I went through a phase of being into the gym, but my motivation quickly waned and since then exercise and my name are rarely found in the same sentence; my weight YoYo’s several times throughout the year and I’m probably one of the laziest people you will ever meet – not lazy in terms of work, just lazy in terms of moving. If I have an excuse not to move, I will use it.
I’m fully aware this isn’t the healthiest way to live and I don’t want to die young, so when I first saw the trailers for Ring Fit Adventure I was intrigued. Gaming is the only thing that I’m not lazy about; if I had to climb a mountain every night to get to my PC and Xbox then I would, so maybe this would be a good way to keep a little fit without dreading it.
My first night with the Ring Fit saw me set up my profile. It takes a little time to do so, and then there’s a five minute introduction video to watch before you can play (which in all honesty was a bore). By the time I’d got through all of that, I didn’t really have time to continue, so I decided to stop for the night and pick it up again the next day (there’s my first excuse not to exercise). The next day, I booted up Ring Fit Adventure and completed the first tutorial. It was easy, and I was sure I could complete the whole tutorial in one sitting. The second tutorial mission was a little harder, and the third saw me do over thirty squats to defeat the boss. For a slightly cubby man like myself this was no easy feat, and I was way too tired to continue on to the first actual mission, so again I decided to call it a day and carry on later. That I did, and by the end of the day I was well into the game.
This isn’t me keeping a diary or just wanting to tell you all how my day went, this is me trying to show you how Ring Fit Adventure has turned a cubby guy who would make every excuse under the sun to get out of doing anything into someone who actually wants to move and beat the next level, even if that means doing exercise. Gamification of exercise is an extremely effective way of getting people moving – we’ve seen companies such as FitBit make a play for this before, but once the initial “I’m going to get more steps than my friends” excitement wears off it turns into nothing more than a glorified digital watch with a heart rate monitor that I can check for when my anxiety flares up.
Ring Fit Adventure is different though. I have an urge to go back and play the game just to beat the next mission and eventually complete it. Maybe that’s the gamer coming out of me, and that might not be the case for people who otherwise don’t play games; these kind of people might find the whole process a bit boring, but for me Ring Fit Adventure has done a great job at motivating me which is exactly what Nintendo set out to do (well, not to motivate me specifically, but you know what I mean).
The game itself sees you take on various missions in order to make your way across a map to get to the boss at the end, and when you enter a mission you essentially just have to get to the end of the level, similar to how you do in the mobile game ‘Temple Run’, However, in Ring Fit Adventure you’ll have to have ‘Fit Battles’ with mobs along the way. During these battles you have to perform various attacks (which are exercises) to defeat your foe, with attacks ranging from Squats, to Yoga moves, Crunches, Ring Squeezes, and many more, over sixty plus, in fact. Some of these enemies can be quite challenging, especially bosses which can see you have a full on 10-minute exercise routine just to take them down. Don’t let that put you off – it’s not like being at the gym, it’s fun. As well as the sixty plus exercise moves you can do to kill mobs, there’s also over one hundred levels for you to battle through across twenty different worlds, and each world and level feels well thought out, with just the right amount of challenge.
The game is touted as an RPG experience but it’s a far cry from being an RPG by today’s standards; it’s not open world in the slightest, with players restricted to a strictly linear path, and other RPG elements such as level-ups are pretty insignificant as well, as all you really unlock are new exercise moves. The game gives an impression that you’re also getting more powerful as you level-up and this is true, but it’s not as if you could level up much faster if you wanted to – there are no side quests or grinding like you would find in more traditional RPG’s, it’s kind of like you are pre-determined to be level X by the time you get to certain missions. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the RPG elements that are in the game, but you shouldn’t purchase this thinking you’re going to be getting a Skyrim-type experience which will turn you into an athlete.
To move your character in the game you actually have to move in real life, with the quicker you run on the spot determining how quickly your character moves in the game. Actions you have to perform to get around the map include squeezing and moving the ring to row and running on the spot with high knees to climb stairs. This is where the game gets you moving and exercising without having to overthink it. You don’t have to will yourself to go for that run or spend an hour at the gym where the entire activity is purely for exercise, with Ring Fit Adventure you’re focused on playing your video game and exercising as a necessity to progress. You’ll still have to get off the couch and move about of course, but you won’t care because you’re focused on the game.
There are only two negatives on the gameplay front in my eyes – there isn’t enough dialogue or story (at least a decent story), and the fit battles can begin to feel a little repetitive. Given the repetitive nature of exercise in general, that second point is not exactly a surprise, and Ring Fit Adventure still beats the hell out of going to the gym or even going for a run.
As for the hardware, the game comes with a simple velcro strap which goes around your thigh, with a small pocket for one of the Joycons (this tracks your steps). Then, of course, there’s the ring itself, which is remarkably well made. I’ve put it through its paces and have even stepped on it to see how far you could squeeze it in before it breaks, and I’m pleased to report that my ring is still in full working order even with my chubby self standing on it. It’s actually quite incredible how the ring works; it’s super responsive and tracks every squeeze flawlessly.
I also learned a little known fact about the right Joycon through playing Ring Fit Adventure. There’s a little black window at the bottom of the Joycon, and this is in fact a heart rate monitor which you can make use of after each level. Nintendo really do think of everything and they do so well in advance – I don’t know of any other game which makes use of this feature on the Switch, so if Nintendo only added this feature for the Ring Fit release (which has come over 2 years after the Switch launched) then that’s some serious commitment.
Overall, the Ring Fit Adventure is a remarkably well put-together product, and it’s sure to motivate anybody who plays it to exercise more. The exercises which it makes you do actually do bring on a sweat, and—although this isn’t a direct successor to the Wii Fit and the style of game isn’t comparable—Ring Fit Adventure blows the Wii Fit out of the water on the exercise-disguised-as-gaming front. The RPG elements do leave a lot to be desired from an RPG veteran such as myself, but I do understand why this system isn’t as in-depth as it could be. I imagine there will be a lot of people playing this who have never played an RPG game before (in fact, it’s probably the majority of people) so keeping things a bit simpler makes a lot of sense.
For what it is, there’s no game better than Ring Fit Adventure. I’m scoring this as a fitness game rather than an RPG, and on that note I will sum up this review diary with a solid score of 9 out of 10. This game could quite easily be a 10 with just a few changes; I would have liked to have seen them include an ‘Advanced’ mode for real gamers where the RPG elements were a bit more in-depth, and better options for players with disabilities as at the moment it’s essentially impossible to play for disabled people, especially if you happen to be in a wheelchair. I don’t like criticising things without offering a solution, so my solution to this would be to add an auto run feature and have an option to select workouts which only require the ring (of which there are plenty). It would also be nice to have some optional extras, like some weights for example. Despite that, Ring Fit Adventure is a fantastically addictive and fun way to do some exercise without having to commit to a gym or go for a run in the rain, which is exactly what I’ve been looking for. I’m off to put my sweat band on and get in shape while still feeding my gaming addiction. Marvellous stuff.