Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platform: Xbox One
Genre: Fitness, Party Game
Physical fitness and video games haven’t always gone hand in hand. During the 90s, video games were often blamed in conjunction with MTV other elements of the time for creating a generation of couch potatoes. Parents complained that their children had become zombies – slaves to their “personal computer games and rock and roll”. While video games did not create zombies, they often relied on quick reaction times, lateral thinking and minor muscle control – hardly a physical workout.
Last generation, video games began to utilise the potential of motion control (though it wasn’t the industry’s first attempt), thanks to the efforts of Nintendo and Microsoft’s Kinect peripheral. While a lot of games were gimmick-ridden shovel ware, a few fitness-focused games popped up, though these were quite often bland and simply not engaging enough.
Ubisoft’s ‘Shape Up’ aims to change all that. An ambitious mix of video game and fitness software, the aim of Shape Up is to get gamers of all experience levels up off their couch and into the game, where physical activity is intense and yet the game still remains “fun”. Can fitness software be entertaining to gamers? Can Shape Up boast positive health benefits and engaging gameplay? It’s certainly an ambitious undertaking, yet Shape Up delivers on its promise.
When you first begin Shape Up, you’re greeted by your two trainers, who will introduce you to Shape Up’s game modes, various workouts and other features. They’re likable, though their smiles and effortless workout ghosts (recordings) deceptively hide just how hard Shape Up is going to kick your ass. This is no walk in the virtual park.
Speaking of game modes, you’re able to get a quick workout in an activity of your choice, play some local multiplayer or embark on your own personal fitness quest – with a choice of strength or cardio training. Local multiplayer sees two friends on the same Xbox One battle each other in the same play space, though my multiplayer sessions were far from competitive – we were actually pushing and encouraging each other so that we could finish the tougher workouts!
There are a number of activities in Shape Up, each one revolving around a different form of work out. You can tone your upper body, increase your stamina, shape your lower body, work on your co-ordination, burn fat or partake in a combination of these. It seems as though Ubisoft Montreal have really done their homework – there isn’t anything missing from the mix of activities.
My personal favourite activity is Stunt Run, where the player is tasked with running in a virtual environment while they jump, duck and dodge from side to side various obstacles. Running along the top of a train while dodging signs and ducking under bridges is much more exciting than my usual routine of running on a treadmill at my local gym!
Another fun activity sees you jumping and hopping on virtual piano keys, playing various songs such as ‘I Was Made for Loving You‘ and the immensely motivating ‘Eye of the Tiger‘. This one really tests your balance and reaction speeds as what starts off as simple one leg hopping and two-legged jumps quickly complicates into rapid-fire combinations of both that sometimes require a change in position. Your heart-rate will fire up, you’ll crank out a mean sweat but you’ll be focusing on the music – like a physically demanding Rocksmith mini-game.
Which reminds me of something that various promotional materials (as well as the in-game trainers) for Shape Up have boasted frequently: you won’t feel like you’re working out, but you will get results. While you would have to be in a coma to not realise you’re sweating buckets as you’re jogging on the spot or hopping on a piano like Tom Hanks in Big, Shape Up does manage to find a brilliant balance between punishing high-intensity interval training and a platformer (of sorts) for Kinect. You will get results from it, but you won’t feel as though you are working out as hard as you are.
- Lots of fun
- Will definitely improve your fitness levels
- Lots of content
- No casual workouts or tutorials – it’s “go hard or go home”
- Won’t appeal to everyone (though I wish it did)
Shape Up has found a way into my regularly played games. While the game won’t appeal to everyone, I urge those who are interested or undecided about whether or not they want it to give it a go. I myself am looking to improve my personal fitness, and have found that Shape Up is possible of delivering better results than long sessions on the treadmill (My first Stunt Run session was able to burn 700 calories an hour!). The best part is, it is a genuinely fun title – just be sure to stay hydrated and urge friends to bring a spare shirt if you intend on playing multiplayer.