You go jogging. But it’s a little boring. So why not gamify your run by escaping the undead? Made possible by your phone’s ability to a) play audio, b) track your location and c) convince you to never let it out of your site, Zombies, Run! allows you to do just that: run, while a story unfolds in your ears where YOU are the main protagonist.
From the very first mission, you are (literally) dropped into an immersive, post-apocalyptic story, full of both intrigue and gentle humour. My initial impression was it didn’t quite have the level of urgency or scariness I expected. From past experiences with the slightly more macho British Military Fitness app, I was expecting more of an ear-pounding from desperate fellow survivors compelling me to dash as fast as possible from danger. While this does happen, the voice acting is delivered in a more measured tone than, say, Dawn of the Dead. Perhaps this was a wise choice – anything more intense could turn off a large chunk of the potential audience.
You take on the role of Runner 5, newest recruit to one of the last outposts of civilisation, where you are assigned missions that involve running to places unknown, picking-up useful artefacts, rescuing people, foiling bad guys and dodging packs of zombies. Because, you know, going in the car would be too easy. Your trusty guide speaks instructions into your ear and along the way you meet other survivors from your township and elsewhere. Each mission typically lasts between 15-30 minutes with the option to play music from your device in-between scenes.
The benefit you reap from the app largely depends on your state of mind. If you buy-in to the concept and immerse yourself in the world, the runs are immensely rewarding. If, on the other hand, you listen passively to the missions, jogging at a snail’s pace, it may not be for you.
No doubt in an effort to increase the activation of the reward pathway, the app also features a mini-game where upon completion of your run, you are awarded resources to build and upgrade you own base. Although relatively simple by today’s standards, it is a nice little treat to drag and drop new buildings such as a training area, farm or school onto your map.
sadist elite among you, there is the Chase Mode. This is where the true evil lurks, not the merry, mustn’t grumble attitude of the post-apocalyptic storyline. Enabling this option introduces interval training into your run. At random points throughout your session, a voice tells you zombies have been detected and you have to move fast to outrun them. You really need to start sprinting immediately to stand any chance of escape. Imagine having outrun a pack of zombies, only to have their super-fast steroid-injected cousins emerge to chase after you. Be warned, this mode is hard regardless of your fitness level.
There are numerous other nice touches, such as a ramshackle ‘radio station’ you can listen to, 5k, 10k and 20k races, and specific interval-training missions. There are also training plans available, including 5k, 10k, half marathon and full marathon. Virtual events also take place periodically where you are given a brand new mission and your result is added to a leaderboard.
The creators have really gone to town in creating a brand around this app. You can buy the t-shirt to accompany the virtual race, a board game, survival book and more in their online shop. And there doesn’t appear to be any sign that missions will end any time soon.
The free version gives you access to some missions (with adverts), gradually unlocking more as time goes by. The Pro version is subscription-based, allowing you to access all missions, ad-free. Either way, you are getting a fantastic, motivating running app that will give you hours, and miles, of enjoyment.
The next time you see a jogger suddenly break into a desperate, terrified sprint, spare a thought – they may be running from a zombie.