And you guys, he's kind of the worst. (Test notes from Mat: "Ring is annoying and can fuck off.") To be fair, this is a kid's game -- or at least, a game sanitized enough to merit a family-friendly 'E' rating. To my ears, Ring sounds like a generic cartoon character from any show on Nickelodeon or The Cartoon Network. As an adult player, I felt slightly sheepish at times playing what appeared to be a kiddie game. I would have been just as happy to mute Ring altogether. But a child might feel right at home.
The game is divided into worlds, each marked by a handful of levels with one big, culminating battle at the end. Along the way, you engage in smaller "fit battles" with various cute little enemies. And by battles, I mean the equivalent of a dance-off, but with squats or some other exercises. All told, these different maneuvers fall into one of four color-coded categories: red (arms), yellow (core), blue (legs) and green (yoga).
Those colors matter because, as it turns out, each kind of exercise is particularly effective against similarly colored monsters. (That said, you could do as I did and favor the kinds of exercises you think you're best at -- in my case, leg stuff.) As you gain experience, you level up and gradually unlock new skills. Mat adds: This should be familiar to anyone who's played a role-playing game before. It's just a very, very simple example of an RPG battle.
If not for those mini battles, Ring Fit Adventure would be a much less interesting game. Even then, I'm not sure how fun it is, per se. Running and leaping through courses reminds me of racing through the trippy worlds of Mario Kart, but without the thrill of competition. Mat and I agree that we'd like to see a multiplayer mode, with a ring accessory for each player. Barring that, one world's worth of gameplay was enough for both of us before we needed a mental break. As it happens, the game periodically nudges you into taking a breather anyway.
If you can't commit to two or three whole levels, there's always Quick Play mode, whose mini-games are the closest thing there is to multiplayer (think: doing deep squats to launch yourself into the air to collect as many coins as possible). These short games-within-the-game were some of my favorite moments of Ring Fit Adventure, and Mat's as well.
Depending on your fitness and chosen difficulty settings, one world might be enough of a physical workout, too. Though I played on easy and Mat on a harder setting, we both came away surprised and humbled by the workout Nintendo had somehow managed to slip into a kid's game. My arms burned a bit from all the ring-pressing. My heart rate had risen to somewhere in the 90s. Speaking of, these heart-rate readings aren't the most accurate I've seen, but they're close enough. After one workout, the Joy-Con put my heart rate at 88 bpm; my Apple Watch Series 5 said 95.
There are benefits to stepping up the difficulty level, though, even if easy mode is enough to get your blood pumping. Mat found that advanced settings really affect the pace, with more reps and slower progress in unlocking new exercises. In any case, don't take the initial decision too seriously -- you can change it at any time and, in fact, when you resume a session, you'll be asked how you're feeling after the previous workout, if it felt too easy, and so on.
If I sound ambivalent about Ring Fit Adventure, it's because I am. I find the game charming in small doses, but too much gameplay and it starts to feel repetitive and saccharine. Even after several days of play, I'm still not totally clear on who this is for: It's a kid's game at heart, but the exercises are demanding enough even for some adults. If Nintendo were ever to add multiplayer through a software update, it would make a fun party game. For now, I'd say it's for children, tweens, families and maybe a few adults with juvenile sensibilities.
On the one hand, too, an $80 Switch game with two hardware peripherals feels like an awfully complicated way for someone to do squats and crunches in their own home. But then again, most workout tech isn't necessary, per se -- mainly motivational. No one needs a $39-a-month Peloton subscription to ride a stationary bike. And your steps will always "count" even if you don't have a fitness tracker to log them. In this case, the motivator you're buying into is a video game. And I'm sure there are some children (or even adult children) who wouldn't have the motivation to exercise if not for something like this. To them I say best of luck on your fitness journey. I hope you beat Dragaux -- and learn to love Ring -- somewhere along the way.
Mat Smith contributed to this report.