The year is almost over. I think it’s been a turbulent one. Work on the next story continues and I think I’m ready to delve into writing the final act. That said, on to the topic I wanted to talk about.
So I’ve always been a big fan of video games that also make you exercise. The first one I remember playing was an exercise bike arcade game that made you fly around and pop balloons as the timer ran down. Google says it’s called Prop Cycle. As that damn timer ticked down, I was pedaling like crazy trying to pop just one more balloon so I could extend the timer. Unfortunately, after two or three plays I was done for the day. Nothing like seating through my street clothes and then running around like that for the rest of the day.
The next one I enjoyed would be Dance Central which utilized the Kinect. I played a lot of that game too, but my living room is tiny and often times the game would complain that I was too damn close and it was hard to map my body. Nevertheless, I logged many hours flailing around like an idiot.
I even worked on an exercise game. UFC Trainer. As a game developer, it was a fascinating experience to figure out how to make the Wii/PS3/360 determine if you were performing a particular exercise correctly. Ultimately though, after it was done I didn’t play it at all. It was just too much like a gym and I’m not into UFC, so it couldn’t hold my attention.
Now a little bit of background about me. I used to be a gym rat. During lunches at work I walked over to the gym down the street and did a half hour of cardio, weight training, and stretching. I’m no stranger to exercise and even when I stopped working at the game studio near the gym and let my membership run out, I would do exercise videos at home.
Which brings us to Ring Fit. I’m sucker for stuff like this. Ring Fit comes with a ring with two grips on the sides and a slot at the top to slide your Switch controller into. The thing has been pretty durable so far! It also gives you a lap strap to wrap around your left thigh. You put the other controller into this strap and between the two controllers, they can figure out what exercises you’re doing.
So, as of yesterday, I’m into the 37th day of Ring Fit Adventure. My sessions can last from 30 minutes to an hour. There’s a clock in the bottom left of the screen that tells you how long you’ve been moving around, and that’s different from the time that’s spent just standing in front of your Switch. You’ll be spending some time reading the dialogue from the characters, taking your pulse, buying new gear, and moving around the map. So I’d say that when the game says I’ve been moving around, exercising for 30 minutes, I’ve actually spent 40-50 minutes playing the game.
I’ve been enjoying it so far. On the game side of things it’s a light RPG. You meet a magic ring and you have to help it get it’s powers back so you can fight an evil dragon/workout fiend. Your stats are offense, defense, and health. You can augment these stats by purchasing better shirts, pants, and shoes. Sometimes, getting a matching set of clothes will provide an additional set bonus.
There’s also a skill tree. At some point you will start gaining a skill point every time you level up. You can then take these skill points and apply them to a skill tree which can give you different exercise moves, add to your offense or defense, increase your health bar, and give your attacks and defensive moves chances to proc additional benefits. The tree starts off small, but as I’ve leveled up I’ve seen the tree expand twice so far.
So the game hub is kind of like one of the old Mario games. 3 maybe? You start at World 1 and you’re looking at a 2D map with points of interest connected by lines. Generally, you go to a point of interest and play it which will open up the next area. At the end of each map you’ll fight a boss. Last night I cleared World 14, so there’s a hearty amount of content.
The main type of level in the game is a course. You’ll start at one end of a 3D environment and have to run to the other end. Along the way you’ll have to fight monsters, performing very light platforming challenges, suck up coins and mats for smoothies. To equate the exercise part of it to the real world, it’s like running through a park that has a fitness trail with some simple exercise equipment. That’s an oversimplification though. The environments can range from outdoorsy areas where you’re paddling on a river or flying in the sky, to more industrial feeling indoor spaces.
You’ll start running (in place) and you can run faster if you move your legs more. You know, like in real life? You won’t have to do much in the way of navigating though, because you’re on what we call a “rail”. Not a literal one. Though, sometimes in the game you are. The idea though is that the game itself keeps you on the path. Your running in place is what’s propelling you forward. At points along the path you might run into monsters. When this happens you’ll go into a turn based fight mode. The monsters which look like ghosts when you’re running in the world will manifest into things like goblin looking things, or monsterized yoga mats, balance balls, kettle bells, and so on.
Once you’re in a fight, you’ll go first. You select an exercise you’d like to do and then pick which monster you’d like to hit. Each rep will cause damage, and if you perform the exercise well, it’ll hit for a little more. You can tell when you’re doing it to the game’s satisfaction because your characters hair will look all golden. After you finish the set, the monsters will get there turn and they may or may not attack you. This cycle repeats until either you run out of health or you beat up the monsters. (Which fly way off into the distance, screaming, when they’re out of health.)
There are four types of exercise, and this theme is reinforced later in the game. Red exercises are strength training exercises for your arms, blue are strength training exercises for your legs, yellow exercises focus on your abs, and green exercises focus on your balance, having strong yoga flavor. Monsters can come in all four of the aforementioned colors and you’ll do extra damage versus a monster sharing the color of the exercise your using. (I.e. doing ab exercises against yellow monster will give you an edge.)
Also important to note, is that your some of your exercises can hit multiple enemies. You can encounter up to 5 enemies at one time. Certain exercises will allow you to hit all 5 with each rep performed. These exercises generally don’t do as much damage as some of the single target exercises. There are also exercises that will hit 3 adjacent enemies but will do a little more damage per rep than the ones that can hit all 5. When you consider that enemies are weak versus certain exercises types, there’s actually some strategy to selecting which exercise to do on your turn to get the best effect. And as you level up, you’ll be rotating in better exercises that do more damage, so what you’re doing from session to session will gradually change.
I found that my strategy in general would be to use my highest damage AoE exercise against large groups of enemies, favoring colors whenever I could, and then use my highest damage single target exercise to finish them off. When yoga mat monsters started to show up, I was super annoyed to discover that they could heal themselves or the other monsters, so I would tend to try to get rid of them as quickly as I could. I managed to unlock a blue exercise through the skill tree, and it was a type of squat that did 295 damage. That lasted me a long time until ultimately I started getting more powerful moves, but man did I get a ton of mileage out of that exercise. I did a whole bunch of squats too.
One of my concerns when I first played the game was seeing some of the exercises get swapped out as I got new ones. I just removed squat from my list of skills and I was actually asking if that meant that squat was gone from the game now. Well, I needn’t have worried. As you progress into the later worlds, during the courses these exercises are mixed in outside of combat as part of the challenges when running through the course. For example, your character might arrive at a series of personal catapults and you’ll have to perform a squat on top of it to make it launch you to the next one. I enjoyed the variety of exercises I was doing on a lot of the worlds in later courses. And if somehow you love squats, don’t worry. The same exercises come back with level 2 and 3 versions that have higher damage than the one you started with.
If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m enjoying the experience so far. I’m 15 worlds in and there’s no end in sight. There’s a lot of content and for me that translates to motivation. The combat system is simple but I do feel like I’m making choices that maximize damage. It’s even making me reach for those exercises that I don’t enjoy (screw you, mountain climbers!)
My biggest gripe is the damn leg strap. It just keeps sliding down to under my knee and I’m having to always slide back up into position. It can be super annoying when you’re running up steps in the game and your Ring will tell you that if you bring your knees up you’ll go up the stairs faster. So there I am, doing a bunch of high knees and my leg strap as slid down and my character on screen is now going slow. Yeah, it’s frustrating.
My biggest pet peeve is with a mini game mode called Dreadmill. Wow, perfect name. You’re on a treadmill at the bottom of the screen pushing you to the left. You have to run to control your characters speed. There are four lanes across the screen that will either have coins or bombs. So the idea is that you want to run in a way to keep you in the lanes with coins and out of the ones with bombs. Sounds easy, right? Not so fast. I’m having serious problems finding a pace to keep me smack in one of the lanes. Either I’m too slow, or too fast. So now I’m taking weird shuffle steps to try to convince the game to speed me up or slow down. They also have this optional mission in one of the worlds where you can’t miss a coin. Yeah, I’m still trying to finish that one.
Also kind of disappointing is the gear you get as rewards when you’re playing through the game. Actually, I was excited when I got a shirt that promised a nice set bonus if I could get the other two pieces. But sometimes, you have to finish certain missions that aren’t immediately available and you have to go back to the world later. By the time I’d found the rest of the set, I already had better gear.
The game has it’s minor flaws, but what game doesn’t? My experience has been and continues to be overwhelmingly positive. I do feel like I get a light workout, and the act of navigating the map, reading dialogue, gives you brief breaks before tackling the next course. I only raised the difficulty up once and that was a macho fueled decision on my second session when the game asked how it was going.
If you’re looking for a fun way to move around more, I think Ring Fit Adventure is well worth the investment. On a final note, at the end of each course it makes you do this victory pose where you squat and hold for a few seconds and then thrust your ring up above your head. Yeah, I enjoy that a little too much.