Many Christmases ago, I campaigned successfully for a Super Scope: a shoulder-mounted ersatz missile launcher to plug into my Super Nintendo. It was approximately 15ft long and in retrospect had no good games designed for it. The Scope wound up the way of all console peripherals: propped in the corner of the lounge, useless, like a piece of pipe a plumber had forgotten to clear away. Until we had guests and my parents implored me to keep my bazooka in the bedroom.
I still think about it, so was intrigued when I saw a new Nintendo console and peripheral on the market. This one targets the fitness crowd and I can justify playing it as part of what I insist on calling my job.
The Ring-Con looks like a steering wheel in search of a car and wants to get you moving. It is the controlling device for Ring Fit Adventure (£69.99), a first-person platform game on the Nintendo Switch. The company has previous in attempting to fuse these natural enemies, exercise and video games. Wii Fit on Nintendo Wii was plasticky and unsatisfying, and came with a weird balance board to lean on that never got you fit at all. Still, the company shifted a gajillion copies – a commercial miracle it will be hoping to repeat with Ring Fit.
The Switch itself is heavy and handsomely built, with two dinky, removable controllers. I slot one into the handheld wheel and place the other into a holster as directed, strapping it to the front of my thigh. It will measure how high I lift my knees when jogging and how low I drop a squat (all the way to the floor, baby, for a quick nap).
I turn it on and I am confronted by an endless boardwalk that needs running down, apparently. Hmm. Yet considering we’re talking about a pilates ring and a remote control stuck to my leg, I’m surprised at how expansive the possibilities are. You control the character onscreen by running in place and squeezing the ring in and out to hoover up coins, bust open crates and leap chasms. You can shoot weaponised air puffs, too. Are these farts? Probably not, although I am exerting myself a lot. There are about 100 levels, over 20 different worlds, and attack moves based on knee lifts, ab crunches and the like. I’m getting a full, hard workout, which I didn’t expect and don’t look good doing. Is there anything less attractive than a grown man playing computer games in the afternoon while heavily sweating?
There are addictive little standalone games included: air go-karting, being a human pinball or parachute, or the most bizarre of all, sculpting a clay pot via chair poses. Squatty pottery aside, where I anticipated gimmickry and tedium, the main game provides a legitimate, varied workout and complex gameplay.
I was feeling fairly positive about its health potential until I invited my genuinely fit friend Chris to give the game a go. It’s hypnotic to watch, an athletic man tippy-tapping the carpet on besocked toes, trying to trick the computer into thinking he is running quickly. He looked like a cartoon raccoon stealing a custard bun. Thanks to the eagle-eyed thigh sensor, he wasn’t getting away with it, either. It was a vision of the ridiculous, which led me to understand there is little dignity to be had playing this game.
Also, after playing Ring Fit for several days, I realised that I had been missing fresh air. I don’t really want a “fun workout”. I don’t want any workout at all. I’m too lazy and proud for Ring Fit. And I don’t think hardcore gymnasium-rabbits will be replacing their daily reps with this childish game, either.
But, for the casually fitness-interested, it’s probably the most exciting way to get into resistance training. Whether you’re inclined to log on or jog on, Nintendo deserves respect for that.
For a more epic adventure
The Switch’s screen is small, so this workout would be intensified if enlarged on a TV. I recently got rid of mine, in an attempt to restore my pre-digital personality. Turns out I was never that interesting. And I can’t watch Friends any more.
Wellness or hellness?
One ring to rule the mall. 4/5