Zombies, Run!

Published Categorized as Life

I have never been so excited about running in my entire life. And I am definitely not the kind of person who gets excited about running. Unless it’s like, running towards cake.

Zombies, Run! is an immersive game that basically tracks your running (or walking, or cycling) and integrates it into a story of a world overrun with zombies. You hear orders from your home base as you run and (automatically) gather items to use in the base later. An optional feature is zombie attacks, which come in the form of zombie noises behind you and egging you on to outrun them. If you are not a fan of zombies or running or gaming this will not sound at all interesting to you, but it definitely caught my interest (as well as the people who collectively pledged over $72,000 to the project on Kickstarter).

I just completed the first mission which sees you, “Runner 5”, crash land after having your helicopter gunned down for some unknown reason and forced to run for your life. A radio operator from a nearby settlement gives you directions and tells you that you need to collect some essential items before they’ll let you in, the selfish jerks. Two close calls with pursuing zombies and around 45 minutes later I was accepted into the settlement, items intact. Mission complete!

So here’s a few thoughts based on just this first mission:

  • Most of the action unfolds between tracks of your playlist – so the length of your tracks will partially determine how long the run will be. If you try to skip to the next track towards the end of the song it will consider that a break; if you skip towards the start, you need to wait until the end of the next song. It’s probably a good idea to make a good playlist that doesn’t have ridiculously long or short tracks, and doesn’t encourage you to skip through them.
  • Note that the ‘directions’ (eg. “run to that medical facility!”) aren’t actually important – I ran in a straight line and back again, or you can even do it on a treadmill.
  • At first I wanted more ACTION – maybe some screaming people being devoured behind me (nothing personal, it’s every person for themselves in Zombieland), or more frequent zombie chases. But it’s important to remember that this is just the first mission – presumably it will get more difficult and more the story will unfold as you keep going.
  • Despite knowing logically that 1) the zombies are not real and 2) I technically only need to run 20% faster to ‘outrun’ them, I sprinted all out every time I heard growls and beeping. Somehow it’s very motivating. This is some pretty good interval training. Just stay away from high traffic areas.
  • I think I will try the next mission early in the morning – I think the deserted streets will make everything much more real and creepy.
  • The voice acting isn’t entirely convincing, but it’s all good fun – I’m now curious to learn more about the various characters, which means more running.
  • If you keep walking or running after the mission is complete without closing the mission, it goes into ‘radio mode’ where two characters running a sort of radio station will add some commentary between your music tracks. It seems to be mostly a sort of light comic relief, with a few pop culture references. You keep collecting items during this mode.
  • The missions are relatively short, so if you like to run for more than 20-40 minutes you might need to force yourself to keep running after the mission is complete. Apparently there’s some feature development for long distance runners coming.
  • It doesn’t currently keep a record of your run, so if you like to keep track make sure to start up another running app simultaneously.
  • Spending the items you’ve gathered in your home base reminds me a lot of strategy games, and actually feels very rewarding!

Overall I jogged about 40 minutes, walked another 20 to warm up and cool down, and collected a ton of items. More importantly, I’m excited about my next run, finding more about the story and levelling up. I think this is the most successful implementation of immersive gaming for fitness that I’ve seen so far, and it’s exciting to think how far it can go. It’s also nice to think that if there someday is a zombie apocalypse, I might actually stand a chance.

It’s too soon to say whether I’ll stick with this in the long run (I lost interest in my WiiFit very quickly), but at $8.49 (in Australia) I’d say it’s worth a try. Things are definitely looking encouraging so far. I think I need to find some better zombie running tunes though – I usually jog to the smooth beats of Nujabes, which is adding an odd Samurai Champloo sort of vibe to the story.

Zombies, Run! is available in the iTunes app store, and apparently coming to Android soon. Not getting anything out of this, just a fan and a wannabe runner!


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