Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2012 is not a game. It's an interactive fitness product that utilizes the Kinect sensor (sold separately) in combination with the Xbox 360 to track your movements while you work out. It's a fancy idea, but if you're looking for that "magic bullet" to get in great shape it won't do that for you on its own. Your Shape 2012 is largely focused on creating a personal training experience for you, or providing those potentially embarrassing classes in the privacy of your own living room. In this sweet spot, as a Kinect-powered product, it delivers. Where it has room to evolve is in the realm of variety, quality personal feedback, and improvements to its ability to "see you."
A bit of warning: like many Kinect games, you need about a 10-by-10 foot square (3-by-3 meters) to work out. If you've got that space, great. I am on the other side of the spectrum. I have to push the couch back and roll up the carpet. Hard flooring plus a gym mat is ultimately best, but with the right shoes carpet works as well. Just keep in mind you'll be imaginarily speed skating side-to-side, or potentially dropping some small dumbbells at your feet. The point is that Your Shape is trying to bring a piece of the gym into your home. Be prepared.
If you're just looking to burn some calories and distract yourself with a game, something like Dance Central 2 or Kinect Sports: Season 2 are more playful and worth considering as alternatives. That said, Fitness Evolved 2012 is really the primary game for Kinect that offers something aimed at replacing the gym.
Now, I'd argue that you can't really replace a fully-stocked gym environment or the value of personal training (seriously, take a few and learn good form); but, I'd also argue that anyone can get low-impact, calorie-frying workouts without ever leaving the house. Many just need some motivation and some basic instruction. Your Shape provides these basics and does it well. By using the power of Kinect, it actually is able to give you light -- and I stress that word -- correctional advice to improve your form. "Head up." "Try to get lower." "Lift your knees higher." More on how effective this personal training is in a moment.
First, let's talk about the variety of content. If you're familiar with 2011's debut Kinect version, don't expect an all-new experience. It ultimately feels like the version it should have been in the first place, with a few crucial improvements and additions. It offers up warm-up games, running, training, dancing, and some yoga/Zen. It's a nice balance, it just leaves you wanting more. The bulk of it is still rooted in the training, which focuses on muscle toning and building. There's a simple quiz that helps recommend the best training sessions for you, but ultimately you're just choosing from one big menu. Simple icons earmark the recommend routines.
It's a trade-off: you don't get truly personalized workouts like you would with a trainer, but you also don't get stuck with routines that include things you don't want. So you can quickly choose your flavor: legs, glutes, abs, chest, etc. Exercises include lunges, sit-ups, push-ups, arm raises and more. There's a full body workout in here, which is great. I just wish you had more control to design your own routines on a per-exercise basis. But it's clear Your Shape 2012 is more for those who don't have a ton of fitness experience and just want to spend, say, eight or 15 minutes improving their derriere without thinking too much.
This brings us to one of the largest improvements over last year's edition: floor moves. It's relatively unthinkable to exclude sit-ups, push-ups or planks in a workout, so I'm glad to see these added in. However, due to the way Kinect must analyze your full form -- from the side -- it will have you twisting your head sideways towards the screen, trying to get a look at how you're doing in terms of form, speed, and success. You can take a peek, but what you're supposed to do is listen to the audible "dings" and voice instruction to follow along.
It doesn't really explain this to you, though, which is frustrating and even a bit dangerous. It would help if this was made more clear, and perhaps there were replays to encourage you to review your work after, not during. I've seen complaints condemning the floor workouts because of how this feels, but the truth is it's crucial that Ubisoft added them in. At the gym, you'd have to look in the mirror the same awkward way, and you shouldn't really have your head up then either. Unfortunately, it's something you'll have to get used to. It's just not clear or intuitive, and it needs to be.
Another major improvement is that the Kinect sensor is actually less sensitive. Yes, less. This is a good thing. With the previous edition, it was trying slapping your wrist all the time, and that would have many "failing" to pull off the moves. It was discouraging and distracting. In the 2012 release, you won't feel as scolded. I found the sensor feels about 75% accurate. It's good, but not great. Sometimes you know you're doing a good job, but you're just not getting credit. It is also counter-balanced with a bit of clever verbal feedback. Your Shape might tell you "keep your head up" as a reminder. In truth, it has little to do with what your body is actually doing. Because even if your form is off in the following moment, it will tell you positively, "that's it!" I wish it was truly advanced enough to be able to help you correct the right parts of your form, but I'll give it a nod here. The positive reinforcement isn't all bad.
If you're at a higher level of fitness awareness, or want to progress your workout success, you're going to need a range of dumbbells handy. Anywhere from two to 20 lbs. is plenty. You'll feel a burn without the weights, but you'll need some resistance if you want to make the most of it. That's the hard reality here: it's still not a replacement for the gym, and you'll need to make the incremental investment in weights if you want to grow.
It terms of tracking progress, it lacks the element of statistics here. In fitness you want to set goals, keep track of repetitions or weight limits. Your only options in Your Shape are to repeat the routines, which vary from quick and simple to longer and more advanced. It just feels a bit flat. You don't enter the same workout with a clear, higher goal. That's not to say there aren't some challenging options, but ultimately -- like the previous installment -- you may get bored by the rinse and repeat feeling once you've done the routines. If you just want to get in and get out, its straightforward approach is appealing.
This is where Your Shape for Kinect places its bets and excels. It's for those that want a variety of effective activities without an overload of options. You can warm up by jogging through an albeit simple but virtual cityscape, learning a few real facts about London's landmarks; you can jump rope, planting your feet in sync with colored markers; you can try Latin or hip hop dance routines; or, my favorite, you can punch and kick virtual blocks. It even has a few multiplayer modes with the warm-ups, which is a bonus for the family and kids.