Regular readers of my articles will know that I am a little obsessed with running, so much so that I have tried and reviewed nearly every decent running app on the App Store. After a while I figured out that I’d gone through all of them and after the App Deathmatch between Nike+ and Runkeeper, I decided to give it a rest on the fitness front and focus on other areas of the App Store, like games and productivity. Nike+ moved onto my app dock and I used it religiously for the next few months.
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Then winter hit Cape Town and my time on the road decreased in favour of time spent in my warm bed, promising myself that I’d run twice as far in the morning. My running shoes were pushed further and further back into my cupboard, and my jeans got tighter and tighter as the weeks wore on. I started going to the office earlier and leaving later, just to justify my reasons for not running and I could slowly feel my level of fitness dropping like a lead pillow. Something had to give.
One night while trawling the app store for new apps to review, I stumbled upon an icon that piqued my interest. Upon clicking on it and reading the description, I knew this was the answer to breaking my sedentary comfort zone. So enough chit-chat, let’s get to it.
Zombies, Run! is classed under health and fitness in the app store but it could just as easily be under the games section. At first glance, ZR is a fully functional running tracker with all the bells and whistles you’d come to expect from these types of apps: distance, time and location tracking are all there, as are the social sharing functions that everyone loves to use after cracking a personal best. But what sets this app apart from everything else is the zombie element.
Imagine running down your street at 5:30 AM, there’s nobody else on the roads but the occasional cyclist and a couple hobos. The birds are chirping and your city is slowly waking up when suddenly, you hear the unmistakable sound of an undead horde slowly catching up to you. Your heart beats faster and you automatically pick up the pace to shake them from your tail but they’re unrelenting and hungry for your flesh. Only a few seconds more and your contact tells you that you’ve evaded them this time and can ease up a bit. Sounds like science fiction right?
This is the world of ZR, an ultra-immersive running game and audio adventure, co-created by award-winning novelist, Naomi Aldreman. It works like this: you start the app when you go for a run and the story progresses through audio and voice recordings fed to you through your earphones. The story and its various twists and turns are all set to your pace and distance, so the further you run, the more you progress. Once you get home, the app saves your progress and allows you to use the various items you’ve ‘picked up’ on your run to build your base and help the survivors that live in your camp.
What I like most about this app is the fact that running, which has already been gamified to some extent by other apps, has been properly built into an immersive story that you won’t be able to stay away from for too long. It might sound silly in principle, or it least it has to everyone I’ve told about it, but it really is worth checking out if you’re looking for something to get you back into the running thing.
The sound effects are great and the story is incredibly gripping, so much so that you end up going around the block once more just to hear what happens next, and just try not to sprint when you hear those zombies behind you!
Verdict: The sound effects are great and the story is incredibly gripping, so much so that you end up going around the block once more just to hear what happens next, and just try not to sprint when you hear those zombies behind you!
Zombies, Run! is currently available on iOS and Android for about US$5 (R50). An iPhone was used to review this app.