Friday, June 21, 2024

Supernatural Review: My Go-To for VR Fitness Now

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Pros

  • Infectious gameplay
  • Extensive music library
  • Heart rate tracking
  • Trainer personalities are fun

Cons

  • Can’t select individual songs
  • Limited workout types
  • Needs free space to work out safely
  • Sweating in a VR headset

I have a routine: go upstairs, find my Quest 3 headset, say, “Hey Siri, launch Supernatural” to my Apple Watch, start heart rate tracking, launch the app and off I go. And 25 minutes later, I realize I’ve done much more than I expected.

Supernatural has been around for years — it works on the Quest 2, Quest Pro and Quest 3 — but this subscription-based service has become my most frequently used Quest app this past year. The Quest is my fitness machine more than a gaming device now. It’s also a perfect example of a killer VR app that Apple hasn’t even begun to figure out yet.

Supernatural is essentially a music-rhythm game with a really nice coaching layer, almost like Peloton mixed with the VR classic game Beat Saber. Much like Beat Saber, targets come toward you as the music plays, and timed swings smash them for a score that gets calculated on accuracy, power and speed. 

A woman wearing a VR headset punches an object, shattering it A woman wearing a VR headset punches an object, shattering it

Supernatural combines music and fitness and gaming into a package I’m still in love with.

Within

There are holographic coaches, too. They’re real trainers recorded in 3D video to greet you for each workout, lead you through stretches and then talk to you through the multisong set. It’s easy to get attached to a trainer, or just cycle through. They’re all pretty great, and I feel like I sort of really know them now.

You can also track your heart rate, which I find key. I pair my Apple Watch, but you can use other trackers, too. Heart rate averages are shown after every song, giving me a great sense of how much I exert myself. It also helps me adjust and take it easy if need be… or, work harder. Meta has its own basic fitness-tracking app on Quest, but you could record workouts in a fitness app also. (Apple saves my VR workouts in its Fitness app, which is helpful.)

Within Unlimited/GIF by CNET

Over a year where my own health was in flux, and I didn’t know how to get my own exercise habits going, Supernatural became a place for me to feel in control. The app’s motivational goals keep me going. The community is surprisingly large, and I have friends who use it (I convinced ZDNet’s Jason Hiner to jump onboard). The music mixes are continually being added, although I wish individual tracks could be selected instead of preset playlists. I also love the two different modes Supernatural is split into: dance-like Flow workouts and Boxing workouts. Squats and lunges work out my legs a surprising amount, too.

Finally, I love Supernatural’s beautiful immersive 3D environments, which feel nearly as good as Apple’s Vision Pro environments. There are a ton of real-world locations, from fields to mountains to forests. 

The workouts have you turning around continuously, so you’ll need a fair amount of free space. I also use an exercise mat, which is a huge help; it centers me and lets me know if I’m drifting. 

Not everyone will love sweating into a VR headset. I prefer a silicone face piece (that’s removable, ideally). But for its $10-per-month price (or $100 a year), Supernatural is well worth it. In six months, it’s become both my favorite VR app and my favorite exercise equipment, all in one.

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