Marathrun- Intense VR obstacle courses with friends

In the VR world, there seems to be limitless possibilities of what kind of games you can come up with. Despite this, we unfortunately see the same kind of games being made with little to differentiate between them. Sure, rhythm games are fun, but after the 50th one, they all start to feel the same. Shooters suffer from the same tiresome act as well and it seems like there needs to be a new breed of the genre in the VR world to shake up the established norm. Marathrun is still raw in an Early Access form as of now, but what it does is inject parts of other games that have succeeded before it into one of the most fun and unique experiences I’ve seen in quite some time. Marathrun takes the craziness of among us, the parkour elements of Stride VR, the climbing physics of The Climb 2, the obstacle courses from American Ninja Warrior and toss in a little bit of trap-based chaos from Dark Souls and you’ve got a recipe for what could be a surprise hit.

The Basics

Marathrun gives you the option to get right into the thick of it, but I would recommend a tutorial to start you off. It is here you get introduced to the physics that makes the game tick. There is quite a bit that goes into the piecing together of these random obstacle courses. First off, disappointingly you do not use your arms to run here. I was hoping for a natural locomotion-type system like Blade and Sorcery uses as well as Stride VR, but here I was unable to find that option, but it’s possible it gets implemented on the full release. You are given two hooks that you can remove from your back to use as climbing tools as well as using them in a zipline type of way. There are climbing physics, force physics and momentum physics are at play here and the combination they create makes for an amazing VR experience. You can face up to 5 players in any particular course and when a room is full, you will see the most that this game has to offer as you see your fellow players struggling right alongside you in the course. It’s fun stuff and every game plays out a bit differently depending on who your opponents are.

What it feels like to play?

If you’ve ever seen shows like Wipeout or American Ninja Warrior or MXC, you know just what you’re getting into here. You are pitted against 4 others on an obstacle course right out of one of those shows and though the graphics aren’t that amazing, the vibe of the game is great and the creativity of the levels helps keep each run feeling fresh. It’s not inaccurate to say that this is VR’s answer to Fall Guys and if it’s possible to expand the player limit of 5 right now to something closer to 10 or 15, you might find this game being the next Gorilla Tag VR and based on the popularity of that shock of the year in the gaming world, that isn’t a bad thing. Swinging from bars, climbing frantically, and running from boulders is surprisingly fun and when you have a full game, the action is really intense and something that might’ve been a more laid-back experience becomes a frantic and physical experience that could easily become the next big craze in VR.

What will keep you playing

The focus on multiplayer here means you will be playing Marathrun for a while and considering it’s just in its Early Access phase and already has 5 maps and a decent following on Sidequest, there is a lot to expect from this game going forward. The physical aspect of it makes it so you can incorporate it into a daily workout routine as you will find some of the more tense races will have you working extra hard to finish first. The content isn’t that numerous right now, but the potential is pretty much as good as it gets in the multiplayer VR scene and since there aren’t too many games that look like this one on the market, there is plenty of room for Marathrun to make its mark here.

Preparation-

More so than most VR games, Marathrun will have to move around quite a bit and during the thick of one of the courses, you can easily find yourself losing your place in the room and possibly hurting yourself. Because of this, make sure you have a 5×5 space or larger available to you as I found myself frequently needing a reminder of where I was in the room.

Intensity – 9/10

I recorded my 30-minute workout with a Fitbit and played on an Oculus Quest 2 Headset.

Calories burned: 300
Calories burned per minute: 10
Average Heart Rate: 120
Max Heart Rate: 136
Active Minutes: 27

I didn’t expect Marathrun to have me sore and out of breath after playing it, but during some of the more intense races I experienced, I would find myself not only having to figure out where I’m going to go obstacle wise, but also trying to gauge which would be the fastest path for me to get through physically. Believe it or not, climbing in VR is strenuous and here the story remains the same as having to climb obstacles and use your hooks to latch onto long ladders is a tough task after a few games in a row. Overall, the experience won’t have you panting for breath, but you certainly will be tested physically at times.

Arms- 9/10

Although you aren’t going to be using your arms to run, your arms will play into just about everything else. Climbing, swinging, pushing yourself up onto platforms, all involves your arms here, and believe me when I say you should absolutely be stretching before you get things going here. Climbing using the hooks gave me the most tiring exercise here caused me the most trouble and because of that, I found myself only able to play for a limited amount of time. All of this is fairly difficult to get the hang of though, as the lack of actual wait and solid objects being present makes certain things tough to grasp. Climbing was easy enough, but pushing yourself up from ledges I found to be extremely difficult at times and really hampered my progress when it happened.

Legs- 6/10

Marathrun doesn’t explicitly use your legs much, but because of the constant movement that will be present throughout your time with the game, you can easily incorporate your legs into the proceedings without much hassle. Because of the amount of running involved, I was often jogging in place as I tend to do during most VR games with natural locomotion and this made for a solid leg workout after a while. To add to this, when ducking to jump in-game, I did the same in real life to both stay immersed and keep my legs engaged. I did the same while climbing the ladders too, mimicking where my feet would be not only to keep immersed but also to keep myself from falling off balance here.

Core/Balance- 7/10

If you’ve ever tried rock climbing before, you know that you need a very strong core to be any good at it. Here that fact is true to a lesser degree. You will be reaching and shimmying all over the place while playing Marathrun, so while you aren’t going to get a shredded core during the gameplay, you will feel a solid core workout after playing this one for an hour or so. Balance-wise, you need to be on your game here as you’ll be leaping and falling and jumping so your center of gravity will be fluctuating wildly here. For those who find heights to be a bit of an issue, here you might find some trouble, so take it slow at the start until you can get your bearings.

Time Perception- 8/10

I thought Marathrun did a great job in knowing just what kind of game it wants to be. It doesn’t dance around with tons of modes; it shows you what it’s all about right from the get-go. The races themselves don’t last all that long, so that makes play sessions with Marathrun easy to jump into and out of without any trouble. I found the action here got pretty intense after 30 minutes of playing and I would tire out soon after that. While in-game, the atmosphere is great and feels like a futuristic obstacle course should and when the races start, there is little else that will be on your mind besides how you can finish first.

Fitness Scalability- 8/10

The only way to scale your physical workout here is by figuring out how much you want to put into this experience. Simply put, if you aren’t willing to get into it here and really work your arms during the obstacle courses, you are not going to win. That’s fine for some people, as they might be fine with just the VR experience as is and have little care about who is winning or losing. For the competitive types, the more you put into this physically, the more successful you will be. It’s great when a game rewards hard work and this is one of those games where you will be rewarded for the burn you’ll be feeling after you are done with a lengthy session.

Dizziness/Nausea- 8/10

This category will vary for certain people as the problems with height in VR don’t always affect everyone. It should be noted though that every time you fail here, you will plunge into the pits below and while the fall doesn’t stay too long, the feeling of dropping a great distance might churn the stomach of some VR players. I didn’t find many issues with the action happening here though and despite all the jumping and climbing, things seemed to stay pretty smooth throughout my time with the game. The high speed at which you move throughout the courses though might give some pause, luckily there is a demo to try it out with no risk.

Social Competition- 8/10

Marathrun is looking like one of the most addictive multiplayer titles in the entirety of VR and the small offering at the table right now is just a hint at what the final product might end up looking like, so if you are looking for a unique experience and to compete against 4 other players online in a futuristic obstacle course, there is no better option right now. The problem with a game like this is the player base is going to be what drives the sales and while playing, I had trouble on occasion finding a room and unfortunately in this game, when you don’t have a room to play in, you won’t be able to play it. For the full release, there needs to be some kind of basic campaign mode so that people struggling to find games can actually play the game.

VR Fit Score

Game Score

The Good

Marathrun gives us a glimpse at what could become the new craze in the multiplayer VR world. The combination of physical ability and strategy come together to create a fun and intense race to the finish against other players and each race feels different depending on the skill of who you are playing with. The graphics are fitting for what amounts to a futuristic obstacle course. The physics at play here are as good as they get and whether it is the force physics at work or the climbing physics, the immersion is helped because of it. As far as games of this style go, Marathrun stands alone as the most intriguing and fun to play and there is a lot more to come from this title since it is only in the Early Access stages.

The Bad

If you are unable to get internet or are unable to connect to a game, you are going to be out of luck when it comes to playing this as the only option to play outside the tutorial right now is in multiplayer matches. While I had a ton of fun with the game, there were times when no games were available and it rendered the game effectively useless. As far as content goes, there is not a ton at the time being with only 5 courses available and that is coupled with only one mode as well, so you may want to hold off a bit before diving in here.

Marathrun is available on Sidequest and playable on Oculus Quest 1 and 2.

Editor’s Note:  Marathrun is also available via the Oculus Store App Lab.

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Adam Braunstein is a VR gamer, videogame writer, actor, and all around gaming enthusiast. After experiencing VR for the first time at VR World in New York City, Adam became enthralled in this other reality that allowed the limits of imagination to be broken and has since been a dedicated VR gamer anxious to spread the joy that this amazing platform can bring. When out of the Virtual Reality, he can be found at the gym, playing sports with friends and playing guitar/singing.