Zombies, Run! – a reviewJuly 6, 2012
Need more exercise? (You’re reading this blog, so chances are that’s a yes)
Like zombies? (Ditto)
Think running is boring? (Who doesn’t?)
Zombies, Run! is definitely a mobile game. While its actual game-ness might be debated (more on this later), it goes on your smartphone – whether it’s an Android, an iOS or a Windows one – and above all keeps you mobile. Why keep mobile? Well…
The concept of ZR! is simple indeed. You go for a run, and while you’re running, an audio adventure unfolds. In this way, it’s not really a game, as there isn’t much interactivity. There are however some things that make it a bit more game-like. One is that while running, every once in a while you pick up stuff – water bottles, batteries, weapons and the like. This isn’t very interactive either, since it happens automatically. The one interactive feature that the game has, is a winning one. Every now and then you’ll start to hear a moaning, and a voice in your earphones will report: “Warning, zombies, one hundred meters.” That’s when it’s time to up your pace and try to evade them. That’s ZR! in a nutshell.
I’ve gone for a zombie run three times now, and I must admit that I’m pretty hooked. I’ve always considered running to be healthy, fairly enjoyable but inevitably boring. ZR! has definitely helped this. Even if there isn’t much of a game currently going on, it’s simply interesting to listen to the broadcast and hearing the story unfold. The optional zombie chases, which I always have on, make a simple run something much more challenging – an interval run. Basically this means alternating between fast and slow. Sure, you can do it anytime when jogging, but I’ve found it’s much more fun this way. The chases work via GPS, tracking your pace and requiring a sufficient enough increase to lose the zombies. This makes for a sometimes taxing run, especially if you’re like me and not used to interval running. There is a genuine feeling of desperation when you hear the warning and you’re already tired. Significantly upping your pace at that point takes a lot out of you, but there’s a genuine happy and relieved feeling when you hear “Zombies evaded.”
Between your runs you can log onto the game’s website, and sync your data. This also gives you the opportunity to distribute items you’ve collected throughout your base camp. The different buildings in the camp gain levels as you bring them supplies. Nothing special, but a fun addition nevertheless.
After three missions (out of 23) the story seems decent enough, with fairly good acting overall. There are plenty of hooks in the story, and the game has managed to trap me into waiting for the next mission just to hear what happens. The gist of the story is that you’re living in a post-apocalyptic world, where runners do all sorts of important tasks, such as scavenging and reconnaissance. This gives you plenty of reason to run around to your heart’s content. In addition to providing you with a backstory to your running, the game also keeps track of your running stats such as pace and run duration. You can also view a map of your run, complete with graphs of your pace. ZR! supports listening to music while running, and I seemed to have no problem having Spotify on at the same time, although with some louder songs it was difficult to hear the game.
The game version is currently 0.9.2 (on Android, 1.3 on iOS), and as such it has some design flaws, glitches and bugs, as well as functions that don’t quite..function. The syncing between my smartphone and my computer has been somewhat buggy, with some errors in the stats and lost items or example. Distributing the items throughout your camp is fun, but doesn’t really amount to a lot currently, although I believe some missions are unlocked this way. Before a mission the game doesn’t really let you know what to expect – is it a long mission or a short one? I’ve also been left wanting for a bit more dialogue per mission. During the first few I was actually wondering whether the app had crashed as I hadn’t heard anything from it in a good while. Annoyances certainly, but luckily nothing big enough to put me off the game. This is still an early version, and I’m sure a lot of this stuff will be ironed out later.
Overall verdict: Even with its flaws, Zombies, Run! is a great way to enhance your running and add some extra exercise to your life. The game works with walking as well, so that shouldn’t be a deterrent. While there are some flaws, this is definitely something worth checking out if you have a smartphone.
Links to download the game can be found at the official site. It currently retails for €5.99.