Music-based VR games have been incredibly popular so far as we are seeing the basic infancy of what this genre of gaming is to become. There are some fantastic examples in Beat Saber and Audioshield and then some less impressive titles. Smashing Healthy VR has some truly unique features making it worth a look while also lacking some basic mechanics that show it has a ways to go before it can be considered amongst the music VR titans.
The deal in Smashing Healthy VR is incredibly simple. You have some boxing gloves and then tiny cubes come flying at you that you have to punch and that’s when the experience starts and ends. There are no scoreboards, no icons for hitting the cubes with your left or right glove, no real motivation seemingly at the start. Then you head down your first tunnel and as the beat of the song changes, the cubes come flying at you and the environments turn into something I can only describe as Alice in Wonderland meets a steampunk world on an acid trip, it’s absolutely nuts. The interesting part is depending on your punching rhythm, the levels change dramatically and if you try to get away with punching weakly, the stage won’t move at all. While all this is going on, you can change the height or width of where the boxes appear at any time which allows for flexibility in your workout as well. The number one feature of this title for me is the ability to use your own music and have the game sync up to it. I know this is doable in Beatsaber and Audioshield, but they don’t offer the visual treat that you get here. The sound quality is also transmitted terrifically and the boxes have synced perfectly to the songs I’ve tested them with so far.
Smashing Healthy VR can be played standing or sitting, with standing being by far the preferred option. You do not need room-scale to play this game. For my time with it, I used weighted gloves to prevent myself from throwing my arm out like I’m prone to in VR boxing games.
I used 1 pound weighted gloves during my workout and tracked my 15 minute session with my Fitbit to get my results. This game is highly recommended to only be played once a day in 15-minute intervals and anything more than that seems to be too much as some dizziness can set in. Here are my results
Calories burned: 177
Calories burned per minute: 10.4
Average Heart Rate: 113
Max Heart Rate: 136
Active Minutes: 17
While it was only 15 minutes, 177 calories is a hell of a burn for that period of time. I found that the songs I was choosing directly correlated to my heart rate being higher or lower, so I stuck with mostly fast-paced rock music to get the best workout possible. Depending on what difficulty you choose to play on, you can either get a mediocre workout that you won’t feel or a fast-paced barrage that will have you sore after.
Since this is a boxing game of sorts, your arms get the most workout here for sure. There are three difficulty modes and I mostly played on the hardest pro difficulty which seemed to be the best workout. How much exercise you’ll get from your arms depends on the songs you’re working out to. I tried the pre-made soundtrack which has some EDM, rock, and rap tracks on it, and then I tried my own custom made soundtrack which has a whole lot of rock. The game totally changed once I put some Hard Rock into it, the cubes started flying at me to the fast-paced drums and I was in a boxing euphoria with my arms working at their utmost capacity to keep up with the frenetic pace. Conversely, ballads and slower pace songs were a walk in the park and barely required any expended energy at all.
Though not directly involving the legs, Smashing Healthy VR certainly can provide a decent leg workout if you set it up correctly. By changing the height of the boxes, you either will be throwing high jabs and uppercuts or lower gut punches. By setting them up lower, getting in a two-point stance to deliver your blows gets your legs heavily involved, and running one of Smashing Healthy VR’s 15-minute levels with this setup guarantees a hell of a burn. If you want to get really crazy, you can even set them up at the crouch level and knock the cubes out from a catcher’s stance.
Core and Balance- 6/10
Boxing on its’ own requires a heavy amount of core work, but Smashing Healthy VR doesn’t exactly take advantage of this. Instead of having some kind of dodging and ducking mechanic weaved in like other music-based VR titles, this one opts for just the punching phase, and while you’ll get a good core workout in if you really commit to ducking and dodging boxes on occasion (since there’s no penalty). The problem though is the game does nothing to inspire you to do this, so you’re creating your own workout at this rate without the game chiming in.
Time Perception- 9/10
One thing Smashing Healthy VR does exceptionally well is it lets you get lost in the experience. When you’re jamming out and punching to your favorite songs while a cacophony of insane visuals come flying at your face, you enter a sort of trance-like state and it’s an amazing thing to behold. You’ll be sweating by the end of your 15-minute rounds, but I guarantee you will try just one more each time to see if you can beat your score or just to listen to a different track.
This one all depends on how much you love shadow boxing essentially. If you enjoy working out in this way, Smashing Healthy VR will be endlessly replayable and a 15-minute session could become part of your daily workout routine as this is what the developer recommends in the game description. However, there are only two modes; 15 minutes and endless and that’s it. There are no expert-level courses or anything that really changes a whole lot so if you don’t dig the initial experience or find your arms aren’t ready for this level of action, then you won’t be replaying it much.
Fitness Scalability- 8/10
What’s your favorite music genre? If you like slow jazz or mellow, indie style music, the game is going to respond accordingly and give you a quiet, vaguely active experience. If you’re a metalhead and you crank the difficulty to hard level? You’re in for an all-out assault on your arms if you aim to hit every box that comes with you. It’s pretty remarkable how Smashing Healthy VR syncs the different songs and gives you a different rhythm to follow because of it. There are two difficulty modes as well as the option to speed up both the boxes coming at you and the music being played which I don’t fully understand because it ruins most of the songs, though it’s occasionally interesting to hear one of your favorite songs in a different key.
Lack of Nausea- 4/10
Here’s where Smashing Healthy VR falters for me. While some people may appreciate the acid trip attacking your eyes, those visuals combined with the high-speed rollercoaster you’re on going up and down hills and twisting all over the place might leave you feeling pretty dizzy or nauseous for a while after. I played for 30 minutes and had a bit of nausea for the rest of the night after that. I don’t usually get sick in VR games but racing games and the like tend to wreck me for a bit. The developer does recommend only playing 15 minutes at a time, so perhaps there is a very real reason for it. I wish there was an option to lower the craziness of the visuals but I also understand that is part of the games’ appeal to begin with.
Social Competition- 1/10
This is not a social game. It is just you vs. the endless cubes. Perhaps in the future there will be leaderboards updated and maybe something like custom made playlists by different players that you can download, but for now, there is nothing but single player.
VR FIT SCORE- 6.2/10
A one of a kind visual experience that will give you a solid workout in 15-minute intervals. Being allowed to use your own custom soundtracks and having the game sync to them near-perfectly is impressive and lends some variety to the otherwise standard gameplay. It’s easy to pick up for short sessions and not feel like you’re missing out on anything. There are also two difficulty modes and three different speed-up options depending on how intense you’d like your workout to be. This is an early access title and there will likely be updates to the gameplay going forth.
The gameplay is extremely simplistic with nothing really telling you if you’re doing well or failing. The environments, while varied, seem to repeat after a couple of sessions. The intense visuals and speed at which you move from them may cause nausea and dizziness in some people. For the price, it isn’t a ton of bang for your buck.
Smashing Healthy VR is available for 19.99 on Steam and playable on Oculus Rift, HTV Vive, Windows Mixed Reality and Valve Index.