Even with headphones and televisions, cardio can be a bore. Enter Widerun, a VR cycling system that offers the opportunity to cycle through virtual worlds and thereby banish workout tedium forever. Is it all it’s promised to be? It’s a brilliant premise, but how does Widerun perform? Here’s the rundown with everything you need to know.

Gameplay Score: 5/5

I was initially skeptical, but it genuinely seems as if the developers behind Widerun have produced a product that could bridge the gap between fitness and VR. As I sped through environments like San Francisco and the Great Wall of China, my workout sped by and I quickly forgot my immediate surroundings. The tracks available are mostly straight but it was at the points where I could go off-road, steering my virtual bike with actual handlebars away from the beaten track, where I was at my most immersed. The system is by no means perfect (I found it difficult to navigate the sharper corners) but overall it is a fun and promising VR experience.

Graphics and Visuals Score: 4/5

How a VR game holds up graphically is a matter frequently pushed to the sidelines, with the technology ranking over aesthetics. It is an important factor however, but not an issue for Widerun. Although hardly cutting edge, the graphics are reasonably good. I cycled through a gloomy dystopian city and had no trouble being terrified by the hungry horde of zombies following closely behind. Other less carnivorous levels included a fantasy waterscape and a glittering cave, and it was easy to lose myself in these colorful landscapes.

Hardware Required Score: 2/5

Widerun is easy to assemble. You can plug in any kind of bike with wheels ranging from 26 to 29 inches. The folks at Widerun have previously stated that they wanted to make this process as straightforward as possible, and they have done just that. You can use it with the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear and the humble Google Cardboard, but the developers have announced plans to expand this roster.

Widerun does not have a set price just yet, but their Kickstarter campaign last year gives us an idea on pricing. By pledging $370, you would have gotten the most basic version of Widerun, with ten VR worlds and the SDK. To get the steering kit and ongoing virtual worlds as they are released would have set you back $440. Remember: this price does not include a bike or a VR headset so if you are starting from scratch, Widerun could be a hefty investment.

Fitness Level Score: 3/5

Perhaps the most important question we can ask Widerun is whether it provides a physical experience as much as it provides a virtual one. Are the mountainous slopes you climb in your living actually going to get you in shape? Partially.

Whenever you reach an incline in any of the virtual worlds, the base station adds resistance to ensure that your ride remains a challenge. You will always be on a bike, so whichever way you cut it, your upper body will remain underutilized. Widerun is therefore not suitable for those looking for muscular gains.

If you’re happy with just cardio, Widerun offers a comfortable workout. The developers have adjusted resistance and steering to work in unison, preventing any user disconnect that might result in nausea.

Gamification Score: 5/5

The potential for gamification is probably the most exciting thing about Widerun. How much easier would it be to crank out a few miles on the bike if you could challenge your friend in another country to do the same and race against them? With robust graphics, a well-designed system and the promise of more virtual worlds and compatibility to come, Widerun looks fit to lead the way for VR fitness—at least from a cardio perspective for the time being.

Final score: 3.8

Getting almost four stars out of five is no easy task when you consider the myriad of elements that goes into an experience like Widerun. We liked the game and we do think you should try it, but we also think that it is a lot like many other games out there right now—especially ones that tout a fitness element: It’ll get your heart going and it’ll get more out of you than a stationary bike, but it won’t push you to grow or fatigue your muscles.

-Niall McKenna

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