The arrival of exer-games presents a conundrum to the typical videogame reviewer. Konami's Let's Yoga and Let's Pilates are useful pieces of software for your Nintendo DS, but they're really not games. Instead of posing the player with problems to be solved or objectives to be completed, these tools are more like interactive workout DVDs. They walk the player through a series of exercises and provide background information along the way, but there is no reward system, and no conflict. Still, as interactive exercise programs, these titles are presented well and can be effective -- as long as the user actually performs the intended exercises.
Of the two titles, Let's Pilates is a little more thought out than Yoga. Yoga jumps right into its lessons without showing the user what poses they will be performing. This makes the program more useful to experienced yogaists who can follow along with the instructor (voiced by a calm, soothing female actor). Pilates, however, shows the user exactly what they will be doing before jumping into an exercise. If, like me, you've never done Pilates, these demonstrations make the software much more user-friendly.
Outside of the Master Lesson, players can create their own combination of poses for a personalized routine. There is also a pose list where the player can view a demonstration of each move and even rotate the camera with the stylus while the model is showing what needs to be done. But it's really a shame the user has to go find these demonstrations on their own instead of getting to see them before each exercise.
I had never taken a yoga class before Let's Yoga, so I enlisted the help of a friend who has been doing yoga for years. After we went through many of the game's exercises, she told me the lessons, explanations, and poses are all very much like a real yoga class. It's not a substitute for the real thing, but the $30 game is cheaper and it's portable.
Pilates is structured the same way: there is a Challenge mode where you work through all the game's exercises and build a "Pila-tree," and a free mode for building your own routines. Growing your Pila-tree is a way of graphically representing your progress and engages the user a little more than Yoga does.
When you decide on a challenge, you can view a demonstration divided into several "chapters," so you're prepared to perform the exercise when it begins.
There is also a trivia mode where you are tested on the fundamentals of Pilates and can earn items. All in all, Pilates is more fleshed-out than Yoga. It's also the more difficult program, as it is strenuous right from the beginning, whereas Yoga takes a while to become challenging.
Both programs track how much total time you spend working out, but they aren't tied to the DS' internal calendar. It would be useful to track your daily progress and provide incentive to the player to keep at it several times a week. Unfortunately, neither game capitalizes on this opportunity.
Let's Yoga and Let's Pilates are perfectly respectable exercise tools. What keeps them from being truly great pieces of software is their disinterest in embracing any sort of game mechanics. Wii Fit is a perfect example of an exercise tool that works a lot of traditional gameplay into its program. If Yoga and Pilates figured out how to make a game out of their routines, they could increase their audience beyond people who are already into yoga and pilates. But as they are, I think on-the-go types who like to stay in shape will find both of these pretty useful. If you have to decide between the two, there is more value to be found in Pilates.