I’ve been on a weight loss mission for about a year now. Well, let’s call it a ‘healthier lifestyle’ mission. Between cutting down my portion sizes, being more particular in my food choices and generally trying to be more active, I’m over half way to my target weight. And then I hit the dreaded plateau - that point when you no longer put on weight or lose it, you just idle at the same number.
It’s at this point that it became obvious that I need to introduce more exercise into my life. Sure, I have a gym membership and go twice a week (when my schedule allows) but it’s hard to get the motivation to actually go. That’s before taking into account the anxiety-pushing task that is actually going into the weight room to earn those ‘gains’, when all the regulars look like they’ve fallen out of Arnie’s ‘Pushing Iron’ documentary.
The alternative? Weights at home. In itself, it’s a difficult task when you’re limited by space and it quickly grows tedious - especially when you’re not really sure if what you’re doing is actually helpful.
That’s why I was intrigued by Nintendo’s latest foray into fitness: Ring Fit Adventure.
Along with many others, I was initially hesitant about Ring Fit. On the surface it seems like just another piece of gaming exercise hardware that inevitably ends up in your over-packed closet when the novelty wears off, but having tried out Ring Fit Adventure for myself, I think I might be sold.
Nintendo will struggle to escape from under the cloud of the Wii Fit, the exergaming phenomenon that invaded millions of homes in the mid 00’s. But while the Wii Fit and the accompanying Wii Balance Board were gaming household staples, they weren't exactly the pinnacle of exercise equipment and quickly grew into yet another boring novelty object.
Ring Fit Adventure aims to succeed where the Wii Fit failed: offering a more legit exercise experience alongside a fun, adventure focused game. It’s quite the marvel. Especially when combined with the highly successful Nintendo Switch console.
Featuring two new pieces of hardware for the Nintendo Switch, the Leg-Strap (which straps to your leg with one Joy-Con) and the Ring-Con (a pliable wheel that you hold in both hands), Ring Adventure sees you ab-crunching, downward dogging and jogging your way to victory.
The main campaign sees you on a mission to take down an evil body-building dragon called Drago. Yes, really. To do this you must complete various levels on the path to the big bad, but this isn’t like Mario. Armed with the Ring-Con, you must jog (yes, literally) along some beautifully, Nintendo-esque environments, pulling and pushing the ring to smash boxes, jumping crevices and sucking up resources on your way - the latter can be used to customize your avatar.
Somewhere along your journey you’re likely to encounter some evil fitness equipment such as animated kettle bells. The only way to defeat them? With exercise, of course (also known as Fit Skills).
At one point I found myself deep squatting to fend off an adorable yoga mat and occasionally pressing the Ring-Con against my abdomen to create a shield to block the floppy, antagonists attacks. If you hit the timing and posture of the exercises right, you can get extra points and experience to level up your avatar and earn extra in-game gains (yes, gains are an actual skill).
While the campaign is definitely a lot of fun, providing short four and five minute bursts of exercise, it’s not exactly a huge calorie burner - with each level burning around nine calories. However, it is useful for getting your general fitness level up, even offering you the ability to check your heart rate by pressing your right thumb against the IR reader.
You’ll also be asked how you found each level, your goal weight and offered warm-up and cooldown exercises to avoid injury.
Where Ring Fit Adventure truly shone for me was out of campaign mode, where you have the option to take part in training for individual muscles or sets that target particular areas of the body. With my fear of the weight room, I really enjoyed having some tough arm and shoulders workouts which truly made me feel the burn without feeling self conscious. The Ring-Con is essentially a Pilates ring, but you have an in-game trainer telling you exactly how to do the exercises and tracking your posture. It felt worthwhile.
If actual workouts aren’t what you’re after, then there’s also some exergaming mini-games you can try out alone or with friends. Nothing brings the family together like seeing how many pumps of an exercise ring you can do in a minute. There’s even a leaderboard to track who is the fittest.
There are so many activities to take part in that actually you could get a pretty decent workout just jumping between them all, and curb off any boredom.
While my experience with Ring Fit Adventure as a fun exercise experience was positive, there were a couple of major drawbacks to the hardware.
Firstly, the leg strap kept sliding down. It’s held on with Velcro but if you’ve been jogging and fighting off kettle bells then it begins to get a bit loose. Secondly, and this was the biggest issue, the actual Ring-Con struggles when it comes to leg exercises.
Let me paint you a picture: I'm sitting in the birthing position on the floor with the Ring-Con in between my thighs and suddenly, while I try to inner thigh press, the ring goes flying across the room like a bat out of hell.
Balancing the ring in between your thighs is tough and it’s something which could have been avoided with a grip. While playing a game that requires me to squeeze the ring between my thighs every time I want to jump, I was more wondering about keeping the ring in place than the jumps. It’s a tad frustrating.
The Ring Fit Adventure isn’t going to change your life, but it is a fun, adventure-orientated approach to exercise. If, like me, exercising in a gym can make you nervous, then performing some basic exercises at home can be much more convenient.
If exercising isn’t your main goal, and you just want something family-friendly and fun to play, then Ring Fit offers that too - with plenty of mini-games to try out when you're bored of the main campaign mode.
Is Ring Fit a novelty? Yeah, kind of. But it’s also something which can genuinely help you enjoy exercise rather than avoid it. Personally, I’ll be using mine on those days when squeezing in a gym session isn’t in the cards.