PowerBeats VR Game Review | Rock and Sock Em’ to the Beat

PowerBeats playlist feels like it was pulled from the WinAmp era, but its gameplay is challenging and physically intense. Not simply a rhythm game, PowerBeats offers a fitness challenge on par with greats like BoxVR.

PowerBeats VR bills itself as a Unique Fitness Experience, and my experience of the game says it lives up to that ideal. It’s fast-paced, requires as much space as you can make for your setup, and it relies on reactions and balance to win.

One of my favorite tracks, Galaxies, includes a section where you squat beneath a platform that extends for about five seconds, with a giant spikey obstacle that pops up dead center about halfway through. I’ve played the song probably twelve times and every time that ball gets me. I just can’t squat and move fast enough to dodge it, but my body gets a bit more agile every time I play.

In short, PowerBeats is a game of both memorization and reaction. You need to read what’s incoming, and move with the beat as you punch and dance your way through an obstacle course in one of three virtual arenas.

Preparation

PowerBeats requires a room setup of at least 1.5 x 2.5 meters so you have plenty of width to move around in. I had to do some reorienting to be sure my space fit the requirements as I typically am not forced to use as much open space in VR.

Off the bat, PowerBeats felt very different from BoxVR or Beat Saber because I had to physically sidestep or sometimes leap around obstacles in ways VR hasn’t challenged me to do before. This is a huge positive, but your space needs to be ready for this game.

In my opinion, clear at least a 2.5 x 3 meter space for this game so you have more room than you think you need to avoid knocking controllers or tripping over objects. This is especially true in living rooms of homes with pets and or children.

PowerBeats Gameplay

Beginning with the main menu, PowerBeats makes everything simple and intuitive to find. At the start of the game, you only have your fists to work with but you’ll unlock hammers within about two to three hours of gameplay. Players can also change their size, and the size of their room, to small or regular. I used regular for both settings, some players report regular room and small body type are more accurate. Try a few levels and see whether obstacles feel just out of reach.

Some incoming obstacles to dodge quickly

Players can choose from three arenas: the vast and imposing desert with its obelisks and pyramids, the futuristic void of space, or the siege of a castle. Select the song you want, making note of whether it is available in Beginner, Advanced or Expert difficulty, then you’re basically ready to go.

Not a lot of reinvention going on in the main menus, but an intuitive UI that gets you right into the action. I was into any song within about 45 seconds, so downtime can be minimalized with this title.

Intensity 10/10

My first thought after my first session was: wow, this game is kicking my butt. There are tons of moments in a beatmap where you’re asked to do seemingly impossible tasks. You need to squat in one direction and punch in another, then change directions rapidly. This only gets harder as the difficulty increases. Objects themselves block your view and you need to scramble to react to the right pattern.

You also need to punch each beat hard to maximize your score. Hit it too soft and the obstacle just smacks into you and falls haplessly to the ground with a satisfying slapping sound.

The good news is there is no timeout or death if you miss. You just miss score. The bad news is score is tied to your progression between levels. If you’re not nailing high combos in Advanced, go back to beginner difficulty and just grind the levels out. The leaderboards in this game are all about combos. The higher your combo, the more points you get when it ends.

Average Heartrate: 117

Max Heartrate: 127

Calories Burned: 172

Arms 9/10

You get a very satisfying arm workout with PowerBeats. You need to punch obstacles hard, and you’ll be reaching all over the arena to do it. You must also follow glowing rails with your hands, which rapidly change direction forcing you to physically step side to side or move up or down. The rails come fast and missing them for even a millisecond can ruin your combo, so you must remain agile.

That natural resistance, coupled with punch strength, makes PowerBeats feel like one of the best arm workouts we’ve come across in a while.

Legs 8/10

This title relies on your space, and everyone should enable regular room size if possible for your setup. The game truly shines when you’re stepping and moving. It feels more like the experience you get in titles like Holopoint or Blade and Sorcery, where every inch of your space feels utilized.

Failing to avoid an obstacle means taking damage and losing score

You will be squatting, sidestepping and nearly jumping in some cases.

Core and Balance 8/10

Squatting in this game feels a lot like Hot Squat. You need to do it rapidly, and for longer periods than in most other fitness games. In BoxVR, for instance, you only squat for a moment beneat incoming obstacles.

In PowerBeats, you might have to squat while punching or sidestepping to avoid obstacles. I have to be honest that I’m rarely successful but going through the motions has put me to the test and made me question my fitness level.

As a result, you also need excellent balance in VR and should feel very comfortable maneuvering in a virtual world. Those with motion sickness might want to work up to this title first.

Time Perception 7/10

For me, PowerBeats has a good feel for its use of time. Its songs keep their pacing high for the most part, and there isn’t a lot of built-in downtime. Loading is fairly quick and optimized. Where the game begins wearing a bit thin is its lack of content.

The songs leave something to be desired, and there aren’t mods for songs we want yet. This feature is being worked on according to the development roadmap. By now, I think most VR rhythm games aim for some kind of edit functionality upon or shortly after release, so the number of songs and user content will likely increase as time goes on.

Overall, most users will find their heart rate consistently above 100 BPM and well into fat burning or cardio range. Whether they will want to revisit the title 20 hours in depends very highly on whether more songs and edit content becomes available.

Replayability 6/10

What’s here is a good start. Those who are fitness-minded and trying to break away from BoxVR or find something new will find it in PowerBeats. The workout is exciting and the gameplay feels pretty tight. A bit untested, but tight.

There are some unfair situations, but like any rhythm game practice does really make perfect.

Fitness Scalability 8/10

There are very clear differences in difficulty for each level, and for that PowerBeats gets a high score in difficulty. Expert courses really are challenging, certainly beyond or at the limit of my abilities as a rhythm gamer. The amount of dodging and punching that had to be done at varying heights is dizzying.

Score screen notes everything you could do better to improve your score.

Each difficulty also introduces a new mechanic, or in the case of expert pushes your knowledge of existing mechanics to the max.

Social Competition 5/10

Leaderboards are cool, but it would be nice to have some form of competitive mode. I think the rhythm genre isn’t ripe for competition, but the leaderboards are moving and pretty active based on my experience.

VRFI Final Score 8.5/10

PowerBeats is already off to a brisk start as one of VR’s top fitness experiences. If content is added, it will remain a contender well into its lifespan.

The Good

PowerBeats is tough! It’s physically challenging, and it will test any rhythm gamer with a full-scale room challenge that’s hard to compete with from current offerings. It’s one of the better workouts available in VR, and is built from the ground up for fitness-minded gamers.

The Bad

PowerBeats needs more. It needs more (and better) songs, it needs moddability and it needs more challenges. It needs the polish that comes with Early Access titles graduating into full releases.

 


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