I'm no doctor, but I can tell you that by the end of my first session with Ring Fit Adventure – the new fitness game for the Nintendo Switch that uses a Pilates ring and leg strap to track your movements – I felt sweaty, strained, and a sudden nostalgia for the gentle days of the Wii Balance Board. In my defense, I was not testing the game out in spandex and from the comfort of my own home, but in jeans, a sweater, and in front of smiling Nintendo representatives. Who doesn't love squatting in front of brand managers?
Ring Fit Adventures isn't designed for creatine chugging meatheads, and in fact the premise of the game campaign is the exact opposite. You take on the role of an athlete, exploring a world and fighting monsters on your way to defeating a buff dragon boss who Nintendo told me represents the "negative aspects of gym culture." Nice try, but he's far too sexually appealing for that.
I moved around the world of Ring Fit Adventure by jogging in the real one, the Joy-Con strapped to my thigh tracking every step. The other Joy-Con was safely inside the Ring-Con peripheral, a plastic circle you hold in two hands that can sense resistance when you push or pull on it. I'm no stranger to a Pilates class and apart from the Joy-Con addition it felt no different to the torture device my trainer gives me to help hold my form when we're trying to find out if I actually have any abdominal muscles, or if they've died of neglect. With these two pieces of hardware, the game can pick up an impressive amount of information and guide you through effective exercises.
Ring of fire
As I was running around the world, I could squeeze the ring between my hands to fire gusts of air at crates along the way, and then pull at both sides of the ring to suck up the coins that my destruction had freed. When I met a group of enemies, I could choose from different attacks to throw at them, which were powered by specific exercises like planking and squats. When I needed to refill my health I could throw down a couple of yoga poses, and every exercise had a cooldown so I couldn't just keep picking the easiest one. Sure, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare might be more realistic and Skyrim might be prettier, but neither of those have ever made my thighs burn like my pants were made of lava. By the end of the battle, my body was definitely under the impression that it was being forced to do some real exercise, and I was red, out of breath, and appropriately damp.
If you don't need death and violence to distract you from the smell of your own sweat, then you can skip the story mode and use the myriad of exercise options in Custom Mode to create a personalized workout plan according to your needs. Only got ten minutes to work on your glutes before you head to the office? No problem. Need a solid hour of movement after a weekend of Doritos and Zelda? Ring Fit Adventures has your back. Interestingly there's also a Multitask mode where you can go off and watch TV with your Ring-Con, and the game will track and presses or pulls you've done.
As a middle ground between the adventure and the training, there are also a bunch of mini-games that will absolutely be the "we've all had one too many drinks, let's play a game" option for the holiday season. There's a version of whack-a-mole where you have to turn and compress the ring – if you have even a dash of competitive spirit you won't even notice your biceps screaming as you aim for the high score – and another that was a bizarre mix of pottery and squatting exercises that will be absolutely hilarious two sherries in.
My demo wasn't long enough to really explore all of the options for exercises and tracking, but was enough to suggest that if you're new to fitness, don't have access to a gym or want something to compliment your personal training, there's real value in investing in the $80 package. It's a vast leap forward from Wii Fit and Wii Balance Board, and will speak more to a generation that has grown up with Instagram fitness influencers as much as it will middle-aged moms who want an easy way to work out. Whether or not it ends up gathering dust is more a question for your willpower than the content on offer in Ring Fit Adventures, but it'll be interesting to see if the game has enough variety to hold my interest over weeks and months, rather than a few hours.
Ring Fit Adventure will be released on October 18 and $79.99 will get you the game, the Ring-Con and the leg strap.