'Ring Fit Adventure' Is A Surprisingly Fun Way To Exercise
We might have all laughed when Ring Fit Adventure was announced - brought to us by a pair of terrifying fitness bods - but, after a week with the game and peripheral, it's a great package. An extensive exercise routine wrapped up with a colourful fantasy game, I don't know if it will replace serious exercise, but it's certainly been enough for me to work up a sweat and discover muscles I didn't know existed.
Ring Fit Adventure is really two linked products: the Ring Fit devices and the game you play with it. The Ring Fit is essentially a pilates ring; about the size of a large dinner plate, it's a flexible plastic ring with two cushioned hand grips and a slot at the top you can slide a Joy-Con into. You can push and pull the ring, and while it has some give to it, it will fight with you, forcing you to flex. Threaded into the ring are sensors that can tell how hard you're pushing and pulling it, too, which comes in handy in the games. The slot for the Joy-Con also has a heart monitor built into it, so you can track how fast it's going after a workout. The Ring Fit doesn't need any batteries, instead running entirely off the charge of your Joy-Con.
Along with the Ring Fit, there's a strap for your left leg which you slide your other Joy-Con into. It's long enough to wrap up high on the thigh, even with larger thighs like my own.
Between the Ring Fit and the strap, your Switch is able to build a pretty accurate picture of where you are in the room and what position you're in - whether it's stretching tall, squatting low, or laying on the ground (for an exercise or out of exhaustion).
Now Ring Fit Adventure itself is a package of games. There's the single player campaign that sees you travelling through different worlds, battling monsters with exercises, and fighting the same ever-strengthening boss (the guy looks like he's made of nothing but muscle, and I hate him with the same passion as I hate the guy who runs my spinning class). There's also a slew of mini-games and exercise routines you can play if you're looking for a quick workout - or, if you dare exercise in front of friends, play as a party game.
I was surprised by how entertaining the campaign is for something that's essentially there to hide exercise. You play an adventurer who's inadvertently released an ancient evil on the world. This muscle-bound demon spreads minions across the land and takes up shop in different temples you need to cleanse. Each land is broken down into multiple levels, and completing a land is a good small workout.
You navigate through the levels along a set path, but to move your character you have to physically jog on the spot. The faster you run, the faster your character moves. How active you need to be depends on the intensity setting you choose and how fast you run while calibrating your character. If, like me, you live in a house where you need to keep noise to a minimum, you can also opt for a quiet mode where, instead of running, you bounce on the spot. Quiet mode is significantly less of a workout, but it will stop your bookcases from shaking with the vibration of running on the spot.
As you run through the levels you hold the Ring Fit in front of you like a steering wheel. There are crates and other items along the side of the road that you can shoot with fireballs by squeezing the ring in your hands. You can also vacuum up loose coins by pulling the ring and stretching. It's the running which is really the workout at this point but collecting coins is a nice distraction from the burn in your legs.
Breaking up the running are minions blocking your path. These chonky fellows have to be beaten in an exercise off for you to continue, and this is where I really found myself working up a sweat. When a battle begins you're presented with a list of exercises to choose from - squats, chair pose, knee-to-chest, overhead press, for instance - which you select and perform to attack your enemy. Say you select squat, you'll have to do a set of the exercise, and you'll damage the enemy each time squat. After performing the set, you'll need to pick a different exercise as you can't do the same set twice in a row.
The battles were where I ran into my only issue with Ring Fit Adventure; back in March I tore my knee cap and it's still giving me trouble today. So, a couple of the exercises I found particularly difficult, such as squatting. Happily you start the game with a spread of options - though the selection could be larger - so for the first couple of worlds I fought the enemies alternating between just two exercises - the overhead press and chair pose. There is the option to skip fights, so the game is very accommodating in letting you craft a fitness experience you're comfortable with, but it would have been good if during the game set up when I'm being asked my weight, age, and performing strength tests, it also asked about any medical conditions.
If you aren't looking to play the campaign, or you want to avoid running, then the mini-games are a really good alternative. They all use the Ring Fit in inventive ways - like a game which has you mould a pot from clay by squatting down and squeezing the ring to direct a pair of mechanical hands. (Note to self: never write 'Squatting down and squeezing the ring' again). Another has you walking down a tightrope and using your pole to collect coins while avoiding bombs in your path. You squash the ring against your chest, and lean to the left and right to tip the pole into the path of cash and out of the way of explosives. It's a surprisingly good core workout and a lot of fun.
When it was first announced, the Switch was exciting in part because of all the different ways of playing that the Joy-Con's would provide. While 1-2 Switch had its moments, I think it's actually Ring Fit Adventure that does a better job of creating unusual mini-games that show off the console. I've not had long enough with the game to know if it will replace a full workout in the gym or the park, but it definitely did enough to work up a sweat. Also the game did exactly what I hoped it would, in creating enough of a distraction and motivation to exercise for longer than I would normally without thinking about what I was doing as exercise.
Featured Image Credit: Nintendo