It's fair to say that kids aren't getting any thinner. Whether it's fast food, too much time sitting on the sofa playing games, or opting not to go out in favour of watching another hour of YouTube, getting some children to do exercise can be a bit of a chore.
A new game from Nintendo aims to get you and your kids doing exercise by stealth. But is there too much focus on exercise and not enough on fun, or has Nintendo got the balance just right? We've been playing to find out.
What is Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure?
The Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure is two new accessories – the Ring-Con and leg strap – which work with the Switch's Joy-Con controllers to connect to your Switch console (note: not the Switch Lite) and track your movement as you play.
The game revolves around three areas that let you battle the forces of evil, tackle a series of mini-games, or complete a number of exercises or sets to help get you fit.
Slip one Joy-Con into the Ring-Con and another into the leg strap pouch and you're ready to start jumping around your living room. There is some calibration to do at first – which takes around 10 minutes – but once that's done you're good to go.
This allows you to setup the experience for you and your strengths, but you can make things easier later on if you change your mind. It's advisable to go easy during the setup so you don't overdo it in the game – but it's up to you how you want to approach this.
Adventure, mini-games, or just sets
The main crux of the game is to be found with the Adventure levels, although we are sure you'll have just as much fun with the mini-games.
The Adventure levels see you team up with a "ring" to beat various bad guys, who are more Muscle Beach than Princess Peach, and how you move the Ring-Con or yourself will govern what happens on the screen.
Because of the controller on your leg, the game can determine how you are moving, and this translates to running on the spot to move forward in the game, for example.
When it comes to baddies, you'll have to beat them with exercise moves – and there are various ones to master. You'll find yourselves having to repeatedly do squats, overhead presses, and knee-to-chest movements. Around 30 minutes into the game and three levels later we certainly had a sweat on, and a few days later we can still feel all those squats.
While the Adventure levels will give purpose to your exercise, we suspect the mini-games will deliver the smiles and laughs with friends. With dozens to choose from, the games cover a range of different muscle groups to work – balance, squats, knee presses, mountain climbers – and each mini-game features the option to play "casual" or "hardcore".
To get others involved you simply pass around the Ring-Con – there isn't a way to connect two Ring-Con devices to the game – and if you're happy with your score you can record it on a leaderboard for later.
When you're done with the mini-games there are a series of exercise sets you can do. These range from toning different muscle groups and will get you in shape to either do better in the games, or just in real life.
Can you do too much exercise?
The idea is to only play for an hour at a time. We consider ourselves fairly fit, but certainly felt it at the time and certainly after the fact the next day. While this isn't and shouldn't be seen as a replacement for a decent circuits class, it's certainly a fun way to get some exercise without realising it.
Being Nintendo, we noticed there are plenty warnings throughout the game about breathing, making sure you keep hydrated, and overall making sure you don't overdo it. There are warm-ups and warm-downs included, but these can be skipped, at your peril.
You might tire but you'll certainly laugh while you do it
It's fair to say this isn't a lean back experience, you aren't going to be playing this on the morning commute, and you might even feel fairly self-conscious playing in your living room in front of your family or your friends. But it is good fun.
It's clear that after a while the Adventure levels are likely to tire. The gameplay isn't free-roaming, rather on-rails, and aside from running on the spot and doing exercises to defeat your foes there's not much to it.
But with the mini-games Nintendo has emulated the success it had with Wii Fit and the Balance Board that you've probably got in a cupboard somewhere in your house.
We're sure the fun and games you'll have at family gatherings watching your uncle see how many scissor kicks he can do in 30 seconds will be more than enough to bring a smile to your face. Where you'll laugh most is using this for play-dates or family gatherings.
Ring Fit Adventure isn't quite the next Nintendo opus, certainly not in the same way that Mario Odyssey or Zelda, nor does it feel as groundbreaking as Wii Fit was some years ago.
You aren't going to be playing for hours at a time collecting and making potions to complete further levels. It also certainly isn't one of those pick up anytime and start playing games either. But to treat it that way isn't the point – a large part of the point about this game is to get your exercise in.
It's often said that the hardest thing about running is putting on your trainers and getting out the door. The fear we have for Ring Fit Adventure will be that you'll never have the time, the energy, or the inclination to play it all the time. That means it could, just like the Balance Board, end up gathering dust in a cupboard.
When you do get it out to play though, we'll expect you'll be grinning from ear to ear and fully energised from the experience.
This article was first published 14 October 2019 and has been updated to reflect its full review status