It’s been tough to engage in team sports over the past year. Particularly, basketball has suffered greatly as the joy of heading to a local park to play some pickup has now become a thing of the past. So Gym Class VR appears to us as a solid if a bit unrefined of an alternative. While team sports in VR have not exactly been easy to recreate, Gym Class VR aims to bring the experience of being in the gym in high school during a free period into your living room and it succeeds with flying colors at doing so, even if the offering is a bit rough around the edges.
There isn’t a ton to Gym Class VR. It very much is exactly what the title says it is, basketball in gym class. You start off immediately in the gym and from there you’re given the option to mess around by yourself, calling the balls to be launched at you from the machines at half court or to engage in the multiplayer option available which is where Gym Class VR really hits its stride. You’re not here for a very varied experienced, you’re here from some straight-up basketball action and whether you’re working on dribbling, shooting, passing, or doing your very own dunk contest, it’s all available here for you to experiment with. Keep in mind this is not a finished product as of yet, so many features may be coming to add to the experience.
What it Feels Like to Play
Basketball will always be a very difficult thing to translate into VR. The weight of the ball at this time is impossible to recreate and the dribbling of said ball is just as difficult to have actually feel realistic. Gym Class VR is no exception when it comes to these obstacles. IRL Studios Inc. has shown some inventiveness here to overcome these issues though and actually created something that feels closer to basketball than any other VR game has managed to this date. Shooting is done by releasing the trigger after you’ve gone into your shooting motion. Both hands are unfortunately not utilized in readying the ball, so it’s a bit tough to get a grip around exactly where and when you’re supposed to get your release off. Once you get the hang of it though, it’s fairly easy to repeat your motion, you just have to realize that there is no weight to this ball, so you’re generally going to be using about 1/4 of the force you normally would to shoot a basketball. This results in basically having to relearn the game for a minute as you’re basically now playing with a beach ball instead of your normal, 22-ounce basketball. The passing however feels far more natural as you generally have complete control over where the ball goes as long as your release is timed right and it feels less random than the shooting. The best part of the game though is the dunking. As someone who is gravity challenged, it was absolutely awesome to just go flying through the air and dunk from the free-throw line. It feels great without coming off as too arcadey and having dunk contests with your friends would be an absolute blast here.
What will Keep you Playing
The multiplayer is the main draw of Gym Class and that’s key because while it’s fun to shoot around for a bit on your own, the feeling of playing around in an empty VR game goes from novelty to completely unfulfilling rather quickly. That’s where your friends come in though as you can get games going against friends and strangers alike and it quickly becomes a goofy exploration into VR sports as players attempt to dunk and block each other’s shots at ridiculous heights all while trying to outscore the other team. It’s not something that you will play for hours, but you can definitely find a consistent amount of fun here as long as the servers have people to play with. It will never be an alternative to going out and playing in a park or a gym, but it’s a decent option to stay active for now.
Gym Class is capable of a room-scale experience, though, for the most part, you should only really need a 5×5 space to get a solid experience out of it. You’re going to be jumping a bit here too to replicate a real basketball shot, so make sure you’re not going to hit your ceiling by accident.
I recorded my workout using a Fitbit on an Oculus Quest 2 Headset.
Calories burned: 114
Calories burned per minute: 5
Average Heart Rate: 99
Max Heart Rate: 120
Active Minutes: 30
Gym Class isn’t going to be an incredibly intense experience in the way some VR titles can provide, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be a relaxing one either. Games on your own are relatively low intensity, but as the rooms fill up and fill up they will, all kinds of wild games can break out giving both your legs and arms quite the workout. These mostly include half or full-court games that break out that will have you defending, reaching for rebounds, dribbling, and shooting, and all of it surprisingly comes together to give you a nice workout and that’s far more than the initial offering would hint at.
Despite the inherent issue of no actual weight being involved while shooting the basketball, this can actually provide quite the workout. Shooting is as you might expect with basketball, completely reliant on your arm strength, but here’s the thing, you can’t use normal shooting strength here as you would in real life, and for some reason, having to consciously hold back your strength of release here caused quite the burn for me. Dunking is also arm-centric and when you get into rooms that have dunk contests going on, the weirdest and craziest dunks will prevail and I personally love to just throw it down with some authority and after dunking over and over for a while, you’re going to fall it. The same going for defending and blocking and the ball physics reward you for putting some power into your rejections. You’re able to get as much out of this arm workout as you put in and that’s pretty refreshing.
One thing that just doesn’t ever feel natural to me in VR is shooting a basketball. I was having a tough time with it in Gym Class as well until I figured out the solution. USE YOUR LEGS! I’m serious, unless you are a set shooter in real life, shooting without jumping in the game just feels strange and it will reflect in your shots. If you jump into your jump shots though, things start to feel a lot more familiar and I found my shots to be far more accurate because of it. The same goes for block shots too, although some players will launch themselves far above the limits of human possibilities when shooting and that’ll leave you very out of position to make a play, so sometimes it’s better to just use the in-game jumping mechanic instead. Overall though, it’s a surprisingly solid leg workout.
Core and Balance- 6/10
Not too much in Gym Class really engages your core specifically, but that’s not to say it gets no love at all. Depending on your shooting and passing motions, you could very well be using core muscles there, and turning to open players and engaging in a defensive stance in real life will also engage the core a bit as well.
Time Perception- 7/10
Gym Class is a pretty plain experience that, while fun, will not be a game that will eat away hours of your time like some more immersive VR titles. That being said, if you find yourself addicted to this brand of multiplayer VR sports, you’ll find plenty of fun to be had playing with your friends in this virtual gym and very little graphically will keep you from enjoying the experience for as long as you can physically take it. I never felt fully immersed in Gym Class, but then again there isn’t a ton there to really grip you. This isn’t the full basketball VR experience that one day we hope to have, but it’s a decently fun time for what it is.
Depending on whether or not you can consistently find rooms that are full or have friends to play with, you’ll have a fun enough time in Gym Class. There aren’t multiple modes or difficulty modes available as of now, so your fun is going to be heavily reliant on other players being available to play which, to be fair, is much like actual basketball. While the old adage of “it’s better with friends.” Seems overplayed at this point, it’s proven here, so go in with caution that without them, this might not be an experience to hang with for very long.
Fitness Scalability- 7/10
You can be surprisingly active in Gym Class if you’d really like to be, though the game doesn’t exactly require such things. By actually getting into the spirit of playing basketball by jumping, getting in defensive positions, and dribbling, you will a significantly more effective workout than if you just go through the motions and throw the ball up for shots with one hand, forgo jumping completely, and generally not engage as you would in actual basketball. What you get out of it physically is completely up to you.
Dizziness/Lack of Nausea- 8/10
For the most part, Gym Class is a pretty seamless experience with relatively low-quality graphics that will neither overwhelm your eyes or cause any kind of strain on them considering the muted colors at play. The movement is also rather smooth too and the ability to adjust your height and shooting speed helps that even more. Where things can get a bit dizzying is while jumping as you’ll be taking off to superhuman heights at times and doing that while trying to time your dunks properly is a challenge both physically and to your tolerance for quick changes in height. Your mileage will vary here, though I found it to be a pretty VR sickness-free experience even with all the high-speed movements taking place.
Social Competition- 9/10
The best part of Gym Class is by far the Multiplayer. There are not a variety of modes available, but what is there is basically virtual pickup games available to choose from. While the games are generally not filled to the brim, plenty of rooms had a lot of action going on during my time with the game and although it’s largely dependent on the luck of the draw to see who you’re going to have to play with, the randomness of it all made for some times. The scoreboard works well too so if you’re trying to set up a game with friends, that’s very doable and part of what will keep Gym Class VR as one of the more popular Sidequest apps available right now.
VR Fit Score- 7.3/10
Game Score- 7.0
Gym Class gives the Oculus Quest gaming community an entry in VR basketball that’s easy to just pick up and play without having to learn too many mechanics or modes. The ball mechanics are well implemented and at times it can really feel like you’re shooting around in the gym and the game does everything in its power to try and make you forget the fact that there is no actual ball in your hands. Graphically, everything is clean and neat and this allows a solid amount of players to be involved in the multiplayer rooms with little lag to note.
Gym Class feels like it needs other sports involved to make both the title and the experience itself make sense. There isn’t a ton of mileage to be had here if you’re playing solo, so you’re either at the mercy of your friends or strangers to have a great time while playing.
Gym Class is available for free on Oculus App Lab, Sidequest, and is playable through Oculus Quest and all available headsets via the link cable.