If you, like me, are starting to increase in age while decreasing in metabolic ability, you’ve probably looked or are looking for ways to incorporate fitness into your day-to-day life. Video game publishers and developers have sought to solve this particular problem many times in the past, because what better way to encourage gamers to get fit than through games? While the days of the Wii and Xbox Kinect and their vast libraries of exercise titles are long gone, there are still contemporary options. I’ve recently turned to the likes of Beat Saber for my cardio fix, but that game brings with it the burden of setting up a space for VR and donning a headset (and also isn’t strictly a game for exercise). Enter Fitness Boxing, a simple, pick-up-and-play fitness/rhythm game for the Nintendo Switch that might just be the ticket to a new me in 2019.
Fitness Boxing’s core concept is a simple but effective one, pairing up traditional boxing techniques with instrumental versions of hit pop songs and rudimentary fitness data tracking. Starting up the game for the first time, players are asked to input some basic data such as height and weight to set up their fitness tracking profile. The measurements tracked by the game are probably overly broad and inelegant, things like BMI (Body Mass Index) and calories burned, but it does at least warn players upfront that none of what they’re seeing is in any way universally applicable or to be taken as medical diagnosis. After that, it’s time for the very first ‘daily workout’. Daily workouts are quick-fire routines designed to hook players into easy, regular and responsible exercise. To that end, each session is bookended by thorough warm-up and cool down stretches, which are easy to follow and memorise for the future. Boxing is a great fit for the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers, naturally, and the whole thing slots neatly into the console’s use cases. The only thing better than a video game workout is a video game workout you can take to work!
Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom! God, I wish The Vengaboys were in the tracklist
Fitness Boxing Tracklist:
Outside of daily workouts, solo play consists mostly of jumping into any of the game’s 20 included instrumental pop tracks with a chosen workout and letting loose. At first, the idea of karaoke-style backing tracks instead of properly licensed music made Fitness Boxing seem cheap, and that’s probably a valid feeling. The upside though, is that workouts can be made more or less intense, short or longer and with different boxing move sets at will, which means that every session can feel different even when repeating the same songs. Importantly, pulling out simple boxing moves to familiar music is actually a hell of a lot of fun. The mixture of physical movement and arcade rhythm gaming is exactly what makes things like Beat Saber and DDR so compelling, only now it’s under the guise of actual fitness — that’s toight. It’s a tad annoying that most of the included tracks need to be unlocked through play, though. I get that unlockables help keep players motivated, but having to suffer through Party Rock Anthem multiple times just to get to play… well, truthfully most of the tracklist is far too pop for me, but I’m admittedly not the target audience here.
As far as multiplayer options go, Fitness Boxing supports up to two players with either one Joy-Con each or two sets of two. There’s the basic ‘tandem’ mode where two people can sweat it out alongside each other, as well as a mode where players work as a team to string together the biggest combo possible. Lastly, a versus mode pits players against each other performing corresponding punches and blocks until one goes down. That last one is probably the most fun, as it feels the most like an actual boxing session (and replaces the annoying instructors with little Mii-like boxing peeps). The onus is on the user to give new players a crash course on the necessary boxing techniques, which is annoying, but for the most part one can get away with just shaking or flailing the controller no matter what the game is asking for, anyways.
Sexy Dance Fighting
As fun as it is to play, Fitness Boxing certainly phones in its presentation. The whole package feels exactly like the soulless Wii Fit-like that the box art would lead you to believe, mostly favouring form over function. Where it does attempt to add flair, it usually falters. There are six different trainers to choose from to guide each session, and they all have a tonne of outfits and accessories to unlock, but none of them are at all interesting. What’s worse is they love to talk players through their routines, which makes sense when a guided workout is in order, but for casual play it’s pretty annoying. There’s no option to calm them down or turn them off either, aside from muting voices completely in the audio options. The real sin that Fitness Boxing commits though is lacking an option for adjusting input/display lag. It’s something that every rhythm game should have, especially in an age where most people’s TVs have crazy amounts of post-processing active which adds unnecessary delay. My Sony 4K panel has an unfortunate natural level of input latency that can make games like this unplayable if I can’t adjust for it, meaning I can only play Fitness Boxing effectively in tabletop mode. It’s not a universal issue but it’s something that should absolutely have been considered.
Fitness Boxing ticks a lot of boxes. It’s fun, accessible entertainment that promotes simple fitness for people of all types lifestyles. Being on a portable platform makes it a great fit for workaholics, especially. The bland presentation and flaccid-sounding instrumental songs let it down a bit, and the lack of input latency adjustment damn near killed it for me, but it’s mostly a win.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch | Review code supplied by publisher