This review is going to be a little different. Mostly because I need to explain a little bit about myself first, my relationship to fitness and exercise, and how I’ve played this game over the course of a month. Essentially, it’s going to be a bit of a (excuse the tired game reviewer cliche) journey/blog post/review.
The good(?) old days
I grew up in a really small town of about 2500 people. My primary school had a few hundred kids, same for highschool. The nearest large town was an hour away. Essentially, it means as a chubby, nerdy kid, you were stuck with the people around you for better or for worse. Which means growing up, everyone knew me as ‘that chubby nerdy kid’. Which isn’t ideal when it comes to P.E lessons, knowing I’ll always be picked last (if I’m picked at all).
It wasn’t long before I came to loathe it all, and this was just compounded on in high school when I became a chubby, nerdy kid who was also discovering they were super queer, with P.E now getting regularly segregated based on gender lines. Which is bad enough. But then throw in teachers that had no interest in helping find a way to make fitness work for me, and one teacher in particular who seemed to have it out for me. Probably because I was a queer kid with no interest in fitness, due to all the teasing and the like. Said teacher is now a fairly big-name conservative politician, but let’s not get into that (other than to say they’re still just as absolutely terrible).
I was never given a chance to discover how fitness could work for me, and I grew up with a fairly narrow view of what fitness was. I knew it was important, but I didn’t know there were alternative ways of achieving it. I left high school, putting it to the back of my mind, never even giving it a second thought for years. Especially when I was later diagnosed with an illness, which was tied into absolutely plummeting energy levels and pain. Though it had the bonus of rapid weight loss, and for the first time in my life, I was a healthy weight. Though it was through unhealthy means, and without any exercise, it was and is still a very soft kind of ‘healthy weight’.
Though recently, I’ve begun thinking more about my body, and what I want out of it. Especially with the new trend of the gamification of fitness. I don’t know how to work out, and I absolutely am not down with repetitive activities with no external motivation or indicator of progress. I need some kind of goal or distraction to keep me focused and feel like I’m actively achieving something. There’s also no gym in town, and I am very poor and personal trainers are very expensive.
So, when Ring Fit Adventure was announced and the rest of the internet was riffing on how goofy it looked, I thought ‘sure! Why not.’
And so my fitness journey began.
“Your sweat is so shiny and beautiful!”
That sweat quote is from the game, by the way. It’s a weird game, and I think that’s what endeared me to it so quickly. The game is, to put it simply, a motion-controlled RPG. After choosing your character (a male or female avatar), you’re introduced to the world and promptly accidentally let loose a nasty dragon that had been sealed away by your new training partner and best friend, Ring, who is the on-screen representation of the Ring Con, a ring-shaped controller that can be controlled through moving, squeezing and stretching the ring. There’s also a leg strap to keep track of leg movement, from running to squats and all kinds of other movements.
Dragaux, the main villain, represents everything wrong with gym culture. Non-stop workouts, only thinking of gains, putting down others, showy, just kind of a dick, generally. You probably know someone like that. Ring, on the other hand, wants to encourage fitness in all forms and is constantly cheering you on. He wants to see you at your best.
The player travels through different worlds, each with various sub-stages. The regular stages involve running on the spot to get through, using the ring con to navigate obstacles or collect items. There are also various enemies along the way, which play out as turn-based battles. Different exercises can be set, from four different categories: Abs, legs, arms and yoga. For example, a leg exercise might be doing squats, which will inflict damage on enemies, or an ab exercise might be twists. There are also enemies that are weak to certain exercises, just like your regular elemental weaknesses in an RPG.
It means it’s all very familiar and easy to pick up, so players can focus more on which exercises they want to use, with players gaining new skills/exercises and being able to set them at their leisure. The best part is, the game is super responsive with its controls. I’ve had almost no issues with having it recognise a broad range of movements, though there have been a few small hiccups, it’s still better than any other motion-controlled fitness game on the Switch at the moment.
As well as workouts, players can engage in minigames and also offers various facts and tips on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, as well as plenty of encouragement and in-game achievements to show you how many reps you’ve done of any given exercise, as well as other achievements. It basically offers constant encouragement and visual results of what you’ve done. Which is very helpful if you’re someone like me who’s been spoiled by the instant gratification of games.
OATZ, SQUATZ AND GAINZ
I’ve been playing it daily for a month now. I started only being able to do about 10 minutes because it’s a serious workout and I’m not used to it. Though the difficulty can be adjusted on the fly, which means as soon as you get used to a workout, you can increase the difficulty and keep going. And with any RPG, there are ways to make yourself stronger, through skill trees and equipping clothing, if you want a bit of an edge.
I can now play for about 20 minutes a day, and I’ve increased the difficulty, and honestly? I feel pretty good! I might not be amazing at it, or doing as well as other people, but I’ve started from an absolute 0 and now I’m here. And I’m just going to keep going up. The game also makes sure to regularly check-in that you’re not pushing yourself, as well as offering ideas and tips to keep the fitness and healthy habits going in your day to day life.
Essentially, rather than a traditional ‘get fit’ game, this game instead just wants you to be the best, healthiest version of yourself you can be.
Though, if anything, playing for a month I’ve begun to notice it can get a little repetitive, I’ve been running through the same environments (though it took me a while to notice) and the plot isn’t exactly anything to write home about, but it’s just self-aware enough to make it enjoyable all the same.
While everything does feel natural, and the response from the game is super good, as I’ve said previously there are a few hiccups now and then where the game refuses to recognise a certain movement or recognises it too early causing me to mess up a rep and deal less damage to an enemy than I should have. But it happens so infrequently that it’s barely an issue.
It’s an amazing tool to begin your fitness journey, or keep going with it in a really fun, interesting way, regardless of your level of fitness. You just have to accept you’re going to look like a total goof while you’re playing it.