With the current situation forcing us to spend more time indoors and as little time as possible frolicking in parks – stop playing football and go home! – fitness video games are a pretty big deal right now. Yoga Master launched for PlayStation 4 at the end of 2019 to very little fanfare, but now’s the perfect time to take a look at the game. Actually, it’s less of a game, and despite featuring trophies and ratings, this is very much an instructional app rather than something to amuse you.
Yoga Master has 150 poses that range from from classic to modern, each categorised as easy, medium, or pro level, and strings them together in 111 sequences that last around half an hour each. These are also split into easy, medium, and pro, so yoga beginners such as myself can easily jump in at a low level and begin to train.
It features an Auto Coach feature that lets you set variables such as your height, weight, lifestyle, and your objectives, aiming to tailor the sequences to your needs, but every time I tried to enter my details it it told me there was no programs available for me. That may just be to do with me being a giant inflexible tank. Reducing my weight seemed to work and it gave me a program to follow, even if I feel slightly judged by my digital yoga tutor.
You have a choice of three yoga coaches Asha, Monica, or Sharon, but all of them are voiced by a very stilted computer generated woman who will sometimes change her accent mid-sequence. A real human would have added some much need warmth to the whole experience, but I guess jamming some lines in to a voice synthesiser is much cheaper than hiring a voice actor.
Unfortunately that’s not the only thing that feels cheap; the graphics for the instructor are PlayStation 3 era and the backdrops, which include Mars, outer space, and various sunsets and sunrises, are just odd and seem like they’ve been grabbed at random from Google Image Search. The locations you work out in are even less impressive, with almost PS2 levels of texture-free blockyness.
The music is exactly what you would expect, twanging guitars and soothing melodies and you can overlay a number of sound effect tracks of tweeting birds or other natural sounds. Unlike the graphics these work really well and help relax you.
So this is just a cheap asset slap game, right? Well, no. Despite the poor presentation, it does do a pretty good job of teaching you yoga. The avatar shows the positions clearly and is accompanied by the synthetic voice explaining what to do. If you have a PlayStation Camera, the game can track your position and give you a rating on how well you are doing. I did try it with the PS Move controllers once, but I found that holding the positions is hard enough without two glowing sticks in your hand. I’d recommend you stick with just the camera, which seems to do a decent job most of the time.
The camera did seem to struggle with me height. While it could follow my moves when standing up, I could never find a position for the camera which could accommodate the tips of my hands when raised above my head and accommodate when I had to lie flat on the floor. This was with me about four metres back from the camera, but this could be down to me 6’5″ height and shorter players may not have so many troubles. If you do manage to get the camera in a decent position, you can track your progress over multiple sets and see how much time you are spending each day working out.
There are also some problems with the sequence design in conjunction with the voice. Although the voiceover explains some of the moves, other times it will simply tell you to “do as I do” or “follow my moves”. All too often this can happen when you’re in a position that makes it impossible to see the screen, such as face down on the floor, so you have to break the pose to look up and discover the next move. Once you’ve started to learn the various poses and their names, this becomes less of an issue, but it’s an annoyance for beginners.
So now the bit you really want to know: exactly how difficult is yoga? It’s just standing in weird poses isn’t it? Yes and no. The easy sequences are really quite relaxing, but the harder sequences can challenge you and put you out of breath. Taking twenty to thirty minutes each day, they’ll get you away from work and help you stop thinking about being locked in your home.
If you are isolating at home with a partner or family then Yoga Master would be a great activity to do together. The game can only track one person at a time with the camera, but you can turn that feature off and simply follow the on screen instructions together. You also get to have a giggle when your Yoga partner falls over. I would recommend getting a cheap exercise mat from Amazon, as doing some of the moves on a hard wooden floor will really hurt your knees.