Xbox 360 Kinect and What Makes a Great Fitness Title?

Xbox 360 Kinect and What Makes a Great Fitness Title?

During this series we have played quite a few games in our quest to discover the fitness potential in gaming with the Xbox 360 Kinect. Our perspective in what to look for in a game has changed during the course of these past 16 weeks along with our fitness level, and we now have a new wish list of elements we would love to see in a workout title.

After playing several games it is pretty easy to make a list of the things that you love and the things that you find frustrating when working out with a video game. Because exercising with the Kinect is a fairly new concept, we try to extend forgiveness for clunky UI elements and sometimes awkward gameplay but at the same time are very eager to see improvements. Here is our wish list for an ideal fitness game:

  1. Menu: One of our biggest gripes is menu design and navigation. We understand that using the Kinect to control a menu is kind of neat, but please for the love of all that is holy give us the option to use a controller to navigate. Also, if we never see another slider in a menu we will be happy campers. The Kinect makes swiping easy so grabbing a slider to swipe just seems to be the height of annoying, silly, and non-intuitive design.
  2. Quick Start Workouts: When you are pressed for time you don't want it to take 8 minutes just to get the workout routine started. More games need to give the option to launch into a 20 minute workout right from the main menu. It goes without saying that this workout should start without any tutorials.
  3. Workout Variations: This might seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at how many titles make it quite difficult to choose workouts of varying durations. Selecting how long you would like to exercise and being able to quickly get started should be the default in any fitness title. Sometimes when pressed for time all you can work into your day is a 10 minute session, while at another time a 45 minute session is perfect.
  4. Make it Fun: Yes, we know there are people out there that think doing many lunges is a fun time had by all, but we are not in this camp. We know that the staple repetitious exercises are important, but do they have to be done in a boring fashion? Why not get your lunges in while playing a game in which you are perhaps balancing plates on your head or leaping through space? If you are going to workout with a video game it stands to reason that it should be more fun than just doing the exercises on your own at home sans any tech.
  5. Feedback: One of our biggest pet peeves is when the feedback we receive from a fitness title is primarily auditory. The tinny voice of a "trainer" telling us we are doing it wrong or to "give it our all," is not even remotely helpful in trying to match the correct moves.
  6. Tracking: Another advantage of working out at home should be in the data that the technology can collect for you. We would love to see better tracking mechanisms for our workouts so that it is easy to see our progress and to better plan what activities will help us maximize the health benefits from future workouts.

Having laid out our wish list, which titles out of the ones we have reviewed do we keep coming back to? Dance Central, Kinect Sports, and EA Sports Active 2 are in almost perpetual rotation and we are eagerly awaiting the next series of fitness titles arriving later this year.

What do you look for in a fitness title?

Weeks 1-14 with the Xbox 360 and Kinect:

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