What's Your Playlist for the Apocalypse?

Some people are naturally motivated to exercise. They push themselves to the limit with nothing but the sound of their own breathing to guide them, entering a zen-like workout induced euphoria. I kinda hate these people. Don’t get me wrong. I love being in shape, but personally, I dislike “working out”. It’s hard. In fact, the reason that I run is because it’s not something that comes easily to me: I like the sense of accomplishment. But to get through it, I need a little something to distract me from all that muscle-and-lung-burning stuff. I know I’m not alone. Whenever I head out for a longer jog, one of my friends inevitably jokes that the only way that they would run is if they’re being chased. Well, friends, that can be arranged. How’d you like to escape a virtual zombie horde? Motivated yet?

Zombies, Run! is a serialized post-apocalyptic adventure app that works in conjunction with your mobile device’s GPS and accelerometer to create an interactive running experience that’s way more fun than it has any business being. You are Runner 5, survivor (so far) of the zombie uprising, running through the wasteland of humanity on various missions for your new home base, Able Township. As you run, you are guided through your “headset” by the folks back at the base who communicate with you and advance the story. Yes, there’s a plot! Intrigue! Conspiracy! Zombies!

Each run (which you can set to be about 30 or 60 minutes long) is a combination of your music playlist interspersed with communications from Able Township. Some days, you’re on a supply run, some days you’re on recon missions, and some days… well I won’t give anything away, but the folks at Six to Start (the creators of the app) did a great job of giving you plenty to ponder about just how the world ended up in this mess. The voice acting is fantastic, and everything is voiced in a video game style so that the characters are talking to you, and what you’re running for makes sense. As you run, you collect randomly dispersed supplies, which are announced in your ear as you go. (“Collected a bottle of medicine” or “Collected a box of 9mm ammunition”) These supplies come to be useful, as when you finish your episode, you use them to build up the town. Oh yes, it’s a mini video game too! But be careful, because as you run, there are times when you need to outrun the virtual zombie horde.

Yup, at several points in the mission you will be set upon by zombies, and the accelerometer and GPS in your device determines if you are fast enough to survive them. You really need to hustle! (The app takes an average of your prior pace, and you must increase your speed by 20% and sustain that increased pace for one minute) Go too slow and you’ll be forced to drop your supplies to distract the biters and escape. (Which sucks, because then you can’t build up the town when you get home.) The genius bit of this feature is that you not only hear a verbal alarm that the zombies are approaching, but groans and gasps of the undead getting increasingly louder in your ears as they nip at your heels. Maybe I just have a good imagination, but I’ll tell you, when I hear those snarling zombies in my earbuds I sprint like a mad woman. Do I look goofy at the park going from a comfy trot to suddenly taking off like a shot? Who cares?! I’m saving humanity, people! Oh, and if you’re in an area where sprinting would be unsafe, you can turn the zombie chases off. But what’s the fun in that? I recommend finding a safe path or a treadmill and going for it.

Manage to stay alive, and the plot thickens; at times even becoming emotionally touching. I never thought it possible from an app, but I at several occasions in the first season I got a serious case of the feels. It’s a rare product that gets you in shape and tells you a story while making you care about the characters.

Storyline aside, this is also a serious training tool. The app uses the GPS data to track your path on the real-world map; giving you distance, pace, what songs best motivated you, calories burned, and all those self-evaluation details that you’ve come to expect from sport-related apps. Unlock achievements, share your runs with friends on Facebook or Twitter, and read recaps of your adventures online through the Zombielink account that syncs with your app.

There’s plenty to keep you occupied: for $3.99 you get two seasons of missions (40 in all), as well as 6 race missions, 20 side quest missions, an “air drop” mode (in this, you set a GPS point on the real-world map which you run to and back from while the app creates a story around that distance) Then, if you finish all of that, you can start to dig in to the story from the neighboring town’s perspective (all told there’s about 60 extra missions available for purchase with an additional $7.99 season pass.) And for those who get really hooked, never fear, the third season is set to be released next month, so if you get started now, you may be able to catch up on the plot in time.

So what are you waiting for? If the dead start walking, you could be that much more prepared. So raise the gates! Cover me! I'm going on a run.