US: 7 Dec 2009
In what is becoming one of gaming’s most perplexing conundrums, here is yet another exercise game for the Wii that fails miserably. Starting off with lofty goals to instill the player with a sense of awe and history for the practice of Yoga and ending up being a badly-written talking head, Yoga is an exercise in someone expecting their subject matter and content to carry their game at the expense of everything else. What makes the game’s failure irritating is that the Wii Fit system is not exactly difficult to copy.
The game is divided into a story mode, short exercise routines, and longer work-outs. Video sequences introduce you to the game before letting you pick from three spiritual guides to be your yoga partners. Some of the routines are organized around pain centers or working out a specific portion of the body, but you can’t put any together on your own. If selected, story mode will consist of your guide leading you around Yog Shala. While in real life this is the name of an expensive international Yoga franchise, in the game it’s a mystical place full of statues and Chakras. Your guide will take you around each level of Yog Shala, explaining the history and meaning of each Chakra. Sometimes they’ll let you do the move that they’re describing, other times the game simply marches you to another lecture point. You have no control over this process, you just sit and watch for five to ten minute periods until you’re asked if you want to try a move. Saying no does not impede progress, you just keep ascending the levels of Yog Shala until you get to the highest point. I’m not totally sure how historically accurate this portion was, but it was at best a glorified history lecture and at worst the most skippable thing that I’ve ever seen in a video game.
The real problem with this game is the actual yoga sections. I’m going to be making comparisons to Wii Fit at this point because, for better or worse, it’s the standard by which all other Wii exercise games are going to be judged. In terms of the poses themselves, there really isn’t much point in actually using the Wii Fit Board. The game does not use sound to give you any feedback on your balance or positioning. In addition to being generally unresponsive, the only way that you know you’re doing a pose wrong is that the foot symbol turns from red to blue. This means that you have to keep looking at the screen to see what the game thinks of what you’re doing, which gets difficult if you’re doing a moderately complex pose. Making this worse is that the instructor will never talk when it’s time to move or give any basic instructions, nor is there even a breathing rhythm to set yourself to. You just watch and mimic what a clunky 3-D avatar is doing on the screen. This is absolutely essential to any Yoga workout. The major benefit of using a video game over watching a DVD or going to a studio is the feedback. The game tells you when you’re off and gives you more direct control over the pace of the workout. The game fails in all of these departments.
Out of all the exercise games that I’ve played for the Wii at this point, I’d have to say Yoga is the worst one by far. It doesn’t achieve this by being buggy or having bad voice acting. It doesn’t win this accolade because its subject matter is handled poorly or because yoga is somehow incompatible with games or the Wii. It deserves this because here is a video game where you are better off getting a cheap DVD than bothering with the interactive version.