Katana X is a virtual reality fruit slicing simulator. Of course, we’ve seen that idea before, but this incarnation boasts a more realistic physics engine, with impressively accurate blade handling. Timing and accuracy are essential, and you have to be deft and precise with your strokes. A Fruit Ninja experience for the thinking man then. It’s surprisingly relaxing too. With a variety of locations in both day and night settings, the music and sound effects serve to both calm and focus the mind. Thoughts drift away whilst I concentrate on tracing the perfect arc with my sword, clean slice after clean slice through lemons, melons, and limes. After some practice it’s almost a form of mindfulness training, body, mind, and blade all become one, I imagine myself Arya Stark’s dancing master Syrio Forel. Rhythmic and elegant, my sword gliding exactly where it needs to go. Then I miss and hit a bomb, a loud explosion destroys my zen and the moment is shattered. I take a breath, remind myself that there is only one thing we say to death ‘not today’. I exhale and begin again. I hit another bomb. I curse, well I never did rate mindfulness anyway.
Katana actually released way back in 2017 but it was one of those titles that passed me by. It was recommended to me recently as an interesting little gem that had been mostly overlooked so I thought I’d give it a go. Of course here at VR Fitness Insider, we are primarily interested in getting a decent calorie burn. This game is moderately active for sure, especially on higher settings, but for me, it’s real strengths as hinted above are the reward you get from patiently and repetitively honing a skill and the satisfaction of seeing your timing and rhythm improve. The tranquil setting and sounds can help give you a daily dose of mindful relaxation and enhanced focus. .I can see this appealing to a Tai Chi crowd, there is definitely a relaxation/focus element to the game, and for people who are into that, it could provide some lasting satisfaction.
I spent an hour or so with the game prior to doing a benchmark test as the basic fruit slicing training was very slow paced, but important in order to master the technique for faster, free play. Once I felt competent enough I suited up with my sweatband and VRCover, and set up a 30-minute free play session using my Fitbit Charge 2 to record the data.
- Calories burned: 149
- Calories per minute: 5
- Average heart rate: 116
- Max heart rate: 136
- Steps: 2068
- Active Minutes: 24
I’d describe this game as light to moderately active. The training and beginner levels are very low impact, low intensity but it certainly livens up in the harder modes. If you have an excellent natural hand to eye coordination then you can probably ramp up the difficulty level and play at a fair speed. At times the game can be quite frenetic, although not exhausting, as the game-play requires accuracy over speed. The higher difficulty settings see fruit being thrown at you from all heights and at speed. Although I struggled to do much slicing and dicing at this level I believe with perseverance and practice I could have improved and therefore upped both the fitness and technical challenge by ramping up the difficulty.
The game is a great arm and shoulder workout. Some fruit gets thrown at you from really high up requiring overhead slashes, whilst others are flung sideways across the screen so your shoulder gets a decent amount of rotation work in. In addition to the fruit, there are also levels where you have to slice through multiple tatami poles at once. These require you to slash hard enough to cut cleanly through four or so poles in one hit, which means you have to swing pretty hard. It’s a decent workout, although it’s a one-handed game so you’re only ever working out one arm. You can switch arms but even Jamie Lannister was useless with his non-sword hand so I’m not sure many regular users will actually switch hands, meaning your dominant arm gets a good workout whilst your other is used mainly for balance.
The game is played standing but that’s pretty much the only workout your legs are getting. During my playthrough, I did clock up 2000 or so steps, but I think this would have been mostly my left arm swinging during play as aside from a few steps forward or to the side here and there it’s mostly a stationary game.
Core and Balance 5/10
In any activity where you are standing and swinging your arms against air, you will have to use your core muscles to maintain balance and stabilize yourself, so you are working your abdominal and oblique muscles for this reason. Tensing your abs as you swing will activate them further, but remember that this is a game more about technique and skill than getting the best physical workout possible.
Time Perception 7/10
I enjoyed my time with this game and found a 30-minute playthrough went fairly quickly. In a similar vein to BoxVR or Beat Saber once you are in your groove and playing, the motion and movements themselves are fun to perform with enough variety to keep you at it long enough to clock up a half hour workout.
How much replay-ability you get out this depends on how much you like the core mechanic. The physics seems to be very well done indeed, and if precision slicing fruit with a katana appeals to you then the game will remain fun to play for weeks or even months. If it doesn’t then you won’t find any additional reasons to keep playing here. There are a few different game modes and the tatami poles provide a break from fruit slicing, but essentially all you will ever do in this game is chop and slice. The challenge comes from perfecting your technique and getting higher scores rather than unlocking new levels and features.
Fitness Scalability 8/10
I feel this game really is suitable for all fitness and skill levels. Beginner training is very slow paced and you won’t break a sweat, but once you have mastered the techniques you can certainly up the pace. Time trials and free play modes will certainly get your heart pumping if you play for half hour or so.
Lack of Nausea 10/10
This is a standing only, front face experience. As such, there is no artificial movement to disorient even a newcomer to VR, so nausea shouldn’t be an issue at all.
Social Competition 2/10
There are global leaderboards, so you can challenge yourself against the best, and you will also get a local ranking, but this is a single player only game and the scores you will care most about are likely to be your own.
VRFI Fit Score 6.5/10
Katana X is very modestly priced and as such represents a decent value buy for anyone interested in a sword slicer with realistic handling. As stated in my introduction it’s less about getting a decent physical workout and more about refining technique, improving hand-eye coordination and maintaining focus. All of these attributes are important facets of both fitness and overall well-being so the game is absolutely worthwhile. For the right kind of player this could be a nice way to relax at the end of the day, or maybe to get energized to start a new one. It certainly won’t appeal to everybody but for those looking for something a little different and enjoy perfecting technique over advancing through different levels then it might be worth checking out.
Blade physics are really well handled, and the game certainly feels realistic.
Easy to pick up and play.
Having to slice correctly, with the blade edge on, means you will need to spend a lot of time perfecting your technique to master the game, although from the outset it’s still instantly accessible and fun.
The atmosphere and settings are very conducive to good relaxation and a mindfulness type experience.
The whole game is based around a single mechanic, so if you don’t enjoy swordplay for its own sake there is nothing here to make you play on.
There seems to be no further development of this game, even though it’s still classed as Early Access, it hasn’t been updated since mid-2017.
Katana X is available on Steam for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift priced $7.99 or £5.79. WMR support is not listed, but there is no reason it shouldn’t play fine.