Monday, March 19, 2012

Run . . . Zombies!

I like to run, but my biggest tendency to get bored. For that reason, I have been combining running with listening to audio books and/or podcasts.

But even still, sometimes running for more than just a few kilometres is a bit of a challenge.

That's why I was excited to learn about a new app called Zombies, Run! from a friend of mine at work. (Just a few weeks ago, Nathan (an avid runner) mentioned receiving an email regarding a Kickstarter project he had helped to fund. The minute he explained what the project was about, I was sold)

Zombies, Run! is an immerse audio game built right into your iPhone. The story unfolds between the songs from your custom playlist, and you automatically pick up supplies (ammo, first aid kids, water, clothing) as you reach certain distances.  When your mission (and run) is complete, you can use these supplies to help the survivors in your home base. 

I purchased and downloaded this app just this past Friday and gave it a whirl.

On Saturday, I used it to go for a 5 K run on my treadmill and played the very first mission. Since the story unfolds between songs, I figured it would be best to not try to listen to a podcast or audio book, but, rather, listen to music.

The story was immediately addictive and fun. Instead of just running and focusing on my speed and distance, I was intriuged by the items I was collecting, paying attention to the unfolding story and curious to see what was around the next corner.

On the treadmill I was using the experimental Accelerometer option that attempts to record your pace.  Within that mode, random Zombie chases will not occur.

While the story was good, the idea of Zombie Mob Chases thrilled me. It's supposed to work out that, when you're running, you might hear a sudden warning of "Zombies Detected!" with urgent beeps and the sound of zombie moans getting closer. In order to escape them, you need to increase your speed for up to 1 minute.

A scene from The Walking Dead

That's why, on Sunday, I thought I'd switch over to the GPS tracking and thus get a chance to try out the random zombie chases.

Sadly, though the run on Sunday was even more fun (I found a new neighbourhood route a the approapriate 5K I was hoping for), I didn't stumble upon any of the zombie chases.  I even purposely slowed down a few times just to see if my slower speed might prompt the app to kick those chases in -- but they are apparently not based on your speed, but, instead, are random.

The only issue I had with the app (and it's something I logged onto the support site to register officially so it could be addresses) was the way the playlist works.

On Saturday I was having so much fun that I wanted to run a second mission. So, after completing the first, I stopped the mission, but stayed on the treadmill while fooling around with the app to check out the supplies I had collected, distribute some supplies to the hospital, housing and armoury locations of the home base. Then I selected the next mission and started again.

The playlist started up again -- but it started from the very beginning. And there was no way to skip ahead to the other songs, nor was there a way to set up a shuffle for your playlist - it simply plays the songs in the order they were built into the playlist.  That was a bit disappointing.

I got around the playlist challenge by building a series of custom playlists each with 5 to 10 songs in them.  That way, if I played a second mission after stopping, I could simply switch to another playlist so as not to have to hear the same songs over again (something which I would find tedious and boring)  - [UPDATE:  As mentioned, I logged a query regarding this issue with the good folks at Zombies, Run! and have heard back from them informing me that a shuffle option will be appearing in the next update - Woo Hoo!]

One neat feature, supporting the desire to keep running without stopping at the end of a mission is the "radio mode" that automatically kicks in.  It features, instead of the mission, (which has an instructional voice telling you where to run to and warning of the location of zombie groups), the voices of two survivors from a nearby town who are broadcasting a radio station. They chat about the apocalypse and play songs (from your playlist) just like a real radio station. It's fun and adds flavour while you keep running, and continue to collect supplies.

In all, this is a fun app and adds a whole new dimension to my running.  It'll keep me wanting to use the GPS feature and do more runs outside, which will be good. After two short runs, I have already built up my base to level two and am enjoying the gamification of my runs. Looking forward to more . . .

. . . and, of course, being able to outrun the zombies during one of the random zombie chases.

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