Lately, the most booming genre of the VR world has been the rhythm game. With most of the world confined to their homes as their workout spaces, developers from all over are trying to capitalize on this fact with their own brand of rhythm game. Most games in this genre have basically the same flavor going on. Hit the icons coming at you to the beat and try and get the high score, so what can you really do to alter this formula? Is there anything that can be done to change up your experience so you don’t feel like you’re playing the same game with a slightly different style every time? Well, the developers at NiVision bring you X-Booster for your answer.
X-Booster takes Beat Saber, Audio Shield, Song Beater: Quite My Tempo and throws them into a giant pot shamelessly to create what is my favorite VR rhythm game to date. X-Booster doesn’t really ask you to do too much. There’s not a ton of different modes or some kind of main mode or arcade mode, it’s just a very simple layout and that works perfectly for it. The gameplay premise starts simple until you realize that you’re being given the full arsenal of rhythm games in every round you play. This means boxing gloves, shields and sabers are all at your disposal. The way these are implemented feels amazing to use. Each segment of the song causes the various icons to appear with some excellent clarity between them all to show what you’re supposed to do for each one.
Boxing icons come with the direction that you’re supposed to attack the icons from and failure to do so exactly as instructed results in a missed icon. The saber parts often mix with the boxing segments to create an intriguing pattern that just feels right and always seems to be on tempo with the song. To mix this up are blocks of different shapes and sizes that are flying at you throughout the round and you have to duck or dodge to get around these. Changing up the gameplay still is the presence of drones in the far background that fire lasers at you. These multicolored beams coming your way correspond to your different colored controllers and in order to repel them, you need to pull the trigger on your controller to block them. What makes this part so fun is it feels like you’re actually playing an instrument along with the song. The lasers come at you much like a bass or drum beat would be used and it feels so cool to be part of the music in this way. Aside from blocking the drone attacks, you have to dodge the red lasers as they are unblockable and can seriously mess up your score.
The way X-Booster manages to weave in the three separate weapon mechanics to bombard you on all sides while keeping the icons coming to beat of the song is truly amazing. It does this far better than any other rhythm game around and should be commended for it. Musically, the game is about as on point as I can remember in a game of this type. You have everything from your dance anthems to some hard rock and epic themes that give a certain gravitas to your workout within. There are several modes that give you different difficulty and rhythm types and there is the always appreciated ability to throw your own songs into the game is not currently available, but according to the developers will be ready within a couple of weeks. Seeing how amazingly the myriad of songs the game already has fit into the gameplay makes me even more excited to see what our own music will do with the gameplay as well.
I’d advise clearing the area of anything breakable in basically any direction near you because unlike most rhythm games, this one has you punching and slashing left-right, above, below, and diagonally from you. Since you’re going to be on your feet and shifting from side to side to dodge the obstacles coming at you, a mat of some kind to soften the blow on your knees and feet would be worthwhile to use or invest in as well.
I recorded my 30-minute workout with a Fitbit on Samsung Odyssey Plus Windows Mixed Reality Headset.
Calories burned: 303
Calories burned per minute: 10
Average Heart Rate: 129
Max Heart Rate: 137
Active Minutes: 30
X-Booster was one of the more fun and immersive rhythm games I’ve experienced. The harder difficulties will have you dripping sweat as you’re constantly asked to dodge and duck all while punching and slashing the various icons. Depending on what song you choose, the workout can range from relaxing to a fast-paced rush that is only propelled by the amazing soundtrack to back it up. The experience is similar to BoxVR except it feels like the fully realized version of that experience. The rounds are pretty short too, so you won’t feel you’re overexerting yourself too much as a break is always just around the corner.
This is a heavily arm centric game so you’re going to want to stretch a bit before this one. The boxing aspect alone is pretty incredible as this isn’t your run of the mill boxing experience. If you want to get the high scores, you’re going to have to put some effort into hitting the icons in the specific directions that you’re directed to hit them in. In addition to the boxing, the slicing of the orbs that appear will work out your triceps as you’ll be doing movements reminiscent of dumbbell flys. This variety will have you aching after a while as is and that’s not even counting the block smashing you’ll be doing with your shield. Every part of your arms will be put to the test here, so get ready to feel it. You can use wrist weights to make this even more intense, but I found the game on its own is more than enough of a workout.
While your legs are generally the forgotten body part when it comes to VR games, here they are heavily involved. You will be constantly ducking or hopping from side to side here as you will be assaulted on all angles by obstacles. In addition to this, you’re going to be dodging the red lasers that are fired at you as well and this combination will require so much more leg work than I expected going in. It was refreshing and all the more intense an experience because of this. The rounds are not that long, but stretching your hamstrings and quadriceps before starting your game session is definitely needed as you’re going to get far more of a workout than you’ve had in VR previously during your time with X-Booster.
Core and Balance- 8/10
Between dodging the various obstacles flying at you and trying to avoid the lasers while throwing punches and slices in every direction, you’re going to be extremely aware of your balance throughout your play sessions in X-Booster. Unlike most rhythm games, the icons here come at you from all angles. That means one second you might be dodging a wall flying at you and the next there’s boxing icons coming from the upper left side of your headset screen. Make sure you check your surroundings every now and then via the flashlight mode on your headset or even just peaking at your actual surroundings so you don’t end up tripping over wires and just straight-up crash into your computer or TV.
Time Perception- 9/10
Because X-Booster is so generous with the amount of time it takes to complete a round, you never really feel like “this experience is grinding me down, I want to quit.” Just when you feel like you’re about to break, the round will end granting you freedom from your workout. Even better is the ability to see your calories counted after each round so you know whether you’re exerting too much energy or if you’re right on track with where you want to be. The calorie counter is actually pretty accurate too and I measured it about 10 calories off from my Fitbit reading which was impressive especially for an in-game counter.
This is one of the most enjoyable workouts I’ve had in the VR world so for me, this is an experience that can be played over and over and effectively put into your daily workout routine. The amount of calories burnt correlates to the amount of fun I’ve had inside the fast-paced and intense world of X-Booster and the best part is that it seems like this is just the framework for something that’s going to become far more fleshed out. This is currently in Early Access and the early look at it has shown us something fresh and interesting in the rhythm genre with in my opinion the best starting soundtrack for any of the games by a mile.
Fitness Scalability- 8/10
Aside from the obvious ways to scale your workout using weighted, gloves, vests or ankle weights, X-Booster also allows you to choose from several different difficulty modes each of which varies the intensity an absurd amount. The easiest difficulties will throw just the boxing icons at you and have you occasionally dodging and blocking lasers. As you ramp it up though, the speed at which these come flying at you increases along with the addition of obstacles to dodge and duck, and the method to dispose of the icons starts changing every couple of seconds. This will jack the workout into hyper gear as you’ll be slicing and punching left as fast as you can handle. As hard as the intense modes are, they never last too long and aren’t overwhelming endurance wise.
Dizziness/ Nausea- 9/10
Although you’ll be traveling down the typical futuristic looks tracks and areas, I felt little to no nausea whatsoever during my time with X-Booster. I was able to be dodging and ducking and punching at a rapid pace with little issues other than having to manage my own exertion. If you have experience with games in the rhythm genre, you’ll be fine here as it does nothing to throw off the scenario that you’re used to with these types of games.
There isn’t a multiplayer mode in the game per se, but there is a leaderboard that tracks your progress at the end of every round. The game is in early access though so it is possible that multiplayer might appear somewhere down the road. The experience feels complete enough as is though and doesn’t really suffer from the lack of multiplayer.
VR Fit Score- 8.5/10
X-Booster is an amazing combo of all the VR workout games that you’ve been playing for years. The excellent tracking mixed with the creative use of icons keeps you on your toes and gives a workout that is at the apex of rhythm games. The calorie counter is a novel addition that is so close to being accurate compared to other counters that are featured in X-Booster’s contemporaries. The soundtrack is outstanding and instills an inspiration in you to compete and get lost in the futuristic world created here. X-Booster is one of the only rhythm games that requires you to actually put force into your swings as this raises your score more than just a weak flail might do. The song lengths are short so no session ever becomes too intense.
There aren’t many modes available at the moment and the environment doesn’t change all that much from match to match. If you’re not into rhythm games, you’re not going to find anything too groundbreaking here although I do feel X-Booster is among the elite in this genre. There aren’t a ton of different song types, so if you’re looking for a thorough genre variation as well as the ability to upload your own songs into the game’s system, you’re not going to find that here either.
X-Booster is available on Steam for $19.99 and playable on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, and Windows Mixed Reality Headsets.