BoxVR has been a staple of virtual reality fitness for the past two years, even winning our 2017 Fitness Title of the Year award. It’s easy to forget that for all that time it was still in development as an early access title. Developers FitXR went quiet on PC for a while as they looked to port, first to PSVR and then as a launch title for the Oculus Quest. On May 21st, the day Quest released globally, BoxVR had its full release.
If you haven’t heard of BoxVR, it’s best described as a virtual membership to a boxercise class, featuring structured workouts of varying lengths in which you pop orbs and avoid obstacles engaging in a variety of punches, blocks, dodges, squats, and lunges, all to a pleasant range of pop, rock, and electric techno beats. We reviewed the game way back in 2017, and the core workout the game provides remains the same, although the level of content and overall polish has most definitely improved.
The finished version, (a free update to existing PC owners) features far more songs and workouts than before. There are now 110 songs and 45 workouts, individually crafted by BoxVR’s fitness instructors. Workouts vary in both duration and difficulty ensuring there is something for every fitness level. The ability to filter out workouts involving squats and leg work is a welcome feature for users who may have mobility issues, and one that enables wheelchair users to still get a workout from this game. Another excellent feature is the ability to create multiple user profiles and set daily exercise goals with graphs to monitor your progress.
Cosmetically the game environments have definitely improved. As you can see above the home locker room is far nicer, a plush looking modern setting with background music and gym sounds that builds a nice atmosphere. There’s a great poster on the wall of the BoxVR instructors which personalizes the game and helps create a real-world gym illusion which serves to get you in the mood to exercise. The two new workout environments are also a big improvement over the previous, rather cheap looking buildings and locations that were previously in the game. I really appreciate this graphical overhaul and the net effect is that you feel the BoxVR team have obviously done well for themselves and have expanded into a more upmarket and trendy part of town. The glowing electrical orbs which you punch have remained the same, however, and seem oddly ill-suited to a real-world gym setting. There is a bonus futuristic space themed environment you can train in, and for which these orbs have clearly been designed but perhaps due to collision detection problems with previous builds they are using these throughout all game locations. This strange juxtaposition aside the game-play is unaffected and you soon stop concerning yourself with trying to identify what it actually is you’re punching and why.
Multiplayer is a welcome new feature, although I didn’t get to test it out, and there’s also a playlist editor in which you can create customized workout playlists selecting from the game’s 110 song catalog. The PC version also features the ability to import your own tracks. This isn’t available on Quest yet, but I’m sure somebody will figure out how to side-load them if such a thing appeals to you.
Overall for me, the update is a resounding success. I love the new layout, it’s prettier, looks professional and during two 30 minute workouts I completed in the past week all but three or four songs in that time was new to me. I have 150+ hours in this title now so increased song variety is a big plus for me!
Why BoxVR on Oculus Quest is a game changer
Whilst the most feature rich and high fidelity version of BoxVR is undoubtedly on the PC, it’s the Oculus Quest launch that I think is most exciting and where the game could ultimately find its real home.
The complete freedom from wires and the need to connect to a PC means BoxVR on the Quest can be used anywhere and without restrictions. You don’t need to go through any lengthy setup process to jump into the game, or try and exercise in your tiny bedroom or office space if your computer is in a less than optimal location.
If you have fitness equipment in your garage and train there then take the Quest with you and do 15 minutes of BoxVR before you hit your bench for chest presses, or use it as part of a rotation between your rower and stationary bike. Want to train in the garden or on your patio, no problem (be careful of getting sunlight in the lenses though!), Perhaps you’ve got a full day at work and know you won’t be able to leave the office until late but you want to get a half hour session in during your lunch-break? The Quest has you covered! The simplicity of setup and portability make the Quest the ultimate fitness travel accessory and a super handy weapon to have in your fitness armory. With the 64GB model priced at $399 it’s considerably cheaper than a decent treadmill, rower or cross trainer, and a whole lot more fun and practical considering, you can carry it with you wherever you go.
For all of these reasons, I think BoxVR might prove to be one of the most important titles launched on Quest. It’s the only VR game that is explicitly focused on structured workouts and is designed to work the entire body. Add a weighted vest and go for 30 minutes and you’ll really feel the burn. Have a look at my Fitbit stats from one of my sessions if you have any doubts about its ability to destroy you in a good way. For this workout, I added a mere 2.5 kg vest but I was struggling by the end!
Quest vs PC
For those who already have this on PC but are considering purchasing on the Quest, I thought I’d outline the benefits and shortcomings of each. To FitXR’s credit, they are supporting cross-buy, so if like me you already bought the PC version on Oculus Home, you get the Quest version completely for free. Steam users are out of luck so you’ll need to decide if it’s worth rebuying so hopefully, these thoughts might help you out.
+ Definitely sharper visuals, the orbs especially explode with a more visceral and attractive impact.
+You can import your own music into the game.
+In addition to the new locations the old themed environments from the early access version of the game have been retained, and are not present on Quest or Playstation.
– Your headset is still wired to your computer, meaning you can only train where your PC is.
+Total freedom from cables mean you can punch, squat and move about as much as you like, ideal for a workout game
+The Quest is as portable as you are. Use it anywhere, even up a mountain if you like but be damned careful you don’t leave your play space!
+ All workouts and songs from the PC version included, this is a complete game with a ton of content
– Visually it’s not quite as sharp and the explosion effects when you hit the orbs have been turned down
– The inbuilt Quest sound isn’t great for music so you might want to invest in some headphones for a more immersive experience.
BoxVR is an excellent title, representing the first complete workout program available for VR. Whilst the PC version is slightly better looking it’s on the mobile Oculus Quest that this game truly shines. If you don’t yet own a VR headset and are thinking you like the idea of using one for exercise then an Oculus Quest and BoxVR make a wonderful pairing.