The majority of people who enjoy the zombies phenomenon tend to sit at home and watch post-apocalyptic movies and television shows, or play zombie-themed video games such as Xbox’s Left 4 Dead series.
What if there was a way to get some exercise while satisfying your zombies craving?
That’s what the Kickstarter app Zombies, Run! hopes to accomplish.
Click here to see Zombies, Run! in action >
Developed by Six to Start, the gaming app puts players into a world plagued by zombies, and motivates them to physically run their way to survival while uncovering the stories of how the virus broke out.
“I’ve been running for several years now, and one of the things that got me into it was by using technology such as Garmin’s GPS watch to help track my runs,” Adrian Hon, the app’s co-creator and CEO of Six to Start, says of the inspiration for the game. “While these are great utilities, they don’t actually make running itself any more fun.
“It’s crucial to provide as much motivation and entertainment as possible to people who are starting out – when it’s tiring and painful – and that’s what we hope this game does.”
The Kickstarter initially asked for $12,500 to develop the app and received an overwhelming support of $72,627, more than five times the amount of its goal.
Convinced? We certainly were. Come along with me as I take you through my experience with Zombies, Run!
The idea for the game came about between the collaboration of Hon, a natural runner, and Naomi Alderman, the co-creator and writer of Zombies, Run!
'It's an idea that works because it's about survival - the same basic reason people want to be fitter,' Alderman says. 'Save the human race is the same as saving yourself. Building up your base is the same as building up your fitness. The zombies are a great metaphor for the bad things that can happen to people: disease, civil unrest, predators... they're several bad things rolled into one.'
You have 13 missions in season one of Zombies, Run! which you have to unlock chronologically in order to develop the story as mysteries unfold. There's a little description under the the names of each mission that lets you know what the main points are. Today, I'll be taking you through the second mission.
Since I live in New York City, running outside isn't much of an option in my neighbourhood. It's not all that scenic, so like every other metropolitan, I work out at the gym. I booted up the app with my earphones plugged in and got on a treadmill going at a relatively normal jogging speed, just in case I needed to speed up somewhere along the mission.
The game allows you to turn on your phone's GPS to keep track of the speed and distance of your run if you're outside. Since I wasn't going to be outdoors, I turned that off, and as a result, no pace information was stored in my running log. Sadly, that also meant I won't be running into hoards of zombies in this mission as GPS is required for a chase.
The game starts out as if you were listening to a storybook. The radio transmission narrates what you're supposed to be role playing, and according to Mission 2: Lay Of The Land, I was getting a tour of camp grounds with a random dude known as Runner 7.
The game goes quiet after the opening transmission, and unless you put on a playlist from your iTunes, you will hear absolute silence until the game randomly elects for you to find items, such as antibiotics, shirts or canned food. Runner 7 will be back soon to update the progress of your run.
The graphics aren't important since you won't be looking at the screen anyway, but just to note, it's simple and clean with a basic badge on the side of each log event.
After 11 minutes of my jog, I've managed to pick up some items while learning more about my hypothetical town. Runner 7 helps me create an imagery of what I should be seeing by pointing out the bushes to my right, a hill I'm supposedly running up, and the turns I make before returning back to camp.
You don't have to follow these exact routes if you're outside, of course, because you might end up in a ditch if the roads don't match with Runner 7's directions.
Whenever you find an item, a strange robotic voice reads out what you found. However, the voice is so computerized and obscure, I could barely figure out what I actually picked up until I looked at my running log.
As you can see in my time stamp, I also managed to pick up a ton of different things at the same time, causing the computer voice to go nuts on me and blurt several sentences at once. Whoops? The items are all colour-coded according to type (green for medical, red for weapons, and so on).
Each mission lasts between 20 to 30 minutes and Zombies, Run! doesn't forget to remind you why you're using this app to begin with. Runner 7 refers to other survivors as 'Runners' and every time he comes on the radio to tell me to (pretend) check out something hiding in the bushes, he'll make sure I run. 'As fast as you can,' he says. After the fifth plea to run faster, you get a little frustrated with Runner 7.
He'll try to get me to speed up as well, at which point I agreed to increase the speed on my treadmill a bit just to push myself a little more too. I can't tell whose voice Runner 7 is, but Hon promises to bring in more voice actors in the sequel season after polling Kickstarter backers who they'd like to appear on the game.
At this point, I'm pretty tired and the final radio transmission tells me I'm ready to stop running whenever I choose. I've picked up at least 10 items thanks to a possible glitch and I'm ready to go back to camp to distribute my resources.
When you decide to end your mission, a summary logs the events of your run. I was hoping to bump into some zombies, but alas, not today.
You have an option of tweeting your accomplishments, and Hon says developers are planning to add more social media aspects as time goes on. We're hoping for a multiplayer feature so you can sync and run with a friend to make the game even more engaging. Who knows, maybe with Zombie Chases enabled, you could outrun your friend to safety while he or she gets devoured by the walking dead.
You reside in a section of the city named Abel, and you can zoom in to check the levels of each part of your camp. There are basic concentration camp sections like the armory, hospital and recreational areas.
After you've picked up some items during a mission, you can navigate across your township to allocate your supply in places you see fit.
This part of the game confuses me. I'm not really sure how this supply allocation system make sense because I don't think that's how survival works. What are my survivors doing inside those camp tents?
You also come across odd items like sports bra and undies. You can give them out by simply dragging and dropping items into various sections of camp.
Maybe I didn't get far enough in the game yet, even though Alderman says building the base is like building my fitness, the story doesn't make me care about my township all that much. Sure, I can give out the stuff I found during my run, but how does expanding the population of my town benefit me as a runner?
Who knows, I'm probably just a jerk.
During my run, the radio transmissions also come in and out every six or seven minutes, and between those pauses I got kind of bored. It needs more storylines!
Another section of the game is the Codex, a glossy of all the people, places and items in case you forget the importance of each subject. If you don't know where to distribute the sports bra and underwear, you may want to consult the Codex.
Most of these are self-explanatory, with the exception of one menu item.
The most interesting part of the Codex is the 'Special Item,' which stores key objects that lend their parts to uncovering the plot of Zombies, Run!
For example, I found this newspaper article during my Lay Of The Land mission. The article gives me an insight of approximately where something suspicious occurred before the zombie outbreak took over the world.
Overall, to get the full experience, you really should get the game only if you regularly run outdoors. Hon tells me they are working to improve the functionality for those who are can only exercise indoors, but it will be limited to the data the app can get from your phone's accelerometer.
You should also be aware that if you take advantage of all the things this app allows you to do, you will be running Zombies, Run!, iTunes, and your GPS all at the same time. That's a lot of battery sucking for a 30 minute jog.
Despite my concerns, I would still keep using the app. It's got potential to be better, and it is a nice change from replaying the same songs off my iTunes. Perhaps further into the game's storyline, things will get more intense and I might personally care more about my growing town.
The voices that tell you how fast to run on the game also depend on your own ambitions. If you run indoors, there's no real way for the game to track how fast you're going, therefore if you don't speed up, you can still complete the mission. Of course, that's just less exercise you'll personally get. Zombies, Run! is obviously no replacement for a personal trainer, but it never said it aimed to be.
With the extra funding Six to Start received from the Kickstarter, Hon says they are working hard to hire great voice actors, enhance graphics and develop deeper, more engaging plots. Players can also expect free updates for extra missions, run logs and better music and accelerometer support.
At $7.99, Zombies, Run! can be a little steep on your wallet. It's also only available on iOS thanks to more iPhone backers on Kickstarter than Android.
'It's also been very well established that developers make more money on iOS, and that's not something we can ignore as developers,' Hon admits.
The Android version is slated for a May release.