Video games have always gotten a bad rap for the "sedentary lifestyle" that they can reinforce for players. After all, since you're often just sitting in front of a screen, the only serious workout you receive is for your thumbs. While there have been a few "exercise" games released to make players a bit more physically active, these haven't necessarily required a lot of physical exertion until now. Thanks to the EyeToy, gamers are going to break a sweat with the latest game for the peripheral that Sony London co-designed with Nike Motionworks. Get ready for a workout as we feel the burn with EyeToy: Kinetic.
EyeToy games have always been somewhat more physical than other titles due to their focus: thanks to the USB camera, players are placed into the game, using their bodies to interact with the onscreen action. For the most part, this has been upper body work, although the most recent EyeToy games, particularly the Play series, have been ramping up their use of your entire body. Kinetic takes this up to a whole new level with the inclusion of a wide angle lens that captures your entire figure, which is key to "playing along" with the title. Kinetic is much more of an athletic program that provides you with cardiovascular, conditioning and movement exercises to strengthen and tone your body as well as improve your stamina.
There are essentially two modes to the "game," a personal trainer mode and a routine builder. Of the two, the personal trainer mode is the primary thrust of the title, asking for your age, weight, height and level of fitness. From there, Kinetic will assess your stats and establish an initial workout intensity level that should be challenging, but fair. Finally, you'll choose either Anna or Matt as your personal trainer/motivator and set the day and time. This last step is important, because Kinetic tracks your progress on a 12 week program of warm-ups, stretches, exercises and cooldowns, providing you with grades and even charts to evaluate your heart rate. It also puts together different sequences of exercises to make sure the workout stays fresh. The other mode, known as the routine builder, lets you select and tailor make a one-time workout, choosing everything from whether or not you'll have a warm-up section or a stretch at the end of your program, or how many exercises you'll go through. It also gives you the chance to select a workout environment, workout music and the number of exercises you'll go through, as well as their duration.
You'll have a wide selection of exercises to choose from, many of which come off like mini-games in their presentation. The 22 exercises break down along four categories: cardio, combat zone, mind and body and toning. The cardio focus is rather apparent, focusing on aerobic workouts for weight loss and body shaping exercises. The four exercises in this zone are influenced by dance steps, such as the Pulsate exercise that tasks you to hit blue discs in time with the music before they move their position. The eight exercises in the combat zone are inspired by martial arts forms and are designed to increase your strength and muscle. For instance, Backlash swings four pads towards a circle in the center of the screen, and only by punching and kicking the pads can you stop their movement. The other two are a bit less high impact, but no less engaging. The toning zone lets you focus on toning specific zones of the body, such as the upper body, lower body or your abdominals, and the mind and body zone are a group of exercises inspired by tai chi and yoga sequences to help you focus on your breathing and concentration. The additional tai chi sequence is pulled from an actual movement set, just as the yoga sequence has been combined from different postures.
One of the cool things about Kinetic, especially if you dedicate yourself to the 12-week program, is that the workouts won't really seem like a workout. Kinetic is extremely good about varying up the levels and the kinds of exercises you'll do so you don't become bored with the program. Also, the addition of the wide angle lens allows the title to detect how much force you've put into kicks, punches or other moves, as well as how accurate your stretches are in the toning zone and your hand movements in the Mind and Body zone. This lets you put a little more energy into each step as you try to progress through higher levels. What's more, the trainers that are included aren't as annoying as they could've potentially been, offering encouragement and tips without becoming grating.
There are a few caveats to the game that you'll have to get used to. For one, the addition of the wide angle lens increases the playable onscreen space significantly, meaning that you'll need to do the same to adequately play the game at home. You'll also need to adjust for some extra depth to the camera, which may result in rearranging your furniture to be able to play the game. The wide angle lens also requires a lot more light in the room, as its sensitivity to light and to motion decreases the recognition of onscreen action without a very well lit room. Thanks to this, you may also find that this tweak can sometimes encourage cheating, as you may abandon working your legs for swinging your arms at a lower angle to clear lower obstacles. Since the game can't tell the difference and will sometimes disregard the lower part of the screen based on the detectable light in the room, this often becomes an easier (if not more preferable move) to actively perform an exercise. Finally, while the game does provide a certain number of songs to play through the entire workout, you aren't given the opportunity to play your own tunes, which would be a nice addition to tailor making your own workout.
EyeToy: Kinetic is easily the future of the peripheral, using the player's body in a number of enjoyable and engaging ways while at the same time giving gamers a good workout. It's a solid exercise program and something that fully demonstrates the EyeToy's flexibility for gaming, fulfilling the concept of player/game immersion. While you'll need to rearrange your gaming space and grab a lot more lamps, your at home workouts will be a lot more fun if you enroll in Kinetic's virtual gym.