VR Rhythm games have been swarming the VR game world for some time now and it seems with each month, another developer throws their hat into the ring to try and stand out among the ever-thickening crowd. It’s hard to blame them too because if there’s a genre that suits VR better than rhythm games, I have yet to see it. So, we’re given yet another VR game that has you hitting orbs to the beat, dodging and ducking, and all the things that you’re used to at this point and you know what? It’s the best one. Not even a full release as of now, Hitstream does things that no other rhythm game has achieved for me to this point. It makes me want to keep coming back for more, and that’s saying a lot when it’s not even out of Early Access. Let’s find out why Hitstream is destined for greatness.
Like most games in the genre, you start out in the menu where you can access a couple of different levels set to randomized music. Keeping in mind this is not a full release, the offering here is decent enough to keep you coming back for more. Levels are broken down into static scenery that’s often quite nice to look at while you’re on a track pretty much in the middle of the sky. It’s a jarring sight at first as it appears as if you’re suspending in midair, though this feeling quickly dissipates as you start seeing the various icons rushing at you. Each level is broken down into multiple songs, so you get a nice variety in the beatmaps because of this. You’ll be punching, blocking, ducking, squatting, chopping, and dodging during each song and it’s a full-body workout that you won’t soon forget.
What it feels like to play
It’s an absolute rush to play Hitstream, and it’s by far the craziest workout I’ve had in VR rhythm game that I’ve experienced. The assault on your senses and body that hits you when these songs start is just unreal and that’s all amplified by the fact this is a 360-degree experience, which no other rhythm game I’ve played can lay claim to. You’re not going to be on just one track the whole time, but rather shifting between three as you play. The icons that come at you mix in different aspects from games you’ve seen before and as you’re playing, it can feel like a BOXVR, AudioShield, and Beatsaber combo that is elevated by its excellent beatmap design. Several songs will have you jumping back and forth from side to side and your peripheral vision will be tested here as you never know where the next icon to hit will be coming from.
What will Keep you Playing?
The promise of multiple levels and songs being released is much more of a when than if at this point considering that you can see the lock icon over a ton of levels at the menu screens, signifying that more content is on the way sooner than later. As it currently stands though, there is still a ton of reason to keep coming back to Hitstream. The levels aren’t infinitely entertaining, but the workout aspect is, and incorporating this into your daily home workout will undoubtedly lead to excellent results. Right now, potential is the main word when thinking about what Hitstream can be, but with a consistently engaging gameplay loop at hand here, there is no reason that we won’t see it become one of the prime titles in the VR fitness world.
Since this is one of the only VR rhythm games to utilize a 360 space, that’s approximately the amount of room that you’ll be needing as well. The icons will be flying at you from all angles as well and you’ll be reaching pretty high at points to hit the various icons, so having a decent amount of space between you and the ceiling.
Calories burned: 344
Calories burned per minute: 8.2
Average Heart Rate: 129
Max Heart Rate: 117
Active Minutes: 30
Hitstream is among the most intense experiences I’ve ever had in VR. It isn’t just a physical workout that’s happening to you, it’s a mental one too as you need to quickly recognize the types of icons coming at you and what you need to do with your body to appropriately respond to them as well as just where they’re actually coming from on your screen. The boxing portions have a BOXVR feel to them that is implemented well and works perfectly with the beat of each song while the dodging portions never outstay their welcome too. This is all to say you’re going to get a hell of a workout when you enter Hitstream and it’s an experience you can go to again and again for some calorie burn
The main focus of most VR rhythm games is your arms and that is no different here as you’re be punching and blocking and slashing all over the place during your time with the game. They’ve also added force multipliers for points, so you won’t be getting away with weak attacks, you’re actually going to have to put force into your punches if you hope to get a high score. This is tracked pretty well too and you can definitely see a difference going 80 percent to 100 percent and you’re going to feel every bit as sore the next day as you want to feel. There are a variety of different icons needing different arm movements to hit them as well and this varies up the workout a bit so you aren’t just constantly punching the whole time.
There is plenty to do with your legs in Hitstream and thankfully the game requires you to use them rather than just giving you the option to use them as most VR games do. Because of the 360-degree setup, you’ll need to be ready to shift your stance constantly and this on its own puts the leg muscles to work. Things kick up even more with you various dodging and squatting you’ll be doing via Hitstream’s unique way to get your legs involved. The purple circles that appear require you to duck so your head is placed in the middle of them and because of this, you’ll need to get down awfully low in order to hit these properly, and the constant up and down motion gives your legs a surprising amount of action despite seeming very arm centric at first.
Due to the different heights, you’ll be hitting the icons at, you’ll find yourself engaging your core to reach both high and low as well as torquing your body to hit the boxing icons. While most of the icons never really require core engagement, you will need it if you’re going to hit the high scores as it’s very difficult to hit all of the icons without using your full body to help you do so. As the songs ramp up, you’ll find yourself quickly having to turn directions, dodge and weave and repeat and the core burn will set in accordingly.
Time Perception- 9/10
Hitstream is only in Early Access, but man if it’s not one of the most fun and inventive experiences I’ve had with a VR rhythm game. It doesn’t have a ton of songs right now, but what’s there is energetic and varied and really kicks you into gear in ways that other rhythm games never seemed to manage. There are more maps and modes coming as well, and I never worried about time passing while I was in the midst of a level.
This gets the perfect rating because the current offering is so addicting, that I can’t see anything letting up once the full release hits. It’s an epic workout to some seriously good music and the creativity within the levels is just something so refreshing in this genre that I see it pretty easily being incorporated into my daily VR workouts. While there isn’t a full-fledged game here just yet, the template is something that will grip you from the moment you start it, and with its variety of maneuvers needed to pull off, it won’t be an easy one to put down once you get into it.
Fitness Scalability- 7/10
From what I experienced, Hitstream moves at one speed and that’s full throttle, so if you’re looking for an experience that tapers to all kinds of workout needs, I don’t know if this will be the game for you. As far as in-game tweaking, I found that depending on the force you exert during your workouts, you’ll either find yourself with a breezy but enjoyable minor intensity workout or a full-fledged take your breath away sweat-fest. Because of this, you can basically tailor the workout, at least boxing-wise, to whatever you’re needing it to be for you. I was unable to find any difficulty sliders, though the levels themselves had different difficulty to them, so this might be something that’s simply built into the game rather than something that’s customizable at this moment.
Dizziness/ Lack of Nausea- 8/10
Hitstream presents you with a bit of a unique point of view compared to other games in the VR rhythm genre. At the start of the level, your point at about a 45-degree angle towards the earth from up in the sky, and you’re basically suspended there throughout the duration of the level. Now, this pretty unsettling to see at first, and although the beauty of the scenery is apparent, it’s hard not to feel a little queezy before the music kicks in. Once it does, however, you will forget where you are scenery wise and the only thing that becomes apparent is the need to hit any and all icons that are coming flying at your head. For those with fear of heights, I’m not sure how this one is going to hit you because although you won’t ever be falling in-game, you will be high up in some of these levels and while that could possibly help some of that fear, for others it might still be an issue.
Social Competition- 7/10
In the early stages of Hitstream, there is no actual multiplayer component available. There is a leaderboard though and this is pretty well implemented from what I experienced. At the end of each level, you instantly can see how you stack up against the competition around the world and that integration shows that Hitstream is capable of creating a connected network, so there’s definitely the possibility for a full-fledged multiplayer in the vein of BeatSaber at some point down the road.
VR Fit Score- 8.4/10
Game Score- 8/10
Hitstream Provides an awesome workout in VR by utilizing all of the techniques its predecessors had created and then throwing in a few of their own. The aesthetic feels totally original and wards off any feeling of “I’ve been here before.” The unique scenery provides some pleasing visuals during the workout and fits the mood nicely while you’re engaged. The variety of different body parts that will get a workout while playing rivals the best VR has to offer. The music is fun and energetic while feeling different enough from track to track so it doesn’t all blend together. Your personal output is tracked accurately, so you will know when you’re dogging it compared to when you’re giving a full effort. The leaderboards give you a constant reminder of how you’re doing compared to the field without having to navigate menus to find them.
If you’re not a fan of VR rhythm games, you’re not going to find something wildly new here. The levels available right now aren’t numerous, so if the gameplay loop doesn’t grip you, there isn’t a lot aesthetically to you interested. The position you start in some of the levels may cause some uneasiness because of the angles, so tread carefully if VR height is something that doesn’t sit well with you.
Hitstream is available now for free on Sidequest and is playable on Oculus Quest and all other available headsets via the Oculus Link.