When the Switch was first released, I was hoping that Nintendo would roll out an updated version of Wii Sports, or more importantly, Wii Boxing, as the tiny Joy-Con controllers were perfect for pugilistic activities in your game room. Unfortunately, that never happened, and now, as the Switch inches closer to its second anniversary, the console hybrid finally has a boxing game with developer Imagineer’s Fitness Boxing. Sort of.
Fitness Boxing is more on a “Gamercise” title than a boxing competition sim. If you were expecting Miis beating the snot out of each other, you will be disappointed. Instead, Fitness Boxing puts the emphasis on light impact aerobic exercise set to licensed music. It’s Guitar Hero with punching. Each session starts off with a warm-up and stretching, guided by one of five coaches, and then each day you go through a 10 minute routine of jabbing, hooking, and dodging on time with musical cues. The player wields Joy-Con in each hand, palm flat with hands closed gently, thumbs resting on the L and R buttons. To score a punch, you actually throw a punch. The Joy-Con pick up the type of punches thrown, so you’re not limited solely to jabs. Your body does, in fact, get a work out here and the punching response on screen is pretty spot on.
The game keeps track of your progress each day and monitors things like calories burned and body mass index. Once your daily activity is completed, there are other game modes that can be played for fun to keep you off your butt and keep you active, even if you are standing in your living room, throwing punches in front of the television.
There are over 20 licensed songs in Fitness Boxing, but the vocal tracks have been removed. The decision makes sense as your coach is constantly shouting at you with praise and encouragement during your sessions, and having to listen to that on top of Lady Gaga or Maroon 5 would be brain numbing. Imagineer didn’t try to do too much with Fitness Boxing, instead opting for a simple and (mostly) fun game that helps add some much-needed exercise to players’ lives worldwide. The clean menus and interfaces get you into the action fast and if you boot the game up daily, your fitness calendar begins to fill up with stamps, showing your progress, which is nice.
Each of the coaches has a distinct voice and style, and you can unlock new outfits and looks for them by playing the various game modes and completing challenges. The biggest issue with the coaches is that I’m not too sure they actually captured live actors for voice work. The conversations sound computer generated — like Siri, for instance — as the coaches pronounce words phonetically, by syllable, so “seriously” comes out like “seer-ee-ohs-lee.” It’s a minimal distraction, but it is a noticeable once, especially when you are trying to match your punches to the meter markers, all while controlling your breathing and bouncing on the balls of your feet.
Fitness Boxing is a good way to get gamers off their couches and on their feet and active. I, for one, am in dire need of a reason to get off my butt and moving, and this game gives me a great reason to do so. The exercises disguised as play keep things fun and light, and the low impact workouts are good for players of any size, shape, or age. The songs are fully licensed from some of pop music’s biggest acts in the last 10-15 years, so even if you don’t care much for pop music, like me, you’ll at least recognize the songs from commercials, movies, TV, or other mediums. As always, consult your physician before starting a game like this. Fitness Boxing is an exercise platform — your heart rate does increase, and you will sweat.
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. A copy was provided to us by Nintendo.
Fitness Boxing does its job and gets gamers on their feet and moving, but its barebone features and lack of music variety makes playing feel like a mix of chore and leisure activity.