March 6, 2012 – 11:26 pm

Zombies Run icon

Background: I normally use the Nike+ or Nike+ GPS apps when running. I select a playlist, select a target time, distance or unspecified run select start the run and just start running. When I’m finished I have to pause then end workout. The run is recorded and synced online. Job done! I’ve worked quite hard so far this year to try and run as often as possible. Since I am making an effort to run almost every day my runs tend to be quite short, early morning runs lasting about 20 minutes.
My brother suggested I try out the Zombies, Run app and linked to a new scientist blog post about it. The idea appealed to me and I made my purchase. The following recounts my experiences over the course of a week using the app a final conclusion and score out of ten.

Day 1
To start with I read through the brief tutorial which set up the basic concepts, listen to the story and music, run from zombies and collect supplies. The last slide of the tutorial takes you directly to the start run screen, no chance to explore the app just get started. I set off running and listened to the introduction, it became apparent that my character was not running yet but I carried on regardless and as the story unfolded there was a point where I was told to start running. Music then played with occasional messages, after a track the story resumed describing the plight of the settlement I was running towards. Music resumed and more items were collected each accompanied by a robotic voice naming the item. Another track finished and a little more story unfolded but all too soon I had finished my normal route and went to end the workout. Pressing the end mission button helpfully indicated that I was mid mission but I could pause and resume at any time. Pausing the mission I wondered how long I was expected to run for and considered that I might have had a better first experience on a longer run when the morning commute wasn’t calling out to me. The run lasted just under 17 minutes and I covered 3.41km but didn’t get chased. Leaving the app paused did seem to sap the iPhone battery at a faster rate than usual but it isn’t something I would expect to do that often.

Day 2
Resuming the mission this morning soon brought on the first zombie mob, which I successfully evaded. Not long later a second mob apparently caught up with me accompanied by some frenzied beeps and the robotic voice saying something inaudible. A short time later the voice announced that the mission was completed and radio mode was starting. I ran until another track had completed and characters started talking again which made me think that the mission story was not complete but it was just a nice bonus for anyone running longer than the expected mission length. Radio announcers chip in between my music instead of story but supplies for the settlement can still be gathered during this time.

Having finished my first mission I was able to invest in Abel Township. Using the supplies collected  the base hospital was upgraded to level 2 and the image changed from a field hospital tent to more secure looking shipping container structure. Taking the opportunity to explore the other menu options on the main screen I found that the expected mission length is 25-30 minutes dependant on the length of the tracks you play, this would have been a helpful tutorial point but in a real apocalypse I guess there are no clues to how far you might have to run. The codex tab gives some more information on the various supplies that you have found and characters that have been encountered so far. The settings tab unfortunately has nowhere to tweak the sound settings so you can’t make the item pick up any more prominent. Checking the mission tab indicated there are 13 missions and some unlock based on how much you have upgraded the settlement. Mission 10 was already unlocked which may have been thanks to my level 2 hospital and mission 13 clearly indicates that a level 3 hospital is required. The instructions also described what had happened with my second zombie mob, I had automatically dropped some supplies to distract them. At least I wasn’t at any risk of turning.

Day 3
I was prepared to run a bit longer today and after the zombie mobs on Day 2 decided that maybe I had gotten carried away with the story and started running faster before I was expected to, making any more acceleration unlikely. This time I prepared myself to wait until the detector started beeping before accelerating and this seemed to pay off especially as I was running a bit further than usual. I was thankful the zombies didn’t choose to attack while I was running uphill though. At the end of the run I noticed the small twitter icon in the mission summary screen and was able to inform my friends how far I had run, how many supplies I collected and crucially how many zombie mobs I escaped. There is no way to view the run history that I have found so this seems to be the only way to record how often you are running for the time being although according to @ZombiesRunGame that feature is coming.

Day 4
The weekend started today but I didn’t get round to running until the sun had already set this did make the threat of zombies seem much more real though. Running through an unlit park certainly had my heart rate going as shadowy figures appeared and that is not an experience I am keen to repeat soon. Each story mission revolves around your character (Runner 5) helping the settlement of Abel Township by running. Having never really considered it before it was reassuring to know that being able to run would be very useful in a zombie apocalypse, someone has to retrieve food, fuel or ammunition eventually of course and using valuable fuel to drive around is not going to help run a generator when winter comes around people.

Day 5
Usually I take a day off from running at the weekend but I was keen to get the kms logged and collect more supplies for my settlement. With time on my side I clocked up 7km and a decent stash of 23 supplies for the township. Putting these to good use got all areas up to Level 2 and the population has been boosted accordingly.

Day 6
I managed to get out of bed but decided that today was a good day to let my body recover. It was also Monday. I’m not making excuses.

Day 7
While running today I had a zombie mob creep up on me and despite sprinting faster than I had gone the whole run they quickly caught up to me and I lost an item to distract them. I suspect that using GPS tracking to determine speed can be a little hit and miss, especially as I was running in an area where trees could interfere with the signal it was a bit surprising too, there were zombies in the story but nothing suggesting they were an imminent threat. So not the best experience to wrap up the week but I did get another long run clocked and 17 supplies. Progressing my little town any further than level 2 is slow going, I’ve been trying to distribute supplies fairly but might just invest in one site for my next run,

Compared to other apps in the health and fitness category the functionality of “Zombies, Run!” is unfortunately lacking. There is no route tracking, no run history, no calories burned information that free or cheaper apps offer. There is no facility to shuffle the music that is played and some of the announcements during music playback can be hard to hear. The most valuable selling point of this app though is the fiction that accompanies it, each mission is a chapter in a compelling story and each radio transmission between tracks is your reward. The zombie chases introduce a light version of circuit training which can help you get fitter than normal endurance running. It’s fun to hear Stephen Hawking’s voice point out that you picked up a sports bra or pack of batteries but the story will keep you coming back to find out who has been firing rockets at supply helicopters and ultimately where did all the zombies come from? It’s a great app to add some variety to runs and will encourage you to run for a decent period of time but you don’t need any experience to get the best out of it. It will certainly be interesting to see the app itself develop to include the missing features and add new missions but for now it still deserves an 8/10

ZombiesRunGame.com shows
Link to iTunes £5.49 at time of writing released 27th February 2012

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