“Rule #1: Cardio.” – Zombieland
Like a lot of people, I led a sedentary lifestyle and didn’t pay a lot of attention to what I ate. Much to my surprise, this had an effect on my weight. So, in an effort to get that under control, I’ve started exercising. But since I’m naturally resistant to physical exertion, I needed motivation. I needed a story. I needed… zombies.
What is it?
Zombies, Run! is an app to track walking, running, and jogging. The genius bit they’ve done, though, is added a game to it as well. You’re not just jogging to lose flab, you’re jogging to stay alive as you outrun hordes of walking dead who want to eat you alive. Encouragement and self-motivation is all well and good, but there’s nothing quite like the sound of a hungry groan in your ear to make you pick up the pace.
In addition to that, they’ve built a game into the app where, while running, you pick up supplies that can be used to strengthen your base of operations; Abel Township, a colony of survivors who use runners like you to keep their supplies stocked and zombies away. And as if that wasn’t enough, there’s also the mystery of who shot down the helicopter that was bringing you supplies from a nearby military base. Was it one of the other survivor groups… or someone else?
How Does it work?
A mission in Zombies, Run! works like this; you’re sent out from Abel by Sam Yao (head of communications) or one of the other characters who run the camp. You get a bit of story interspersed with music (you choose your own playlist). Every so often, your character (Runner 5) will pick up random supplies (water bottles, first aid kits, ammo) that you want to bring back to the base at the end of your run.
A mission alternates between advancing the story, then a song. If you have GPS tracking turned on, you can also enable the zombie chase, which means that every so often, Sam (or whomever you’re talking to) will let you know there’s a zombie chasing you. A computerized voice will tell you how close the zombies are, but even better, you’ll hear them. You’ll have to put on speed to get away, which the game measures using the GPS.
Where the game cheats slightly is that if you don’t get away, you don’t get eaten. I know, disappointing, right? You instead start to lose supplies, which you “toss” to distract the undead. At the end of the mission, you can use your supplies to enhance one of the sections of Abel Township: Comm, the hospital, the armory, the rec center, housing, or the kitchen. Doing this makes the town able to support more people, and more importantly, unlocks more missions for you to run. Certain missions will also unlock special one-off runs, like going to a fuel dump for gas to run the generators.
When you’re done running, you can go online and register with the website to upload your data for a more robust look at how your run went on a map that tracks your location and speed. You can also look at your overall progress as a runner, and if you enter your weight, see how many calories you’ve burned.
Is it contagious?
Is an app about zombies contagious? Yes. The best part is that the story (and the voice actors, who are for the most part top-notch) distracts you from the tedium of running. Strangely, I found that having a fantasy purpose (evading the hungry dead) is more motivating than an actual purpose (not dying of heart disease before I’m 50). So, it’s like I’m making my denial of reality work for me.
One thing I heartily encourage you to do is to register for the free online membership. Beyond giving you access to more details about your run, it allows you to sync your data (I accidentally erased the game and lost all my runs and had to start over from the beginning).
At $7.99, Zombies, Run! isn’t the cheapest running app you can buy, but it’s obvious that a lot of work has gone into it—hiring professional writers and actors to put together an engaging story in addition to writing all the code to track you while you run. The best part is that it works at any exercise level. If you’re just starting (or having a rest day), you can turn off the chases, walk, and listen to the story, or if you’re on a treadmill, the fantasy aspect can help pull you out of the monotony of running in place.
The biggest drawback of the running part, though, is that it lacks a running structure other than when the zombies show up. It’s pretty much a freeform run all the time. If you’re new to running, they do have another app (set in the same town) to train you to run a 5k (I’ll be reviewing that app shortly).
If you want to get motivated to get your body moving, and hopefully survive the first few weeks of the coming zombie apocalypse, Zombies, Run! is a great combination of GPS tracking, storytelling, and gameplay.