Save the world, through the courtesy of your own two feet. Zombies, Run! 2 has been released as a free upgrade (with in-app subscriptions) to the original exercise app. The core of the app remains; you exercise in the real world while playing a game of post-apocalyptic survival, with changes and enhancements to the “game” part of the program.
What is it?
Zombies, Run! 2 is a combination exercise app and roleplaying game. You play the character “Runner 5,” one of several people trained to scavenge for supplies in the zombie apocalypse. The app times/tracks your runs, plays music during the missions, and tells you when you’ve collected supplies and when you need to run faster to avoid a horde of the undead. Your goal (other than getting your butt up off the couch) is to collect enough supplies to improve your base.
How does it work?
You start the game by selecting a mission, either from the first “season” of Zombies, Run! 2, or from one of the seven missions included in the free upgrade (it’s highly recommended you play the missions and sidequests in order, for obvious reasons, though this is not necessary). Once the mission starts, you begin running. You’ll get a mission update from one of the excellently-voiced characters in the game, followed by a song from your playlist, followed by another update, etc. until the end of the mission. If you reach the end of the mission (which you can set at either approximately 30 or 60 minutes), the game goes into “radio mode,” where you listen a pair of DJs trying to keep the morale of the populace up and offering survival advice. After the mission is over you can upload your run and review your routes and times.
But none of that is different from the original game. What is different about Zombies, Run! 2? The biggest change is in the Base Builder game, which gets far more complicated. Rather than just gathering supplies to improve your buildings, you also need “Materials” (represented by a wrench icon). You collect supplies throughout a mission, and get three materials each time you run a mission for the first time, then one less each additional time (the game credits you for any completed season 1 missions).
Following the events of the finale of season 1, Abel Township must be rebuilt and expanded. It’s not simply a matter of improving buildings that already exist; you have to choose what needs to be built and where. There’s not going to be enough room for everything, and that means extending the perimeter. Which means improving the security of the facility. Upgrading facilities can’t be done until certain requirements are met; you’ll need to rebuild your population and keep them happy, as well as make sure other support structures exist.
All of this is a none-too-subtle way of encouraging you to participate in the game’s other big change—a move to a subscription system for missions. Zombies, Run! 2 comes with all the season 1 missions, along with 4 new missions and 3 sidequests. Additional missions have to be purchased in-app: a season pass for missions (40 total, released as 3/week) costs $3.99, the 20 sidequests cost $5.99, and the race pack (5k, 10k, and 20k) cost $1.99. You can also buy them all in a Season Plus pack for $7.99.
Is it addictive?
Zombies, Run! 2 is a fun way to motivate yourself to run. For me, running is kind of a gerbil-on-a-wheel activity, but the storyline makes me anxious to get up in the morning and find out what happens next. And that storyline has definitely taken a strange turn, in which Abel has entered into an uneasy alliance with New Canton, a neighboring base that was portrayed as the antagonists in season 1. But now a new threat has revealed himself, and the two bases must put aside their differences to work together. Spoiler alert: not everyone is thrilled about this plan.
The game is not without its flaws. Songs will sometimes not play at the start of a mission, requiring you to start them again. The great thing about Zombies, Run! 2, though, is that it’s a very encouraging game; everyone treats you like a hero (well, the people who aren’t trying to kill you, anyway). The missions are well-written, and the supporting characters are well-developed and voiced. The first set of sidequests involve the search for a recurring character from the first season who disappeared, and the desperation to find him was palpable in another actor’s voice.
There are other running apps—some cheaper, some free, some more focused just on recording your runs and playing music. But Zombies, Run! 2 has me invested in the lives of these characters, and the fact that it gets me out of the house at 8 a.m. says a lot.