Review: Knockout Home Fitness

28 Sep 2021

Wait, what did that title say? Something about home fitness? Oh no, that means I have to get up and move again…

Over the years, many have tried mixing a game console with physical activity. All the way back on the NES, there was the Power Pad mat controller with World Class Track Meet. Then there was the Exertainment Bike on the SNES. Later, the Wii had a go at it with its motion controls, the Balance Board and Wii Fit, and later Wii Fit U (which I grudgingly admit was sort of fun).

These products have had varying levels of success (and effectiveness as a fitness routine), but admittedly I have to agree that moving around any amount is better than than sitting on my tush. So now, the magic of Marvelous’ and XSEED Games’ publishing and development by Pocket brings us Knockout Home Fitness, exclusively for Nintendo Switch. Can the power of the Joy-Cons get your blood pumping as you punch and kick your way through the game’s routines? Can you have fun doing it? Well, I’ll tell you… once I catch my breath.

Orthodox Stance

KHF follows a pretty simple gameplay formula. Each day you start the game up, it will prepare a 15, 20, or 30 minute (your choice) program of fitness courses. For all of these, you will stand facing the TV in a fighting stance as one of four trainers performs moves which you need to replicate, while offering advice. This main program can only be completed once per day, and if you want to train further you’ll use “3-Minute Fitness” mode where you can select any course you like. As you go, more courses with more complex move patterns will be introduced to you, and you’ll also unlock more music, trainers, and studio backdrops.

At its core, the game plays out as a rhythm game. You will find yourself punching, kicking, and guarding in specific ways (indicated on a timeline on screen) in time with the beat to a variety of music tracks, and you are scored on your accuracy. I played through several full fitness programs over the course of a week, and my straightforward conclusion is this: If you understand and perform the moves as indicated by the trainer, the programs can get fairly intense. I did my best to follow them all faithfully and was certainly sweating by the time they were over. If I set the sessions to be 20 minutes (plus a few minutes of stretching time which can be turned on or off if you like), it was definitely enough for me to feel the impact.

The music and presentation was fun enough to keep me motivated to finish (more on that in a bit), and the programs offer enough variety with their different styles (kickboxing, boxing, Muay Thai, and challenges which mix it all together) that you won’t get bored too quickly. Although I feel like Wii Fit, with it’s wide range of different activities, was somewhat more fun as a game, whether or not it was as effective of an exercise tool. That said, I certainly did have fun with it, and probably learned a thing or two about basic martial arts moves in the process.

Southpaw Stance

The one big caveat, is the word “if” in “If you understand and perform the moves. . . .” As it is designed, the game is incredibly easy to cheat. Whether this is a problem or not is entirely up to you, as cheating in a fitness game is really only cheating yourself. After all, the goal isn’t really to “beat it,” but to burn calories and get healthier. But the reason the game is easy to cheat is because it doesn’t really seem to make full use of the Switch and Joy-Con’s capabilities.

As you might expect, you play with a Joy-Con held in each hand, and the game registers the hand movement as you perform various motions like hooks, body-blows, and uppercuts. But it seems like it’s simply looking for the correct controller to be jerked, much like old school Wii motion controls. The Joy-Con controllers have more advanced motion capability than this, similar to but more powerful than the Wii MotionPlus features, which allowed determining angle and direction of movement.

Knockout Home Fitness does not utilize this functionality for some reason. Some of the game’s actions are “free” actions; they are counted automatically and don’t actually require you to perform the moves. If the game fully utilized the motion capabilities of the system, it could have tracked one’s hands more accurately, which would have required the player to actually perform the motions rather than just jerk the controllers. Even if you are performing the maneuvers, the game doesn’t know or care if you actually performed them correctly or not so long as the right hand was used to do it.

Despite the inclusion of kicks and kneeing, the game can’t track your legs directly, so it counts these actions by the movement the relevant hand makes when you do these things. This is another thing that full utilizaiton of motion control could have at least partially helped with. Further, this is something that Wii Fit (and Wii Fit U) was able to do better as the Wii Balance Board made it possible for the system to at least partially track your legs and even whole body to a limited extent. With functionality like this, the game could have actually tracked most of the “free” actions instead of just, well, giving them to you for free.

Front Stance

Back to some more good points. The game offers a pretty solid exercise music track. It is all original music that is well made and feels like something you’d hear at the gym. It has that high energy dance feel to it, with a strong beat that facilitates you timing your punches and kicks correctly. It’s both fun and functional and I have nothing but praise on the developers for that.

The visuals are pretty basic, but well done. The main studio looks like a potentially real techno dance studio, and two more “studios with dark or light abstract backgrounds” are available. I’d like to have seen a few more options here, but they do serve their purpose and I can’t fault them for that at all.

There are four trainers available, and the models and animations are all very good. But in a point of criticism, only one of the four trainers is male, and the female trainers, though not overtly sexual, do seem to lean towards sex appeal a little bit (But to be fair, this is a fitness program and so nothing is really out of line since it’s gym clothing). The UI is simple and clean, and everything is functional and readable at a distance which is important for a physically active game.

Finishing it Out

Knockout Home Fitness is a mostly well-built fitness game that, when played as intended at least, I definitely feel offers an effective workout routine and is fun and engaging. It’s not trying to be a game like Ring Fit Adventure, but that’s fine; for what it is, it does a good job of it.

However, the game’s weakness lies in its apparent failure to make full use of the available technology of the Nintendo Switch system. Because of this, the game has to simply trust that you’re doing everything when it calculates your calories burned. For most people, I admit this won’t be a problem, since anyone who buys this is probably interested in getting an actual workout rather than cheating it. But the game could have definitely benefited from tech that it didn’t fully utilize. Knockout Home Fitness is both effective and reasonably fun in spite of this, so it is recommendable as long as you approach it as the fitness program it is supposed to be.

~ Final Score: 7/10 ~

Review copy provided by XSEED Games for Switch. Screenshots taken by reviewer. Featured image courtesy of XSEED Games.