Abarcy

EyeToy Kinetic Combat

Following the success of EyeToy Kinetic this title continues the fitness theme by focusing on martial arts training. Matt and Anna return to offer encouragement and explanations, along with a new instructor, Leon.

There is a 16 week training programme to undertake this time around. Unlike the EyeToy : Kinetic programme, which was only 12 weeks long, this one only involves two sessions per week rather than a regime that increases the number of training sessions you need to do as you progress.

You begin by creating a profile and filling in your personal details such as age, height, weight, body shape and fitness level. It would be much faster to simply let you choose a starting level, because the level the game suggests for you isn't always accurate.

One of the major differences between this and other EyeToy games is the use of "motion-matching technology". This is supposed to mean more accurate tracking of your movements whilst you copy the on-screen trainer as precisely as possible. It applies to all of the Hung Gar Kung Fu sequences.

Unfortunately motion matching fails badly, because it demands too much precision. If you are standing slightly too close or far away, if your body shape is wrong, if your background is too busy or if your clothing matches the background too closely, the technology won't pick up your movement correctly. It also means that you have to imitate not just the movement, but also the pace of the trainer very closely. Your mileage may vary, but we found the motion matching to be very poor.

So the Hung Gar sequences themselves may be well thought-out, but it's very discouraging to get inconsistent feedback on whether or not you're performing the right moves. It makes the Personal Trainer mode less than useful for tracking your progress, unless you are very careful to get perfect positioning and setup before you start.

Fortunately there are several other types of training in the four different "animal" zones: Dragon, Tiger, Mantis and Phoenix. Shadow training involves striking and avoiding strikes from a human target. Sparring is almost the same, except your opponent is one of the four creatures.

There are also another eight different games, two for each of the zones, which target various skills such as stamina, speed, accuracy, reaction, and so on. Essentially they are all variations on a theme: hit the targets and avoid the red obstacles. There are plenty of obstacles, so the strategy of waving your arms around madly won't get you far. These games are all different enough to be interesting, and thankfully the motion tracking in these is as accurate as you will find in most EyeToy games.

Both Freestyle and Quick Play modes allow you to pick and choose your favourite routines.

One of the problems with some of the games is that they advise you to use suggested stances and strikes to help you get the highest score, but these suggestions are very difficult to follow. Written in fairly small yellow lettering at the top of the screen, it doesn't stand out well. You will also need to stand further back for this game than with most EyeToy titles, so if your screen is small you may not even notice them, and they change quickly. It's very difficult to concentrate on the prompts and the game objectives at the same time, so these suggestions are mostly useless. An outline of a player making the moves, similar to the one you see in the motion-matching sequences, would have been more intuitive and helpful.

There's no doubt that EyeToy Kinetic Combat is one of the more demanding games for the EyeToy. Playing it is a good workout which will help to train the muscles needed for martial arts. It won't make you an expert in Kung Fu, because there's no substitute for the kind of tuition you can get from a qualified instructor. But with its emphasis on fast movements it's a fun, exhilarating workout which practising and aspiring martial artists can benefit from and enjoy.