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Zombies, Run! - Game Review

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by Jennifer Muirhead (subscribe)
I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma. ~ Eartha Kitt
Published August 28th 2013
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Don't just stand there, run! (Zombie walk in Moscow 2009, photo by Teujene).

The world as you knew it is gone, overrun by the living dead. You are Runner 5, the newest runner at a camp full of survivors known as Abel Township. Runners leave the township to perform various missions, such as collecting supplies, rescuing other survivors and leading zombies away from Abel. New characters are introduced as the story unfolds slowly, mission by mission. How did the zombie plague come about? Is there a cure? Play on to find out.

Zombies, Run! is a running game, which means you need to actually physically run to play. It's the ideal way to get motivate gamers to exercise. You use an ipod or smart phone to play and hear story clips while running which tell you what is happening in the game universe. It also gives occasional warnings of approaching zombies. When you are warned that zombies are approaching you must speed up for one minute or be caught by the zombie mob, losing supplies and possibly needing to restart the mission.

You will need one of these.

In between story clips your own music is played, so you may want to create your own special zombie playlist. In theory you don't need to press any buttons or look down at your device while running, you just put your headphones in, turn it on and off you go.Unfortunately there is a bug in the program which means that sometimes the music does not come back on after a story clip. I found that it would start playing again if I hit "pause" and then "continue" but make sure you aren't crossing a road or something when you do this! Hopefully the bug will be fixed in the updated version of the game. Another odd bug is that sometimes the warnings of zombies and the reports of supplies found overlap. I was quite confused for a few moments when I heard "Warning, zombies collected a sports bra."

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And some of these.

Between missions you can allocate supplies to the different areas of your base. Certain missions are not unlocked until you have levelled up areas of your base or completed other missions. You meet various characters, such as the irascible Runner 8, the very professional Doctor Myers and the not so professional Sam the coms operator, who provides a little comic relief. You also come across runners from a rival township called New Canton who may be plotting to destroy Abel. The story is at different times scary, funny or sad providing plenty of variety, which helps liven things up if you are running the same route every day.

field, zombies run
And somewhere to run.

If, like me, you are totally new to running you might be better off starting with the companion app, Zombies Run 5k Training. This app is designed to help train new runners gradually with an eight week training program. You run three times a week, with each week's workout being a little harder than the last. The story in the training app takes place between missions one and two of the main game, with Doctor Myers training Runner 5 as a new runner. The doctor tells you when to start and stop and you alternate between walking and running and doing other exercises such as skipping and the apparently hilarious knee lifts.

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Game stats from season 1

If you're a new runner be aware that while Zombies Run 5k Training tells you it is important to stretch before and after training it does not tell you how. You will need to look elsewhere (a fitness instructor or another app, such as Run Injury Free) to learn how to warm up correctly. You should also make sure you have a proper pair of running shoes since running in worn or inappropriate footwear can put you at risk of shin splints.

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Abel Township in Season 2

Personally I dislike running at night for safety reasons but one mission in particular (Voices in the Dark) makes more sense if run at night. If possible it helps if you have somewhere relatively flat to run. If the only place you have to run is very hilly you may find yourself playing chicken with the zombies, trying to run just fast enough to attract them when you're at the top of a hill so that you can run downhill to speed up once they start chasing you.

The story is exciting and the characters engaging, and it is has really helped keep me motivated to get myself out of bed early and go for a run in the morning. Season one ends on a cliff hanger, so you will probably want to get Season two to find out what happens to Abel, New Canton and their inhabitants. I recommend Zombies, Run! to fans of the zombie genre and anyone who needs a little extra help to get out and exercise.

Rated: 9/10

Naomi Alderman, the creator of Zombies, Run!, will be speaking about writing and technology at the upcoming Brisbane Writer's Festival.

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Why? To have fun while getting fit and preparing for the zombie apocalypse
When: Early mornings, evenings, whenever you like to go running.
Where: Wherever you like to run
Cost: $1.99 for season one, $3.99 for a season two season pass.
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