Wii Fit may have kickstarted the fitness genre, but it isn't the only game in town. Ubisoft's Your Shape series started out on Wii with its own motion capture camera before moving to Kinect, and now comes full circle with Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 for the Wii U. While ditching the motion capture for a Wii Remote comes with a slight loss of accuracy, this is still an excellent, extensive package and a great choice for people who are serious about getting or staying fit.
When you first boot up the game, you're asked to create a profile by inputting your weight (manually, as there's no Balance Board support), height, age and a face photo with the GamePad's camera. After choosing between metric and imperial measurements — take note, Nintendo! — a soothingly-voiced tutorial walks you through the game's four main modes: Workouts, Classes, Program, and Activities.
Workouts consists of individual exercise sets that target specific areas of the body, warm up and cool down routines, and a few exercises geared towards seniors and children. The 49 sets last 5 - 15 minutes each, and are marked for difficulty along with duration, so it's always easy to find something to suit your mood. There's a good variety within the sets themselves too: an abdominal workout might have you doing supine crunches, seated arm circles and standing core exercises all in the same session, for example.
The Classes mode teaches basic to advanced techniques in different fitness styles, like kickboxing, dance, yoga, pilates, "zen" (mostly martial arts blocks and punches) and power training, in 53 lessons ranging from 5 - 25 minutes. The classes are well done and perfect for when you want to workout without targeting a specific body area — or if you just want to learn something new.
The exercises in Workouts and Classes are strong enough to warrant a recommendation on their own, but the game's real gem is its Program mode. Here you're able to pick a fitness goal (such as "tone upper body", "lose weight" or "improve stamina"), a length in weeks, number of sessions per week, and your favourite workout style (fighting, zen, or dancing) so that Your Shape can create a fitness plan tailored to your preferences. Once your program is in place, the game will remind you when it's time to do a workout session, and you can view your progress in the Program menu at any time. These personalised programs provide an easy, streamlined way to work towards your fitness goals without having to cherry-pick individual exercises, and that's exactly the kind of convenience that makes it easier to stick to your routine.
For a break from traditional workouts, the Activities mode contains dance routines and Zen Flow exercises. The dancing is quite basic, and the selection is limited to just five songs; one each from Lady Gaga, N.E.R.D., Rhianna, LMFAO, and Chic. The choreography is about exercise rather than finesse or style, so players looking to seriously get down would do better with a dedicated title, but the dances do serve as nice a complement to the rest of the package, and they'll definitely help you work up a sweat.
On the other end of the exertion spectrum, Zen Flow is a novel mini-game that helps you focus on balance and deep breathing. Using the GamePad's gyro sensor, you follow an energy circle around the screen while assuming various yoga-derived positions and poses. There are several courses, and the atmosphere is nice and relaxing. It's the most "game-like" attraction in Your Shape Fitness, and while slightly jerky visuals on the GamePad keep it from being a truly transcendental experience, it's still a lot of fun and makes a great cool down exercise.
Throughout the game, apart from the GamePad-enabled Zen Flow, you follow along by mirroring the moves of an on-screen trainer with a Wii Remote held tightly in your hand. There aren't detailed descriptions of each exercise beforehand as in Wii Fit, so you might stumble through the first couple instances of any given motion, but everything is easy enough to grasp after a few tries. It's like being in an exercise class rather than having a personal trainer. Up to four players can exercise together in any of the workouts, classes or dances, but scores and calories burned are unfortunately only saved for the first player.
Every day you're presented with three new "To Do" challenges: little goals like "reach at least 80% in a Dance Cardio routine" or "spend 15 minutes in Workout mode". Completing these daily tasks nets you bonus coins, which gives a nice nudge of direction if you start up the game unsure of what to do. The coins you earn from the challenges and calorie-burning in general can be used in the game's shop to purchase extra workouts, classes, trainers and the last of the five dance routines. Along with the ever-changing To Do goals, there's a collection of Medals to earn, in-game achievements for everything from setting up your user account to returning three days in a row.
When you're done working out and ready to head to the kitchen, the obtusely named Fitness Pal option rounds out the package with a surprisingly full-featured recipe compendium. The 150 recipes run the gauntlet from smoothies to salads, stir fries to sweets, and are split into categories by different fitness goals, such as "build muscles", "lose weight" or "reduce stress". Global filters for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and cheap options means there's no wading through anything you're uninterested in, and each recipe is marked with an approximate cooking time, difficulty, and nutritional info. We can vouch for the deliciousness of the few we tried out — head straight for the "Cocoa Nut" Bananas. The GamePad makes a surprisingly agreeable kitchen companion too — if your floor plan allows — but the ability to zoom in on the text would definitely have been welcome.
Online interaction is one of Your Shape Fitness' headline features, and though the multilayered integration between the game, your Nintendo Network ID, your Uplay account, and the Your Shape Center website can be a bit confusing to set up, the end result is a fantastic addition that turns calorie burning into a connected experience. From the website, you can join in global Events, community-wide challenges for goals like burning the most calories in a certain amount of time. You can also set personal Goals, such as picking a certain amount of calories you'd like to burn over so many days, and earn trophies for completing them. Or you can create Challenges, inviting your friends to race towards a calorie target, with trophies awarded to the winner. Any goals, events, or challenges you set up on the website are listed and tracked in-game, and while it would be nice to be able to set them up from within the game itself, the multitasking Wii U's internet browser makes it easy enough to do without a computer.
The Your Shape Center also keeps basic statistics in its Dashboard, tracking total calories burned, average calories burned per hour or per session session, and bar and pie charts detailing how you spend your workout time. Leaderboards show how you stack up against everyone else in the country, the world, or within your fitness level, and a NSMB2-esque global calorie counter racks up the sum total of all Your Shape-aided exercise sessions around the world.
Uplay integration introduces some offline goodies as well: by downloading and installing the Uplay app from the eShop, you can use credits earned in other Ubisoft titles to unlock a few exclusive extras in Your Shape Fitness. These bonuses are nothing huge, but it's a nice addition — if you've been surviving ZombiU or raving in Rabbids Land since launch day, you'll likely have enough points to earn an extra trainer or dance routine right from the start. Crucially, the actions/rewards balance means you can unlock all of the Uplay content without purchasing any other games, so the extras feel benevolent rather than arbitrarily held-back.
Graphically, Your Shape Fitness is wonderfully slick. Cut in clean, futuristic lines with a minimalist aesthetic, it's sophisticated and cool without distracting from the workouts on offer. One of its coolest graphical tricks is the dynamic backgrounds during exercises, which react to your performance: perfect your Outward Blocks in the temple stage and trees will burst triumphantly from the stone walls; get in the groove during a dance class and the empty horizon will quickly fill with skyscrapers. The audio is similarly well done, with relaxing menu music and background tracks in a variety of styles and tempos to help you stick to the workout rhythm.
Your Shape Fitness Evolved is a great package, but it's not flawless. One problem is that the motion detection can be a bit iffy on certain moves. Sometimes you'll be going through a routine with 90% accuracy and then suddenly reach a section where the game has trouble tracking your movements, resulting in a string of demoralising "OK's" when you should be racking up "Awesome!" ratings. If Your Shape Fitness was intended more as a game and less of a fitness program, this would be a serious problem; as it stands, you're still getting the great workout that's at the heart of the experience, so the detection issues are more of a minor annoyance. It can be frustrating when trying to reach certain accuracy targets in To Do challenges, however.
Another small inconvenience is that all navigation is done via the touch screen, with no option for button control to scroll through any of the many menu screens; taking out the stylus every time you want to select an option adds an extra step that feels clunky. You could use your fingers, of course — but after a serious workout, you might understandably prefer to keep clammy hands away from your touch screen.
Finally, the game only allows one profile per Wii U user account, and to switch profiles you need to exit to the Wii U menu, change your user and reboot the game. This is a side-effect of using the Nintendo Network ID for online integration, and it means that family members using Your Shape Fitness on the same Wii U will have to set up challenges through the web interface. That's fine when dealing with faraway friends, but seems silly when you just want to compete for calories crunched with your partner, children or anyone else sharing the same system.
For players that want to add some exercise to their gaming routine, or Wii Fit junkies looking for a next generation fitness fix, Your Shape Fitness is an excellent choice. It takes a different approach from Nintendo's efforts, focusing on a huge variety of traditional exercises rather than mini-games, and does what it sets out to do very well. A few issues - including sometimes shaky motion detection - hold it back, but any problems are more than made up for by its sizable selection of targeted workouts, personalised routines and motivating online integration. More than just a tide-over until Wii Fit U, Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 takes its place on the Wii U as one of the finest fitness games available anywhere.