Ring Fit Adventure Review: Perfectly Toned
The exergaming genre is an odd little corner of the video games market. From its humble beginnings with the NES' Track and Field Power Pad, through Dance Dance Revolution, to Wii Fit and Kinect Adventures, developers have tried to link gaming and exercise in a way that inspires folks to make working out a part of a daily routine.
That part of the equation, however, is easy. The hard part is linking gaming with a good workout.
Previous exergaming titles, even the wildly successful Wii Fit games, have provided workouts that are largely aerobic. They are most effectively used in conjunction with weight lifting or resistance training. This makes them feel incomplete, especially for folks whose goals are more strength-based.
Ring Fit Adventure, through smart, dynamic game design and an ingenious little ring controller, has solved that problem.
Ring Fit Adventure Review: Warming Up
The key to Ring Fit Adventure, and the reason it is so effective for both aerobic training and strength training, is in its ring-shaped controller. Folks who make a habit of going to fitness classes will likely recognize it as a video game controller version of a Pilates power ring. The ring itself provides a surprising amount of resistance, and its simplicity and versatility mean it can be used in a variety of exercise routines â — a big reason it's so popular in Pilates classes.
Pairing this Pilates peripheral with the Switch's Joy-Con, however, creates something pretty special. As you boot up the game for the first time, you'll go through a brief tutorial, showing you how to affix your leg strap and attach the Joy-Con to the Ring-Con. After you do, you'll be told to squeeze in, with a visual representation of the controller matching the shape and position of the one you're holding.
It's unclear whether there are sensors in the Ring-Con itself or whether it's just a hunk of plastic, but the way it detects pressure and movement is really impressive. This is key, because in your time with the game, you'll be making a variety of weird, awkward movements with it. Across one week of lengthy daily play, I haven't run into a single issue with exercise movement detection.
The main draw of Ring Fit Adventure is its story mode, an RPG-styled adventure where your movements power your character's actions. After a warm-up stretch, a cutscene, and a brief tutorial of the game's systems, you're plopped into the world, running in place to propel your character forward.
The game builds from there, introducing chest presses and tricep/back pulls to help your character collect items. After you complete a course, the game will offer to take your pulse, and I was surprised to find that most of the time, the game's readings pretty closely matched the readings on my watch's heart rate monitor. Pretty impressive.
These overworld sections are peppered with enemy encounters, which is where you'll get the majority of your resistance and strength training done. You have a selection of five different "Fit Skills" to use, categorized by upper-body training, abdominal training, lower-body training, and yoga. There's a certain element of strategy in selecting which to use, given the damage they do, the number of enemies they hit, and what the enemy's weakness is.
You run into battles where your abs are killing you, but the enemy you're facing is weak to skills that work your abdominal muscles. Do you gut out another plank set and put the enemy away, or risk having to do two sets of bow pulls instead? The risk is up to you.
During these battles, your creatively-named companion, Ring, will offer you personal trainer-style encouragement and tips while you're grinding out a set. The tips are exercise-specific, and I found them to be really useful in the way in which they helped me check on my form. For example, a chest press exercise tip encourages you to imagine holding something in your armpit, which really helped me keep my arms in the right position while I completed the exercise.
Ring Fit Adventure introduces new Fit Skills slowly, which would have been frustrating had the entire point of the game not been to get a full-body workout. As it stands, however, the pacing of the game is finely tuned so that it's pretty unlikely you'll ever overwork a certain part of your body. It's optimal to swap in the new, stronger Fit Skills when you unlock them, so why wouldn't you? The fact that this leads to greater variety in your workout is a bonus.
It's not an accident that the best way to play Ring Fit Adventure is also the way that leads to the best, most effective and most exhausting workout. The way Nintendo has blended real-world personal training techniques with game design is really monumental, and it extends out to every inch of the adventure mode.
Optional sidequests might have you revisit a previously cleared course, but with an additional focus on leg training. Others might have you chasing a high score in a minigame. It's all designed to encourage you to get that one last set in, and it works beautifully. As a bonus, when you cool down for the day, the game gives you stretches tailored to the muscle groups you've worked hardest.
Having said all that, as smart as the game is, there is one odd quirk to adventure mode that bears mentioning. Sometimes, in battle, you'll beat a group of enemies before your exercise set is complete. Often, this isn't an issue, but for certain movements that are performed on both sides of the body, this can lead to one side becoming slightly overtrained. Hopefully, a patch will come along that addresses this issue by allowing the game to keep track of these incomplete sets, having players finish them off the next time they select the exercise.
Failing that, the game could just alternate which side the workout begins on every time the exercise is selected. This wouldn't completely alleviate the problem, but it would lead to a more balanced training regimen for folks who are using the adventure mode as their main source of exercise.
Ring Fit Adventure — The Bottom Line
- It's the only video game on the market that can give you a great full-body aerobic and strength training workout
- Smart game design helps players push to reach fitness goals
- You'll get pretty sweaty, stinky, and gross
- Potential for uneven muscle training in adventure mode
Adventure mode might be the main draw in Ring Fit Adventure, but it's by no means all it has to offer. The game has a sort of quickplay mode that features Nintendo-curated sets of exercises meant to focus on specific muscle groups, as well as a custom mode that allows players to build their own regimen.
There's also a collection of fun-but-dubiously-effective minigames, as well as a series of challenges that have you performing more intense exercises to chase a score. My favorite of these is one that tasked me with squeezing the Ring-Con in as hard as I could, as many times as I could, to prevent a bomb from going off. It's nice to know that even if the shine comes off of adventure mode, that there's a whole lot more to do in Ring Fit Adventure.
When I started playing Ring Fit Adventure, I was worried that the game would be tailored more towards folks who were just starting their fitness journey. This wouldn't have been a bad thing, mind you, but it would have limited enjoyment of the game for me, and for others who already have an exercise regimen they try to stick to.
After a week of rigorous workouts that have left me as exhausted, if not more so, than my normal gym workouts, I can confidently say that Ring Fit Adventure is worth a purchase for anybody even slightly interested in exergaming. The difficulty is customizable across a wide range of fitness levels and the game checks in with players often, asking if the workouts are too hard, or too easy.
In terms of results, I can't report much since it's only been a week, but I have noticed that my posture has improved somewhat, I'm more flexible, and that one spot in my lower back that usually hurts all the time has really calmed down. The best praise I can give the game is this: I'm excited to make Ring Fit Adventure a regular part of my fitness schedule, and I'll be continuing to use it on a daily basis for a long time. What more can you ask for?
[Note: A copy of Ring Fit Adventure was provided by Nintendo for the purposes of this review.]