The Switch is slowly but surely becoming home to a new dawn of fitness games. The success of Ring Fit Adventure has clearly inspired a new batch of keep-fit titles, with the likes of Fitness Boxing 2, Active Life Outdoor Challenge and even Nintendo’s limited release Jump Rope Challenge all vying for a piece of the fitness pie. But not that big a piece: they need to watch their waistlines, after all.
Knockout Home Fitness is the latest contender to step into the ring and attempt to thwack the competition onto its backside. Sadly, though, it puts in more of an Anthony Joshua performance, and is ultimately underwhelming.
Known as FiNC Home Fit in Japan, Knockout Home Fitness has two main modes to choose from. Personal training is the main one but can only be played once-per-day. It offers a curated daily workout, based on settings you choose. This includes your overall goal (weight loss, strength building or staying active) and which part of the body to focus on (upper, lower, abs or full body).
Other than these two settings and the option to choose a 10, 20 or (once it’s unlocked) 30-minute workout time, there isn’t really much more flexibility to the Personal Training mode. Its aim is simply to provide you with a different series of courses every day, to try and keep each workout feeling fresh.
You get a daily stamp every time you complete a Personal Training session, and can then check a graph to study how many calories you’ve burnt and how many reps you’ve performed over time. You can also enter your weight whenever you like, so you can track your BMI and weight loss changes on the graph over time.
Once you're done with Personal Training it's locked off until the following day, meaning the only thing left for you to play is the second mode, 3-Minute Fitness. This consists of 60 separate workouts, each lasting 3-5 minutes in length and offering various intensities. At first, only a handful of these are unlocked, but more become available as you discover them in Personal Training. These workouts are also split into five different categories – Warm-Up, Boxing, Kickboxing, Fighting (which incorporates Muay Thai moves) and a final Challenge section with more intense sessions. Other than choosing your workouts, however, your other options are fairly limited.
You can choose between four trainers (two of whom are locked at the start of the game) and three different studios, none of which are particularly inspiring. There are also 25 music tracks to choose from, but unlike in the Fitness Boxing games they aren’t based on popular songs. They’re a mixture of EDM, Techno, Trance, Rock and Hip Hop, and while they’re harmless enough they’re hardly memorable. That said, some of the tracks almost act like achievements, because they're locked away and can only be unlocked by achieving target scores on specific challenges, which at least adds some sort of objective to the game.
The actual workouts themselves are exactly the sort of thing you would expect from the Wii era of fitness games. As with the Fitness Boxing series, you’re shown a series of icons depicting different left and right-sided strikes and, holding a Joy-Con in each hand, you have to perform them to the beat of the music. Given that it incorporates a number of different fighting styles, the attacks you're asked to perform vary quite a bit. Expect to be pulling off jabs, crosses, uppercuts, blocks, hooks, knees, elbows, kicks, squat punches — the full shebang. On paper (well, on a screen), it looks like an impressive degree of variety.
The problem is, every move is tracked in just one of two ways: either by registering any quick Joy-Con movement whatsoever, or none at all. Regardless of which punch type you’re asked to perform, you can simply flick the Joy-Con and get a perfect rating as long as you time it to the beat.
The kicks, meanwhile, are counted no matter what you do. Rather than strapping a Joy-Con to your leg like you do in Ring Fit Adventure and Active Life Outdoor Challenge, here the game has no way of tracking anything you’re doing with your feet. As such, it just gives you the benefit of the doubt and continues your hit combo even if you’re just standing there.
What this ultimately means is that you can get perfect scores in every workout by simply sitting on the couch eating crisps, and flicking your wrist to the beat when needed. Granted, you'd only be cheating yourself this way, and the only pounds you’d end up losing would be the money you spent on the game, but it stands as an indicator that there isn't really much of a game here to speak of.
Yes, the same can be said about Fitness Boxing 2, but it at least has a wider range of options and tries to keep things somewhat interesting by giving the player a larger and more varied list of achievements, while appealing more to gamers’ collector mentalities. Fitness Boxing 2 had nine trainers versus the four on offer here, and they each had a wide range of unlockable outfits, as well as a sort of mini side-quest where you could try to find an outfit combination that they were actually happy to wear.
It was hardly Civ VI in terms of complexity, but it added a bit of interactivity to proceedings and attempted to add the ‘personal’ to its personal trainers. After all, all the trainers in these games are just fancy mannequins (almost literally, in Wii Fit’s case) who are only there to show you how to do the exercises. When you put one in an ill-fitting costume in Fitness Boxing 2 and they complained, though, it gave the thing some semblance of character that’s completely lacking here.
At its core, the game doesn’t do anything massively wrong. You’re buying it for a combat-based home fitness programme, and that’s what you get. The problem is that in this day and age there are plenty of other alternatives to a $39.99 game, and Knockout Home Fitness has to do a little more than stick a bunch of punch animations together and ask you to copy them while it says “excellent” any time it notices any Joy-Con movement whatsoever.
As it stands, you’d get just as good a workout, and far more variety, by loading up the YouTube app on your Switch and finding some workouts there, while using a free fitness app to track your weight and BMI that way. When there’s no real game to be found here, there’s really no need to drop $40 on a bunch of 3-minute routines hosted by an avatar when there are actual people – some of whom even have a little charisma – waiting on YouTube to give you free workouts.
You could argue that the Switch simply doesn’t have the controllers necessary for a truly interactive fitness game. Say what you like about the Xbox’s Kinect, but it was one of the few devices to date that really suited fitness titles because (when it worked) it could give actual feedback on a player’s technique and shape. Most other alternatives, including the Joy-Cons, are just a case of tracking one basic movement and hoping the player is willing to suspend enough disbelief when being ‘rated’.
That’s why the best fitness games on Nintendo systems are the ones that offer something else to make up for the lack of accuracy. Ring Fit Adventure’s story mode and bespoke Ring-Con controller. Wii Fit’s mini-games, Just Dance’s licensed music and varied choreography. Yes, even Fitness Boxing 2’s unlockable trainer outfits. When accurate tracking isn’t on offer, you need to have something more than just a bunch of short routines to make your game more appealing than YouTube. In that respect, Knockout Home Fitness unfortunately doesn’t do enough.
Knockout Home Fitness doesn't do anything inherently wrong with the selection of short fitness routines it offers, but it fails to support its bare-minimum motion tracking with any extra notable features or gamification to differentiate it from fitness DVDs or YouTube videos. Ring Fit Adventure has blown the fitness genre open on Switch, and with various other alternatives available, Knockout Home Fitness feels a little too limited, old-fashioned, and outclassed by the competition.