Rated E for Everyone
Six to Start
Zombies, Run! challenges players to outrun zombie hoards as they exercise while tracking their pace via their device’s GPS or accelerometer. The game’s missions alternate between the player’s own music, and short radio broadcasts from Abel Township, which tell the story of the town’s struggle to survive after a zombie outbreak.
The player fills the shoes of Runner 5, one of Abel Township’s runners who embarks on dangerous missions outside of the town’s walls to collect supplies, go on search parties, etc. The broadcasted segments come from various characters at Abel’s radio station, outlining mission objectives and providing intel on zombie locations, along with the quips of encouragement (i.e., “you’re doing great, Runner Five, keep up the pace,” or “RUN! They’re right behind you!”). These high-quality audio snippets move the story forward across missions that range from fluff episodes about jogging around town to collecting toys to mad dashes through enemy fire or tear-jerkers where you’re running to fulfill a dying runner’s final wish. They’re a compelling reason to keep jogging in real life and revisit the app often, as players uncover more about the mysteries behind the zombie outbreak.
While the player is listening to their own music, the game alerts them to when they pick up items, which are used to build up Abel Township’s base, and a few times per 30-minute mission, it warns, “zombies detected.” This is the player’s cue to begin sprinting and outpace the fictional zombie mob. A slow-paced pinging noise indicates the zombies are far away, but as they shamble closer, the pinging gets faster and faster, meaning the player needs to pick up the pace. The game will declare when the players have cleared the zombies, but if the player is caught, they lose an item from their inventory.
Zombies, Run! is so effective because it blends the relentless encouragement and can-do positivity of a personal trainer (mostly from the radio operator Sam) with the terrifying, adrenaline-fueled chase scenes from a gritty zombie horror movie. The exciting missions, endorphins from exercising, and using collected items to fortify Abel Township’s base help keep the motivation to play — and run — more strong.