It amazes me that someone came up with a name for a TV show, and now video game, that revolves around not just being called a loser, but the biggest loser. I realise that it is just a play on words that refers to the winning contestants ability to lose weight. But somewhere in the back of their mind they must be wondering if all of the viewers actually realise this. I don’t think that I would want to be labeled as the biggest loser, no matter what the real meaning of the accolade was.
But there is no denying that the show is popular, at least across the water in the US. Over here in the UK, the show airs on some channel or another, but it doesn’t seem to have the same popularity, not yet at least. But it is popular enough to spawn an exercise based video game from THQ. Not just any video game, but a Kinect enabled one at that. We have already taken a look at YourShape from Ubisoft using the Kinect unit, but how will this TV show based game compare? Will it make losers of us all, or will the game be the ultimate biggest loser?
Being an exercise based game, it is fairly obvious what will be involved – lots and lots of sweating. Unlike the Ubisoft title, Loser offers a lot of feedback and encouragement to the player. This is evident right from the get go when the player is asked, even before they take a fitness test, to outline what they want to achieve from this experience. Being that the show is based around losing weight, the same formula follows through into the game, although without the ability to measure a persons weight it needs to rely on the players honesty.
The Kinect camera scans the players entire body, and to great effect. The resulting image is then plastered on the screen, bulges and all, offering further encouragement to tone up certain areas. The Kinect unit does a good job of scanning the body and the result is really impressive. Once an exercise routine is chosen, the player will see their image on the screen and simply copy the actions of the trainer. Whilst working very well for the most part, there are a number of problems with the detection of movement, as has been evident in the majority of the third-party Kinect titles. A persons ability to copy the movements of their trainer is measured and failure to do the exercises properly, or too quickly or slowly, result in not only a visual reminder, but also audio encouragement from the trainer themselves.
It is possible for the player to set up their routines to exactly how they want them, making this package very easy to customise to the players needs. General fitness, toning of a particular area, duration of each routine and even the length of the entire programme can all be manipulated to fit in with what the players overall goals are, and it doesn’t even get stroppy when the player misses a scheduled routine. But at the end of the day, missing a routine will only hurt the overall progress of the player, and damage their standings against the AI losers. This is another way in which the game encourages the player to succeed, by placing them in competition with others. If competing against faceless AI drones is not enough, the player can even introduce three friends to join in the fun online.
The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout is, as I have already said, based around encouragement. In that respect, the game does an absolutely great job of taking the players goals and making them a real possibility. The exercise routines are difficult and certainly intensive, but all along the way the game is encouraging the player with kind words and checking that they are alright, asking them if they need a break or reminding them to drink some water. It is these little touches that make the game potentially more successful than Your Shape: Fitness Evolved.
Containing 120 different exercises, Loser is certainly a complete package. But that is not all as there are also a couple of games hidden in there, designed to get the body moving, and even nutritional advice and recipes. The entire package is very good, but it does have a couple of small problems. Two of these problems are ones that we have seen before and will likely see again. The amount of room required, especially as some of the exercises are performed laying down, is much more than the recommended minimum for Kinect. Then there is the already mentioned issue surrounding the actual motion detection which, although not too bad, does cause frustration when trying to mimic the trainer on screen only to see your avatar waving their legs in impossible ways.
The third problem is more specific to the game, and that is an absolutely horrible menu system. Things seem a little erratic here and it is far too easy to accidentally select the wrong option. Using hand movements to make these selections is all very well, but when they select by just moving across them on the way to your true selection, that is just downright annoying.
The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout is a great package for anyone who is serious about training and exercise, but is let down some issues that revolve around the Kinect hardware. But if you have the room, and the patience, then this package is the most complete that we have seen so far, offering more than just sterile exercises and really getting the player to invest in their goals.