Zombies, Run! First Impressions Review

Last month I ran my second marathon. Just as the first time, I didn't train as much as I should have. It was tough. Finishing a marathon is an amazing experience, but running 42 kilometres without training properly is demanding. In my case, it was so rough on my body (and mind) that I stopped running for over a month.

Zombies, Run! Review

This week I decided to start running again. I wanted to take it slow and not too seriously to get back into the rhythm. It was the perfect opportunity to try out Zombies, Run!, an iPhone app I've been curious about for months.

Zombies, Run! in a nutshell

Zombies, Run! is a weird combination of a fitness app and a game, with a twist. Think of it like RunKeeper in the world of The Walking Dead with the gameplay of the first SimCity.

In essence, it's a running app that entertains you with a post-apocalyptic story while you run and rewards you with basic gameplay afterwards.

Put in your earbuds, start the app, and go. You're a character in a zombie infested world and have to complete several missions as the plot unfolds. The app tracks your distance, time, pace, and calories burned via GPS. As you run, you collect supplies which are used to help build the main town, heal wounded, or support soldiers.

First runs with Zombies, Run!

I've run 3 missions of Zombies, Run! The first one begins with you riding in a helicopter that gets hit by a rocket. You're the only one that survives the attack. A radio operator tells you there are zombies around you and begs you to run for your life.

As you run, your own music starts playing, which is pretty cool... if you chose an appropriate playlist. On my first run I didn't specify one and I ended up running to Rachmaninoff. The first thing I did when I got back was create a few playlists specifically to run while being chased by zombies. Subsequent runs have been much more engaging.

The story seems a bit too similar to The Walking Dead. The main town in Zombies, Run! is Abel Township, which made me think of of Woodbury. Abel Township has the Major, while Woodbury has the Governor. Your character is a "runner", which reminds me of Glen. To be fair, it's still early in the story. I hope it develops further into its own plot.

There are several nice features in Zombies, Run! For example, the way they integrated intervals is awesome. At seemingly random moments, zombies get too close and start chasing you. To escape, you need to increase your pace by approximately 20% for about a minute. Sounds easy, but by the third time it's tough.

Another good idea is the radio station. Each mission is either 30 minutes or 1 hour in length (you choose), but you can continue running past the time. The mission ends and a radio station kicks in where the radio operator and another guy play DJs as part of the story.

Zombies, Run! also integrates with Runkeeper so your run data appears in both places.

Conclusion

I bet Zombies, Run! is one of those apps that people either love with a passion or avidly hate. I'll confess I absolutely loved it. And I honestly didn't think I would.

As a disclaimer, I am a fan of The Walking Dead (both the comic and the TV show) and the "undead" genre in general. I'm also a runner. So I may be biased.

In any case, one thing I can say is that I'm looking forward to my run tomorrow morning. I want to know more about Abel Township and what happens next with the story. That's more than any other running app has done.

UPDATE (12/09/13): I've been running with Zombies, Run! consistently for over 3 months and still like it just as much. My only complaint is that you have to download the missions and I've found myself out the door at 5:30am ready to start only to realise the next mission isn't available. They're about 8mb each, so it only takes a minute or so to download. But still, it's annoying when you're ready to start. I wish it had a setting to let it download the next 3 missions automatically over Wi-Fi. Other than that, my thoughts above hold true.