Although there are several titles for the Wii which feature yoga instruction, many of these put it into a more athletic exercise-oriented context. The aptly named Yoga aims to provide a more complete experience, focussing on not only instruction in the practise of yoga, but also its history and lifestyle benefits. Though its intentions are good, Yoga loses its footing in a few key areas which throw the whole title off balance.
Yoga is split into three different modes; Story, Training, and Routine. Story mode is undoubtedly the most robust of these, and integrates the instruction of different poses with various yogic teachings and philosophies as you are guided through a fictional yoga institute. Upon starting this mode, it soon becomes obvious that the game’s presentation has something of a split personality. Although you’re initially given slick video pep-talk by supermodel Anja Rubik, things take a turn for the worse upon entering the institute, a ropey 3D world of muddy textures and choppy framerate which has a distinctly hokey early 90s edutainment feel about it.
As you’re led through various floors and rooms, your chosen guide teaches you the tenets of yoga and gives explanations of the benefits of certain poses. The history, philosophy and slightly out of place (but not unwelcome) nutritional advice make the story element worthwhile, and despite throwing the occasional yoga expression at you without any real explanation, offers a good general introduction to the practice.
The core of the experience comes from the demonstration a variety of poses, which the game then invites you to perform. Unfortunately, the sequence of the poses is poor, to the point of being dangerous. The first pose taught is Triangle Pose, one of the more challenging poses in yoga because of the required strength in both lower and upper body. The pose is often referred to as a ‘hip opener’ and, with the proper posture, can be very good for back pain and to reduce the affects of sitting all day.
Yoga jumps right in, holding poses much longer than a beginner normally could. There are no modifications shown for this pose or any other poses, and this is also a danger to beginners. Modifications are ways to feel the same effects of the pose in a less intense manner; it could be as simple as not bending as far, but can often mean the difference between pulled muscles and the health and well-being that Yoga touts.
Another major problem is you’re never shown actual humans performing any of the poses, and the 3D characters are often unable to sufficiently illustrate the proper forms. Additionally, they don’t always explicitly articulate the mechanics of each pose. It’s also especially odd that for all of her endorsement, you don’t really see Anja Rubik perform any yoga herself.
Yoga makes use of the Balance Board to show whether the user is maintaining good balance, and the Remote to show hand shake during poses. Unfortunately, these feel entirely peripheral to the experience. Balance and ease of a pose come with time, but holding a controller and standing on the board are actually something of a distraction. It certainly feels as if the excess of icons and visual feedback could have been integrated in a more elegant way.
Additionally, there’s no real reassurance that you’re performing poses correctly, despite the game encouraging you to regulate your breathing during poses. One thing the game cannot replace is a yoga teacher standing beside you, readjusting your pose and helping you to find the proper position.
The game’s other modes are fairly utilitarian, and simply provide quicker, alternative means of practicing the poses illustrated in Story mode. In Training mode, the user can choose individual poses to practice to better hone their yoga skills. Routine mode provides several short series of poses which are grouped together and aimed at relieving various health issues, ranging from diabetes to the cryptically labelled ‘Student’.
Overall, Yoga seems sloppily put together, not only from a technical perspective, but also in what it lacks for a true yoga experience. The title may be appropriate for someone who wants an overview of the nature of yoga, almost like a primer prior to attending a class to gain an idea of what the different poses are. By this token, it’s almost better to simply sit on your sofa and watch the characters run through a routine rather than actively participate.
Ultimately, it might make more sense to try out a free introductory class to decide whether yoga would be beneficial to your life.
Note: Laurie Perini has practised yoga for two years.
Yoga for Nintendo Wii is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.