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Jillian Michaels Fitness Adventure

Score: 58%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Majesco Games
Developer: Checkpoint Games
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Sports/ Health and Exercise/ Simulation

Graphics & Sound:

It's easy to imagine the world's fitness and training community collectively perking up as the Kinect for Xbox 360 was being introduced. For the first time, real motion-capture was possible for the living room. The significance of the living room for these folks is that they've been beaming workout videos to living-room screens for years, hoping to capture the dollars of people who like exercising at home in place of (or in addition to) going to the gym. Jillian Michaels Fitness Adventure isn't the first game of its kind, and it certainly won't be the last. It's a product of the marketing machine behind Jillian Michaels, more than an answer to any gamers' dreams, but that doesn't make it a bad game. Comparing this title to the Your Shape game we played at the time Kinect launched, it's easy to see some design improvements. Your image on the screen is now a real photo-image, instead of the wispy avatar seen previously. It's nice to see your photo on the screen, especially because Jillian Michaels appears only as an avatar. The game is seriously in need of video demonstrations, and more dynamic content. Just watching a computer-generated Jillian Michaels doing exercises on the screen is only a bit more compelling than listening to a podcast.

The Fitness Adventure portion of the game is even less visually stimulating. If you've ever used the screensaver on Windows that looks like you're endlessly navigating a maze, you have a mental picture of the Fitness Adventure segment. You travel through the level/maze on rails, pausing to do reps for a given workout, with extremely ho-hum scenery. Alongside the drab visuals, you have Jillian Michaels shouting out the same phrases on an endless loop, especially tedious if you're having a hard time and get off track or stuck in one area. And let us just say for the record, Jillian Michaels, that Lara Croft called and wants her outfit back. The computer-generated version of Michaels is literally standing in front of what looks like a Mayan tomb, wearing a leather halter top, tight cargo shorts, and knee-high boots. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but I have to think there's a royalty check in the mail with Square Enix's name on it right now.


Gameplay:

Between the two modes, it's already obvious that we think Fitness Adventure is a bust, so let's focus on Fitness Training. This is where you can feel firsthand why Jillian Michaels likes to call herself "America's Toughest Trainer." Not that Fitness Adventure is a pushover, mind you. The very first area of Adventure Mode is not for the faint of heart. Couch potatoes who think they're going to do some light exercising will be sorely disappointed. And just plain sore... This isn't the Wii where you can cheat your way through a few exercises or flap your arms around imprecisely. If you don't nail the exercises in Adventure Mode, you're stuck. It's pretty deflating, actually. Not great to watch, and even less fun to play unless you're in tip-top shape and this is all easy for you.

At least in the Fitness Training section, you can work your way through Single Exercises sections, into Circuits that combine several types of exercise for specific goals. These are well choreographed and planned, to target general cardio, flexibility, stamina, and strength. Aside from the exercise, there's a strong competitive element to Jillian Michaels Fitness Adventure, so you can keep track of scores, view stats, and pin down how consistently you're working out on an included "Fitness Calendar" option. The workouts are good enough, but a bit disjointed until you start a circuit. For those a bit -ahem- out of shape, jumping into a circuit isn't much different than attempting the Fitness Adventure. Strange to say, but Jillian Michaels Fitness Adventure is probably best for people who are at least in decent shape, or who intend to really push themselves in an attempt to shape up. For all the game's faults, it does simulate a wide range of exercises that you can do in the home (with urging from Jillian Michaels) to improve your physical fitness.


Difficulty:

These workouts are no joke! You can practice any routine at a "warm-up" setting to get a feel for it before Jillian starts really putting you to the test. When you consider there are almost 60 custom circuits, plus the ability to develop a custom workout routine using individual exercises, Jillian Michaels Fitness Adventure is huge. Unlike Your Shape Fitness that featured locked content you had to earn, all of the workouts here are wide open from the beginning. As we said earlier, there are more than a few that are practically out-of-reach for less fit individuals. Fitness Adventure lacks an effective rating system or guide to how each workout is going to have an impact on you, based on your fitness level. As a result, it's possible to browser the individual exercises, pick out something ridiculously hard, and take away the wrong impression of the game. The best option to get started, which really should have been a guided experience from the outset, is to customize a routine with exercises you can do without major strain. Using a basic routine to step up to more challenging ones makes good sense, but Jillian Michaels Fitness Adventure doesn't have this kind of natural flow, to make it easy for players to advance in a way that matches their fitness level.

Game Mechanics:

The Kinect integration with Jillian Michaels Fitness Adventure is questionable. We mentioned the use of a "real" photo-quality image, which is a nice touch. After that, the responsiveness of the controls get a bit dodgy. All the on-screen controls are supposed to respond to hand motions, as in moving your right arm up and down to browse menus, then swiping the same arm left or right to make selections. A similar motion is tied to the left arm, but only to back out of menus or cancel previous selections. The action on the right arm was clunky, often giving false positives by slipping around at the last moment. In some cases, the left- or right-arm action was misinterpreted, causing a menu selection we didn't intend. It's especially obvious during the initial set-up screen where you choose your age, height, and weight. This only happens once per player, but does the failure to accurately track movements here speak to issues with tracking in the workout segments? We certainly thought so.

During a workout, you see a guide on the screen that you follow, but your feedback is mainly coming from Jillian Michaels herself. There's a score based on successful completion of moves, but we found instances where moves were completed and not registered by the game. Perhaps Fitness Adventure just takes a hard line on its routines, but it's not like we had the option to dial the difficulty up or down... After playing a few Kinect and Wii games recently that are more forgiving and adaptive, we found Jillian Michaels Fitness Adventure way too confining. Sure, she may be the toughest trainer in America, but that doesn't mean players have to suffer through a game on rails, with controls that don't fully leverage the Kinect.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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