“Innovative” has become a curse word in the tech and gaming communities because of overuse. It’s right up there with fourth industrial revolution, disruption, and spectrum as words we just don’t want to see anymore.
This makes a truly innovative product, like Ring Fit Adventure, so much more refreshing and exciting to get our hands on, as we have with this unique gaming / exercise experience that we’ve been using for the past month.
If you’re new to Ring Fit Adventure its premise is actually rather simple: it’s a light RPG that is used to disguise an exercise game where you need to get sweaty to fight and progress the story.
Unlike the most famous example in this genre – the Wii Fit Plus and its balance Board – this game uses the titular ring. Inside the box of Ring Fit Adventure you get a physical copy of the game, a large rubber coated ring and a strap that attaches to your left thigh.
The ring and thigh strap are made to have the Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons slotted into them. The ring, which is called a “Ring-Con” is the real star of the show here. In essence it’s a metal band that provides resistance when pushed or pulled, and the game uses the combination of this as input.
Let’s take a regular mission in this game as an example. You as the player are accompanied by the in-game representation of the Ring-Con, a magical being named Ring. The pair of you are on a quest that involves fighting monsters and levelling up, the normal RPG song and dance.
In a level you are required to move, which means running in place that is tracked by the thigh strap. Need to jump? Push the Ring-Con towards the ground to expel air and gain height. This can also be used to open doors and explode boxes to find resources.
Do the opposite and pull the ring outwards and it acts as a vacuum collecting items from afar.
That’s just traversal, as battles are where things get more interesting.
This turn-based battle system is based on a colour-coded weakness chart. Red, green, blue and yellow are all mapped to certain types of exercises: arms, yoga, legs and abs respectively. The enemies are mapped to these colours too so you will need to use the right exercises to defeat them efficiently.
The enemy design and the design of the exercise-focused world here is amazing. Your enemies are based off of gym equipment like yoga mats, medicine balls and more. Each have their own detailed animations that really bring them to life and make them endearing even when they’re making you literally and figuratively sweat in the heat of combat. Give some of the videos on this page a look to see them in action.
This extends to the big bad too, a muscle found dragon named Dragaux. This dragon has fallen to the dark side of exercise, doing it way too much and never taking a break under some dark force.
To stop Dragaux and his minions you will use the traditional RPG elements that have been translated here. Instead of potions there’s smoothies. Instead of spells and attacks you have exercises. Instead of armour that changes your stats its workout gear.
What makes Ring Fit Adventure so innovative is this clever translation of elements that most gamers are so familiar with into a cohesive world built to make you work out. On top of that there’s thousands of small elements that will make you smile and think “wow, they really thought of everything” until 10 minutes later where you think it again.
Take blocking, for example. You don’t just hold up a shield in this game but instead you push the Ring-Con into your abs, so you really feel the weight of the attack and work those muscles too.
There’s countless other examples. Smoothies need to be made by crushing them yourself with the Ring-Con, side quests reward you by unlocking more smoothie recipes, gyms are scattered around the map to act as distractions with rewards and more.
The genius of Ring Fit Adventure is that it’s countless small innovations and clever design that really becomes more than the sum of its parts in motion.
Like education games exercise games have always struggled to be legitimately enjoyable experiences on top of top of strict software that is there for a purpose outside of enjoyment.
This game is now the new gold standard for this genre and we sincerely hope for a sequel or for titles from other developers to match its success.
We didn’t even mention the vast array of customisation options on offer to tailor your work out to match your body, what you’re comfortable with, and what your body goals are, but we’ve gushed too much as is.
The only problems with Ring Fit Adventure have less to do with the game and more the ecosystem around it. For example, while the Switch Joy-Cons were very accurate for the most part, on some days their tracking and reporting to the game would be out o whack regardless of calibration. Despite using the same software with the same hardware day after day, some gaming sessions would be wildly inaccurate for no apparent reason.
Then there’s the price. To experience Ring Fit Adventure you will need deep pockets. Due to increases in South Africa the original Nintendo Switch is now a whopping R7 999. The game itself is then R1 599 on top of that. Yes the bundle you get here does include the ring and thigh strap hardware which drives up the price, but there’s no denying that it’s a very expensive endeavour.
Despite this, though, Ring Fit Adventure is some of the most fun we’ve had in the last decade. It’s mix of traditional gameplay elements combined with real world exercise and the ingenious interface between them is something we think everyone should experience.