If you’ve been using your VR headset as a fitness tool for any period of time, chances are high that you are already familiar with BoxVR. We voted it our Fitness Game of the Year in 2017 and even now racing into the second half of this year, its simple ball punching mechanics continue to entertain. According to my Steam profile my own playtime has now exceeded 100 hours. I was so proud of this fact, and convinced it must be a record that I trawled through all 335+ reviews on Steam to find anyone who had played more than me. There was only one person, damn you Smodafh!
In all seriousness, if you’re looking to work out consistently in virtual reality this is pretty much an essential title. It provides fun and intense full body cardio, with an unusually solid focus on legs, so often neglected in other fitness games. Being a stationary forward facing experience in which you stand in a small boxed area it requires relatively little space to play, and the mechanics are simple enough that anyone can enjoy and master it.
In recent months the developers FitXR have tried to implement some new ideas and features into the game. New themed environments and a calorie counter were welcome additions that added variety and allowed for better exercise tracking. They have also introduced a dynamic scoring system, awarding more points to powerful punches thrown and encouraging you to work out harder. This was all very good, but then they made a controversial decision to remove the default paint-ball cues, (the objects you punch), and to replace them with a new cue set that looked like some kind of pulsating sound wave. It’s fair to say this wasn’t a popular decision…
The Controversy of the Cues
Reaction to this change was damning with multiple threads like this, and this being created, deriding the direction the game was going and demanding the developers restore the old cue set. In fairness to the developers the changes were probably not that bad, but for veteran users, who had been exercising in the game for several months, to just change the cues without notice, whilst simultaneously implementing a new scoring system and wiping the leader boards clean prompted some harsh feedback.
In discussion with the community the developers were firm in insisting the old paint balls would not be returning, citing problems with scoring consistency across different headsets and also customer feedback from newcomers who found them confusing. However they acknowledged that the replacement cues were not popular so promised to redesign them again with the goal of providing consistent scoring experiences across all headsets, whilst being more intuitive to newcomers, and being visually appealing to long time veterans. No pressure then! Well at the end of July the update went live on both the Oculus and Steam stores. I’ve spent several hours playing the new build and these are my thoughts.
Update Review – Version 0.23 Released 1 August
This youtube video shows the new cues as they are now
Visually the new cues are ok if a little nondescript. Face on they like those sherbet flying saucer sweets you enjoyed as a kid, whilst hooks look like earphones or something.
The blue and pink coloring won’t be to everyone’s taste but I do they feel they go very well in the tunnel environment, which has always been my favorite place to play. From comments on the Steam board, they haven’t won everyone over with the new design but personally, I much prefer them over their weird futuristic cues released in May. They are rather simplistic and garishly colored, but I find them fun and oddly charming for it. The haptic feedback feels on them is lovely. I use the Oculus Touch controllers and punching these gives a wonderful pulsing ‘pop’ feel when you punch them. All in all, I’m ok with these, although I’d be interested to hear other user opinions!
Scoring and hit detection
One of the big flaws of the previous versions to me was that the scoring was inconsistent, and jab scoring, for me at least just didn’t work. No matter how hard I jabbed I could only ever score 5 points, and discussions on the board seemed this was mirrored by many, especially Oculus users. Well now a hard jab nets me 25 points or so, whereas a little tap gets me 10 to 15 so I really feel this accuracy has been greatly improved. Again, I’m interested to hear the feedback of others but I’m very happy with the scoring now. Also I have to say, this is the first time I’ve been absolutely content with the hit detection. It feels spot on for me, and I’m no longer missing cues that should have been scored hits.
New music and workouts!
The other main addition to this update is the inclusion of two substantial new workouts, complete with some much needed new soundtracks. I enjoy the house and dance tracks they have but there is only so many times you can listen to them. The new workouts feature two new genres, rap and pop and in my opinion are really great additions offering some stellar new songs, and a faster, more intense set of punch combos than we’ve seen so far. In fact I’d say these are my favourite workouts in the whole game.
I got in touch with FitXR asking for the track listings and Bavi responded with them. The tunes are all royalty free and can be downloaded from Premium Beat or Musicbed and I’ve linked to the Youtube versions where available so you can hear the new soundtracks for yourself. I have to say they all sound a lot better with the headset on and working out!
Another positive for me is the length of these workouts. At around 12 minutes each they fill a nice gap, as the existing workouts are all either 5 or 6 minutes or else around 20 to 25. Hopefully we will get a few more of this length.
Hip Hop Hook
Workout Length 11:49
Champion – Tyrone Briggs
I got the juice – Dream Junkies
Victorius – Tyrone Briggs
This rap based workout focuses on both punch combos and legs and will give you a good all-around cardio workout. I personally like the tracks, obviously not as good as Eminem or 50 Cent but it has a similar vibe to boxing legend Roy Jones’ ring walk rap and works nicely in this game.
Workout Length 12:52
Swift – Harrison Amer
Crazy Boutcha – Wendy Child
Lets Work – Koyote
Twisted American Girl – Riley and the Roxies
I love the soundtrack to this workout. The music is a bit camp and cheesy, like rocking out to the Scissor Sisters, but with the crazy tunnel environment and new psychedelic colored cues, it’s a blast to work out to. This workout is all about speed, speed, speed! There’s no legwork here, just round after round of crazy fast jab and hook combos. There’s timing involved too, as the pace hots up with cues tightly packed together, then spaced apart slightly, so you have to get your timing accuracy right. Cheesy pop might not appeal to everybody but this is my favorite workout currently and a great way to cool down following a 12 round Thrill of the Fight session.
In all, I’m very happy with the new update, but I’m interested to hear the views of others, especially regarding the new cue design, so feel free to comment and share your views!