Friday, May 18, 2012

Eye Toy - Kinetic

A Surprisingly Competent Product.
Review By FalconP
I have to admit, when my girlfriend first asked me to get “EyeToy: Kinetic” for her, I thought the product was going to be a joke. But the more time she and I have spent with it, the more I realize that a game really can become a useful tool in a person's life.

The concept of “EyeToy: Kinetic” is to give you a virtual personal trainer who will guide you through various workout routines, while motivating you and giving you encouragement.

It does this by presenting the player with many interactive exercises, which generally involve hitting or avoiding on screen objects. These will be spaced out over the course of 12 weeks, with scheduled workout days which you are required to complete to progress in the program. These workout days will become increasingly difficult and more frequent as you progress though the course of the program.

It all sounds good on paper, but how does it work in the real world?

Anyone who has spent much time playing with the EyeToy knows that it isn't a terribly accurate device. I recall once when playing “SEGA Superstars”, the camera was unable to decipher my movements because it was convinced the contrasting colors of a poster on my wall was movement. So suffice to say, I had my doubts about the device's ability to accurately pickup on the various movements the game would have you make.

But as it turns out, it does a fairly decent job of translating your movements into the virtual workout area. There is still the occasional “Man, I know I hit that!” moment, but it seems to be much less of a problem than in earlier games.

One important note; unlike other EyeToy games I have played, “Kinetic” requires your entire body to be visible to the camera, even your feet. This means you will have to get considerably farther away from the camera then you are probably used to. This could be a problem for you depending on the available space you have in your game area. Even when all the way against the opposite wall of my game room, the in-game narrator constantly says I need to get farther back (though the game seems to work well enough regardless).

Aesthetically, “Kinetic” is solid. You can chose between either a male or female virtual trainer, and in most workouts you can also select between a number of different backdrops. All of these look more than decent enough to get the point across. The trainers have very good physical animation, as you would expect, since they demonstrate all of the moves before you begin your session. I especially like the menu interface in “Kinetic”, it is very modern and very clean. Every time I see it, it invokes thoughts of what future computer interfaces might be like.

In addition to choosing a trainer and backdrop, you can usually chose the background music as well. There are a decent amount of total tracks in the game, but for each workout you are only able to chose between two tracks, which I presume are chosen based on their beat in relation to what you will be doing. Techno for fast workouts, jazz for a cool down, etc. A custom soundtrack option would have been great for this game, but obviously that just isn't available on the PS2.

Unfortunately, beyond the selection of the virtual trainer, these options are not saved to your profile, which means that you will have to go though the routine of selecting songs and backdrops very often. It become a bit monotonous having to select these options over and over again just to begin your workout routine.

The workout routines themselves offer up a fair amount of variation, considering the restrictive nature of the EyeToy itself. For instance, one game will have you punching floating orbs into walls, while another will require you to avoid objects that are bounding around the screen. By combining the basic concepts of attacking and avoiding objects on the screen, the developers have put together some routines that are considerably more creative than I had expected. While there is always the same common concepts in all of the routines in “Kinetic”, you will rarely feel bored, as each one offers up something different.

The biggest complaint I have about this game is essentially a fault with the very concept of the product. While the game has you move around back and forth in most workouts, the fact of the matter is that you are just moving around within a 10 foot or so radius, and not really going anywhere. You are limited to the area in which the EyeToy can see you, which by necessity makes all of the workouts in the game much less strenuous than say, going for a jog. This is reflected in the calorie counter shown at the end of the workout, which never seems to get very high no matter how long the session has gone for.

All in all, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the overall package that “EyeToy: Kinetic” offers. While there are inherent problems with the concept of a workout system that limits you to movement within a few feet, it does a decent job of creating some fairly strenuous exercise activities. Which, while obviously not as effective as regular trips to the gym, is enough to get a little physical activity into the otherwise sedimentary lifestyle we all seem to live today. If you have the willpower to keep to the workout program the game assigns you, I have no doubt that it will have a positive impact on your lifestyle.

NAME: EYE TOY - KINETIC
SYSTEM: PlayStation 2

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