I confess that I was drawn to this game by the word "Hollywood" in the title. Who doesn't want to train with the same fitness coach as Kate Beckinsale and Robert Pattinson?
Harley Pasternak is an established workout trainer to the stars -- and a Canadian with a masters of science in exercise physiology and nutritional sciences from the University of Toronto. Hollywood Workout, released Sept. 20, is an Xbox 360 workout game based on Pasternak's methods that promises to "reveal the A-list physique in all of us."
I really enjoy Kinect-based workout programs because they offer personalized feedback based on your movement and repetitions. Unlike a workout video, these games will tell you when you need to widen your stance, deepen your lunge or push a little harder to improve your progress. Although they cannot substitute for a real personal trainer, they offer a close approximation (without the embarrassment of working out in front of strangers at your local gym).
But what makes Hollywood Workout different from games like Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and Nike + Kinect Training?
The main attraction in this game is a personalized five- or 10-week fitness program where you work out five days a week for 25 minutes a day. Each session contains a five-minute cardio warmup, five minutes of upper body strength exercises, five minutes of core exercises, five minutes of lower body strength exercises and five minutes of cool down. The exercises are very easy to follow and unlike some workout games, the repetitions are reasonable -- even if you're not in the best of shape.
What's best about Pasternak's exercises is that they focus on a different muscle group every day. So, although you may be sore from doing a Hollywood Workout session, the next day you will still be able to exercise because you will be using a different set of muscles. You can also edit each day's session to switch out particular exercises that you do not enjoy.
Kinect-based games are sometimes troubled by glitchy interfaces or faulty body scanning. I found the Kinect functions in Hollywood Workout to work very well, although I did have to move my Kinect sensor from a beneath-the-television position to an above-the-television position in order to have the sensor correctly read my position for mat exercises such as sit-ups.
One drawback of the game is that it does not offer many stretching exercises. Some days, I was quite sore from these workouts and wished there was a longer cool-down section with additional yoga-type stretches.
The game box also advertises Pasternak's "5 Factor Diet" -- but don't expect a detailed meal plan in this game. The only nutritional information included is short video segments that pop up at the end of workouts. If you want detailed nutritional coaching, you'll need to subscribe to Pasternak's website and pay a monthly fee.
The interface is solid and the workouts are both fun and very achievable. Although it should be supplemented with additional stretching to promote flexibility and reduce sore muscles, Hollywood Workout is a great way to get ready for a red carpet event -- or just adopt a more active lifestyle.
Danishka Esterhazy is a screenwriter, film director and self-confessed video game addict. She prefers games with a story but will settle for a good sword fight.