Review: ‘Zombies, Run!’ Brings Dead Fun to Your Runs

Geek Culture Health Reviews Sports Videogames

ZR-logoMany of us lack the motivation to get out of our desk chair and go for a run. Six to Start just released season four of Zombies, Run!, a game for iOS and Android that combines the excitement of a serial zombie show, a mobile game, and running.

ZR-storyThe basics of the game are pretty simple. You select an episode, adjust a few settings, and go for a run. The story–think zombie radio program–is played out in clips, interspersed with your own music. You are one of the main characters in the story. The other characters interact with you, you go out on missions, collect supplies, and, most importantly, avoid zombies!

ZR-missionZombies, Run! is now on season four, and with the latest update came a whole lot of great new features to the game. I’ll call them out as they come up. Step one for starting a game is choosing your mission. If you’re a new player, you’ll want to start with season one, mission one. Many characters carry through all the seasons, and getting to know them and the history of the world is one of the joys of Zombies, Run! Before starting your mission, there are a couple of settings you’ll want to take care of.

Select your music. The game lets you choose one of your playlists, shuffling is optional. One of the new features with this update is the ability to use an external music player instead. Feel free to use Pandora, Spotify, or even a podcast, though I recommend not using a podcast that is not music driven. Because the story is such a critical component to the game, going back and forth between two totally different narratives doesn’t really work.

Pick your tracking. You can choose how the game will track you. If you don’t pick a tracking method, you can’t enable zombie chases. GPS will be the most accurate and will also give you maps of where you went on your run. Obviously that will only work if you’re running outside. You can also choose constant pace. This allows you to still play with zombie chases but requires the least amount of work and functionality by your phone. The last option is step counting. This is ideal if you’re on a treadmill.

Enable zombie chases. Decide if you want the zombies to chase you or not. While I highly recommend enabling zombie chases as often as possible to enhance the experience, there are times when you won’t want to. Because the zombie chases happen randomly and force you to speed up, if you are doing a very specific training routine you may want to skip the zombie chases now and again. New in this version is the ability to change the difficulty and frequency of the chases. These are very welcome additions. In the past it could sometimes be difficult to know exactly how much faster you needed to run to get away from the horde. But don’t worry, even if the horde catches up to you you won’t die–you’ll lose supplies, though, as you will dump some to distract the zombies.

ZR-RunTypesIf you get bored with the main storyline (unlikely) or run out of missions while waiting for the next mission to be released (highly likely), there are five other ways to play Zombies, Run!

Airdrop missions are great when you want to run to a specific location. You pick a point on the map and the game uses it to determine how long the mission should be.

Supply runs are short stories that play just like normal missions but do not further the main story line. Interval Training allows you to program interval workouts that function similar to the supply runs in that they don’t further the main storyline.

The race option lets you choose from 5K, 10K, and 20K missions that detail a hidden story that took place between season one and season two.

Lastly, Radio Abel allows you to listen to radio mode. Radio mode is the radio station that is happening in parallel with the story line. If you finish a mission but keep running, radio mode automatically kicks in; however, if you only ever run the exact length of the missions you won’t get any radio mode so you can come here and binge listen to it at the end of the season.

ZR-RunLogsOnce you’re finished running your mission, you can go into the extensive run log to get all the details of your run. Every mission, the distance you ran and the time it took are all logged. For each run, you can see the map (if you used GPS), along with which songs played between which episode clips, which supplies you collected along the way, and how many zombie mobs you evaded.

ZR-ItemsSo what are all of these supplies for? There are two kinds of items you’ll pick up during your runs–artifacts and supplies. Artifacts are items related to the story. You can always come into the codex and view them and details about them. Supplies are the typical things you’d expect to collect after a zombie apocalypse–weapons, ammo, medicine, clothing, and USB sticks. Lots and lots of USB sticks. Those supplies, in turn, are used to build up your base.

Your base begins with one building at level one. You can see that after three seasons, I’ve built up quite a base. There are both an isometric and a top-down views of your base. Buildings in your base serve to increase happiness, increase population, and increase defense. Your base doesn’t impact the storyline, but it’s fun to try to build up the largest, happiest, densest settlement you can.

ZR-StatsIf the run logs and the codex weren’t enough extra information for you, there are also plenty of additional statistics available. Zombies, Run! gives you a sum of all your running statistics–700+ miles for me so far– along with your game statistics–0 mobs for me, which isn’t right–and statistics about the music that played during your runs. Because I always play my playlist on shuffle it’s funny to me that it lists “Favourite Artist” since I didn’t choose the songs that played.

ZR-ProUpgradePerhaps the biggest change in this new version, is that Zombies, Run! is now free to play. For brand new players, you will get part of season one with installation and a new mission will be available each week. Airdrop mode, interval training, chase difficulty, and statistics are all locked on the free version. You will also be limited to 10 supplies per run. For any legacy users, like myself, you get everything pre-season four, including all the new upgraded features. To unlock everything at once, you will need to upgrade to a Pro membership. Membership is an annual fee, and while Six to Start has a great deal for legacy players of only $7.99 a year, even the $19.99 a year full-price is well worth it in my opinion. You’ll get four whole seasons, plus all the added features for much cheaper than a single season of a TV show, and you’ll be getting healthier while you enjoy it.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the new season, and getting to hear the familiar names and voices of the characters after the break between seasons really does feel exactly like the season premiere of a favorite TV show. I’m a little envious of anyone who gets to start at the beginning for the first time and can binge three seasons.

Zombies, Run! is the one thing that motivated me to get out and run when I was not feeling it many, many times. If you want to run but just can’t find the motivation, there is nothing else out there quite like this. The first time you hear the zombie horde moaning in your ear, you will run like you’ve never run before.

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15 thoughts on “Review: ‘Zombies, Run!’ Brings Dead Fun to Your Runs

  1. Was excited to try this. Until I found out that they completely abandoned the Windows Phone version. Not even worth the download for me at this point…

  2. Fantastic app, been playing it since it became available for android. They have come a long way since the game started. The game only has one thing that particularly annoys me – that being the occasional dialogue that particularly plays up the homosexual relationship between pairs of characters. It’s not every “episode” but it is far more frequent that I personally cared for. Particularly if you listen to the “radio” sessions.

    Three issues are more in line with how the story itself works.
    1) The story is just that – only a story (though a very entertaining one). The runner is totally passive in the story. Another, similar game called Battle Suit Runner is more along the lines of a choose your own adventure game (at points in the game you can slow down or speed up your pace to make a decision in the story and things change depending on what you do). I really wish ZR! would adopt that style of game.
    2) I wish bases & supplies had an impact on the story itself or at least on the encounters during a zombie chase. (It is sooo stupid that when you’ve picked up a pistol and ammo that you can’t have an option or chance of shooting the stinking zombies when a couple happen to run you down. Instead you drop a package of batteries (supplies to build up your base) and that distracts the zoms… Come on Six to Start, gamify your “game” some and give us some stats for our character and a chance to alter the story some. Like any good CYOA style game I know it would be hard and require a lot of extra story segments but I think it would be worth it to your bottom line. Likely they don’t because there is so little competition in this particular market.
    3) Some of the storylines are SOOOO stupid. The things they have the characters do at times make absolutely no sense.

    Even with those four “complaints” I highly recommend the app. It’s great fun and will really help to motivate you if you are in need of such.

    1. I’ve been running with Zombie, Run! since the beginning (as a Kickstarter backer), and I love it. The well-written and well-acted story line keeps me coming back for more and has gotten me to run numerous races, something I never dreamed I would have.

      In regards to your complaints about two characters (I know which two, but there’s actually more LGBT representation in the game than just those two), you’re way off base. The mere presence of gay characters, who have an amazing and at times, heart-wrenching relationship, is somehow an annoyance to you? You do realize that gay people exist, right? We’re part of the (post-apocalyptic) world, whether you like it or not.

      And besides, the amount of flirting that goes on between straight couples is way more pronounced, but I’m not complaining. In fact, the relationship you reference was one of the things that made me so much more invested in the game. I’m sorry that you can’t appreciate love, it’s a shame, their’s is a great story, and I can’t wait to hear how it’s evolved in season four!

      1. Thanks for reading! It’s funny how a game that I originally saw as “the latest fad” became not only a motivator for fitness but a serial program I actually enjoyed and wanted to keep coming back to. I have to admit that I have been looking forward to Season 4 of ZR more than a some of the TV shows I watch!

        I do enjoy any well written show, story, game, etc. that finds ways to be inclusive of groups that are typically marginalized and excluded from more mainstream media especially without hitting you over the head with it. I think the Six to Start team did a great job of creating realistic, normal characters that are a good reflection of the make-up of the real world, including the few gay characters.

      2. Of course I realize that gay people exist. And you are more than welcome to. Just as I am more than welcome to embrace (and I’d hope you would equally respect) my upbringing, morals and beliefs when they run counter to yours.

        With that said I’d like the option to avoid that in my “entertainment”.

        It’s not horrible, it’s not blatant, I don’t get the slightest impression that Six to Start is “pushing an agenda” or anything else. I’d agree they did a lovely job and bringing a pretty even sampling of reality to their post zed characters. Doesn’t mean I’m really interested in hearing it.

        *shurg*

        1. I know this is a relatively old comment, but no, your homophobic beliefs, however, subtly expressed they are, don’t deserve “equal respect”.

    2. I agree that it would be nice if the base and supplies could factor in to the story. Like you said, it would be a lot more work and I guess if I had to choose between more missions and better production on the story versus more gamification, I’d choose the way they did. But then again, I’m not sure that’s actually a choice they had to make.

      I do agree with beartootter though that other than appreciating that Six to Start actually included gay characters, I never gave them a second thought. The relationships of the gay characters are no more overt or in your face than any of the others and, statistically speaking, I think the proportion of gay to straight characters holds up to the real world.

  3. I do not like the free to play version of this. I’ve had the app since the beginning, and I like purchasing it and “owning it”. So now when I pay the $8, I get to rent it. Stop my subscription the next season, I can’t rerun season 4. Same with new users, at least they get 4 seasons this year, but is is going to be $20 for just season 5? That is not worth it. But the apps broken anyway. I can’t even open it.

  4. Thanks for this review! I have done the Zombies, Run! 5K training and I am really excited to start the original version! I can see you are really excited about this and I loved the 5K training. I have never been so motivated to go out and take a run. It’s amazing how fast the 5K training went and it is amazing how easy this app works.

    The 5K training app costed me 2 euros, and it that time, the original version costed something like 6 euros. But now I have to buy a subscription. And it doesn’t really bother me cause it’s not a lot of money, but I’m not quite sure if I can unsubscribe monthly.
    Cause if I might get injured or something, I want to unsubscribe a.s.a.p… Do you might know if I can do this monthly?

    Bye!

    1. Thanks for reading, Nadia. You actually have a couple of choices.

      1. Play for free! You can play the story missions for free. Once you start, you unlock one new mission a week.
      2. If its too hard to wait or you want more missions faster, you will need to pay. You can do month to month for $2.99/month and you are free to cancel at any time (in the event you need to take a break or whatever.) Or you can spend the $19.99 and get a whole year. It’s a much bigger up front cost but you end up saving money if you use it for at least 6 months.

      Hope that helps!

  5. Totally loving this app!! Using the free version now but both my husband and I are upgrading to pro and looking forward to the virtual 5k. All the characters are great and I have even caught myself laughing at a couple during a run.

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