Healthline contributor Nancy Schimelpfening strapped on a VR headset and tried the new fitness game “Supernatural” to find out if it’s a worthy workout that’s worth the price.
When I saw the ads for “Supernatural” on Facebook, I was intrigued.
I have been using the Oculus Rift, and later the Oculus Quest, for a few years now.
In particular, I really enjoy games like “Beat Saber,” which have allowed me to remain active at home during the pandemic.
However, while these games are fun, I’ve never felt that they really lived up to the potential that VR fitness has. For example, while “Beat Saber” does use the 360-degree rotation that is available with the Quest, there are only limited levels where it is used.
Would “Supernatural” do a better job? And would it be worth the relatively hefty price of admission?
Since they were offering a free trial membership for the first 30 days, I decided to check it out.
Imagine opening your eyes and finding yourself standing on the Great Wall of China (or one of the many other scenic locations that are featured in the game).
However, before you can fully process the fantastic vista that surrounds you, pairs of black and white targets begin to float toward you.
An exercise coach speaks in your ear, encouraging you to swing at them with the corresponding black and white bats that you hold in your hands.
A rousing sound track consisting of musical hits that you know and love plays in the background.
Soon, you are sweating and breathing hard as you spin around 360 degrees, squatting and swinging in time with the music.
This is the VR fitness game “Supernatural.”
No review of “Supernatural” is going to be complete without comparing it to what is arguably the reigning king of VR fitness games: “Beat Saber.”
How they are similar
“Supernatural” is most often compared to “Beat Saber” because they share many of the same mechanics:
- Both involve using objects to strike targets as they come toward you.
- Both provide varying patterns of targets choreographed to music to get you moving your body in different ways.
- Both have you stepping side to side and squatting in order to avoid obstacles.
- Both allow you to rotate 360 degrees in space.
This is where the similarities end, however.
How they are different
While there are many similarities between “Supernatural” and “Beat Saber,” it’s easy to see how they differ when we break down some of their individual features and compare them head to head.
When you buy the basic “Beat Saber” game, you receive a limited sound track of electronic music. They are all very catchy and I did come to love them; however, none of them were music that I had previously heard, which initially took away from my enjoyment of the game.
Unfortunately, the limited number of songs gets boring pretty quickly. The developers do periodically release new music expansion packs, featuring artists like Imagine Dragons and BTS. However, each pack comes at an additional cost. Also, there’s no guarantee I’ll even be interested in the featured artist.
“Supernatural” is very different though.
It features top hits from today and past decades. Most are songs that are very familiar to me, and even the ones that aren’t are ones that I enjoy right away. I think that’s to be expected when the list is curated based on what’s popular.
So far, as I finish up my 30-day trial, I have not repeated any music. I’m not sure how large their selection is at this point, but it’s obviously large enough to keep things fresh.
The great selection of music that they provide is a part of why it’s more expensive, but it fixes two big complaints that I had with “Beat Saber”: stale music and music that I didn’t necessarily like.
There’s so much to say about how “Supernatural” gets you moving in better and different ways from “Beat Saber.”
One big contrast is that you are able to make better use of the fact that you can turn 360 degrees.
When “Beat Saber” first came out, it was designed to work best with the Oculus Rift. So, for the most part, it’s played facing forward. While they have added 360-degree movement to some levels, it’s mainly been added to the more difficult ones. If you haven’t yet mastered those, you are out of luck.
“Supernatural,” on the other hand, makes full use of your ability to rotate in every single workout.
Another really great way that it allows you to move is there are a lot more squats, lunges, and twisting motions in its workouts than are found in “Beat Saber.”
Basically, where “Beat Saber” seems to concentrate more on creating complex patterns that you master through repetition, Supernatural is more about getting you moving in ways that enhance your strength and fitness.
With “Supernatural” I find myself working up a sweat and feeling stronger over time. This did not happen when I was playing “Beat Saber.”
One thing that “Supernatural” has that really adds value is its use of real trainers to lead each workout.
In a time when going out to an exercise class isn’t always possible due to concerns about COVID-19, this is a real bonus.
During my workouts, I have found myself pushing just a little bit harder or feeling just a little bit stronger because of something that the trainer was saying.
Even though I know it’s not a live class, the fact that it’s VR gives it that feel of being there with a real trainer.
I find myself looking forward to working out with the trainers that I like the best, almost as if they are really visiting my home.
This feel of being there with a person to guide and encourage you is entirely missing from “Beat Saber.”
Another great motivator is their use of beautiful background scenery.
Each song is set to a different 360-degree backdrop of a location somewhere around the world, for example, the Great Pyramid of Giza or the moais of Easter Island.
From your position on a platform floating above the scene, you can turn in every direction to view your breathtaking location.
Really, my only complaint about this feature is that I don’t have quite enough time to look around in awe before the next portion of the workout begins.
One additional feature that I found motivating was the way the game can be linked to my Apple Watch and a smart phone app to monitor my heart rate and other in-game statistics. Being able to see and compare these numbers gives me feedback that keeps me wanting to do better each time.
“Supernatural” and “Beat Saber” also differ quite a bit in price, which may be a sticking point for many people.
The basic version of “Beat Saber” is a one-time $29.99 fee, with the optional music expansion packs ranging in cost from $6.99 to $14.99 and individual songs costing $1.99.
“Supernatural,” on the other hand, is a subscription-based service that will set you back $19 per month. However, you can get a reduced price of just under $15 per month if you opt for an annual subscription at $179.
When I first started the free trial, I wanted to not like it. For the cost of the annual membership, I could probably purchase a basic membership at one of the big box gyms. Or I could simply keep using “Beat Saber,” which I already owned.
However, I have to admit that I am now hooked. I find myself looking forward to working out in a way I never did before. It doesn’t feel like a chore.
When I’m moving along with the music and soaking up the gorgeous scenery, I feel powerful, motivated, and open to new possibilities.
It’s something about the visual and auditory beauty combined with the illusion of being there with a friendly, energetic trainer that just makes me feel good about putting on my headset and becoming immersed in that world.
I feel like the use of real trainers and the availability of new music and workouts each day adds value to the membership that can’t be found in “Beat Saber.”
Finally, it helps knowing that I don’t have to worry about COVID-19 or any other germs that might be lurking in a gym.
I have decided that, for me, it is absolutely worth it.
I would recommend that anyone who is interested in VR fitness should at least give it a test. With the free 30-day trial, you really can’t go wrong.
If you like “Beat Saber,” you’ll probably love “Supernatural.”