Game shows like Ninja Warrior always look utterly impossible and completely exhausting yet time after time contestants manage to finish these endurance events. Being way too unfit to even remotely attempt something so physically demanding the closest any of us might are likely to get is a videogame like Stride, the new parkour experience from Joy Way, where you can wall run, jump from building to building and feel like you’ve had a decent workout.
Stride appeared last year in early access for PC VR headsets, showcasing some impressive free-running abilities that really immersed you in the experience. But it only had one gameplay mode, “Endless”. Now with its arrival on Oculus Quest, there’s a lot more to Stride, with three modes, modifiers and unlockables. More content is great yet there’s a noticeable hollowness to the whole experience.
As the name implies free running is about maximising the space around you, traversing the environment any way you please and Stride is very effective in that regard. It provides all the tools you’d expect and more, even going so far that it does blur the line between realism and being a bit too superhuman. You can leap and grab ledges, wall run to distant platforms and unleash a grappling line at specific locations. Once you’ve gone through the extensive tutorial – definitely don’t skip it – and completed a few levels there is a nice flow to Stride, if you don’t misjudge that next leap of course.
As you might expect Stride is an intense experience from start to finish, with locomotion purely stick-based with the option to run by waving your arms back and forth. This does help with the immersion but when you screw up (and you will), suddenly falling several stories before the game restarts never gets any easier. VR legs are a must here, don’t introduce someone to VR with Stride!
That being said, if you are a VR veteran you can have plenty of fun here. Those three modes are split between Timerun, Endless and Arena and they’re not too hard to figure out. Timerun is all about completing a series of set courses under a certain time, 12 levels with a maximum of three stars for each. Endless mode is just the same as any endless runner you’ve previously played, try to get as far as possible. You can fall but there’s a massive ominous wall of death continually encroaching which will end your run.
The final area is the Arena and this gives you the most scope for experimentation – with plenty of Mirror’s Edge feels – providing rooftops to run, leap and gun across. It’s also the one mode that is most underused and really could’ve provided the meat of Stride. Timerun and Endless are both fine little additions if they were opened up after completing a big campaign yet as two-thirds of Stride they quickly become throwaway modes. Endless does offer procedurally generated levels to mix things up although you’ll notice familiar patterns after a few sessions.
Whereas Arena’s potential is boiled down to run to this checkpoint or run and collect this bag as fast as possible. The changing level and ability to mix up your routes are what’ll keep you coming back. Joy Way has tried to further expand the Endless and Arena modes with modifiers which do help to a degree, where you can switch on Instadeath to increase the score or activate immortality which will decrease it. As mentioned, its clean-cut aesthetic and point focused gameplay robs Stride of some much-needed charisma, a videogame you can like but not love.
Let’s also mention the gun mechanics as they need a bit more work. Oculus Quest has some excellent VR shooters available for it so when you get a title that isn’t quite up to the task you quickly notice. You have a singular pistol to dispatch enemies with, grabbed from your shoulder for some reason. At close range it works well enough without feeling satisfying to use. At medium or longer ranges it really is pot luck. Now you might say this encourages exploration of the environment to get closer, however, on endless you don’t get that opportunity it needs to work the first time.
Stride is a very mixed experience on Oculus Quest. Whilst that might be due to the PC version still being in early access and you’re essentially getting the same version here, this is still a full release for Quest, hence the review. Stride’s parkour mechanics are what really sell the experience as there’s nothing quite like it for Oculus Quest. There are points where the gameplay is very addictive and engrossing as you try to perfect each jump and wall run. On the other hand, Stride can get repetitive too quickly and lacks that spark to make it a great VR game.