Get Fit. Escape Zombies. Become a Hero.
Zombies, Run! is one of the more unique run tracking apps we’ve come across. You can get it for $8 on iPhone, Android or even Windows Phone. The game makes a valiant effort to put add some unconventional fun to your every day runs. The branding of the app makes it a bit to hard to tell what the app is really about. Is it a video game or a run tracking utility. As it turns out, the app tries to blend elements of both. We think the concept holds potential, but the product isn’t quite there yet.
Start a game on your phone as you begin your run, and the app launches into an audiobook-style narrative, complete with well-executed sound effects. The very start of the story is a bit disjointed, as your fictional self is actually sitting in a helicopter during the first minute or so of running. The helicopter soon crashes, and thus the footrace adventure begins.
The game boils down to a linear narrative, with your character running from imaginary landmark to landmark, collecting items such as medical kits, baseball bats and cell phones. The fictional world is not tied to reality using GPS, even though the narrative teases you by telling you to “run north and look for the tower on your right”. In fact, the narrative and the items you pick up are completely arbitrary. You do not use any of the items to move the game forward. They are simply a way to keep score. The narrative itself is quite boring in our opinion, and frankly got a bit annoying after a while.
The one game element that we did love was the Zombie chases. If you turn on this option, you will be alerted at certain points in the story that the Zombies are on your heels, closing in at 100 meters, 80 meters, 60 meters… The Zombies supposedly adapt to your pace, so that you are properly challenged no matter how much of an athlete you are. In our case, we had to break into a full sprint for about 60 seconds to keep the Zombies at bay. The suspense kept us motivated, and it was nice to have an unpredictable element to get us to raise our heart rate.
As a run tracker, it is very basic. It will show you the bare essentials: distance, duration, average speed and pace. But don’t expect mile splits, elevation or any advanced metrics. For a serious runner, Runkeeper, Nike Plus or Strava are better choices here.
You can sign up for ZombiesLink, an online portion of the game that you access using a web browser. Here, you can use items you have collected while running to fortify your Base. For what purpose? We don’t know. We didn’t see a way for you to utilize your Base. It does not give you an advantage during gameplay, and there’s no multiplayer so you can’t show off or compare your base with other competitors.
There are lots of descriptions that make you think there’s something more to the story, but the pieces seem just for show, at least for now.
Overall, we are quite excited about Zombies, Run! Not because of what it is, but because of what it could be. The app is polished, well made, and comfortable to use. It has the elements of an immersive game experience that plays on your actual running workouts. However, it seems like an incomplete product now, with many well-crafted pieces sitting on the workbench waiting to be tied together. It’s hard to justify the $8 price tag when running apps like Runkeeper and Nike Plus are available for free. In its current state, we cannot recommend this app.
Our grade for Zombies, Run! is: D