The Australian Challenge: Today marks the midway point of Chris and Mark’s month-long Shape Up challenge. In today’s episode, the boys share their initial thoughts about the core game mechanics and how it “shapes up” as a fitness application.
Shape Up is being billed as an entertaining way to get into shape without hitting the gym or paying exorbitant membership fees. It uses the Xbox One Kinect sensor to accurately track your movements as you jump, squat and flail your way through assorted exercise challenges.
Shape Up boasts a huge array of 90-second arcade games that cover cardio and strength training while targeting specific muscles. The idea behind the game is that you get better results when you’re having fun — and are also more likely to keep exercising.
Throughout December, Lifehacker’s Chris Jager and Kotaku’s Mark Serrels have been putting their bodies on the line via the game’s intensive four-week Quest Mode. Here are their thoughts on Week Two.
I’m now a week into my fitness odyssey with Shape Up on Xbox One. The first thing I’ve learned is that kids really love fitness games. My five- and seven-year old daughters can’t get enough of the various mini-games and delight in trash-talking each other at the end of each grueling face-off.
It’s got so bad that I actually have to corral them out of the room when I want to have a turn; otherwise they invariably leap in and confuse the Kinect sensor. Click on the clip below to watch those tiny fists of fury fly!
The other thing I’ve learned is that I’m spectacularly, woefully out of shape. This isn’t exactly surprising of course: I own a 3D-printed statue of myself eating a KFC Double, which tells you everything you need to know. Nevertheless, I was a little taken aback by how much my body ached a few days into the challenge. This is partially down to my sedentary lifestyle, but the game is actually physically challenging in its on right. No really.
When I first loaded up the Quest Mode, I was anticipating a light cardio workout and maybe a few push-ups; the same sort of gentle introduction that gym newbies are given by their secretly disgusted trainers.
In realty, the game is tough. Real tough. From the get-go, it throws you into the deep end and urges you to fight past your fitness ceiling. And that’s not just the flab talking — I reckon most gamers will find the Quest Mode at least a little challenging.
For example, one of the very first mini-games requires you to complete around 50 push-ups without stopping (I collapsed in a blubbering heap somewhere in the 30s). Likewise, the aerobics training doesn’t muck about: some of the moves require serious grunt work and each set needs to be completed three times.
Part of me suspects that the game wants you to lose so it can push you towards a new personal goal. If that’s the case, it’s a pretty smart gameplay mechanic: I’m already itching to give the aforementioned push-up challenge another shot, despite the pain in my chest and arm muscles.
Make no mistake; this isn’t a gimmick for fitness fakers — it’s something you actually need to commit to. Part of me is excited to see how far I can push this thing. The other part just wants to eat KFC while crying in the bath. Let’s see how this pans out.
I should disclose from the outset that I’m not the biggest fan of Kinect.
It doesn’t understand a word I say for starters. And yesterday, before I could play Shape Up I had to calibrate the device twice. When you’re trying to motivate yourself to exercise and you can feel that motivation slowly seeping out of your pores, any delay is a bad delay.
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note: a 2.1GB update is also a bad delay. Yep, Shape Up has a 2.1GB day one update. Welcome to the world of video games.
Not ideal, but once I get Shape Up going I can see the appeal. The game gets me to do a number of exercise but a couple stand out to me.
First is an exercise that has me lying in a slightly raised sit-up position, then using my hands to try and thwart a Space Invaders-esque invasion. I consider myself to have a fairly strong core, but this did a bit of a number on me. The interesting thing was that moving my hands around to try and blast the invading aliens actually helped to engage different parts of my abdominals and core. I thought that was pretty clever. It’s the kind of exercise that could only work in an exercise game using Kinect.
Some exercises worked better than others. My favourite was the aerobics work out. It didn’t feature clever game mechanics the way the Space Invaders one did, but it was – I thought – the moment when the Kinect sensor and what was actually happening onscreen fused. I felt like I was having an interactive experience and an exercise experience at the same time. Not bad.
But I’m yet to be totally convinced. The Kinect teething problems were probably a part of that. A couple of times I openly wondered if I’d be better off just working out using some YouTube instructional videos.
The key differentiator here is accuracy. When Kinect feels accurate, when you feel as though Kinect is rewarding you for having the correct form and doing exercise properly, that’s when a game like Shape Up comes into its own. When Kinect is being temperamental and you feel as though you’re doing the right thing but being punished for it? That sucks.
So I’m 50/50 on this whole thing for now. We’ll see how things change as I progress.
Join us next Friday when Chris and Mark challenge each other in-game! (Chris is going to get so slaughtered.)