Friday, December 17, 2021

EyeToy: Kinetic

In the US, no less than a week after EyeToy: Operation Spy came the release of the eighth and final game to be released in the region, EyeToy: Kinetic, a fitness game made in collaboration with Nike Motionworks. Unlike other EyeToy-based games, Kinetic requires the use of a Full Vision Lens that you place over the EyeToy camera so that your full body is in view, which comes with the game inside a foam insert in the Memory Card slot. Because of this, when tracking down a copy of the game, I went out of my way to make sure I was getting a sealed copy to ensure it included the lens, and bought one that came bundled with the second model of the EyeToy camera. Because the only way to replace the Full Vision Lens in case something happens to it is to buy a new copy of the game, I also tried to be very careful with it during my playthrough, which took some time to get through on account of muscle recovery. After taking the time to properly explore what the game had on offer, I found it be one of the better implementations of the EyeToy camera as well as a great fitness game in general.

The core gameplay consists of 22 exercises of varying intensity split across four Zones (Cardio, Combat, Mind and Body, Toning) that target different parts of the body. Most exercises level up and increase intensity as you successfully complete the objective, lasting until time runs out or until you reach Level 10 (whichever comes first). There are also two virtual trainers that guide you and give instant feedback on your performance during the exercise, though this can be toggled with R2. Additionally, each exercise provides a choice of two music tracks and no music at all, and menus can be fully navigated using the controller.

Warm ups and stretches are usually recommended before and after a workout, respectively, both of which are included in this game. Though presented as optional, the game itself recommends playing through these for a healthier workout. Rather than any actual gameplay being involved, you are following directions as provided by the trainers, with two camera views of their actions and one showing yourself, against a choice between one of four backgrounds based on areas in the in-game workout center. These exercises include controller support, allowing you to change different options during the routine or even skip them outright. Depending on your plan, Warm Ups have a choice of three different durations (Short – 5min 30sec; Medium – 8min; Long – 11min), as do Stretches (Short – 9min; Medium – 14min; Long – 19min 30sec).

The meat of the gameplay is the Routine Builder, which lets you build a routine of 1+ exercises from any combination of the four Zones, with the option of adding Warm Ups and Stretches. You can even save routines to be played later if you wish, or you can freely build a new routine each time. This game also has a multiplayer function in that two or more players can participate in the routine at the same time, in which case each player takes turns at each exercise, so plan accordingly.

Cardio exercises focus on cardio-based exercises, each lasting 10 minutes. There are four to choose from (Cascade, Pulsate, Ricochet, Arcburst), usually involving hitting blue targets while ignoring red ones. Incidentally, the Arcburst minigame also involves clapping over some targets, making use of the EyeToy’s microphone function to register the sound of the clap. Combat exercises last for three minutes and involve quick reflexes to test your speed. This Zone has eight options to pick from (Wildfire, Backlash, Trespass, Breakspeed, Reflex, Protector, Sidewinder, Precision), which largely involve attacking yellow targets and some of which involve stopping targets from reaching the center of the screen.

Mind and Body focuses on your wellness and state of mind, emphasizing slower-paced gameplay and split into two types. The first four (Equilibrium, Reactivate, Energyflow, Outbreak) each last six minutes and mainly involve interacting with green targets in some way. The other three (Yoga, Tai Chi, Meditation) follow a similar structure to the Warm Ups and Stretches, wherein you follow directions given by the trainer. For the Meditation exercise in particular, the game suggests through dialogue that you can use a cushion, as it mainly involves sitting still for a lengthy period of time.

Toning also takes a similar approach to the Warm Ups and Stretches, with each of the three exercises (Abdominal, Upper Body, Lower Body) targeting different areas of the body and lasting roughly 10 minutes. The game itself recommends using a mat for the Abdominal sequence, though I would also recommend doing so for the Upper Body workout. Due to the intensity of the Toning exercises, the game also recommends that you can wait out some sections of the routine if it gets too intense for you or you’re simply too exhausted to commit.

The back of the box gives you an idea of what you're in for.

In addition to the Routine Builder, the game includes a Personal Trainer option for more hardcore players. After entering your age and height and selecting between one of the two trainers (this can be changed later), you are asked a series of questions (your activity level, familiarity with the EyeToy and whether you were recently injured or ill) to create a 12-week training program with a difficulty level based on your answers. The program curates exercises from the Cardio, Combat and Mind and Body Zones into groups to be completed within different days of the week, gradually increasing in intensity over the course of the 12 weeks.

Though a PS2 game from 2005, the visuals hold up surprisingly well. The trainers, while realistically proportioned, are stylized enough to be easy on the eyes and some small details and imperfections, such as the male trainer adjusting his shirt during one exercise or the trainers having their legs shake while lifting them, as well as visible breathing, helping them seem more acceptably human-like and relatable. Though the game was sponsored by Nike Motionworks, any Nike product placement is also subtle, extending mainly to the brand of workout clothing worn by the trainers.

The Full Vision Lens works very well and as intended, as the minigames and workouts were designed with the Lens in mind. I did, however, learn the hard way that, for best results, it’s best to blur the EyeToy camera before placing the Lens on, otherwise you will get a very blurry image. It’s also a good idea to play in a very well-lit room and have a safe place to store the Lens when not in use, if only to prevent any potential damage. Since the game requires plenty of space for better results, I learned this way that playing on an HD TV results in a slight lag, creating an uncanny effect comparable to the Copycat Playroom in EyeToy: Play, so you have to adjust your movements when playing this way. Even after taking everything into account, however, the Mind and Body minigame Outbreak proved to be less responsive than the others for whatever reason.

The following year after this game came out, a sequel known as EyeToy: Kinetic Combat was released. However, as EyeToy: Kinetic was the final EyeToy game released in the US, Kinetic Combat never made it over here, only seeing a release in Europe.

The list of US EyeToy-exclusive games goes out on a high note with EyeToy: Kinetic. This game is one of the more creative uses of the EyeToy camera and is designed in such a way that one could very well use this as an effective workout tool, provided they can find a copy with the Full Vision Lens.

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