EyeToy Kinetic is the latest in a short list of games to try and get gamers to exercise more than their thumbs. Developed by SCEE alongside Nike Motionworks, Kinetic is an interactive fitness program that features several different types of exercise all geared towards getting you in shape. Kinetic is a fantastic idea, and gets props for trying something new, but the technology behind it just doesn't work very well.
Kinetic lets you select a simple workout or you can design a twelve week program to get yourself in shape. Two trainers, one male and female are selectable. They'll guide you through your workouts, give you encouragement, and let give you feedback on how well you're performing a particular exercise. Be forewarned, both of them have English accents, which like any severe accent, might get irritating after a while. You'll then enter your age, weight, and answer a few questions about your overall level of fitness. This helps your trainer determine what level of difficulty you should try. You can change the level to whatever you think is best, though keep in mind even the most basic program is going to kick your butt if you're out of shape. Kinetic gives you a workout schedule and uses the PS2's internal clock to track your progress. If you miss a workout, your trainer will let you know that your absence didn't go unnoticed. Of course, very few people are actually going to work out just so their virtual trainer doesn't yell at them, so it's up to you and your motivation to succeed.
Before heading off to your workout you'll need to stretch, and the game has a couple of different stretching routines of varying lengths. To help mix things up, there are four different locations for you to get your exercise on; a dojo, dance studio, Zen garden and loft. Where you workout doesn't affect the content of your workout, but you'll be glad to have a change of surrounding from time to time. There are a few different songs to pick from before each exercise session, but they're not very good, and you'll quickly be opting for your own tunes.
Four different styles of workouts are selectable – cardio, combat, toning and mind & body The exercise routines are based on Yoga, Tai Chi, Kick Boxing, Aerobics, Capoeira. Your trainer will guide you through the exercises, but they do so rather quickly, so it can be a challenge to keep up. I often found myself sacrificing form for speed, which is a big no-no in the exercise world. Like any exercise routine, you'll eventually get the hang of it, but it's not easy. There are 22 different exercises that for the most part involve you ducking from, hitting, waving, and kicking balls or targets that are displayed on screen. They're mildly entertaining, but there not "fun" per se – this is, after all, a workout.
Since the EyeToy will need to track your whole body's movements, Kinetic ships with a special lens that you add to your EyeToy that allows the camera to see a wider area than normal. Since these are real exercises, you're going to need A LOT of room and a ton of lighting so the camera can track you. This is where Kinetic falls apart – it simply doesn't work in the "real world." Most people don't have an open area that's ten feet wide and ten feet deep in front of their televisions, and this is about what you need. You can't get away with less, because not only will you not be able to do the exercises properly, but your trainer will yell at you over and over about being too close to the television. The next major issue is a matter of light. Even with the EyeToy set for low-light areas, it couldn't track me properly, despite there being 5 lights in front of me, all focused towards me.
These technical problems kill any value that Kinetic might have. If you've gotten to the point that you're going to try a videogame to get you in shape, the chances of you having enough motivation to clear space (assuming you even have it), move lights, and change into clothes that the EyeToy can see, are pretty slim. It's a shame that the "game" essentially doesn't work, because it's a neat idea, and one that we'll certainly see again in the future when the technology exists to pull it off properly.