To the surprise of no one, the fitness industry is big business and gaming companies have all thrown in an attempt at taking the interactivity of games to a more physical level. Still, these often cater to a casual user and rarely appeal to gamers. Not because there's no interest in being physically fit from avid gaming fans, but video games as a whole serve a different purpose to the core user. That's why it's so surprising to admit that Ring Fit Adventure is the best shot yet at bridging the gap between casual and hardcore players.
Ring Fit Adventure starts things off simply enough. The premise is that players strap a Joy-Con onto their left leg before syncing up the fancy new Ring-Con controller by attaching a second Joy-Con to the hoop-like device. Before detailing the activities, it's important to point out the quality of the Ring-Con, because Nintendo has gone all out here. The device feels durable and yet very comfortable. Much like the line the game walks between hardcore and casual users, the device is soft-yet-strong peripheral that will hopefully be utilized for many years to come.
The hook of Ring Fit Adventure comes from the RPG mechanics that are expertly weaved into the experience. This takes place in the story mode where players are tasked with literally running through levels and fighting enemies that emerge as the course progresses. Jogging in place will move the on-screen character while the physical ring can be shifted around to aim. Squeezing the Ring-Con activates an energy blast capable of destroying objects (or helping the user jump) while stretching the device creates a vacuum that can suck up nearby items.
The use of the ring makes the running portions feel much less draining because it's constantly distracting the user. It's a very interesting experience because it really only feels tiring after the fact, and as players progress through the stages they'll gain experience. In exchange, users will unlock new abilities and levels to showcase as a measurement of the growth being made. In that light, the progression becomes a big desire and running faster to set new times or gain a little extra in-game experience actually feels like it's well worth the sweat and energy being put into Ring Fit Adventure's campaign.
The ring itself is responsible for some of the best workouts around during battles. While the jogging segments are made less exhausting through the distraction the Ring-Con brings, fighting actual enemies is a workout. Real moves are added to the game as attacks: Squats, knee lifts, ab crunches, etc.. It's all in there and, as a result, it's best to play Ring Fit Adventure for thirty-minutes to an hour at a time given the physical tole they inevitably take. Pulling off the moves successfully will then net experience and provide exercisees with a score–which players can then attempt to beat if and when they feel up to it.
As you progress, you'll also unlock various costumes and moves. Admittedly, these new moves (which can be used during combat) come as a sweet, sweaty reprieve in the early-goings because the initial selection of attacks is quite sparse. This limited offering is likely to help ease users into the experience itself, but it's a little tedious (and somewhat leg-heavy) in the early-goings. Fortunately, after grinding it out, this problem addresses itself and more moves and techniques are rolled in.
The graphical style of the game also lends itself well to Ring Fit Adventure for a few reasons. Namely, the cartoony aesthetic compliments the borderline comical designs that the enemies have. Everything is fitness-inspired ranging from the game's big bad Dragaux (a bodybuilding dragon) to the common enemies that are based on gym equipment. For example, if there's ever been a desire to see a kettlebell-inspired crab then it may be reassuring to learn that it's become a reality in Ring Fit Adventure.
The story that brings all of these characters into existence isn't all that engaging. The aforementioned Dragaux is unleashed by the player and he sets off to do something nefarious. His exact plans are never made clear (or haven't been by this point in my current playthrough) because the game is designed to be as long as possible–meaning that I wasn't able to complete it in its entirety for this review. This makes sense though, especially when the ultimate goal of Ring Fit Adventure is to build a long-term routine around the premise of exercise for months to come.
While it's easy to slot Ring Fit Adventure into a daily routine, it's important to note that the RPG mechanics Ring Fit Adventure utilizes aren't all that deep. The game is a fitness experience first and foremost, and that's what makes it stand out from a sea of other entries in the genre. Of course, there's a lot to do outside of the campaign as well. What fun would a fitness game be without a little local competition?
These come in the form of mini-games for anyone that wants to turn the Switch game into a multiplayer experience. Passing around the Ring-Con and trying to best guests' results is an enticing prospect for those that pursue similar bragging rights in other Nintendo games like Smash Bros Ultimate or ARMS. It's a wonderful addition to a game that could have easily opted to focus on the individual rather than a collective group.
Ring Fit Adventure is a game that's well worth picking up for anyone that wants to ease a new fitness option into their routine and have fun doing so. It's an entirely different experience than going to the gym, which helps it carve out its own niche and thrive. Getting into shape is rarely this much fun, and Nintendo's efforts to provide standard Switch owners (the game doesn't work with the Nintendo Switch Lite) with an exercise option is right to be recognized as something truly different in what's already a fairly crowded space. Here's hoping Ring Fit Adventure sticks around and works up a sweat for a long time to come.