There is a segment of the population (of which I consider myself to be a part) that is intimidated by the idea of going to a gym. I imagine the gym as a place where people with incredibly sculpted bodies stride around with confidence and snicker at people like me who routinely fall off the treadmill. Even if I were ok with the gym, if I’m ever going to achieve my dream of being in the NFL I would need a trainer to create a fitness plan for me and keep me on task and motivated. Adidas offers a solution with micoach, a game that features workout plans geared towards a variety of sports and uses Kinect to track your movements. While there are some good ideas here, they are obscured by poor movement tracking and design. Micoach will not be getting the job as my coach.
Micoach is all about picking a sport, and then setting up a workout plan designed to target the physical abilities you will need to excel at that sport. Each sport has a star trainer attached, so you’ll be working out with the likes of Dwight Howard and Jozy Altidore. If you’re not interested in working on skills for a particular sport you can pick a plan for general conditioning or strength training. If you just want to work up a sweat, basketball, soccer and tennis fitness games are available.
When you first start up micoach, it encourages you to create an account on micoach.com and connect it to your console. This gives you the ability to track your progress online and do some really useful things like modify your workout program or change your workout days. Having that sort of control is really nice and a great alternative to making changes to your plan through the game interface, which can be cumbersome.
Micoach has a nice variety of workouts, but you have to really dig to get to them. For example, there’s a workout to help with back pain, but in order to do it you need to add it to your calendar, which is a trip through menu hell on the console. It’s much easier online, but that doesn’t excuse the poor in-game interface. micoach is so focused on having a plan that you can’t easily jump in and do any workout you feel like, which is a disappointment.
If you’re planning to work out at home, it’s reasonable to assume you need some basic equipment, like a yoga mat or a set of dumbbells. Micoach takes that one step further and uses a stability ball. Don’t have one? You’re going to spend a lot of time skipping exercises then, because there are several that require one, and you’ll have to opt out of them each time they come up during a workout. Other games allow you to tailor the exercises you receive to the equipment you have, but micoach offers no such option. It’s a poor choice that very quickly becomes irritating.
Movement recognition in micoach ranged from spotty to nonexistent, despite the Kinect recalibrating when switching from floor to standing exercises. Like other Kinect, games micoach has “Good” and “Better” ranges for distance, and also adds “Ideal”, which seemed to be about ten feet from the sensor. In the “Better” range (where I was), on a few exercises the game would recognize reps correctly, but more often than not it would pick up one out of every two, three, or more. On some exercises I couldn’t get the game to register anything I did at all, and had to skip them to move on.
For most exercises you see yourself projected on the right side of the screen, with your trainer on the left demonstrating the exercise. Being able to see that I was correctly matching the movements (my wife also confirmed this) made it all the more frustrating when they didn’t register. The game never seemed to have a firm grip on where I was; in some instances the projection of me was half embedded in the virtual gym floor, in others I would randomly disappear only to reappear a minute later.
The motion tracking problem cuts both ways, and movements that weren’t anywhere close to the exercise would sometimes get counted. While any game of this type can be cheesed, and it’s ultimately up to you to keep yourself honest, those instances reinforced how lost the game was when it came to what I was doing. While sitting on the couch petting my dog the game saw me doing pushups, and once while in the plank position I stood up and started dancing, while I continued to be credited with doing the movement.
There is a lot of audio from each of the trainers, including basic move instructions and some motivational talk. Their speech only loosely connects with what you’re doing though, so it just winds up being white noise. Having the trainer tell me what I’m doing wrong in a move would be very useful, but hearing Eric Berry tell me I’m doing great with all the enthusiasm of someone reading from the phone book doesn’t really do a whole lot. It was especially annoying when a trainer was telling me I needed to put in more effort while the game was failing to read my movement correctly.
If the motion tracking and lackluster audio weren’t bad enough, the game also has some really annoying technical issues. Micoach features voice commands, but periodically the coach just stops paying attention, and I was left screaming at the TV to no avail. After one workout the game could read my right arm enough to let me highlight the option I wanted on the menu, but not enough to allow me to actually select it.
In an attempt to find out if I was doing something wrong, I followed the case insert’s instructions for finding the online manual. Going to the link provided didn’t produce the manual, but did give me lots of information on other fine adidas products I could purchase that would work with and enhance my micoach experience. I declined.
Micoach is particularly disappointing because there are some legitimately good ideas here. Being able to manage your workout plan and track your progress online is nice, and there’s a ton of different workouts, allowing you to focus on just about anything. The poor motion tracking keeps you from progressing through workouts though, which defeats the entire purpose of the game’s existence. In the end the only thing that got a good workout was my patience, and I can’t recommend it to anyone.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.