Although it’s been out for a little while on different VR platforms, OhShape, Odder Labs’ first attempt at a VR experience, has finally arrived, in native form, for the Oculus Quest.
OhShape falls squarely into the category of rhythm-based VR games. These usually let you follow some music and do stuff like swinging weapons from a galaxy far far away or swinging your fists while in beat. In OhShape, you have to make the right “shapes” to fit through holes in rapidly approaching virtual walls, pluck coins out of mid-air, and punch through barriers while ducking and strafing to avoid obstacles along the way. Sounds challenging? Well.. it is, and yes, there is a particular question that comes to mind – Can a virtual experience actually deliver a workout as satisfying as the real thing?
OhLook! It’s got diamonds!
Enter the game lobby – well designed, almost minimal. I really liked the diamond-shaped buttons for the songs that you can choose from, and game options and various other things are neatly arranged in the lower area. OhShape provides a very clean look in the lobby and continues to do so in the game itself. This helps you to stay focused on the task at hand: working out!
To jump right in, you should play the guided tutorial to get familiar with your surroundings and get a general feel for the rhythm aspect of the game first. When you feel prepared enough to OhShape it up, take a good look around the lobby. The game lets you personalize your experience a great deal. You can set different speeds for the songs you wish to play and adapt the volume of both music and sound effects. There also is a very welcome no-fail option, so the game doesn’t stop and reset when you can‘t make the cut. To be honest – that happened to me often enough that I found that option useful! Playing on hard does stuff to you and your cardio that you wouldn’t believe, but we will get to that in a little while. You can choose from three difficulty levels; easy, medium, and hard. These affect the overall challenge, mostly by speeding up the cutout walls, coins, obstacles, and barriers being thrown at you. There is also a checkbox for smaller play areas. Once activated, OhShape can be played out in a fixed position without the need to strafe left and right. This is a great option for those who play in limited areas. The game really demands a lot of movement, so chances are you will knock over nearby stuff in your home when fully immersed. So be careful!
I like to get the most out of my workout and I’m lucky enough to have a large space available for play, so I didn’t use that option, but that meant I have to sidestep a lot. Not only are the coins spread further to the sides, but even in normal mode, there are three possible positions (left, center, right) for every obstacle, cutout, and barrier to be dealt with. These positions are also accompanied by floating obstacles that you will have to duck under. The game even throws some cutouts that can only be matched by squatting.
All in all, you will find a great variety of movements that you’ll have to match.
Movement? OH YEAH, lots of it!
The concept that sets OhShape apart from your run-of-the-mill rhythm-based game is, in fact, full-body movement, especially if you want to score high and really get sweating. This is achieved by the use of the virtual environment and especially enhanced by the untethered experience that the Quest provides. You will mostly gaze forward, but when coins fly to your left and right to be collected, or obstacles have to be evaded, you’ll need to look around the runway you’re standing on.
OhShape carefully tracks your hands and head, while you get into various shapes to match the cutouts flying towards you. Your hands are displayed in bright sporty gloves, so you can easily punch through the barriers right at the sweet spot and pick up coins in time. It doesn’t matter if you make fists or keep a straight hand when fulfilling hand-based tasks, so you don’t need to wear yourself out by making tight fists all the time. Your starting position is displayed as a fixed baseplate with footprints so you always have a reference to your starting position on the track.
OhShape looking OhWow!
I already mentioned that I instantly fell in love with the no-frills look of the lobby and was pleasantly surprised to find that OhShape stays true to that aesthetic in-game. While being polished enough to get its concept across, the track you are standing on isn’t as detailed as in other rhythm-games like Beat Saber or Pistol Whip. You don’t really need that, though – you won’t have enough time to look around and be amazed by animated gizmos while trying to fit through the rapidly approaching cutout walls! These really are the centerpiece of the game, and OhBoy, these will get you dancing without even noticing!
All tasks have different colors, so you can pre-plan what to do next. This actually helps a lot when playing on hard, because you can kind of autopilot through some sections.
The cutout walls that you have to fit through are greenish, and your actual tracked shape is displayed as a shadow on these walls. That way, you can estimate if you will make the shape in time or if you have to make quick adjustments to your pose in order to fit. Obstacles (to evade with a squat or a sidestep or a squatted sidestep) are yellow. Barriers to punch through are red, and sweet spots to punch through single-handedly or with both fists, are clearly highlighted with circles. Sometimes, I got irritated when I missed a hit or crashed into an obstacle because the warning flashes are also red, but I adapted to that quickly enough. The coins with their glowing golden polygon style did remind me of Super Mario, I have to say, and I caught myself jumping up like everybody’s favorite plumber to reach some of the higher coins. A completely unnecessary exercise, and due to the game’s speed, only possible when playing on easy, but it felt good anyway. 😉
Let’s talk music, shall we?
OhShape comes with 11 rather short songs to choose from, and you can find a few additional songs in the Extras section. I suppose there are still more to come with future updates, and they could be longer or perhaps loopable, so you’d be able to work out for longer. Playlists would be a perfect addition to plan your workouts around and to plan for specific durations. To make the most of OhShape, you can also load up some of your own music, but there’s a small hitch – OhShape won’t generate custom tracks for the songs automatically. Instead, you’ll have to install the OhShape Editor from their website at ohshapes.com on a Windows PC to match up a workout track with your music.
The preloaded songs are exclusively made for OhShape and are mostly quite catchy. In the long run, it would help if OhShape could score some better-known artists to provide more music. Personally, I don’t think that’s relevant to the fitness aspect of the game. Still, it could help to grow the community tremendously.
Immersion is great in OhShape, and I forgot my surroundings completely while playing. The track designs for the preloaded songs are excellent and get you into the groove immediately. If you use headphones on your Quest, the music itself and audio feedback of OhShape are also greatly enhanced.
OhShape will get you OhDancing!
You can also use readily available tracks provided by the community. These mostly consisted of popular songs pre-matched to a workout track designed by community contributors. Track intensity and choreography design quality always depend on the time spent designing the tracks, though! I especially recommend Eye of the tiger, Gangnam Style, and YMCA. Try them! Although these three songs are not personal music favorites, they fit my OhShape exercise routine perfectly. The community did an outstanding job there – thank you, guys!
On the whole, OhShape ran smoothly on my Quest – all the graphic elements are well-thought-out and make sense in their entirety.
Why is OhShape advertised as a game?
OhShape really is more than just a game… it’s a full-fledged workout and is, therefore, an exercise experience! There are a lot of rhythm games out there that we all love and enjoy in VR, but as of yet, most developers don’t emphasize the fitness aspects of their games. Why not take a hint from the real craze around YUR Fitness, which was built only to tend to these very needs? Create a real health benefit and implement a simple statistics routine that lets the user, at least, estimate calories burned and maybe track the time spent working out!
OhShape just needs simple planning options and maybe a stopwatch to time workouts! Right now, I keep track of my OhShape workouts with a fitness tracker set to aerobics as the tracked activity, just so I can monitor the fitness benefits.
OhSustainable or OhShort?
The songs already included in OhShape are played through in maybe an hour, on the easier levels. At first glance, it’s a relatively short game, but once you have opened up to the fitness aspect, your motivation will increase exponentially. Naturally, I didn’t like all the songs provided, so I picked some favorites. I always play three cycles of each song before I move on to the next one. I also try to avoid the easy mode and make sure to include at least one song in hard mode per cycle. That’s where OhShapes’ core strength lies. It’s an intense workout, and I fully plan to spend a lot of time playing it. Not so much as a game, but as a fitness experience.
With custom songs available to set up your own tracks, and with others provided by the community, the potential variety is unlimited, so, like Beat Saber, OhShape is well worth the money in terms of longevity. An option to allow for procedural track design would be fantastic, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be that easy to implement.
OhShape is for rhythm games, what Chance the Rapper was for hip-hop.
Yes, I really mean that – it’s a fresh take on an already well-established genre. The concept really works and engages you not only in terms of hand-eye-coordination but through your whole body. The concept, the controls, and the combination of tasks all combine to keep you busy.
Marketing OhShape as a fitness experience could help a lot in attracting the fitness crowd and not just gamers on the hunt for leaderboard domination. In OhShape, I find that I compete with myself as I do in most serious workouts, so, yes, a global leaderboard is nice to have – but a statistics summary would be very welcome! Focusing on the workout aspects might need some minor changes in the game options which could give OhShape more depth and versatility without sacrificing any of the gaming aspects.
Come on, Odder Lab.. take a leap!
Summing It OhUp!
OhShape is a well-designed rhythm game that comes the closest yet to being a serious fitness experience in VR. If you are not afraid of breaking a sweat while moving all over the place and are looking to use custom songs in your workout routines, your $19.99 will be well spent. Despite some minor flaws, I give it a double thumbs-up!