Nintendo's Ring Fit Adventure reviewed: Sweaty Switch fitness
Eight things I learned from working out at home for a week.
Scott SteinEditor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
ExpertiseVR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tabletsCredentials
Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
used to make
games. I know, because the Wii Fit Balance Board is under my sofa, coated in a solid layer of dust. Wii Fit was a phenomenon, and it was so popular that even my in-laws in the UK have a Wii Fit at their house, though I've never seen them use it.
finally has a fitness game too, called Ring Fit Adventure, which costs $80 (£65, AU$113). I'm surprised to say that it's a lot less weird than I expected. And, at the same time, still pretty weird. I've worked out a handful of times with it in the last week, and this is what I discovered.
The Ring-Con accessory is brilliant. The flexible plastic hoop that comes with Ring Fit Adventure is like a giant steering wheel, but it can be squeezed for muscle exercises. One of the Switch's Joy-Con controllers slides right in and can sense the hoop's movement. I like how turning the hoop and lifting it up and down navigates menus. The whole game's designed with the understanding that I'll be holding this weird hoop during my workout, so it all feels intuitive. It's a better idea than the old Wii Fit, which made me hold Wii remotes while standing on that big balance board.
I am not fit at all. Ring Fit Adventure is a pretty significant workout program. I set my intensity level to medium, but after warm-up stretches I was already winded. The game sent me through a regimen of light jogging, squats, (semi) sit-ups and yoga poses. My legs felt the burn and I was achy the next day. I ramped the difficulty down.
The leg strap, another key part of the game, kept falling off. The second Joy-Con controller slides into a velcro elastic leg band which rides the thigh and senses running and body position. While it did that part admirably, the strap kept sliding down and off my leg. I have big legs. I found no way to make this not happen. I tightened it a lot, it stayed on a little better, but it felt like a tourniquet. I put it under my shorts to stay on better, but that's not the way you're supposed to use it.
The main game's more linear than I expected. The adventure game is charming and Disney-like, with an animated Ring that talks and guides your flaming-haired hero to do battle against a super-buff dragon. All of that is great, but the game's levels consist of linear pathways where enemies appear, and turn-based battles ensue. I haven't played more than a few levels so far, so I can't say how much it transforms, but I expected a wilder set of experiences, like Nintendo's wacky 1-2-Switch. There are fun mini games to play which tap into that oddness, but how long will I want to keep playing a linear fitness adventure?
It measures my heart rate. I'm stunned. The snap-in Joy-Con controller's infrared camera is used to take stationary heart rate pings after a workout, which do give a sense of how intense your little session was. It's another genius Nintendo way to make its little-used infrared Joy-Con camera do something new, the first time that's happened since Nintendo Labo. I didn't vet heart rate against a Fitbit or Apple Watch, and this is a stationary ping, not a continuous measurement. (By the way, remember the never-released Vitality Sensor? This is the closest thing to it.)
You need a Switch that can dock into a TV. I've been playing the Switch Lite for over a month, but that handheld will be nearly useless with Ring Fit Adventure. The game requires Joy-Con controllers, which you'd need to buy separately with the Switch Lite. And the game's workouts demand a TV experience. I wouldn't want to play it on a tiny Switch screen, even if technically I could.
The hardware's less annoying than I thought. The hoop isn't too big, and the leg strap's easy to tuck away. Ring Fit Adventure's gear is pretty fast to set up, too. I could see it gathering dust on, say, the side of my sofa, but it's no worse than a small set of weights or a yoga mat.
You can create multiple user profiles. My kid got intrigued, and I set him up with a profile. He's lapped me and gone way ahead. At least the game can track both of us and keep us challenged differently. This can be a family game.
Nintendo's Ring Fit Adventure is available this Friday. I'll try to keep using it. I'll report back on my progress and whether it keeps hooking me.
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