Ring Fit Adventure review

A year ago today I took delivery of the Nintendo Ring Fit gaming system, which would turn out to be a very wise lock-down investment. I haven’t completed it per se, although I have got through the main story mode. But since this is an ongoing activity, today seems as good a day as any to publish my review.

I set myself a goal way back in lockdown#1 to complete a marathon on the exercise bike, which I cheerfully managed. Since then I also completed the Couch to 5K programme on the bike, which is quite a different experience to doing actual running, but still an effective way to increase levels of aerobic activity. But I decided I should also be doing something a bit more muscle focused.

After reading a few positive reviews I took the plunge and got a Ring Fit towards the end of April 2020. Since then I have, on and off, done some exercise most days, alternating bike sessions with Ring Fit Adventure. Very virtuous!

For me, distraction is the key to sticking with exercise programs. If I can successfully kid myself I’m not actually working out, I’m far more likely to persevere. This strategy worked like a charm in the early 2010s, with the aid of the Wii Fit system. Together with a few adjustments to my eating pattern I lost a couple of stone and felt happier and healthier than I had in years (feminist misgivings notwithstanding). Could Ring Fit Adventure help me pull off the same psychological trick again?

Over the course of the 7 years after my initial weight loss triumph, those two stone had crept back. The icing on the cake (no pun intended) was the first few weeks of lock-down; over-indulging in crisps and beer as a coping strategy. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. But a global health crisis is a great incentive to take stock. Through the calorie counting based NHS Weight Loss app, and playing this game, I have successfully shifted around 7kg (also I do metric now). I’ve developed a little bit more muscle definition around the arms, my legs are stronger, and I’m very faintly starting to remember what it feels like to have abs underneath my comforting Doritos-duvet of gut flab.

The main story of the Ring Fit game took me around 32 hours of exercise time, which I completed over the course of 3 months or so. Defeating the final boss cues the credits to roll. But in true Nintendo fashion (like Breath of the Wild Master Mode) the completion of the initial story then opens up the opportunity to replay with a few narrative changes to keep things fresh.

One of the game’s real strengths is that it is very flexible in terms of user ability levels, and you can adjust the challenge to your heart’s content. It may not be suitable for someone with serious mobility constraints, at least not without medical advice. Similarly if you’re already a super-fit workout junkie this might not give you the exercise load you’re after. But for anyone in between those extremes, the game should allow you to set yourself a workout which is challenging but doable.

The cutsey approach isn’t for everyone, and some of the voice acting might annoy. Personally I found it quite charming – but it drove Terry up the wall. Each to their own. More frustratingly, some of the controls can be a bit hit and miss particularly in the mini-games. A few special items (clothing, power-ups etc) require these mini-games to be completed with a minimum score, so if you don’t have the knack you’re out of luck. Also for some unfathomable reason the game only unlocks a few optional challenges at a time, so if you can’t complete one then you won’t be able to access the others. The smoothie mechanic was fun at first but becomes needlessly complicated for a game of this nature as the number of ingredients increased. (Although to be fair I also think Skyrim has far too many varieties of mushroom.)

One purely practical concern: in battles you select an exercise to inflict damage on the enemy, and complete the specified number of repetitions until the enemy is defeated. Which I realised meant, in the case of the ones where you do half on one side of your body and then swap, there was a risk I’d end up working my left side much more than my right as I’d win the fight before I’d completed the same number of reps on the 2nd side.

But these are minor gripes – when what matters is simply playing the game, doing the exercises, and getting fitter. The game (perhaps seeking to avoid any litigious activity) emphasises repeatedly that you should make sure you are hydrated, that you’re working within your own capability range, getting plenty of rest and not overdoing it. Which is generally sound advice anyway.

If your pandemic experience has left you wanting to get healthier, but you struggle to stick with an exercise regime, it’s well worth giving this a go. The Ring Fit is currently available via Amazon (affiliate links obvs – other retailers are available) for under £60.