Zombies, Run review

By Bill Nielsen

Hello again! In my last post, I reported on how to track workouts while hunting in Pokemon Go. I’ve now moved on in the hope of finding something … scarier— Zombies, Run, an app currently available on iOS and Android. The app can be paired with a Vitality recognized wearable or app to enhance any workout. It even includes a treadmill mode to use in the gym. That, plus the fact it’s free to start, meant I had little to lose by trying it.

So for the last three weeks, I’ve been sweating it out as Runner 5, newest addition to Able Township and grizzled survivor of the zombie outbreak. Each episode – er, I mean run – is presented like a radio drama, recapping the previous episode’s events before giving the user a mission to fulfill for the new trip. As a runner, my goal is to find supplies, lure hordes of the undead away from my settlement, and try to piece together the original cause of the disaster. A radio operator occasionally sends orders out in the field, and you may even run into other people, unsure of whether they’re friend or foe.

Each episode is designed to last about three kilometers (the game is unmistakably British in other ways too), but in case that doesn’t last the entire trip, a pair of DJs will break in with occasional banter and world events to pair up with the user’s audio. Zombies, Run can be set up to pull music from playlists on most music apps, or you can run a podcast in the background. I personally recommend running one or the other during the story as well, because you can go several minutes with dead silence. Zombies, Run will lower the volume of your main audio before piping in its own.

Also, while characters will occasionally ask the user to complete a certain objective, you’re never required to deviate from your current route. No need to risk actual life and limb in traffic or take a sharp left off the running trail into a forest. The only exception is the “zombie chase” option, which will warn of approaching zombies at random intervals. You then need to speed up for long enough to outrun them or lose one of the items picked up during the trip. This feature is strictly optional though and must be enabled prior to working out.

There are also additional base-building elements in the app, though I admit I was not entirely clear how they tied into the adventure. While you can gather supplies on runs to build or improve structures in the settlement, I could not determine the benefit. More interesting were the occasional documents that offer additional information about the world. Elements of a conspiracy have been hinted at early on, and I’m sure continued play will deepen the mystery.

I did encounter a couple small technical hiccups using the app. Receiving a phone call pauses the app, which is fine, but it doesn’t restart once the phone call ends, which isn’t. By the time I realized what had happened, my run was almost over and I couldn’t finish. Worse, having finished an episode but not selecting to finish the workout, I later returned to see my progress had not been saved.

As a free app, I’d encourage runners to at least try out Zombies, Run. You can play the first  four missions for free, then subsequent missions unlock for free at a rate of one per week (up through Season 3). There’s also a subscription available at rates of $3.99 per month and $24.99 per year, and six seasons of content to access, but I think I’ll just stick with the free pathway while it lasts. While there is definitely a lot of content available, I (unfortunately) didn’t find it enhanced my running experience more than before.

Bill Nielsen, Communications Specialist, enjoys distance running, Chipotle burrito bowls, and video games, and strives to combine all three into one activity.

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