Price: $80Bottom line: Ring Fit Adventure may not completely change you, but you will get moving, which might be the motivation you need to go out and get fit.
Easy to start playing
Unique Pilates style ring controller
Daily increases in difficulty
A variety of different workout options
Engaging storyline (for a workout game)
Adventure aspect slows workout
Side quests can be confusing
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In October of 2019, Nintendo launched its latest fitness game, Ring Fit Adventure for the Switch. I was intrigued. I'd been looking for some sort of inspiration to get me moving again. I've been less and less active over the years and had gotten to the point where I wasn't even breaking 3,000 steps per day. Some days, I wouldn't even open the front door of my house. A video game that encourages activity is a good place for someone like me to start.
I'm not particularly overweight. I'm relatively healthy for my age. No high blood pressure. No heart problems. I'm just, well, lazy. I don't like to exercise. I love to take walks, but I don't usually walk with enough energy to raise my heart rate. I like to sit on the couch and watch movies or play video games.
I think there are a lot of people like me out there. Not exactly out of shape, but not entirely in shape either, looking for some sort of motivation and secretly hoping for an easy fix. Ring Fit Adventure has proven to be the motivation I'd been looking for.
The Adventure begins
When I first opened my Ring Fit Adventure box, stuck the cartridge in my Nintendo Switch, and connected my Joy-Con controllers to the Ring-Con and Leg Strap, I was definitely excited. A new adventure awaited me, and this one meant I actually had to work for my XP.
To play Ring Fit Adventure, you'll connect your right Joy-Con controller to a flexible ring that resembles a Pilates ring. You'll also connect the left Joy-Con controller to a leg strap, which you strap to your left leg. The Ring-Con is used to measure your movement and gauge the amount of pressure you to squeeze it. The leg strap is used to measure your running-in-place activities, as well as leg positioning for certain moves.
After a short explanation of how to set up the controllers, and after a virtual coach walks you through difficulty settings, you're off! You can start with some dynamic stretches (which I highly recommend for getting your muscles ready for a workout), and then head to the first world. Worlds are broken down into towns, areas, levels ... what every you want to call them. You'll visit each world on the map to continue through the story. Each world ends with a boss battle where you try to take down your nemesis, Dragaux, who is a body-building dragon with a bad attitude.
There are also some villagers you'll meet as you get into the game. They'll have quests for you, which you can complete after you've beaten a level (including the mini gyms). Some of them are as simple as giving an item you've already got in your stash. Others are more complicated, like completing a gym challenge with a specific score.
General gameplay features
On most of the levels, you'll run in place to simulate jogging through the environment. Sometimes, you'll need to raise your knees up higher to climb stairs or wade through pools of water. Along the path, you'll try to collect coins by sucking them up with the Ring-Con. To do this, you'll aim the Ring-Con either left or right and pull outward. This is a great tricep exercise.
You'll also need to break crates, and sometimes boulders, by shooting air at them. When you squeeze in on the Ring, you'll shoot the air out.
Most of the time, you'll come across between one and four enemies that you'll need to defeat in Fit Battles. This is where the exercise kicks in. You'll start with a handful of basic exercises, like squats, crunches, and simple yoga poses. As you gain experience, you'll unlock more and harder exercises, as well as additional slots so you can bring more exercises with you on each level.
Different enemies have different weaknesses, so if you're fighting a blue enemy, for example, its weak against leg exercises. You'll want to use your advantage by only selecting those blue exercises you know. There are four different categories: legs, arms, abs, and yoga.
When an enemy attacks, you'll defend yourself using "Ab Guard," which requires you to squeeze the Ring into your abs for a few seconds at a time, working those abs without requiring you to lay down.
As you unlock new levels, you'll also unlock Game Gyms, which are mini games specifically designed to have you perform a single exercise for a small period of time. When you play through a Game Gym, you'll also unlock new tasks from villagers, who usually want you to compete in a special gym competition for a reward. Sometimes, however, a villager will request a particular smoothie that you will only learn the recipe for when you successfully complete a gym challenge, so it's always good to hit the gym while you're on your adventure.
At the end of most worlds, you'll find yourself face-to-face with your nemesis, Dragaux. You'll have to work extra hard to beat him. He's very strong, and usually has a few minions to help him out. Once you beat him at the end of each world, he'll take off, complaining about you interrupting his workouts.
Rinse and repeat across all 14 worlds.
Some tips to getting through the adventure
- Only set fit skills when they are recommended and only use up three spots for three of the same skill. Even when you see a skill recommendation, you're going to encounter enemies that have different weaknesses.
- Set a heart replenish exercise as soon as you get one. You'll be able to run through a quick exercise set to earn back all of your health instead of wasting it on smoothies.
- Save your ingredients for smoothies that turn all exercises into the same fit skill. This allows you to, for example, use stronger ab exercises as "legs" or "arms," which will give you an advantage over enemies that are weak to that fit skill.
- Start using your Skill Points as soon as you earn them. These will unlock new exercises and give you stat boosts that will help you defeat strong enemies.
- Complete the gym challenges as you see them. Don't skip them. They will unlock side quests, which will reward you with some very useful outfits that will improve your performance against upcoming enemies.
- Adjust your difficulty level when you start to feel like your adventure is getting too easy. You can always go back to a lower difficulty level later.
Gains for days
How Ring Fit Adventure got me motivated
Playing Ring Fit Adventure five days per week for the past few months didn't exactly turn me into a muscle machine, but it did get me motivated to move more. I started paying more attention to my step count and would walk places I might have normally driven to, just to get the exercise in.
I also started trying to eat healthier. I went from eating toast or cereal for breakfast to eating a bowl of oatmeal and an apple. I still eat poorly in the evenings, but my breakfast and lunch routine has improved significantly.
I've heard stories of others who have lost a bunch of weight or gained a lot of muscle from playing Ring Fit Adventure, but that wasn't me, and I don't think that's the norm. I do think, however, that my experience is more likely what most people will experience.
What Ring Fit Adventure did for me was get me ready for the next phase in my life. I started an at-home workout program with a personal trainer using Future (full disclosure: I found out about this company because they sponsored an episode of the iMore Show. I signed up for it to do a test run, but I'm sticking with it). I hemmed and hawed for weeks about whether I should join a gym and take my workouts to the next level before deciding on the at-home personal training option. I'd never thought about going to a gym before playing Ring Fit Adventure.
The reason this exercise routine works so well for me is that it engages me in a story-based role-playing adventure while getting me moving. I'm not just in a virtual gym doing calisthenics with a virtual teacher. I'm running through a land filled with deep swamps, fallen trees, frolicking deer, and treacherous waterfalls. I'm not just repeating the same 30 minutes of sit-ups, burpees, and stretches. I'm fighting bad guys, all of whom have different weaknesses, so I have to plan my attacks. This is way more interesting to me than any standard workout routine.
Can't speed up
What frustrates me about Ring Fit Adventure
The problem I have with Ring Fit Adventure is that it's a little too much gaming and not enough exercising. Every time you finish a level, there are a couple of minutes worth of story development where you, The Ring-Con, and various villages have a nice chat. This slow down lowers the heart rate and diminishes the overall effect of a proper workout. Recovery time is good, but reading all the back-and-forth conversations takes a little too much recovery time for my taste.
You can skip through all the conversations by squeezing the Ring Con as soon as it's available, but this can get a little annoying when you're trying to keep your heart rate up between levels. Squeeze and wait. Squeeze and wait. Squeeze and wait. Squeeze and wait. Squeeze and wait. OK, now go.
What I'd love to see is a special mode that allows you to skip all conversations so you can jump to the next level right away.
Within this same idea of some parts of the game being too slow, maintaining your skill points, making smoothies, and changing outfits all cut into your workout. When you play the adventure campaign, the game assumes you are about to workout, and so offers some warmup stretches and such. But if you just want to jump in, make some smoothies, and jump back out, you have to go through a bunch of extra rigmarole to get there.
I ended up working on my extra stuff, like spending skill points and making smoothies, after I'd finished a workout, which is fine, but I'd love to be able to just hop into the game in the middle of the day to maintain those things without having to essentially start a workout.
Who Ring Fit Adventure is for
If you're looking for a program that will completely revolutionize your life, your expectations may be too high for Ring Fit Adventure. Though some people have made big lifestyle changes that they can attribute to the game, that's not the norm.
If you already have a healthy workout regimen, Ring Fit Adventure isn't going to improve your gains, but it may be just the right level of fun for you — an at-home workout that'll get your blood pumping and supplement your already strong activity skills.
If you're siting on the couch right now, thinking about how you should probably start setting some kind of fitness goals, but you haven't really dedicated yourself to the idea, this game is for you.
For about the same price as one month of a gym membership, you can wade into the waters of fitness with a game that will definitely get you moving and make you feel really good about yourself without you having to sign up for anything or be responsible to anyone, or even take off your pajamas, if that's how you roll.
Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books. If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).
By Tammy Rogers