If you’re not into the idea of starting your video game with a good round of stretches, Fitness Boxing is not going to be for you. To be fair, it’s not much of a game at all; it would be more accurate to call it a fitness program. Fitness Boxing is all business. It’s clear from the get-go that it exists to get you out of the you-shaped divot in your couch and work up a sweat, so go into it expecting more Tae Bo and less Punch Punch Revolution.
Following its no-nonsense approach, Fitness Boxing’s presentation is fairly bare bones. If you played Wii Fit, the menus will look suspiciously familiar. Lots of clear lines, clear fonts, and a color scheme that could have adorned a gym in a shopping mall in the ‘90s. After you enter your height, weight, and fitness goals, you’ll also meet your trainer. You actually have a choice of trainers, from the barrel-chested Bernardo to the almost frighteningly upbeat Martina. I stuck with the default trainer, Lin, because I enjoyed her House of the Dead-quality voice over shouting such memorable motivational phrases as “In rhythm!” and “Boom, boom, boom!”
Look, Fitness Boxing isn’t trying to impress you with fancy menus and non-robot-wearing-human-skin-like characters. You’re here for one thing: a good workout. And, at least if you’re like me and have both the physique and posture of a hoodie draped over the back of a chair, it’ll certainly help you work up a sweat. Fitness Boxing offers an extensive range of workouts based on a few simple moves. You’ll start with jabs and straight punches, then work in hooks and uppercuts before adding defensive moves like ducks and dodges. You’ll unlock more difficult exercises the more you play, and there seem to be enough to keep you busy for months. There’s even a multiplayer mode, which lets you compete against another player or work together to build combos, in what seems to be the game’s biggest concession toward actual fun.
Staying on track with the exercise program will require you to bring a lot of your own motivation, though. Unlocking new moves and patterns is fun for a while, but if you’re not into the exercise itself, Fitness Boxing doesn’t really offer any other incentives. During your workout, your trainer will shout out tips that are either supposed to be helpful or motivating, but they just repeat a small number of stock phrases that don’t always seem related to what you’re doing. You can unlock new outfits for your trainers, but the inherent ickiness of being a man picking out clothes for my female trainer to bop around in kept me from exploring that avenue. You can also unlock new songs to exercise to, which are… a problem. The song selection comprises tunes you would have heard in the dorm rooms of fairly boring college students in the early 2010s, and, presumably due to strict licensing agreements, they’re all covers performed in the style of a Casio keyboard demo. Of the 20 tracks available, I stuck to the same three or so every time I worked out.
When you get into the mechanics of the workouts, things start to break down. For one, not all the songs match up that well to the exercises you’re performing, and in longer workouts, there are often long periods of dead air as the song you’re using restarts. The game’s ability to detect your actual movements is also iffy at best. You don’t need any extra equipment aside from the Joy-cons you already have, which is a plus, but they’re not as sensitive as they perhaps ought to be. They seem to just detect when any sharp movement occurs at the time you’re supposed to be punching, so you could just shake your controller at the right time rather than actually throwing a punch. That also means that the game often registers punches with more complex movements, like uppercuts, during your wind-up, thus screwing up your not-important-at-all score at the end of the round. It also has a habit of not registering defensive moves at all, since your hand movements during these are more subtle. Obviously, this is a knock against the software, but it shouldn’t really impact your enjoyment too much. You won’t get kicked out of a workout for missing too many beats, and a few undeserved misses in a sequence of hundreds of punches won’t make much of a difference anyway.
After each round, you’ll get a score out of 100 ranking your performance, along with stats like how many punches you threw, estimated calorie burn, and a dubiously calculated “fitness age,” that’s certainly more useful as an encouragement than a diagnostic tool. Fitness Boxing makes a nice set of charts and graphs out of this data, if that’s the kind of thing you get excited about. It’s minimally useful, but it’s handy to have in case you ever want to see, for whatever reason, whether you threw more punches on January 8 or March 13.
If you have the inexplicable urge to work out with Joy-cons in your hands, Fitness Boxing has you covered. It’s a very lightweight game, with only a few basic modes and a pretty atrocious music selection, but it definitely provides a solid workout and enough incentive to actually stick with the program. That’s more than I can say about any other Switch game, or frankly, any other attempt at fitness I’ve ever made.
Fitness Boxing doesn’t have a lot of features to speak of, but it does provide a solid workout. Its exercise routines are challenging and enjoyable enough, despite their atrocious background music. Fitness Boxing isn’t going to be the most fun game on your Switch, but it’s worth checking out if you need a little extra motivation to get your heart rate up.