BoxVR exercises throughout a pandemic
BoxVR workouts land somewhere between those arcade punch boxes, a Boxercise class, and maybe an arcade shooter. Once you’ve reached your stance (a footprint icon on the floor indicates whether you’re putting your right or left foot first) the soundtrack and workout begin.
The goal is to hit, block, or dodge anything that gets in your way. Successful actions pile up in the HUD on the left side of the screen. If you collect enough, these will increase your score. If you get hit (or miss something) your ‘combo’ will break and you will have to start building your run again.
While many training games with wands or hand tracing focus on these areas, BoxVR seeks to maintain all of the total body workout. Yes, neon balloons will shoot you up, demanding butts, hooks, and overcuts, but these are connected by “walls” that you have to duck under. These seem to be set at a good level (assuming the game can measure your size) to feel the sting of the squat. It’s always a little deeper than comfortable, but that’s probably good for a workout.
Throughout the session, you will be asked to change your posture and offer a few seconds of rest before the next barrage of neon targets. I’m not a black boxing belt either (I know that’s not a thing), but these workouts are very cardiocentric. You won’t nail your shape, and while this has helped improve my fitness level and possibly my responsiveness, BoxVR is not going to result in any real sparring improvements. There are no coaching pointers, and while the fitness trainer profiles are tailored to the classes, I’m not sure what benefit anyone will get from it. Did you program the class?
The game tries to keep track of how many calories you burn based on your weight, height, and movements. Expect to burn a few hundred calories for prolonged exercise.
It’s a VR cliché, but I appreciate the escape – a workout that isn’t boring, nor does pushups or handstands in my one bedroom apartment. I’m pretty tired of these four walls.
BoxVR puts you in a boutique digital gym where (rejoice!) There is nobody but you. It almost feels like it’s designed for COVID-19, even if there aren’t any virtual hand sanitizer dispensers.
Choosing the workout you want, whether it’s the intensity or the length of the session, you can also choose the gym look and feel, which includes a sci-fi-themed landscape if you prefer to keep things playful want .
After a few weeks of training with the Oculus Quest, I tried my PSVR as well. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit the PS4 that well. The headset is much too heavy, the cables are irritating and tangled – everything is uncomfortable and unwieldy.
Because of this, BoxVR, like most VR workouts, works best with the latest (and critically) lightest hardware. Even then, I found it a bit too sweaty with prolonged training – imagine doing a fitness class with safety glasses on. It doesn’t matter how lightweight the VR hardware is if you still have to clip it to your face.
Compared to some other titles – we recently checked out the dance-centric Supernatural, but you can add Beat Saber here too – I missed a soundtrack of more familiar songs and mixes. Now when you play BoxVR on a PC, you can add your music to workouts – I was pretty jealous of this feature.
I didn’t manage to exhaust all of the workouts mainly due to the sweat during longer sessions, but BoxVR now has two different DLC expansions that add a wider variety of music and workouts. Perhaps disappointing, it doesn’t offer a significant change in musical styles from movements, but in general, these DLC workouts required a higher level of skill (not to mention fitness).
The makers of BoxVR just announced a new VR fitness hub, FitXR. Existing BoxVR users get a free upgrade to the new ‘studio’ on Oculus Quest, which includes more than four hours of boxing practice. These workouts are a bit more sophisticated, fold up into lunge moves and more classes, but it doesn’t seem to shake things up too much. I would have loved to see the opportunity to save with a trainer and a virtual punching bag, even if there isn’t any physical feedback on your swings and bumps. (I imagine something like Sharon Stone being trained on her tennis serve in Total Recall.)
However, FitXR’s new hub could help you stay motivated. He offers virtual fitness classes with six other players (or even ghost data) to keep you busy and to be at the top or middle of the leaderboards.
Three years later, the company seems to be sticking to rail punching. Now that VR hardware has evolved, I hope that BoxVR (or FitXR) can continue to do so.