehow remains accessible for everyone; an occasionally complex game that never once feels frustrating. So hardcore gamers have already been doing (almost literal) backflips over it, but in addition to being a great videogame, it also provides a peerless cardio-based workout. And precisely because it is an uber-hip videogame rather than a dedicated fitness title, it’s the kind of software that is capable of appealing to the kind of audience who probably wouldn’t be caught dead in the same room as a piece of fitness software. Dance Central is addictive, exhausting, and sure to be influential.
The very first Kinect fitness title to hit the shelves – it launched right alongside the unit back in November – and a platform exclusive that was developed specifically with Kinect in mind. Unlike the other titles on this list, a surprisingly accurate image of your entire body is always present on the screen during your workout, so you can instantly tell when you’re doing something wrong. Brilliantly, so can the game itself, and if you’re reproducing the trainer avatar’s actions sloppily, you’ll be given detailed pointers to improve your performance and commended when you take them on board. The software is also invisibly tailored to your levels of skill and exertion, so if you excel at one exercise or activity in particular, more advanced versions of it unlock and are made available via your own Personal Training menu. With enjoyable Tai-Chi and Gym Games rounding out the package – our favourite being the deeply addictive Brick Breaker mode – Your Shape: Fitness Evolved comes very highly recommended.
Watch the Your Shape: Fitness Evolved trailer here: