Or should I say, "Hands and Feet On"? Pre-ordered VirZooms just started going out near the end of last month, and it looks like I'm lucky enough to be one of the first people to get my hands on the final, consumer-ready product! (the VirZoom guys have been demoing slightly different, prototype models at pretty much every games / tech convention this year, and they've had some in the homes of alpha testers. Still! I feel like I'm among the first here.) Before I begin, I'd like to link to this thread @Dinoroger
made back in February: https://forums.oculus.com/community/discussion/29594/vr-exercise-bike-virzoom/p1
I'll probably be re-hashing a lot of the same information covered there.
In case you haven't heard of it before, VirZoom is essentially two things: the exercise-bike peripheral itself, and the software content / account features that accompany it.The physical bike
is based off one of those "xbike" models (that normally cost ~$100-150 + shipping) but it's been specially modified with wider bars at the base (so you can do some serious sideways leaning and not flip the bike over) game controller handles (each has four face buttons and a trigger, plus some sort of heart-rate sensors on the grip) sensors to read which direction and how fast you're pedaling, and also the current (manual) tension setting, and a tiny blue-tooth usb dongle to relay that info to your computer.
You should have seen the box it came in, you could seriously fit an entire person in there. Well, someone shorter than me, at least. The bike's rated as comfortable for people up to 6'2" (but I'm 6'5" and haven't had any issues!) and safe for people up to 260lbs, and feels VERY sturdy and stable all over. Weighs about 40lbs, and can be folded to minimize storage space, although for now I'm just leaving it out. The buttons on the handles look a little cheap and have a little wobble to them, but have a good size and shape to them (no complaints when sliding my thumb from one to another) and make a satisfying click when pressed. The triggers feel... chewy? Yeah, chewy. They seem responsive enough so I don't have any complaints.The software
, aptly titled VirZoom Arcade, consists of a collection of mini-games specially designed for use with the bike. Right now there are only about 5 or 6 main games, although each one has different game modes available and the developers plan to add additional games and game modes to the arcade, free of charge, over the lifetime of the product. Interestingly, some of the games even feature online multiplayer; Driving a virtual race-car by pedaling and leaning on an exercise bike is already quite the novelty, but doing it in a competitive race against some other person desperately pedaling to try and beat you? That's an awesome concept.
The games as a whole are not the most graphically advanced (Close-by scenery / foreground objects and character models and such are actually fine enough, it's mostly just the backgrounds / map geometry that look several-generations dated), but I didn't find that to detract much from the experience, and each one is pretty simplistic in terms of gameplay, but that's by design; They each provide a clear, easy-to-understand objective to motivate you to keep pedaling, and because your daily play-time is going to be inherently limited by your physical stamina and you can mix things up by playing a different game each day or a mix of very short sessions of each game in one sitting, you aren't liable to get too bored with any one, and of course once new games are added in that will be even more variety to hold your attention. At any rate, it's FAR better motivation than just sticking a TV in front of your bike or having some guy yelling encouragement over your shoulder.
So far I've only tried the tutorial and one game-mode each of "Stampede" and "Go Fast Car", but I'll be sure to give my impressions of the other games and game modes as I try them out.
First I did Stampede, in which you play a(n invisible) cowboy, riding through the streets of an infinitely-long western town and lassoing horse-thieves before they could get away. The lassoing action involves a timing element: looking (somewhere near) a target and holding down the right trigger sends an icon spinning around a circle, you release the trigger when it hits the top 1/3rd or 1/4th of the circle to successfully lasso them (which sounds easier than it is, especially once you start to tire out!). Leaning left and right moves your horse sideways so you can position yourself behind bandits, grab items, or avoid... let's just say "hazards"... and there were power-ups that could be grabbed to let me shoot small tornadoes ahead as an alternate means to knock the bandits off their horses. Between that and the lasso lighting on fire when pulling off consecutive successful lasso attempts, I think I may have been some kind of super-hero sheriff the whole time.
Every handful of waves, there'd be a bonus round where I had to try and stay behind a swerving, unmanned carriage as it dropped diamonds behind it. I made it twenty waves into Stampede before climbing off the bike, butt-and-leg-muscles aching and body already drenched in sweat. No fogging of the Rift lenses, I'm happy to say!
After grabbing some water, I moved on to Go Fast Car
, which is Formula 1 racing (where the drivers all just happen to be happy dogs... labradors, I think). Pretty straightforward in the mode i tried, which was a race against the AI on a simple 0 shaped track. Stay in control on the turns, keep your pedaling speed up, and when possible grab power-ups for a speed boost. Not the most exciting racing game I've played, but it kept me pedaling hard long after I wanted to stop, so mission accomplished there. This is one of the modes that supports online play, by the way. After five laps, my legs were rubber (and one was shaking a bit), my butt was sore, and I was so ready to shower the sweat off. Still no lens fogging
, though! Seriously, I don't think it's even possible to fog the Rift lenses through heat and sweat alone, I've only had them fog up ONCE since I got my Rift and I think it was because I started Rifting too soon after a shower..
So what else should I mention here? Well, VirZoom is going to support Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, AND PSVR, but currently the VirZoom Arcade software is only available through Steam but they're working to get it onto Oculus Home as we speak. VirZoom Arcade also has integrated Pandora radio support, and 'Strava' (whatever that is?)
Oh, there is
(or is going to be) a gamepad emulator to use the bike with non-virzoom games
. I'm definitely looking forward to pedaling my way across Skyrim or the wastelands of Fallout, or using it in some external racing game... pretty much anything where I can use pedaling speed in place of variable joystick input and use it for forward movement, and do the rest of my controls on eight face buttons and two triggers... or hold a gamepad while on the bike.
And the developers are really cool people. They regularly respond to questions in their forums, are very open to suggestions and community feedback, and reply to support emails very promptly. They seem to be super enthusiastic about launching the VirZoom product and service and I just really hope they do well, given the risk involved when developing for such a niche market.
One last thing for now, before I leave the thread open to questions and comments: I know, $400 might sound like a lot for a peripheral
(then again, some hotas setups, racewheels, and even gaming chairs can be well over $400) or a piece of exercise equipment
but in VirZoom's defense, it's both a peripheral AND a full-fledged piece of exercise equipment, and that price is including the bike, shipping (which is worth like $50 alone, on a 40lb package the size of a small coffin) AND a life-time membership plan to advanced account/software/workout-planning features...
So if you're looking for a unique peripheral-based VR experience AND a way to motivate yourself to get or stay fit, I'd say the $400 is well worth it. (But to be fair, I got in on a very early promotional offer and only paid $250 for mine.
The next nerd to cry about "the resolution" of top-of-the-line VR devices will be permanently banned from using ALL standard-definition media. And yes, that includes all pre-Switch Nintendo games. Especially Melee.