Nike+ Zombies = Entertaining Training
Nike+, Runkeeper and co are all great apps for tracking your run and keeping you motivated to do better next time. But let’s face it: the actual running experience is pretty dull.
Enter “Zombies, Run!” a running app with a difference: you’re being chased by zombies. In other words, this is the first sports application with built-in storytelling.
How does it work? When you start running - with your own music - actors’ voices tell you you’re crossing a zombie-infested danger zone. A robotic voice also tells you when you pick up bonus items like health packs… or when zombies are near. When this happens, you have to run for your life - i.e. accelerate - as you’re told in real time how close they are.
Using your smartphone’s GPS, Zombies, Run! can tell if you accelerate hard and long enough to escape the horde. If you don’t, you don’t necessarily die, but those health packs get used up.
Completing a mission - which lasts either 30 minutes or an hour - unlocks others, of which there are 30 in total. Which is as it should be considering a/. the app costs €6 and b/. running the same mission over and over again would get pretty dull after a while.
So, does it work? Well, Zombies, Run! enabled yours truly to beat his personal best times and distances twice, despite not always escaping from the “zoms”, as they’re called here. And it must be said that the storytelling is solid, on a par with the best audiobooks or radio dramas we’ve heard. At times, you really believe you’re being chased by zombies… well, if it’s a bit dark or misty.
However, there is plenty of room for improvement. You start off running not knowing how long the mission will last (only the preferences tell you that, afterwards); it’s difficult to tell, in audio terms, the difference between escaping and getting caught by the zombies; and the initial performance level required is too high (what about difficulty levels, like in most games?).
But overall, Zombies, Run! is a roaring, pioneering success which very much takes the pain out of the guilt-induced grind of training. And we’re confident its glitches will be ironed out in time. Won’t they?
PS: please also give us extra credit for avoiding using the awful word “gamify” in this post :)