Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Runday: Zombies, Run! Review

Now that we've completed our initial fitness challenge races it's time to settle into a regular running schedule. Whenever I come off of a race, I find that I have a nice momentum that enables me to maintain a fitness regimen, even if I'd been struggling with my training beforehand.

In a fit of post-8k running love, I purchased an iPhone app called "Zombies, Run!" that promised to keep my legs moving by placing me in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse and forcing me to run from flesh-eating hordes of undead walkers.

You know, the yoosh.

Since we don't get a new episode of AMC's The Walking Dead this week, it seemed like a fitting time to finally post my initial thoughts about this game.

Background: The story is set in England after a zombie outbreak has occurred. Survivors have formed "townships" to pool resources and increase their odds of outlasting the "zoms." One of the jobs in each township is that of "runners," who are sent out on periodic missions to gather supplies and intelligence. You are cast as "Runner 5", one of the runners in Abel Township.

How it works: The game is essentially a quasi-interactive audio book, with each mission being a new chapter in the book. There seems to be something suspicious happening with your presence at Abel township and there may be a conspiracy involving the zombie apocalypse. On each run, you get another piece of the narrative as you complete each new mission.

There are several breaks in the narrative in which you simply need to run to or from something; during these breaks, one of your own songs plays (you select the playlist).

Periodically, the game will interject over your music that you have found supplies or that there's a zombie 10 meters behind you.

The game uses your GPS to gauge your speed and distance. As you run, you collect miscellaneous supplies which you then bring back to the township. These will help you upgrade your base facilities.

The missions last approximately 30 minutes, after which you are free to run with your music playing in the background (the game tells you that you are listening to the Abel Township radio station, and you receive periodic interjections and narrative from the station DJs). The game comes with 30 missions, equalling 40 runs of gameplay. The developer seems to release new missions with their game updates.


Zombie Chases: The aspect of this game that most appealed to me was the being motivated to run faster by hearing the wet growling sounds of hungry zombies gaining on me from behind. (The game developer calls this "interval training - with zombies." You can chose to enjoy this experience by enabling the Zombie Chase option in the game.

With a setup like this, you'd expect the zombie chases to be simultaneously scary and awesome, right?

Well, it's still unclear to me exactly what this option does. Every once in a while, you'll be told that there are zombies behind you and that you really need to run. However, there have been times when my pace did not increase despite the presence of zombies, and yet I was still informed that the zombies had fallen back. Perhaps if I'd come to a complete stop, the game would have yelled at me to get my ass in gear? Or perhaps "zombie chase" just means that you sometimes hear interjections about zombies while you run.

What I wanted was the ever-present and frightening sound of zombies IN MY EAR if I slowed down, but I didn't get this. Instead, one of the characters told me at the start that if I "keep above a slow shamble" I should be able to outrun the zombies.

Well gee, thanks for the motivation...



Pros: Ambitious idea, excellent production value, entertaining story that keeps you curious about where it's going.

Cons: GPS use drains battery life; zombies are not hard to outrun, limited number of missions means this would not last long for frequent runners; playlists are played in order and songs cannot be shuffled; expensive at $8.

Suggestions for improvement: Add a mechanism to gauge whether the player actually increases their speed during a zombie chase, and use a few standard interjections if speed does not increase; enable song shuffling; reduce the price.

Overall: For $8, I can't say I highly recommend this app unless you are SUPER into zombies or really want to try something new and different. I'd pay $5 for this, but given its limited interaction with your actual speed it doesn't seem to be worth much more than that.

Link: If you're still curious, you can check it out in the Apple App Store at this link. The reviews are largely very positive, so if you want to be enabled to make the purchase, I'm sure you'll find the motivation there!


Do you have any fitness apps on your smartphone? I'd love recommendations!

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