Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review: Zombies, Run!

Here's an excerpt from an email I got from my buddy Marino yesterday that was my introduction to "Zombies, Run!":
The game creates the illusion that your run is taking place in a zombie-filled post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Ever since I read that sentence I've found myself spontaneously shaking my head, laughing, and thinking to myself, "This is either brilliantly awesome, or completely idiotic. And maybe both."

First, let me make now thing clear. I'm not a zombie geek. I'm a running geek. I'm a GPS geek. And I'm an Apple fanboy currently on my 3rd iPhone. So the idea of an app that would turn a normal, kinda boring training run, into a zombie-filled post-apocalyptic wasteland, is . Or idiotic. Either way, I couldn't wait to try it out. I grabbed my phone, agreed to pay the $7.99 (Guh!), and stared at the screen, wondering why the hell it wasn't downloading faster.

On Marino's recommendation, I planned to run on the trails, in the woods, for "a better suspension of disbelief".

I'll admit, I felt a little ridiculous. I don't even run with music! And here I was, donning  headphones, to run among make believe zombies. All zombies are make believe, but these are really make believe. Regardless, I started my "mission" with simultaneous feelings of excitement, trepidation, and embarrassment even though I knew that no one knew I was about to play pretend in the woods.

Here's the deal... you are a survivor who is in one-way communication with "base". During your run mission they talk to you, moving the story along, telling you what's going on, giving you assignments. They talk to you at the beginning of the run mission, and between songs on your selected playlist. (I recommend slashing guitar rock... goes well with zombies.) You also pick up items along your run, items that the base needs, like food, medicine, batteries, etc. You don't have to vary your run, or change direction, or bend over. As long as you keep running, you'll accumulate supplies. You know you're accumulating things because a robotic-type voice half-mutes your song and tells you, "Picked up underwear".

When you start your mission, you have the option to turn on "Zombie Chases". Look, if you've paid $7.99 for a game called "Zombies, Run!" and you don't turn on Zombie Chases, you're an idiot. Ok, I know... they put that in just in case you're running in traffic... I get it. But honestly, if you're running in traffic, you shouldn't be wearing headphones at all now, should you. Besides, come on... you're playing a game that, in the title, tells you to run from zombies. You don't go to the pool and not swim. You don't go to a bar and not have a drink. Turn on the chases.

As you're running, and gathering supplies, if you have Zombie Chases turned on, which of course you do, occasionally, you'll get a warning that zombies are in the area.

You know there aren't any zombies in the area. You know there aren't any zombies anywhere. But still... it gets to you.

Then... the beeping. The beeping means they are close. Faster beeping means they're closer. The beeping is telling you... you guessed it... "Zombies, Run!" And you really do want to run. You really don't want to get caught by the zombies, the zombies that aren't there, but kinda are.

Yeah, I was totally sucked in.

You can actually hear the zombies behind you. You hear twigs snap, which is, indeed, more effective if you are actually in the woods. A chase lasts about a minute. Supposedly, you just need to speed up, not reach a certain speed, to outrun the mob. I was "chased" twice in my first mission. They caught me the first time thanks to the gully I had to cross. The second I managed to outrun. And it was a serious chase. I don't want to give too much away, but one of the zombies used to be a runner like you, but she got caught. And she's fast. I'll be honest, I was moving pretty damn fast at the end of that chase. And I had a distinct vision of a zombie-runner-girl wearing a green singlet, trying like hell to run me down and eat my brains. Those beeps get into your head.

If you don't outrun the zombies, you don't die, or become undead, you "drop" the supplies you've collected, I guess to distract the brain-starved. So, the more zombie mobs you outrun, the more supplies you bring back. 

So what? Well, after your run mission you get to divvy up your supplies to the various buildings back at base. The more supplies in a building, the higher its level. Higher level buildings unlock more missions.

On the techie side, there were a few glitches... like I couldn't understand the robot voice over my music, and when I paused the mission and restarted the music didn't come back until I restarted it manually, and during the run mission I noticed that it was measuring in kilometers and found no way to switch to miles, and most glaring, after the run mission I couldn't retrieve my time, distance, and pace. I'm sure these are being worked on. And it's very possible I missed something. I've only done one mission and I wasn't diligently digging for things, just trying to use it as a normal person would. [Update (4/11/2012): Downloaded v1.1 and glad to report many issues have been resolved. Keeps distance and time log, can select miles, shuffles your playlist, game volume is adjustable and better.] 

Does running really need to be gamified? No, of course not. But I'll tell you what, Zombies, Run! is a lot of fun, and a great distraction on a short run. I'm already looking forward to my next solo run... not that I will really be alone...

Zombie, Run! $7.99 on iTunes
I give it 4 out of 5 brains.

Good running,
Doug AKA Runner 5