Pros outweigh cons, with 'Biggest Loser' a winner

The paradoxically great news about The Biggest Loser Ultimate Workout is that while it makes an alarmingly unfavourable first impression by botching the easy part, it redeems itself 10 times over by getting the hard part right - and, in doing so, demonstrating how viable Kinect is as an fitness tool.

The Biggest Loser Ultimate Workout
For: Xbox 360 (Kinect required)
From: Blitz Games/THQ
Rating: Everyone

Before you find that out, though, you must contend with the game's menu interface, which is an exercise in itself.

Very few Kinect games have demonstrated an aptitude for controller-free menu navigation, and Workout is especially poor.

The buttons are too small, the time needed to hold your hand in place to activate them is too long, and the cursor occasionally wanders off the button just before it activates.

With practice the problem becomes surmountable in the main menus.

But when the interface calls for more precision - most notably, during the character creation area - you will just wish Microsoft would force developers to enable the controller as an optional means for menu navigation duties.

Fortunately, Workout demonstrates a whole different level of savvy when the task of actually working out is at hand.

Though Workout lets you take on its exercises as you please, its best offering is the availability of circuit-training sessions designed by trainers Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels, whose likenesses appear in the game as personal trainers.

Workout allows you to design your own sessions, but its strength is its ability to tailor routines around basic settings (difficulty, length) and lay them out in a Fitness Program mode that gives you a calendar, goals and a clear picture of forward progress.

In action, the game absolutely shines.

During all activities, a solid-coloured likeness of your real self appears in the lower right corner, and the colour of that likeness - ranging from green (perfect) to yellow (OK) to red (bad) - provides simple, continual feedback on how closely you're replicating each exercise.

Additional details above and below the likeness offer more specific feedback, making it easy to see what you're doing wrong and what adjustments are necessary to correct it.

The trainers repeat their lines a lot, sometimes consecutively, but for exercises that have you facing sideways, the spoken feedback's value outweighs its repetition. (Thanks to the Kinect's microphone, you can even talk back when your trainer asks if you need a break or are ready for something tougher.) All this feedback checks out, too, because Workout is surprisingly good at reading and diagnosing the specifics of its exercises.

Workout's impressive capacity makes it easy to let the Fitness Program take the lead and throw out whatever workout sessions it feels are best for your personal progress, and those willing to let it go further can also utilise the game's secondary features, which include fitness tips, a calorie tracker, body analysis, extracurricular activities and mini-game challenges inspired by the challenges seen on the show.