The pandemic of 2020 lead to a bit of a resurgence in Fitness Games. Ring Fit Adventure allowed people to have fun and stay fit at the same time, and saw massive success.
Another game that released during the initial lockdown period was Yoga Master, which seemed to have been overlooked by many due to the success of Nintendo’s offe-ring. It aims to help people practice Yoga in the comfort of their own home; but does it succeed?
As someone that has briefly practiced Yoga in the past, I have both a low skill level and basic knowledge of Yoga practice. Hopefully this should allow me to judge the game on both the quality of the Yoga, and the viability of it for beginners.
Is Yoga Master worth bending over backwards for, or is it a pain in the āsana?
A BIT OF A POSER
To be clear from the start, Yoga Master is almost certainly not a game-like experience. Whilst other fitness titles may try to trick you into keeping fit using the medium of games, Yoga Master is solely a game about doing Yoga.
As the game boots up, you’ll be greeted with a variety of options, ranging from control style (you can use the Joy Con or have no controller at all!), pose length, session length, music, and so on.
Regardless of what you choose, the results are essentially the same. The game will start and will progress through a series of poses that range in length and difficulty. I’d advise setting it so that moves transition automatically, as otherwise you’ll need to stop and press A between each pose. Despite how ugly the game looks, the character model of the instructor animates quite well. Every turn and movement is clear to see, so it’s not too difficult to copy what she is doing. Alongside the movement, she will instruct you step-by-step as to what you should be doing, as oftentimes you will be in a position where you can’t see the TV. Or at least that’s what the game should do. Instead, around half the time she will be giving you clear instructions, and the other half will be her saying ‘follow my lead’ – usually just after she’s told you to put your face against the ground. It’s frustrating that they half-arse the Yoga experience, by not including clear instructions for what you need to do.
BENDING OVER BACKWARDS
To compound matters, the game also fails to do what Yoga Instructors offer for those with a lower skill level: alternatives. Even on the easiest difficulties, the game will ask you to do things that you are unlikely to find possible at first. Instead of saying viable alternatives, the game expects you to either do it or don’t. Anyone without a prior knowledge of Yoga is likely to be left clueless or, even worse, causing themselves a serious injury.
Which is a shame, because the actual Yoga in it is pretty good. Each pose plays out gradually, showing you how best to approach it, and it even tells you when (although not how) to breathe. Sure, it’s a pain that every pose defaults to the standing pose at the start at end, as it can make transitions between seated poses more of a hassle than anything, but it’s still pretty solid. The music too is as relaxing as you would expect, and even allows for customisation for extra ambient noises to help you relax.
Those wanting to gamify the experience also have the ability to use a joycon during their session which will detect your balance when holding a pose, and rating you based on how little you move. It’s a flawed system as the gyro is extremely sensitive, and some poses make detecting balance meaningless (such as when you are laid on the floor), but it’s there regardless for those who want it.
With 33 routines for each of the three difficulties, along with an auto coach, there’s plenty of Yoga here to keep you busy. It’s an unpolished package, to be sure, with many faults that it really shouldn’t have, but for those who have a basic understanding of Yoga, it may be worth getting to save yourself some money on classes. Absolute beginners though should start with a qualified instructor first in order to assess their flexibility and be shown how to do things.
All in all, Yoga Master is a solid Yoga experience, but not a great one. Instructions are clear, except for the many times when they don’t offer any instructions at all. This can make things harder to follow than it should be, and could even result in beginners causing themselves more harm than good. That being said, if you have foundational Yoga knowledge and don’t want to pay for classes, this could be worth picking up. With plenty of poses, and various routines available for you to go through, there’s enough to keep you busy for quite a while.