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Mar 02

Zombies, Run!

I’ve been looking forward to reviewing this app since I first discovered it on KickstarterZombies, Run! is part GPS run meter, part ARG, part browser game, and part radio drama.  Most of all Zombies, Run! is a fun addition to your run that allows you to experience just a bit of the thrills of a zombie apocalypse without the danger of having your face eaten.

What It Isn’t

Zombies, Run! is not a serious run tracker.  While it does track your run distance, time, and pace it does not have any kind of map or route integration, and does not keep an extensive log of your run.  Those who would like real run tracking features will have to wait until the game is updated to include the promised Runkeeper integration.

It isn’t a replacement for your normal running soundtrack.  The audio and voice-overs are good and are very enjoyable, but there is a lot of downtime between them.  For those of us who enjoy running with music or other audio (I like audiobooks a lot) there can be just too much silence between events. The app does allow you to play your own music playlists while running, though I have not had the opportunity to try this feature as I am currently limited to using my wife’s iPhone to test the app. If this is integrated well it may mitigate the problem altogether.

it isn’t available on android, or even older iPhones. Zombies, Run! requires iOS 5 to run, which means that those of us with android phones or older apple platforms won’t be using it much any time soon. Fortunately Six to Start, the makers of Zombies, Run! have promised that an android version of the app will be available later this spring with their twitter account confirming that they are shooting for a May/June release.

What it Does

Zombies, Run! plays out a radio drama in your ears as you run. You are Runner 5, a survivor in a post zombie outbreak world.  As you run you are treated to an audio adventure in which you are the main character. From time to time you are given instructions by the command center that provides overwatch for your runs, but for obvious reasons those instructions can’t dictate your run and are simply a part of the story.  So when you are told to change directions, don’t run into a wall or jump over a fence or run screaming into traffic, even if it does sound like you are about to get eaten.

At intervals throughout your run you “pick up” random items such as first aid kits, baseball bats, and underwear (yes, really). After you complete your run you are given the opportunity to distribute these items to different locations in the city that you call home within the drama. Doing this allows your base to grow which unlocks additional running missions.

Runners also have the option to turn on zombie attacks.  These attacks happen at random as a voice informs you that zombies are nearby and that you must flee.  To me this seems to be the real heart of the game and I find myself wondering why anyone would chose to run without this option turned on.  If the zombies catch you, which they will, you simply lose some of the items that you have picked up on your run.  There is no interruption to the mission that you are running, which is nice.  I feared that it would mean the death of my character or mission failure and that I would have to re-run the mission in order to try to complete it again.

What I Would Like to See

This game has a lot of room to grow, and I am sure there will be a lot of changes made to it as they continue to put out updates and additional content. I decided to make a list of a few of the things I would like to see in the game’s future.

  1. Zombie Motivation.  The zombie attacks in the game currently are random and can come at any time.  When I ran I was not actively attacked until around the two mile mark of my run, which required me to put on a burst of speed after I’ve already been worn down.  This design seems counter-intuitive as I felt that if I had been walking and conserving energy for the emergencies I would have stood a better chance against the running deadI would love to have the ability to input a distance and time and then use the threat of zombies as a motivator to keep pace. Fall below the pace you need to complete your goal and the zombies catch up to you to enjoy an afternoon snack.
  2. Replace the robotic voice.  Item pickups, zombie attacks, and other alerts are announced by a robotic voice, and while I understand the logic behind this from a development standpoint I find it kills the sense of immersion the game is working so hard to build. It doesn’t seem that it would be too hard to convert these to actual voice-over audio and I feel that doing so would really take the game up a notch.
  3. Binaural Audio.  3D for your ears!  If ever anything has been able to directly benefit from recording in holophonic sound, this game is it.  While the game does an incredible job of surrounding you with stereo sound, binaural audio would have made this game the most incredible audio experience on the market.If you aren’t aware of what binaural audio is, put on a pair of headphones and take a listen to this.  Done?  Now imagine that you were hearing the sound of a zombie horde closing in on you from all directions.  With binaural audio you would almost be able to feel their breath on your neck as their teeth prepared to feast on your flesh.

My Verdict

Zombies, Run! is a bit expensive for an iPhone app, especially considering that we have no way of knowing what content will be included as a part of their free updates and what will be paid expansion content, and that price tag may cause some potential buyers to hesitate. Despite the hefty price tag, I recommend this app for any runners who are zombie fans or who are just looking for something a little different to motivate them to get out and get running again. Even at the current price I won’t hesitate to buy a second copy for my own phone once the android app becomes available.

You can purchase Zombies, Run! On the iTunes Store.

  • David

    I really like the idea for binaural sound! While “The Haircut” is a classic, “The Interrogation Chamber” is much more intense!!! Search Youtube for “The Interrogation Chamber” and get your headphones ready! (earbuds work the best!)