PlayStation VR is the virtual reality platform with the largest install base, but Sparc is the first time we’ve done a fitness review on a PSVR game. We’ve been anticipating this title since they began releasing images and video last year. The developers have spent a lot of time putting together a product with the intent of developing a virtual sport.

Preparation:

Playing Sparc is currently a PlaystationVR exclusive and will require a PlayStation 4 and the PSVR peripheral. If you want to compete against other people, then it will also cost you approximately $60 a year for a PlayStation Network account. I tracked the workout using my Apple Watch.

Workout Duration:

I did two workouts of approximately 30 minutes each. The first workout was just performing back to back challenges. The second workout was back to back multiplayer matches. I was curious to see if the sustained and controllable challenge based activity would have a better fitness result than waiting in a multiplayer queue. Both workouts were effectively the same but the multiplayer session had less specifically repetitive motions which resulted in less arm strain.

Intensity: Up to 7/10

Competitive multiplayer features are always entertaining but also somewhat dependent on the quality of the opponent. While playing Sparc against more experienced players the intensity was driven much higher. Similarly, watching and listening to a noob wrestle with their setup while you lazily score points on them wasn’t very engaging.

Arms: 6/10

My arms and shoulders got a pretty decent workout. Varying your throw angle and being creative with your strategy will decrease any repetitive action discomfort that some may feel.

Legs: 2/10

This style of game isn’t suited to generating a good leg workout. Secondly, the pace of the match can be a bit slow which reduces a player’s need to move quickly within the play space. If you can identify the path of the orb early then it doesn’t take much effort to dodge it.

Core and Balance: 2/10

Sparc’s current game play is limited from developing core strength and balance. The system doesn’t really differentiate between a hard throw and a soft throw. Because of this, the player isn’t required to adjust their body to make a throw of greater strength, reducing both torque to the body core and the balance required to maintain the effort.

Time Perception: 9/10

Time moved by quickly, especially in multiplayer matches. I was surprised to check my watch and see that 30 minutes had already passed. Maintaining interest in 60 minutes worth of game play would be pretty easy to accomplish.

Replayability: 9/10

Due to the competitive nature of the multiplayer features, Sparc has a high replayability rating.

Fitness Scalability: 4/10

Aside from extending the amount of time played during a session, Sparc doesn’t scale very well from a fitness perspective.

Lack of Nausea: 8/10

I didn’t experience any noticeable nausea moments during my time in the game. The player isn’t required to move far in any particular direction, and the game environment is static, so this limits scenarios where nausea might be triggered.

Social Competition: 10/10

I feel this is where Sparc knocked the experience out of the park. There are multiple elements that make the player feel like they are part of an engaging and social interaction. You can see and communicate with other player’s while in the multiplayer queue. Uniquely, you can all watch the live game play in the current match. CCCP put together a very nifty view where are the avatars in the lobby appear to be huge in relationship to the size of the playing field and can view it from outside and above. While in the match the player can communicate freely with each other but also see the giant avatars of waiting players through windows in the play arena. It was definitely a lot of fun engaging with other people this way.

VRFI Fit Score: 8/10

The Good:
After my multiplayer session, I came out of the experience feeling like I had just completed a sporting match. Additionally, the entire setup of the social interactions was very well done and added a lot to the experience.

The Bad:
The PSVR HMD is tethered from the back of the headset. This makes it difficult to set up a traditional wrangler for it. This is problematic when playing Sparc because the cord loops down over your should and into your feet, which are active in this game. Additionally, the headphone jack is located at shoulder length as well, so there is an additional cord near your head to deal with.

As a fitness application, Sparc could improve their game play to be more fast-paced, requiring faster reaction times and more body movement. Otherwise, this game is polished, fun, competitive and social. We recommend it as it has all the requirements for a sustained fitness activity alternative.

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Jim Bradbury
Jim Bradbury is the General Manager at Black Box VR and specializes in the creation, publishing and support of interactive products and services for digital platforms. His 17 years of game and interactive development experience includes production management, product design, publishing operations, strategic business development and studio operations management. While this may sound important, he is generally just a big nerd for all things geeky and fun.