Abs by Sony.
Fitness gurus are a dime a dozen. From Jane Fonda to Tony Little, it seems like a new health freak shows up every time someone pops open a bucket of the Colonel’s Chicken. By way of their generally pasty looks and often flimsy arms, gamers seem ripe for the evangelical masters of muscles, but thus far we’ve escaped scrutiny (provided you don’t count the DDR games).
It was only a matter of time, really. The Euro division of Sony has teamed up with Nike Motionworks to produce the first official workout “game,” EyeToy Kinetic for the PS2. Using Sony’s cool USB camera, EyeToy Kinetic guides you through various exercises designed to get your fat gamer butt into shape. Most of the exercise components are straightforward, no-nonsense deals without any kind of game fluff, so if you’re here, you’d better be prepared to get a real workout. Or fake it, at least.
Right off the bat, it seems like Kinetic is operating at a disadvantage since it targets serious fitness buffs – the very same fitness buffs who are NOT at home in front of their Playstation 2 because they’re at the gym getting the blood moving. But if you’re anti-gym or perhaps just too far away, Kinetic might be a decent substitute.
First, you’ll need to slap on a special “full vision lens” EyeToy attachment that comes with the game. This extension allows the camera to view your entire body rather than just the upper torso area used for most EyeToy games. This is important, since Kinetic gets you moving your entire body for a more complete workout.
The problem here is that the lens is extremely finicky, making it tough for the EyeToy to pick up on movements in anything less than ideal lighting conditions. The setup I used has one major light source that illuminates the whole room fairly well. Throw in a white wall and it’s a pretty ideal condition for EyeToy play – unless you ask the sensitive lens. The side with the light source was overexposed and the side without, though still lit, had a lot of problems picking up movement. To correct the problem I had to drag in another lamp to evenly distribute the light. While this seemed to fix the motion detection, little static objects (like the small, unmoving vase in the corner) would sometimes register as “motion.” I’ve never had this much trouble with a treadmill or a nice run around the neighborhood, that’s for sure.
When you finally get things set up just right, Kinetic pulls no punches. Close to two dozen exercises are broken up into four fitness zones in an attempt to give players a total body workout. You can choose a few specific exercises or you can set up a profile and begin a program that will track your progress over a twelve-week period. It all depends on the kind of commitment you want to make to your body and your PS2.
Each of the available fitness zones contains several specific exercises. You can start off with some warm-ups with virtual personal trainers or just select a difficulty level and jump right into the action. The first zone is Cardio, which sets up some hyper-energy routines that will get your heart thumping and the downstairs neighbors yelling. As you’d expect, there a lot of fast paced movements – one exercise has you trying to touch certain orbs while avoiding others.
The most “game-like” zone is Combat, which presents you with some workout options using martial arts kicking and punching motions. Usually, this means flailing your arms and legs around at onscreen targets. One of the workouts lets you break through a set of Arkanoid bricks, while another has you trying to strike set of targets before they touch you. None of these are very interesting, but at least they’re goal-oriented.
The Toning zone is hardly as fun, as it’s devoid of any on-screen action. This is also where you’ll spend the most time with the game’s two personal trainers. Basically, they’ll explain an exercise that targets a specific muscle group and you’ve got to follow along, copying their motions. Along the way, they’ll give you pointers and mention how to correct the most common mistakes. It gets boring pretty quickly, but it does help work out the muscle groups that the other zones don’t cover.
Then there’s the
Mind and Body zone, in which you’ll participate in some slower yet challenging exercises based on yoga and tai chi movements. You’ll have to pass your hands and feet through a number of “gates” simultaneously, while another simply has you follow along with some yoga movements. Relaxing, painful, and totally awkward.
There really isn’t much in the way of graphics since most of the time you’re staring at a digital image of yourself and a bunch of shapes. The personal trainers look fine, but otherwise the graphics are as sexy as you are.
The sound definitely isn’t sexy, though. The trainer voices are good enough to get you through your workout, but the soundtrack is so thin, it’s unhealthy. For most segments, you are given only a few choices of abstract music and there’s no way to import your own soundtrack. Unless, that is, you turn off the sound and turn on your stereo.
Overall, EyeToy Kinetic is an interesting take on the ‘active’ gamer craze. The selection of exercises offers enough variety for a full body workout, which I suppose is the whole point of the thing. Still, the PS2 is a gaming console and the game really doesn’t really make working out any more fun than it is as the gym. The pickiness of the lens attachment doesn’t help, either, so you’ll have to be seriously committed to your body to get the most from this program.