“This is going to be SO EASY!”
“It can’t be that hard just bobbing up and down in place can it?”
“I probably won’t even break a sweat”
These were the things I was telling myself before trying out Hot Squat VR and let me tell you, each of the statements was 100% WRONG. Hot Squat VR made me work for every inch I climbed on the leaderboard. But it kept me engaged with very simple mechanics throughout the experience.
The music was basic, the graphics were basic, the experience was no-frills, but if the goal of the developers was to create a game that delivers max-heart rate pushing intensity while being entertained, they certainly accomplished it.
Hot Squat VR is a VR workout experience for the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift that aims to get people in shape while having a little bit of fun and avoiding crowded gyms. I personally consider myself a gym rat and love fitness so there was a bit to be desired as far as resistance training goes (I was a little jealous of the characters doing bench press to the left of me in the game), but for those that are looking to simply get started on their path to accomplishing their health and fitness goals, I would highly recommend Hot Squat as a solid first start.
Intensity – 9/10
To test it out, I used a Wahoo heart rate chest strap connected to their iPhone app. For comfort and sweat elimination, I wore a simple headband and used a removable VR Cover and I didn’t notice any sweat or fogging in the headset. Zero.
Here are my stats for 15 minutes of gameplay. I’m not going to lie, there were a few times that I stopped the experience to check my watch because my legs were burning and I didn’t know if 15 minutes had passed or not:
- Calories burned: 177 (708/hour)
- Average heart rate: 126 bpm (66% of my max heart rate)
- Max heart rate: 153 bpm (80% of max heart rate)
Using the 220-age max heart rate formula, you can see that I was very close to my upper limit which should increase my VO2 Max and increase my post-exercise calorie burn. I was giving my full effort for almost the entire experience.
Arms – 1/10
For the most part I was simply holding my hands close to my body and focusing on my legs. I felt like I wanted to drop my arms a few times but Hot Squat was too smart for that and penalized me if I dropped them too low. Maybe it was because I could only focus on how my legs were on fire but I didn’t really feel my arms getting tired. In the clip below you can see a flash of red when I drop my arms, letting me know to keep them up.
Legs – 10/10
I’ve been going to the gym for as long as I can remember and the only thing that compared to the burn this produced were the pain sessions I had to endure when training as a collegiate pole vaulter when I was doing squats and sprints to failure. That is saying a lot! It doesn’t matter if it’s just your body weight, after a certain amount of reps (my record in Hot Squat was 131 consecutive squats) you start to feel wobbly and your leg muscles ache with a deep burn. I feel like I was able to push myself through the pain more than a traditional gym setting because of the fun music and the drive to beat my last squat score and rise up the leader board.
Core and Balance – 8/10
It’s easy to get sloppy in Hot Squat as you get tired. The walls don’t change height but after awhile, I found myself trying to go only as low or high as I needed to complete the rep. When the burn was really setting in, I had to focus on staying upright and not bending forward too much. When I bent forward, I could feel my lower back taking on the work and tiring out. The way the game mechanics are set up, you are almost forced to have good form. The cut outs in the wall in the shape of a body also give you a good guide of what you should be doing. It got extra tough when I had to hold the squat as the walls extended, check out the clip below to see what I mean.
Time Perception – 6/10
One of the best aspects of working out inside VR is time dilation. You are focused on what you are doing and not the clock so time passes by quickly, especially compared to a traditional cardio workout on a treadmill or spin bike. Hot Squat VR is a very intense experience, but it’s kind of repetitive. You basically hear the same music, see the same walls and the only difference is the length of the walls and their colors. It’d be easy to get bored after a few minutes but the simple element of a leaderboard kept me competing again and again to move up the ranks. It’d be awesome to have music synced to the variation of the walls coming at you. I feel that would create a greater sense of flow and make time fly.
Pain and Effort Perception – 5/10
Another great feature of VR workouts is that studies show that you notice less of the burning in your muscles and lungs. Because of the leaderboard and forced cadence of the walls, I really had the sensation that I wanted to duck them and not get hit. This focus on the walls, combined with the power of the leaderboard, made me forget the pain or push through it. I did WAY more air squats then I would ever do in a gym by myself.
Replayability – 7/10
As mentioned before, there wasn’t a lot to this game but I think that’s okay. This game serves its purpose by letting users get in quickly and do an intense workout while having fun and without having to pack a gym back, drive to the gym, get dressed in the locker room, etc. This is a great experience that removes a lot of friction when it comes to following a simple but effective exercise routine. Of course you should do more than just squat but I’d imagine 3x 20-30 minutes sessions per week would give you more physical activity than the majority of average US citizens. As you start to get higher on the leaderboard, you only see the next few slots above and below you, keeping you motivated to climb higher and push harder. In this clip below, you can see me unable to avoid a wall, it shatters, and I check my score on the leaderboard to see how well I did. It’s a small element but a powerful motivator for me.
Fitness Scalability – 8/10
Can both fitness beginners and experts play this game and get a benefit? As you squat under more walls, they start to speed up, making it harder and harder to keep up. Continuing to push yourself as you try to climb the leaderboard will keep that booty growing, in a good way.
Minimal Pauses in the Action – 10/10
Some VR experiences are intense for a few moments but then have a lot of downtime, making them useless for fitness. Hot Squat VR is the exact opposite. The longer you “survive” the walls, the more intense they get. The intensity infinitely increases as you make it further in the game. Until you find yourself frantically dropping to the floor and ignoring the searing pain in your thighs. The user interface also makes it easy to start and restart games in seconds.
Enjoyment – 5/10
This game is perfect for getting people off the couch and sweating in the least amount of time possible. It also feels great after working out / playing because you really feel the burn and pump in your legs if you are pushing yourself. The music is cute but could easily be seen as a type of cruel torture after playing the game for over 30 minutes. The enjoyment didn’t come from a narrative, high fidelity art or any of the bells and whistles many games come with. It was mainly the small satisfaction of clearing each wall and then checking the leaderboard when each round was over. It does get a little repetitive so the fun factor starts to decrease towards the end of your fitness session.
Lack of Nausea – 8/10
With no false locomotion to cause dizziness or sickness, this game shouldn’t cause stomach issues with anybody but the most motion-sick sensitive among us. Games that keep you on a stable platform are usually the best for this, so ducking the walls as they come at you is good for this. I did get a little disoriented when the walls were at a high speed but that was part of the challenge.
Social and Competition – 8/10
The leaderboard was the only social component I saw, but for me it was a very powerful one. I had no idea who babyeater77 was but I knew I wasn’t going to let him beat me on the leaderboard. This pushed me to drop it like it’s hot at a rash-producing pace. Snoop Dog would be proud.
VR Fitness Insider’s VR FIT SCORE – 9/10
As of May, 2017, there are no commercially available hardware devices to bring real resistance or sports training experiences into VR, so we can only use virtual reality apps to get a cardio, endurance, and muscle burning workout. We haven’t seen anything out there that competes with Hot Squat VR when it comes to sheer calorie-scorching intensity. With two to three 30 minute game play sessions a week, you will burn fat and get fit in record time… all while having fun.