Although I’ve mostly stuck to Android gaming the past few years, I’ve always been a console gamer at heart. After several long years of demos and waiting, I finally bought a PS4 and PSVR of my very own back in October and have been watching the releases as closely as work allows.
When the marketing rep for VirZoom, the VR exercise bike I had seen at E3 and CES, said I had a chance to demo one in my living room, I was excited.
I still remember watching The Wiz with awe in the 80s waiting for Nintendo to release the Power Glove and Power Mat. Duck Hunt and Big Buck Hunter are still big hits in this house, in case you can’t tell by the NES and Genesis next to the TV.
It also happened to be released on my birthday, so we gave it a spin over the weekend, and here’s how it worked out.
Bridging Sports and Esports
It’s no secret esports are a big hit these days, with major events on Twitch, TV/satellite providers, and others often drawing more live and home spectators than even the Super Bowl.
Still, despite Pokemon Go (and other AR games I’ll discuss in my Lenovo Phab 2 Pro review) and VR, people don’t consider gaming to be enough of a sport. This is where VirZoom comes in, and just to warn you, it’s one of few VR experiences on the consumer market today that fully immerse you to the point you may get motion sickness.
The reason is because you lean to turn while pedaling, and, although the exercise bike is very stable, it can feel like you’re going to fall off, especially during games like the Pegasus chase. Taking flight and crashing into trees can be a little disorienting at first.
VirZoom does account for this and provide an idea of how immersive the VR is for each game. As you watch the video above, you’ll see below the title of each VirZoom Arcade game that is shows a color-coded VR immersion indicator. This is helpful because some games are a bit easier to feel the motion and speed than others, but this isn’t a bad thing at all.
The problem I (and many other critics) had with VR Luge in VR Worlds was that you never felt like you were truly going the speeds it said. Despite only ever reaching the 120+ mph VR Luge speeds in two VirZoom Arcade games, I truly felt like I was moving the whole time I played, and that’s kind of the point.
Also, I realized how lazy I really am haha, but that’s actually a plus for the game too.
The Limits of 2016’s VR Launch
To be fair to VirZoom, the video above is just the demo that’s part of a larger game compilation that also includes games with an Apache helicopter and more. Each game is well animated, and you truly do feel immersed in each game.
They’re also different enough that, although you’re pedaling, there’s enough variety to keep you wanting to play. Maneuvering that tank gets tiring pretty quickly, and at the end of an hour-long session, I found myself searching for Mario Kart-like shortcuts in the pegasus game as I was only racing through gates on the ground with a flying horse.
Many of the games feel a bit sandboxy because of the Unity engine, but they all have really good controls.
Now the problem with VirZoom is the problem that plagues all PSVR launch games and releases for 2016 – how well will it hold up over time?
Virtual reality is still too new, and both gamers and developers are still learning the ropes. We don’t know what works and doesn’t yet, but from the lineup I’ve seen thus far, VirZoom definitely has staying power.
Like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, what truly holds it back is the cost of the peripheral that only supports a limited amount of games (I’ve not yet tried using it to navigate other games, but will by the end of the year). Do you have enough space for an exercise bike?
It doesn’t fit too bad in our living room, and we have a small house with large furniture and dogs. We tuck it in that corner to the right with the pillows when not in use.
VirZoom is as solid as any other PSVR release, but $400 is a steep asking price after spending roughly the same price for both the PS4 and PSVR headset. You have to really be dedicated to fitness, because it’s not an easy peripheral to use for long-term gaming sessions.
If you’re an avid biker, fitness buff, or gamer that just has to have the latest of everything, VirZoom is definitely worth the investment. Having tested quite a bit of VR gear over the past year, I’m definitely still drooling over how well I could feel the speed in this game.
Adrenaline junkies unite around the VirZoom bike. It’s the first exercise bike I ever owned, and I don’t regret one minute of it.
Final Grade: A