I’ve been a musician for about 18 years now and despite dabbling in a few different areas there, one thing remains constant. I suck at drums. While I consider myself a pretty solid guitarist, the limited amount of times I’ve tried to be a drummer have ended in uncoordinated disaster, whether it be with actual drums, electronic ones the drums on the game Rock Band, I could never figure it out. VR is built to give drumming experiences right off the bat and I’ve never played any of the available drumming-styled games until BoomBox. While many rhythm games exist in VR and several outstanding ones really stand up above the rest, I’ve never really seen any that make you feel like a drummer until now. BoomBox Is perfect for people like me who want the sensation of keeping the beat without having to navigate all the complex parts that make drumming happen and the result is a great workout that keeps you engaged with some razor-sharp beat mapping and community interaction. Let’s find out what makes it tick.
This is about as straightforward as it gets for rhythm games. There is the main room where you can select from all the different songs and difficulty modes, and another room that lets you create your own custom beat maps for songs of your choice. When you enter the game, it is pretty obvious how to play from the get-go since at this point, you likely know how rhythm games work in VR. You have a pink drum stick and a blue one and you use these to smash the icons coming at you. Depending on how accurately you hit the note, you will see ratings that show you how on time you were. The action goes down in a variety of maps which is nice to see considering the title’s Early Access moniker. The sky is the limit for BoomBox and while it may seem like just another rhythm game on the surface, the actual playing of it feels very different and gives a much more technical feel than other games in this genre.
What it Feels like to Play
BoomBox makes you feel like you are a drummer in battle. That’s a weird phrase to say, but honestly, there is no other way to put what it feels like while playing. The music accompanying you is high energy and really gets the adrenaline pumping. I’m not really familiar with any of the artists involved, which is a nice surprise and the music was pretty energetic. There is no real campaign happening at this point, so you’re basically just going from level to level and this is fine for me when it comes to this kind of game. You can jump in and jump out very easily and the gameplay is smooth and fun to play. Aside from the main gameplay, you can also create your own beat maps for any song you desire and then put any music of your choice into the game. BoomBox has a very easy way to access community-made maps too in-game which to my knowledge, isn’t something that is available in other rhythm games right now. That’s right, not even Beat Saber has this capability right now. Woah.
What will keep you playing?
I imagine a lot of drummers might look down on this one like real guitarists used to look down on Guitar Hero. I was never one of those people, but here, the drumming comparison is direct and it makes so much sense that everyone who sucks at drumming out there like myself, will have a blast getting to play along to different songs as well as being able to create their own beat maps with the tools provided here. There are leaderboards to compare scores, multiple difficulty modes, and more to keep you busy for a decent amount of time and the developers have promised additional features coming soon, so even more goodness is on the way.
BoomBox is a surprisingly versatile game that will have you moving all over the place as well as slamming your hands down in a drumming motion many times, so having a pretty clear area to play in is a necessity. You should also have some room to move from side to side as the obstacles require you to not be stationary when they appear.
I recorded my 30-minute workout with Fitbit and played on an Oculus Quest 2 Headset via Virtual Desktop.
Calories burned: 309
Calories burned per minute: 10
Average Heart Rate: 122
Max Heart Rate: 145
Active Minutes: 28
The experience with BoomBox pretty much blew me away as it was one of the most intense and exhilarating ones I’ve had in all of VR. Yes, the gameplay isn’t anything new and if you have played other rhythm games, you likely know what you’ll be getting yourself into. Depending on the difficulty I was playing on, I either got a pretty easy but drumming experience or one that was completely nuts with very little room for failure and keeping the beat and moving around the obstacles was incredibly tough and rewarding both in-game as well as in real life, as the sweat was pouring pretty fast after trying the harder modes. Overall, the intensity is based on the difficulty mode and when it comes to the community beat maps, all bets are off as it’s impossible to tell what the members of the community have in store for you until you experience it for yourself.
Definitely stretch before getting into this one. Even though you might think you know what you are into because of experience with other games in the genre, think again because this is a slightly different movement needed here. The reason is that most of the icons will require a specific downward slam to destroy them whereas other games let you hit them in any direction you’d like at times. The directions change here too, but they never get too over the top and generally stick to a consistent pace, maintaining the illusion that you are actually drumming and keeping that part of the game very engaging.
BoomBox is mainly an arm-centric experience and there isn’t any arguing with that, but in between the drumming segments, you will be assaulted by obstacles that you need to actively duck and dodge around. When I say dodge, I don’t mean just bob your head, I mean you actually have to hop out of the way as during my play sessions, doing the typical VR head dodge was not cutting it, so make sure you have a bit of room available to properly execute in these situations or else your score will suffer because of it. These obstacles come in a variety of directions as well, so often you might find yourself having to duck pretty low, and repetitive motions like this will effectively give you a nice squat-like workout.
Although it may not feel like it, the motions involved in slamming down onto these icons are using not only your arms but your core as well. The force you are generating to hit these icons from a combination of your arms and core muscles. Since the core is involved in just about all exercises, you can expect to feel it getting a burn here and you can expect that to increase with obstacles that show up here as you’ll be having to crouch and rise in quick motions. This won’t be giving you a six-pack any time soon, but it is a complete body workout that would be a great addition to your VR workouts.
Time Perception- 9/10
The best thing about games like BoomBox is that you can just jump in and jump out while still having a hell of a time. The songs don’t last all that long which is a good thing because most of the time it’s a very intense experience. As far as the VR world it brings you into, it is a cool little environment that you get thrown into at the start as it resembles a child’s room and it was a nice little nostalgia trip for me from the jump. The levels are varied visually and each one has its own flavor to it to check out while you are busy drumming along. This is not the kind of game that will swallow you for hours though as physically, that isn’t really advisable to do. 30 minutes at a time felt like the perfect amount of time to enjoy this one.
The best thing about these games is that they really never run out of fun to be had. BoomBox has that in spades as it is only in Early Access and already has a sizable song list to keep you busy. If that isn’t enough, you’re going to be challenged by the community maps and as the game gains in popularity, it is going to grow in content that comes from the players which might make this one of the most extensive rhythm games in all of VR. It’s the type of game that you can show to your friends who have never tried VR before, so it works as an excellent party game as well.
Fitness Scalability- 8/10
The best way to scale your workouts in BoomBox is by toying with the difficulty as well as the game modifiers. The game modifiers let you change a variety of things, but the one that will impact your workout the most is by getting rid of the fail state. By getting rid of this, you can take part in the hardest difficulties for the full duration of the song without worrying about the level ending because you are missing too many notes. Completing these songs on the hardest difficulty is a very tough physical experience and takes an insane amount of coordination and stamina to complete, so if you think you are ready for the big leagues, turn off that fail state in the options and get ready for a fight.
Dizziness/ Lack of Nausea- 9/10
I never felt too much nausea while playing BoomBox, but everyone is different when it comes to VR and you have to be prepared for these icons to come flying at you from multiple angles. This can overwhelm some people I would imagine, but you won’t be moving or teleporting anywhere in this game outside of the home area, so regardless of what the game is going to send at you, I don’t think you will have much of a problem with this one.
Social Competition- 8/10
While there isn’t really a multiplayer available yet, with the route this game is taking in its similarities to other top games in the genre, this likely will be added by the time of the full release. As of now though, the social competition comes in the form of other players creating custom beat maps for whatever songs they choose. Seeing what players can come up with is tons of fun and often a much harder challenge than what is presented in the main game. You will see your scores in comparison to others around the world while playing too, and this creates a fun bit of interaction in the player community.
VR Fit Score- 8.5/10
Game Score- 8/10
BoomBox is an extremely fun VR rhythm game that gives you a different vibe than most games by making you feel like a drummer keeping the beat. The environments are varied to keep things fresh and the energetic soundtrack will keep you on your toes no matter what difficulty you are playing on. Despite the lack of modes, the excitement is maintained heavily by the ever-growing community of custom beat maps that are uploaded, and considering the game is still in Early Access, this is most impressive and bodes very well for the future of the game.
If you aren’t into games like this, then I don’t think that BoomBox is going to change your mind. This game doesn’t really break the mold in any way and neither the graphics nor immersion is going to blow you away. If you have other games in the genre, this might feel redundant and lesser than those, but if you are a first-timer in VR trying out some games that will get you into shape, I can recommend BoomBox right up there with Beat Saber and that’s usually a tough task to achieve.
BoomBox is available on Steam for $19.99 and playable on Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest with the link, Valve Index, HTC Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality Headsets.