The rhythm game is something that has found its way into the core of the VR world. We have numerous titles to choose from such as Beat Saber, Audioshield, and countless others. There’s one thing about those games though that doesn’t register. It doesn’t make you feel cool. You’re slashing and you’re hitting orbs out of the sky to the beats of your favorite songs and for some, that’s all it needs to be. For others though (like me), I like my VR experiences to make me feel something other than just a panic-induced rush to slash the correct direction or duck properly. I want to feel like a character in another world and while there are several genres that I can go to for that in VR, the rhythm genre is not one of those. That all changes with the introduction of Kongfusion.
Kongfusion is one of those games that doesn’t look like much on the outside, but once it gets its teeth into you, it is not an easy one to put down. The core concept is, like most rhythm games, you have a blaring soundtrack that plays while you specific attacks to take down color-coded entities corresponding to your left and right controllers. This is where Kongfusion differs though. Instead of lifeless orbs or blocks coming your way, you are confronted with blue and red Power Ranger looking ninjas that are flipping and cartwheeling all over the place. This immediately gives a uniqueness to Kongfusion as you’re finally having to defeat actual people instead of random shapes and objects. The weapon of choice for now in Kongfusion is the iconic Bow Staff. A favorite among most martial arts fans, the Bow Staff has two ends, one red and one blue. These correspond to the colors of the ninjas coming at you and you must attack them with the proper one to avoid taking damage. Yes, I said damage. This game doesn’t just arbitrarily end when you miss hitting your enemies, they will actively attack you if you refuse to partake in destroying them. If enough hits on you land, your round is over. This starts off as an easy exercise and then quickly picks up into a fast-paced mind game where your head needs to be on par with your body movements. You will need to dodge laser walls as well as enemy attacks during your time with Kongfusion.
Surrounding your battles are some of the more interesting environments I’ve seen in a rhythm game. You’ve got futuristic city landscapes, fighting through space another planet, deserts, the variety is simply awesome and this is only a glimpse of what’s to come as Kongfusion has not fully been released yet. The soundtrack feels extremely unique compared to most titles in the genre as well. The best way I could describe it is if Rage Against the Machine made a soundtrack for a kung-fu movie. It’s great adrenaline-pumping stuff and accompanies the action in your headset perfectly.
The modes currently available are a campaign mode which only has three levels at the time, a free mode, or my favorite of the bunch, infinite mode. The infinite mode is the most intriguing of them all because of how epically challenging it is. It takes place on multiple maps and has you facing round after round of enemies. The frequency in which rows of enemies come at you in both colors, requiring lightning-quick reflexes was incredible and provided some of the most intense gameplay I’ve seen in a rhythm game. Kongfusion showed me that there is room to grow within the rhythm game genre by injecting action and fighting into what was once just a music-based genre. If it continues to grow from its current state, it will be an excellent addition to not only your game library but your workout as well. During my experience with the game, I found it to be an unreal workout that I found to offer the most intense experience physically that I’ve experienced in VR. This isn’t hyperbole, this is a hell of a workout.
All of the action is going to be right in front of you during your time with Kongfusion so this means you’ll want a clear path ahead. Also, make sure no breakable objects are in the immediate area because you will be reaching in multiple directions with your virtual staff and it’s tough to realize how far you’re actually reaching when you’re in the virtual world.
I recorded my 30-minute workout with Fitbit using a Samsung Odyssey Plus Windows Mixed Reality Headset. You can use weighted gloves to enhance the experience, though I found it plenty intense on its own.
Calories burned: 385
Calories burned per minute: 12
Max Heart Rate: 133
Active Minutes: 33
Kongfusion was a shockingly intense experience that literally had me dripping sweat on my floor. The constant need to switch up the positioning of your controllers to match the enemies on screen was pretty exhausting and the need to actually put force into your attacks caused quite a bit of exertion as well. The most exertion came during the infinite mode where you go as long as you can, fighting wave after wave of enemies. The various difficulties added even more variety to the gameplay and it made for an impressively tough experience. It’s an incredible challenge and workout in one and provided some of the best cardio I’ve felt in VR.
Considering this game is based around staff combat, you’re going to be using those arms a ton. The difference here between the workouts you would normally get in rhythm-based games is your arms are going to be swinging far wider than you used to. Because of this, you’re going to feel this big time in the shoulders and upper arms. Jabs won’t really be a thing during gameplay, it seems like cross punches are the closest thing you’ll get to a normal kind of boxing workout here. In addition to this, you’re going to be swinging your arms higher than you’d expect as ninjas come out of nowhere to attack you and they often come from above you or on the sides. In some cases, the tough difficulty modes literally throw enemies at you from off-screen so you need to be incredibly alert during the occasional spaces in the action. The next ninja is likely just waiting on a perch above to come and end your round.
The use of your legs throughout your time with Kongfusion, isn’t too extensive, but there are several times where it will be required. There are laser walls that will come at you from time to time and they will require you to duck or dodge accordingly. In addition to this, keeping slightly bent knee during your time with the game is absolutely essential to make sure you don’t end up too stiff in your legs at the end of your session.
Core and Balance- 9/10
Most VR fitness-based games tend to give the arms and legs a solid workout, but often don’t really know what to do when it comes to core workouts. How do you get sit-ups and planks into VR? It’s a tough concept. Luckily, Kongfusion has you covered. The Bow Staff you’re equipped with has you twisting and turning and reaching all over the place, so you’re going to be feeling it in your core muscles a lot. I recommend doing some stretching before you get into this one as you’re going to be working out muscles that you don’t often feel in VR.
Time Perception- 8/10
I found time to fly by while going against the blue and red ninjas of Kongfusion. The soundtrack has the ability to just lock you into the zone you need find in order to fully fall under Kongfusion’s spell. I found myself playing through each stage multiple times, mostly because any difficulty above normal is crushingly difficult. The infinite mode however gives simply unending reasons to try and beat it. It’s one of the toughest challenges in VR and has a great vibe to it that helps it stand out above the rest of the game modes.
Considering this gave me the hands-down best workout I’ve had in VR to this point, I can easily see myself firing up Kongfusion as part of my daily workout. It’s an absolutely joyous rhythm game that puts some action into a genre that sorely lacks it. There are only four levels as of now, but keep in mind the full release is not until 7/28/2020, so there can very well be more to come. The infinite mode itself tests you to your absolute physical limits and it’s basically asking how far are you willing to go to get the high score? The challenge is the replayability, so if you’re competitive like me, you’ll get your money’s worth here.
Fitness Scalability- 8/10
There are 3 different modes available in Kongfusion. The catch is that each one is unlocked after you complete a stage on the previous one. The difference from the easy mode to the difficult mode (that’s what it’s called) is simply gargantuan. I honestly can barely hand the hard mode levels and difficult mode is reserved for people who are truly in tip top condition and have the focus of some kind of demi-god.
As far as rhythm games go, this is one of the more disorienting experiences. It has little to do with the environment and far more to do with the fact that the ninjas will be attacking from every angle and you’re going to be turning your head a ton to find where they are coming from. Adding that fact to the constantly moving path you’re on can take a little bit to get used to and still had me feeling a bit uneasy hours into my experience with the game. This isn’t a detractor though and it is something you will likely get used to if you have experience with these types of games.
Social Competition- 7/10
While Kongfusion is a primarily single-player game (at the moment), there is a leaderboard at the end of every level that lets you see how you stack up against the competition. It’s a nice little way to show that your hard work isn’t going unnoticed. If you’re the king of the castle, all the players will be working to beat your high score which is a classic but reliable way to create social connectivity when multiplayer isn’t available.
VR Fit Score- 8/10
Kongfusion is an extremely unique take on the rhythm genre. It uses some futuristic environments and interesting enemies to kick you into a workout gear that you previously didn’t know existed in VR. The workout aspect is the biggest draw to this game, though the challenge is also very addicting as well and I have yet to complete all stages on all modes. The music is also fantastic and really drives you forward through each level. It’s also not fully released yet so there is no telling how much more can be added to this game come July 28th, 2020. Mark this one on your wishlist, this is going to be a great one.
There isn’t a ton of variety to the gameplay. You’re stuck with one weapon for the entire experience and that is a bit disappointing as with a name like Kongfusion, I was hoping to see more weapons-related to kung-fu such as nun-chucks or bare hands. The developers at ZMVR do state on their website that the full game will feature multiple weapons though, so that’s something to keep in mind. There are only 4 levels available at the moment, but being early release, this isn’t a real complaint at the moment. A competitive multiplayer mode would do wonders for the game in terms of driving its player base up going forward. We will update the review as the game gets fully released.
Kongfusion is $14.99, and is available on Steam and playable on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index and Windows Mixed Reality Headsets