Ring Fit Adventure is the new game from Nintendo that looks to make fitness more fun. This isn't the first time Nintendo has dabbled in the world of fitness – most people can probably remember the Wii Fit craze – but it's the company's most fleshed out gaming experience to date.
We've been able to play through a week of Ring Fit Adventure's main mode and mini games, which isn't quite enough time to get through the entire game.
You can – and should – only exercise so much each day after all. But it has given us a good impression of the overall game – and our experience so far has been positive.
Whether you're looking to make your fledgling steps into fitness, or you're more of a seasoned pro, the game's fitness difficulty scales to make it enough of a challenge for anyone. Here's what we've found after slogging away over the past week.
For Ring Fit Adventure, Nintendo went back to the drawing board. Gone is the Balance Board accessory of the Wii Fit, instead it's replaced by the Ring-Con and Leg Strap – simply slip a Nintendo Switch Joy-Con into each accessory and you're off.
The Ring-Con is basically a resistance accessory designed to be squeezed and pulled in an array of ways to replicate exercises you might already be familiar with.
The inserted Joy-Con can detect how you're holding it, so it knows if you're holding the Ring-Con above your head or in front of you. Luckily, it all seems to work seamlessly.
The Ring-Con also provides a surprising amount of resistance and feels strong enough to deal with some intense workouts. Even if you're an avid weight lifter you'll still find some of the exercises tough.
The leg strap wraps around your thigh and is used to detect exercises like jogging, high knees, leg raises and squats. Exercises might use only one of the accessories or both at the same time.
Somewhat surprisingly, you can use the infrared sensor on the Joy-Con controller attached to the Ring-Con to take heart rate readings. Just cover it with your thumb when the game asks and it'll let you know how your ticker is responding to exercise.
We found it was often a couple of beats per minute off wrist-based monitors we were wearing whilst testing, but it's still a useful way to casually check your heart rate.
The video game elements
Ring Fit Adventure's central game is based around adventure mode. It's essentially a basic RPG focused on taking down a surprisingly buff dragon villain known as Dragaux (no relation to Ivan Drago of Rocky IV fame, unfortunately).
You pursue him around different levels and combat his enemy minions in a turn-based battle. But rather than just selecting attacks from a menu like a cookie-cutter RPG, you attack by doing exercises. Clever.
Bang out enough squats and you'll see the enemy's life bar slowly eke away (painfully slowly on higher settings). You defend against enemy attacks with Ab Guard by bracing the Ring-Con against your core, which lowers the damage you take. Take on enough enemies and you'll level up your character, adding to the motivation.
To navigate around stages you jog on the spot, which gets your on-screen avatar moving along. You'll also have to throw in high knees to get up stairs faster or through swampy water. Ring Fit Adventure will even tell you the approximate distance you'll be jogging.
Alongside the adventure mode, there are also mini games you can take on. There are high score boards, so it's good fun to get a bunch of people competing. Different mini games target different muscle groups and require different movements.
They range from balance exercises to our personal favourite, which is like whack-a-mole but requiring you to rotate the Ring-Con and push and pull. It needs both dexterity and stamina but is simple for anyone to pick up.
So between the Ring-Con and Leg Strap, Ring Fit Adventure has a way to detect a respectably large catalogue of classic exercises. In total there are 40 exercises spread across arms, abs, legs and yoga categories.
Some movements feel more effective than others, however. One of the ab exercises used commonly in adventure mode is to press the Ring-Con against your core, a bit like bracing your abs against a lifting belt during deadlifts or squats.
But while the game does well at prompting you to push with your abs rather than with your arms, it still never feels like it's achieving much.
Exercises like squats and ab crunches definitely get the lactic acid burning, however, and the accelerometers inside the Ring-Con and Leg Strap both do a great job of detecting your reps and your form.
On the higher difficulty settings adventure mode will have you not only doing more reps, but combining paused reps alongside rapid-fire reps. By the end you can be gasping for breath and working up a real sweat.
A really welcome inclusion is a 'Multitasking' mode. This lets you use the Ring-Con even when you're not playing the game – such as when you're watching TV – to still get the reps in. You can squeeze and pull reps that the Ring-Con counts and then, when you return to the game, you can get bonus experience for your efforts.
Ring Fit Adventure is designed to be played over 30 days, which will complete one cycle. After this, you're meant to bump up the difficulty and go again. So we're still quite early in our Ring Fit Adventure journey, and there are still exercises we've yet to unlock.
However, what we have noticed after a week is that, as expected, we have begun to adapt to the rigours of the exercises we've faced. That's a hugely positive sign that you're responding to the exercise intensity in the right way. We've also had a lot of fun.
If you're averse to a bit of cardio or getting in the ab crunches, Ring Fit Adventure does a great job of making them more palatable when masked by a fun and approachable video game.
We'll be carrying on playing through the game, so check back for our updated impressions once we've had more time. We'll be keen to see if Ring Fit Adventure improves our performance in other activities, too.