Shape Up Review (Xbox One)
Now that Thanksgiving is over, you may want some way to rid yourself of that extra turkey before the food onslaught that is Christmas begins. Fitness games have long tried to get gamers off the couch, with varying degrees of success. Will Shape Up, the most recent fitness game utilizing Kinect technology, help burn off the holiday feast?
The main goal of Shape Up is to help you forget you are exercising by making the activities fun, and less of a chore. This aim is noble, as other fitness games have played it pretty straight, and can feel no better than a workout video. Plus, as Shape Up's promotional stuff contends, you work out harder when you are having fun.
To that end, Shape Up keeps things fresh by being unpredictable. It sort of plays like a fitness version of WarioWare, with wild and random workouts flying by every 90 seconds. You might end up doing push-ups with an elephant on your back, or doing squats to get to the moon.
The craziness of the activities is certainly refreshing, but that doesn't always mean fun. Like any game that features a lot of variety, parts of Shape Up misses the mark. For instance, a roller derby-inspired activity sounds good, until you realize it's not much more than a scripted routine for you to follow. The aforementioned push up workout is really just push ups.
But a lot of the activities are fun, and the even those that aren't are still effective at working up a sweat.
All this wackiness is presented in an appropriate style, complete with 8-bit influenced graphics and over-the-top effects. Your photographic likeness contrasts nicely with the surreal background, and the game likes to plays with that disparity. Lose a contest, and you may find yourself smashed by a cartoon safe -- and emerge inches tall.
There's a lot of embedded video tutorial content, which is nice for learning how to get going -- but the virtual coaches quickly become super annoying. Thankfully, they are easy to skip. And, to the game's credit, they aren't really needed; everything tends to be super intuitive.
QUESTS, TRACKING & MULTIPLAYER
To keep you engaged, the game provides a few long-term training quests, though not as many as one would expect (of course DLC is an option). These provide a month-long calendar of events, with a pseudo-story and rival you are working to beat.
The quests aren't as interesting as I had hoped, as they really just serve as a framework for the activities. The game does feature a lot of stat tracking, often featuring an in-game currency that provides a quick look at your overall progress. And it throws goals at you to encourage repeat play, something important for a fitness game to include.
Shape Up also features a few ways to play against others, including both locally and online. You can record yourself, including a victory dance, to send to a friend (think of ghosts in racing games).
But the best way to play this is with someone in the room -- preferably someone you are comfortable getting sweaty in front of. In this way, the game's competitive nature really shines, and the goal of getting you to forget you are working out is more fully realized.
I really want to like Shape Up more than I do. The activities are really unique, as is the game's overall style. Though I'm no fitness expert, I feel like I get a solid workout each time I step in front of the TV. Even the Kinect technology works as intended (though I get low-light warnings nearly every time I play).
But a fitness game also needs be measured on how much you want to play it, especially this one, which aims to make you forget you are working out. Unless you have a live opponent in the room, Shape Up still feels like an exercise program and not a game. I just didn't feel that motivated to keep going, based solely on the nature of the activities. In comparison to a game like Dance Central -- or even the mini-games in something like Kinect Disneyland Adventures -- there's no forgetting that you are purposely burning calories. In that way Shape Up is like carrot fries -- good for you, but not fooling anyone.
There's also the issue of the DLC, including Shape Up Coach, an iOS app, and a Season Pass. The Coach service ($29.99) adds diet plans and nearly 100 more quests, while the Season Pass ($24.99) includes some exclusive activities. I don't mind the availability of these paid extras, but throwing some of those quests or diet plans into the $60 main game certainly would increase its value.
As it stands (without DLC), Shape Up is a unique and functional -- but not great -- fitness game.
Learning Curve: very intuitive, though the coaches can be a bit much
Control Scheme: Kinect controls very consistently; I experienced no issues.
Visuals: A unique visual style matches the crazy activities
Audio: generic music is unfortunately forgettable
Long-term Value: for me, not quite fun enough alone to bring me back
Multiplayer: I wasn't interested in sending my ghost to friends, though local multiplayer is a blast