Review: Shape Up

ShapeUp-StoryFrom the beginning I was intrigued by the premise of Shape Up. It’s a game designed to be a work out, but kind of disguise the idea that you’re doing a workout. It reminds me of parents’ often ill-conceived attempts to sneak vegetables in what would otherwise appear to be an unhealthy meal for disobedient children. But it’s also a problem I acknowledge could probably be addressed for those who are struggling to find the time or motivation to do so – the word itself “work-out” sounds laborious and sometimes painful.

So naturally I was intrigued by Shape Up’s concept. Essentially, Ubisoft are trying to incentivise the process of working out by disguising it as a game. The game does this by framing typical work out activities such as push ups and star jumps / jumping jacks as proper actions in an adventure game. Many could argue that fitness itself is the reward to exercise – but if there’s an experience that makes it easier then who’s to say a product like Shape Up isn’t the best way to go about it.

ShapeUp-PresentationShape Up presents itself in a very gamey looking style that marries the weird almost techno-oriental look of Fruit Ninja to the typically lo-fi and pixelated style of the Scott Pilgrim film. The result is something that, at first, seems oddly out of place but when you realise what Ubisoft is going for with Shape Up makes perfect sense. But it’s a bright, colourful and very crisp style of presentation that matches the game well.

It also does a great job at plucking you out of your room and throwing you into whatever environment you’re playing around in too – but there were times where (especially if playing at night) we were unable to be detected and the game would refuse to let us play. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on your own individual setup but every other Kinect game for Xbox One has had no problems in picking us up previously so we thought it was worth mentioning.

In terms of sound and voice, the game is pretty standard. There’s a nice array of typical chiptune influences pieces that match the aesthetic of the visual presentation pretty well. The trainers who guide you are literally real people who are beamed into the game similarly to how you are – and while they’re hamming it up quite bluntly – it’s not something I can fully appreciate. In fact it’s rather cringe worthy and after spending notable time with the game I can’t say I’d want to spend any more time with them either.

ShapeUp-GameplayThe first thing that needs to be clarified about Shape Up is that it’s definitely no Your Shape, Xbox Fitness or even Nike+ that we previously saw on Xbox 360. No, Shape Up is an entirely different beast.  It honestly feels like a more casual level kind of exercise game that isn’t going to give you as great results as the P90X workouts available on Xbox Fitness but also isn’t going to be as simplistic as other games similar to this like Dance Central. Still, the fact that the game is so approachable to newcomers and still manages to carve out its own niche amongst the already crowded “exergaming” genre is to be commended.

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The crux of the game itself offers up two major quests – one focusing on more cardio orientated exercises and the other focusing more on strength / muscle orientated exercise. Both are pretty fun but require quarter of an hour commitments from the player across the span of two weeks. Completing each quest lets you battle against a (culturally insensitive) boss and then do it all over again whenever you feel like it next.

These quests are pretty fun to play and they’ll see you approaching all kinds of tasks that really recall the EyeToy circa 2003 but with a bit more technical flair. You’ll be expected to grab a watermelon and hit it with your knee, or box walls of ice to get through the level or even squat to somehow ascend to the moon. The activities are quite obviously exercise – especially when you stop to think about how your body is feeling – but they do a pretty good job at masking it especially if you’re into the game.

Each mini-game has a scoreboard that lets you see how you did against your previous attempts. If you so wish (and we can’t imagine many would) you can even compete against a recording of yourself to attempt to better yourself. If you can find someone else, you can even play against recordings of them too. But thankfully the option is there for both options regardless no matter how inhibited you may or may not be.

The biggest problem with Shape Up is just how light the game starts to appear when you start to play it for more than a few weeks. There are two quests in total – each of these quests has three fifteen minute sessions for a few weeks. This sounds like a lot, but many of the activities are repeated throughout the weeks and while the exercises are the same and it seems a bit strange to complain about this repetition given the nature of exercise – this is exacerbated by a major problem.

Shape Up is currently being sold in Australia for anywhere between $47 and $59 with the retail price being a rather ambitious $69.95. Considering the content that’s on offer here, it already feels overpriced even when on sale. There’s little to no content outside of the two quests to dive into. Even more disconcerting – the game has a season pass for content which costs more money but solves the issue of the game having little to no content. Don’t get us wrong – the core concept and experience of Shape Up is a reasonably good one. But it’s the lack of content and obvious gouging of said content that doesn’t sit right with us. It’s just not good value for money in its current state.