Since the release of Microsoft's motion-detection peripheral, Kinect, there has been a nice growing collection of fitness games available on Xbox 360. Picking up a fitness-based game may sound like brilliant idea at the time, because after all, the cost of a game is much cheaper than an annual gym subscription. But let’s be honest, anything that gets you moving will do its part in shedding those calories, and it doesn’t have to be a dedicated fitness title. For those people that prefer a tailored fitness game however, Adidas has teamed up with 505 Games to bring you their own take on the fitness genre with Adidas miCoach.
Booting up the game you’ll be asked to either get fit whilst offline, or choose to sign up to the Adidas miCoach website online. Signing up online, using an Xbox code provided, allows you to sync your Xbox workout activity to the free miCoach online service. Once connected you can view your progress, set your goals and workouts via its calendar, through to seeing your friend's fitness activities too. It is worth signing up if you plan on getting serious with Adidas miCoach, as it will allow you to login, sync and track your own progress via a desktop browser, mobile phone as well as on your console. But should Adidas miCoach become part of your dedicated fitness regime? Let’s don some shorts and find out...
Once signed in you can choose between three major modes in the game, using a similar navigation seen in Ubisoft's Kinect title - Dance Central - where you raise and lower your arm to navigate the menu options and swipe across to confirm them. The navigation in this title however is a little hit and miss at times. Quite often I had to use its alternative navigation function - voice - which can be just as frustrating to use as hand gestures are, when you have to repeat yourself a few times before Kinect acknowledges you. It is worth pointing out that the game’s navigation is completely driven by Kinect and there are no alternatives here, should you prefer quicker navigation from a controller.
The first major mode - Training Plan - lets you get right into planning a regular workout schedule. From here you can choose from various sports-based workouts, or if you are a bit rusty and are starting out for the first time, you can choose the Getting Started option. This option will gradually ease you in as well as let you try out a range of beginner exercises from all the available Adidas sports team.
Adidas has brought a key line-up of sporting stars to miCoach. From Gold Olympic heptathlon medal winner, Jessica Ennis, to Tottenham football player Gareth Bale and tennis starlet, Ana Ivanovic, there are plenty of disciplines from each of these coaches to fit the type of workout you wish to do. Each given coach can be swapped out should you feel that you are more suited to a particular sport workout.
Organinsing training plans and calendars is probably best done via the desktop browser, because navigating through the menus is not only a workout in itself, but its also a frustratingly slow and painful process, thanks to the poor and rather slow tracking of this game’s navigation system.
Training Games is miCoach's second mode. Using sports from a few of the Adidas team’s disciplines, this mode offers three fitness games: Basketball, Football and Tennis. Unfortunately however, neither of these have been executed that well. In Basketball you catch balls that are lobbed at you and then you shoot them up at the basket. With the game's poor gesture tracking, catching the balls can be very temperamental, and shooting the ball at the basket is tracked so badly that it mostly goes over the headboard and into the seating stands behind. The Tennis game mode shares much the same frustration, with a lack of ball control that makes it very difficult to hit the bricks that sit on the other side of the tennis net. The Football game mode is a little better, but it isn't as fun as Kinect Sports’ own goal-shooting event. Additional motions like heading or chest-and-volley into the goal gestures are nice editions that mostly work, but overall, each of these three games will be rarely revisited after their initial playthrough - that is unless you play the next mode - Conditioning.
In the Conditioning mode you can select from five major levels of cardio workouts, each with their own additional sub modes. As you progress through a workout you are put through a selection of fast-paced exercises followed by one of the previously mentioned (awful) Training Games that completes your workout. This mode was the most enjoyable one for me, thanks to its quick setup and fast-paced routines that I can guaranteed will keep your heart pumping. The frustrating part if this mode is that each routine ends with a Training Game, and as a result, completely destroys what would be a good little fitness routine for anyone wanting a quick session without going through a scheduled workout.
One of my biggest issues with miCoach was the many floor-based workouts. This is mostly at the fault of the Kinect technology than the game itself. A large floorspace is needed here, and this can work out to be much more space than you can get away with when standing up. The most troublesome part here was that my floor-based routines were not being tracked correctly, so you end up doing more routines than you are being asked to. Its developers should have acknowledged the fact that the Kinect is best interacted with when standing up, and should have ruled out all floor-based routines because, quite frankly, it just doesn’t work!
For anyone picking up this game for the first time and selecting the Getting Started workout (like I did) would have to go through a complete 20-minute floor-based workout of frustration, which is not a good way to welcome new users to the game. The game does come into its own when more upright exercises are offered, but everything soon goes down hill when another floor-based routine enters into the workout.
So in conclusion, should miCoach be slipped into your fitness bag? Sadly, no. There are much better titles available elsewhere in this genre, namely Ubisoft's Fitness Evolved or the upcoming Nike+ Kinect Training title. With its slick Adidas branded and presentation, a pumping soundtrack and real-life sport stars, there is a coating of gloss that covers what is quite a frustrating and technically flawed game. You are better off keeping your money in your gym shorts with this one (along with your year’s gym membership) and look elsewhere, as there are titles out there that acknowledges the limitations of Kinect’s technology and as a result rewards your invested time and energy. Most important of all though, they are much more fun than this.
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