I spent 30 days doing workouts with Ring Fit Adventure for the Nintendo Switch. I made it most of the way through World 8, and I have unlocked a good amount of the exercises available.
For those who are interested in buying the game, there are a few spoilers for what you can unlock in Adventure Mode, but I wanted to provide the full picture of just what you get with Ring Fit Adventure!
Exercise and health have been one of my top priorities in life for almost as long as I can remember. In my younger days, I wanted to work out and get stronger so I could be better at the sports I played. At my current age, I want to work out and get stronger so that I don't fall apart whenever I get the chance to play sports.
Either way, staying strong and healthy is a high priority, so it certainly piqued my interest when Nintendo announced that Ring Fit Adventure would be coming to the Switch on November 12, 2019.
I remember distinctly laughing at the idea that Nintendo was creating another game that looked like Wii Fit, because I picked that up too, way back in the day, and promptly let it collect dust because it was boring.
However, this time felt a bit different: there was an adventure mode that had levels that you could run through and fight monsters, a pilates ring and leg strap that JoyCons could connect with, and a wide plethora of exercises that covered lots of different muscles.
So of course, on release week…
I remember opening the box and looking at the ring and leg strap - my immediate impressions were that the ring felt quite durable and made of higher quality materials than I was expecting, and that I hoped the leg strap would remain tightly fastened onto my ham hock of a thigh during workouts. I also popped the game in and did the initial setup, and was really impressed by all of the tech working together. The ring was quite responsive, the JoyCon strapped to the leg actually picked up my walking or jogging, and the onboarding experience for a new player was quite good.
In my 30 days with Ring Fit Adventure, I played every morning except for Sundays. When I first started out, I was just doing it every day, but actually started feeling the cumulative soreness not going away, so changed the schedule about halfway through (after 10 consecutive days).
I took notes on my general observations during the entire period of time, but this review is going to focus on three things:
- Adventure Mode
- Variety of Activities
- Feeling Healthy
In general, I have a really positive impression of Ring Fit Adventure. I think it's a really well made game, that encourages you to have healthier habits in general and while playing the game, and it's been great having the ability to work out every morning without leaving my home.
Before I started Ring Fit Adventure, I was really interested in the adventure mode, because it seemed like a really compelling way to drive home the fact that working out and staying fit is about progression.
However, I was also shocked to find out that there are 20 worlds (with over 100 levels) in adventure mode. I made it to world 8 as of this writing, and I think I play a lot more than many people would.
The Premise: Adventure Mode begins with your character finding Ring, and freeing the big, exercise-obsessed dragon, who goes by Dragaux, from captivity. Dragaux spends his time corrupting worlds with his dark energy, and you're fighting him off and protecting people on each world, using the power of exercise.
Ring will act as your guide and partner for Adventure Mode, showing you the ropes on how you will be using exercises in various ways throughout your adventure. In general, you will enter a level, run your way through it while dealing with obstacles along the way, and you fight monsters here and there. You start with six exercises, split up into four categories: upper body, lower body, core, and yoga. They all involve some combination of using the ring and leg strap.
As you progress through the levels and gain experience through defeating monsters and performing exercises, you level up your character, which provides “gains” in attack, defense, new exercises, and occasionally your hearts, which is like your health bar.
There is a surprising amount of content and gameplay mechanics that unlock as you level up and progress through the story. Some are unlocked with the story, like discovering Ring's lost powers, and some are unlocked as you hit certain levels.
I think the combination of slowly revealing new exercises and gameplay elements is really clever - you are making progress not only in the adventure world, but with your overall exercise and health journey in Ring Fit Adventure. I felt compelled to keep playing, and was excited to wake up and start my day with Ring Fit Adventure to get another work out in.
With respect to the battle system in Ring Fit Adventure, I treated it much like I treat battles in RPGs: optimize for highest damage attacks, optimize for variety in attacks to cover all monster types, and come well stocked with items for healing or boosting effects. You will have recommendations for what sorts of attacks are best suited for specific levels, but I've found that having a decent variety has been my best bet.
There are some quirks to the battle system, in my opinion. For example, if I am in the middle of an exercise, and I have defeated the monster it is targeting, there's no option to continue that exercise on a different monster. I find that particularly quirky because some exercises are done one side at a time, switching at the halfway point of an attack, but eliminating a monster before your exercise is done feels like it's causing some unevenness in exercise, and feels like a waste of an attack in general!
I have started finishing the exercises for the other side before entering the defensive part of my turn, even without being able to attack the enemy, if only to make myself feel like I've gotten even reps for both sides.
More on that in the Variety of Activities section.
Honestly, I'm shocked at how much fun I've been having while playing a game focused on exercising, and I think that's been the secret to its success: Ring Fit Adventure has an “adventure mode”, and is a game that happens to use exercise the main way of progressing through the game, rather than an exercise machine that happens to have some game-like elements slapped on.
I'm continuing to fight the good fight against Dragaux in Adventure Mode, and optimizing for strongest attacks using the least amount of work, but I am genuinely curious what later levels and worlds will hold, and whether there will be anything new to discover along the way.
Variety of Activites
As I touched on earlier in the Adventure Mode section, there are four types of exercise in Ring Fit Adventure: upper body, lower body, core, and yoga.
In the beginning, the variety of exercises (and activities in general) available to you are slim. You have six starter exercises to use during battle, as well as the various things you do to get through a level, like jogging in place, and ring presses and pulls to interact with the environment. As you progress through Adventure Mode, you'll unlock many more exercises, but you'll also find more variety in activities in different levels.
With exercises, you'll unlock more as you are levelling up, and I never noticed a real pattern in what was unlocked at specific levels, but they do come fairly regularly as you're playing and gaining levels. They'll be different strengths, different types, and will provide a nice variety at a fairly decent clip, which was a great incentive to keep playing, and also kept the game feeling fresh for every session.
Exercises are colour coded, to display its type, and will also provide information around its attack power, how many enemies it can hit at once, and what muscle groups it targets when you do the exercise. I definitely optimized for highest damage output for the highest number of targets, because I love efficiently fighting.
As a result of my optimizations, however, I did find that I would always have one exercise in the mix that I tried my best to avoid (Cough. Leg Raises. Cough.) or I would have sets of exercises that all somehow worked out the same muscle groups despite being different types (Cough. Overhand anything. Cough.).
My chief complaint with exercises is that since it is so heavily reliant on the pilates ring and leg strap, some exercises have trouble reading movements unless you do exactly as it expects from you. This can have an adverse effect on your damage, as attacks can be rated anywhere from “okay” to “good” to “great”, and your rating for the rep is how the damage is calculated.
For example, Mountain Climbers, which is a lower body exercise, is very difficult to get good ratings, and therefore damage, because it doesn't seem to pick up my leg movements properly, despite copying along with the animated example. However, these instances where it misreads my motion are few and far in between, and I've only had a few exercises that have been troublesome.
In general, I think it's great to be so exposed to so many exercises that can really keep each session feeling fresh and different. It's also quite useful to have animated example accompany every exercise, so that you are seeing proper form, and also understanding just what you are working out at the same time.
Later into Adventure Mode (sorry for the spoilers), boss battles become a little more lengthy and involved. Once in a while, some bosses will have “battle events”, which are these great cutaway sections during a battle, where you are presented an opportunity to defend yourself from a very different type of attack, or have a head-to-head competition with a specific exercise.
Here's a pushing match that I recently had with one of the bosses:
…yes, those are our disembodied abs pushing against each other, why do you ask?
Anyway, these events make longer battles interesting, because it breaks up the monotony of just attacking and defending for every turn. In addition, they're great opportunities to not take any damage, refill your hearts, or deal a significant chunk of damage against the monster.
Obstacles and Gyms
Throughout the levels of Ring Fit Adventure, you'll also run into obstacles or different ways of traversing the level.
A few examples include: having to break boulders with ab presses, rowing across water using ab twists, sliding down a zipline-like rail using overhead ring pulls, ring presses to smash boxes or open doors, knee lifts to go up stairs faster, and even having to hold tree pose to not be found by some ravenous (and apparently blind) birds.
These sorts of activities are really fun ways to keep a level interesting, which is hell of a feat, considering each level is basically a single rail that you're moving along.
In addition, some levels in a world are “Game Gyms” or “Battle Gyms”. Battle Gyms are self explanatory, you're facing a continuous string of monsters and defeating each one as you normally would. Game Gyms, however, are great mini games that have a single objective tied to a certain kind of exercise.
For example, in the Game Gym called Thigh Rider, you take a seat with the pilates ring between your thighs, and you are riding a robot with wheels that jumps any time you press your thighs in.
Both kinds of gyms are typically based on score, and you are ranked based on your score, and you can gain coins or items for achieving a minimum rank.
Other Adventure Mode Additions
Without getting too deep into it, I'm happy to say that there are quite a few other things that bring in some variety in Adventure Mode.
Things like being able to discover the recipes of smoothies, which you can buy or make yourself, which can provide boosts or benefits to your character that are useful during levels and battles.
Or gaining skill points that unlocks a “skill web” that provides different boosts or new exercises.
And I'm excited to see what else will be unlocked as I get further into the game!
Ring Fit Adventure has a terrific amount of variety, when it comes to activities, and they all contribute to keeping each session feeling quite fresh and providing compelling reasons for coming back the next day, and the day after that.
Overall Healthy Feeling
Something I keep coming back to, when friends ask about how Ring Fit is going, is that I generally feel healthier than before I started playing Ring Fit Adventure.
Before I started playing Ring Fit Adventure, I was experiencing some soreness in my legs and lower back, probably from sitting all day at work, and walking a lot more than I was used to, thanks to New York living. However, since starting to regularly play Ring Fit Adventure in the mornings, my aches and pains have felt greatly reduced in frequency and magnitude.
Whether Ring Fit Adventure is the direct cause of my relief, or if I've started having better healthier habits in general, it doesn't really matter to me, as I've felt that it's been a positive contribution towards my overall better health.
I think Ring Fit Adventure does a few things really well, when it comes to contributing towards better health.
At the end of each session, Ring Fit Adventure displays the exercises that you performed, and also displays the cumulative total for each of those exercises. With those cumulative totals, they make a big deal and celebrate when you've hit larger reps for exercises.
In the image above, Tipp, the animated character who accompanies you throughout to stretch with you and show you proper form for exercises, is throwing confetti to celebrate one of my milestones: I had accumulated a total of 500 thigh presses since I started playing Ring Fit Adventure.
For most celebrations, Tipp is clapping to celebrate, but it was the first time that I had seen him taking it to the next level and throwing confetti, and that was a great feeling.
In addition, the game loves giving you titles for achieving these sorts of milestones, and they're tiny little fun gestures, but it's really nice to see the game really celebrate progress. It really feels good to see these cumulative totals!
Warm Ups and Cool Downs
Ring Fit Adventure really pushes you to start each session with a warm up, and also end with a cool down stretch.
The warm ups have been consistently the same, every time, which is a nice little routine to start and loosen up the legs, shoulders, and back before you get to playing.
The cool downs, however, are dynamic and will change depending on what sorts of exercise you did during the play session.
Having these sorts of prompts, to warm up and cool down, bookending each session is building a really great habit for the player. And as a result, I would think that having a proper warm up and cool down every time would help reduce muscle soreness, as well as helping bring the heart rate back to normal levels after a vigorous workout.
Encouraging Ending Sessions
I personally aim to have workouts in the 30-45 minute range, where I work up a pretty good sweat without many breaks during, because that's what works for me and works best with my schedule.
Ring Fit Adventure is proactive about preventing overexertion: after a couple of levels, and 12-17 minutes on the exercise timer, it will ask if you'd like to stop for the day, so that you can remain fresh for your next session. Agreeing to end your session will launch into the summary and cool down portion, but you can also keep going if you think you haven't had enough yet.
If you do keep on going though, Ring Fit Adventure reminds you not to push too hard, take breaks if you feel uncomfortable, and remain hydrated and well rested in order to be your most healthy self.
I've really enjoyed my last 30 workouts with Ring Fit Adventure.
I've gotten a really good workout on a regular basis, from the comfort of my own home, and I've had a lot of fun doing it.
Adventure Mode feels like a really compelling way to play a game and experience a story, while exercising at the same time. I have wanted to come back every day and get a workout session in, see where the story goes, and unlock new exercises or items!
Ring Fit Adventure encourages you to build good habits: exercise regularly, warm up before and cool down after, stay hydrated, take breaks, and get proper rest. I've definitely felt its positive contribution towards my overall health, and I'm excited to continue playing.
I'm excited to continue playing Ring Fit Adventure, and am looking forward to seeing what else the game may have to offer!