09 May, 2008

Let's Yoga Review

DS Review | Shake that chakra, baby!
Personal improvement seems to be the new black. With Wii Fit seemingly set to take the Western world by storm and various cookbooks being released on the DS, what's a mobile gamer to do when they're on the road and need that fitness fix? Sure, one could probably go for a run, but where's the fun in that? Konami, in what's actually quite an inspired attempt to fill this gap, has released a pair of games for the road warrior interested in pursuing personal physical improvements without losing too much gaming credibility. After all, Let's Yoga and Let's Pilates do run on a console ...

Let's Yoga, as the title suggests, focuses on that ancient Indian practice normally associated with luminaries such as Swami Swatamarama and Dhalsim. While the basic concept of Let's Yoga is deceptively simple, the beauty is truly in the detail of this 'game'. After creating a profile and getting a quick run-through of the language, concepts, and intention of yoga, it's off to the guru for 25 guided lessons through five levels of graded difficulty. To make sure you're not getting out of your depth, each lesson can only be attempted after a self-assessed successful completion of the current lesson.

Unleash your inner yogi.

Unleash your inner yogi.
For those that can't be bothered waiting to complete the full set of lessons or who have a specific malady they want to focus on, there's also the option of jumping straight into a variety of yoga courses. The 110 individual short sets provide five minute combinations of poses that focus on various body, mind, or beauty aspects of improvement, ranging from 'beautiful posture' to 'stopping smoking'. For a longer session, there's also 'random yoga' which automatically generates a random set of poses based on a desired difficulty level, time period, and 'boost point' (energy, flexibility, or balance).

Office workers aren't neglected either, with a number of chair-specific poses to help deal with stiff shoulders, ankle problems, and pelvic alignment. Should you be looking for something even more tailored, there's also the option to create up to 10 different exercise programs with any combination of poses and short sets of your choice. And, to help get a better understanding of what each pose entails, there's the ability to browse through every pose individually, including full rotation and highlighting which muscles the pose focuses on. Some of these poses aren't available at first and must be unlocked, apparently due to the difficulty level they present.

Whether it's a lesson, a predefined short set, or a custom exercise program, every pose includes full voiceover and model guidance, allowing you to watch a model do the pose and listen to the instructions at the same time. While it still requires moving the DS around you so you can keep an eye on it while stretching at first, over time the voiceover become more than sufficient to provide instruction on its own.

Don't forget to breathe.

Don't forget to breathe.
There's also a brief nod towards customisation through allowing the player to choose from three different models, different shirts and shorts for their models, different colour backgrounds and so on, but it really just feels like a feature that was included for the sake of another bullet point on the back of the box. There's a few unlockables buried in here, but we can't help but feel that most people are going to go into this section once and then forget it even exists.

Gamers may scoff at these 'public-friendly' releases, but Let's Yoga fills a niche, and more importantly, it fills it well. It can't replace the direction and feedback of a skilled Swami, but it does come close. Don't be fooled by the cheesy guru who provides the initial lessons - with approximately 80 different poses that range in difficulty from lying on your back with your palms in the air right through to contortions which will probably challenge even the most limber among us, this is actually quite a serious yoga toolkit.

Unlike other comparable (albeit non-mobile) offerings such as Wii Fit, Let's Yoga seems to actually take the topic quite seriously. While this reviewer's yoga experience is limited to a two inch thick book on his library shelf, a semi-serious attempt to get into it a few years ago, and a few interesting (and painful) lessons at the gym, it all seems to check out. There's the various chakras, the somewhat at times bizarre linkages between stretching your hamstrings and combating depression, and the emphasised focus on breathing, balance, and grounding. In short, it's either the real deal or close enough to it to fool everyone except the true yoga devotee.

Hi! I'll be your Swami for the day ...

Hi! I'll be your Swami for the day ...
One could argue that they could get the same benefits from a DVD or book, but that's not entirely true. While the content is easily reproducible, what isn't is the relatively dynamic (and painless) construction of exercise programs or the portability of the DS. And, there's a lot to be said about having a personal Swami in the pocket of your jacket, ready for some tuition at the drop of a turban.

Given the limitations of the platform, it's hard to suggest to anything else that could have been done better. There's staged progression, unlockables, reasonably effective journaling, rotatable views of every pose that include the muscles used, instructional voice-overs that allow you to put down the DS while you stretch, a wide selection of predefined exercise programs, and even a customisable program mode that lets you tailor the difficulty level and session duration.

About the only thing it doesn't have is an assessment process to get feedback on development, but given that yoga's so physical, it's hard to see how this would even be possible. The progress tracking is also somewhat simplistic, but these are really 'nice-to-haves' rather than show-stoppers by any stretch of the imagination. And, of course, there's the inevitable question, 'is it really a game?' On the balance, unlike Jam Sessions, we're going to give this one a qualified 'yes' - it could do with more of a formal challenge metric and feedback system, but on the whole, it's close enough.

Let's Yoga isn't going to appeal to everyone, but if Brain Training's shown anything, it's that these slightly off-kilter personal improvement 'games' can achieve surprising success. If you're looking for something to complement Wii Fit on your quest for balance and inner-peace, Let's Yoga is a pretty darn good choice.
The Score
As personal improvement programs go on the DS, this is one of the best we've seen bar none.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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5 years ago
Sounds pretty awkward to use by the looks of it.
5 years ago
It's less so than it sounds - you put it on the floor and watch it or not (all the poses are accompanied by verbal instructions on what to do and how to do it). You don't do them holding the DS. icon_smile.gif
5 years ago
This game is $30 + postage on eBay. I've just ordered one after reading this review.

There's also a Let's Pilates made by the same people I think. If this yoga one received this praise than the Pilates one would probably be good too.

Anybody tried the Pilates one yet? That looks much more interesting than the Yoga one.
5 years ago
Review going up next week. icon_smile.gif

As a quick summary though, Let's Yoga is far better.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  25/06/2008 (Cancelled)
Standard Retail Price:
  $69.95 AU
Year Made:

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