Video Game: Zombies, Run!
Sam Yao: You've come down in a nest of hostiles. They've heard the noise. There are ... thirty. No, forty. No... crap. Your only safe path is toward the tower, you should be able to see that from where you are. If there's anyone alive there, just run. Run!Zombies, Run! is a 2012 iOS, Android and WP7 app that falls somewhere between a game, a fitness app, and a Radio Drama. It also has zombies.The game is set around Abel Township, a small settlement that's sprung up around an old farmhouse. A few motley survivors have banded together, but the secret to the town's success are the runners; the people whose job it is to head out into the wilderness and track down supplies, leads, and at least sometimes just draw the zombies' attention away from the town. You are Runner 5. (Though you're not the first Runner 5.) You were going to be dropping government supplies to the town, but when your helicopter was shot down by a rocket launcher, you found yourself stranded. And if running's all you can do, then you might as well do it. A lot.But that rocket launcher... who had a rocket launcher in the area? And why would they shoot down a supply chopper? Also curious: Why were you notably understocked, carrying only half the supplies you were meant to? And what is Project Greenshoot?The actual gameplay is fairly minimal; as you run, a radio play will begin sounding in your ears, interspersed with music from your playlists. This radio play tells the story of the town and draws you into the twists and mysteries of the setting. However, as you run you'll also pick up supplies that can be used to build up the township, developing key locations such as a hospital and radio tower. Doing this in turn unlocks more missions. At other times, the game throws zombie hordes at you, and you'll need to speed up 20% in order to evade them, or drop key supplies to distract the zombies and get away.In addition to genuinely being a fun and entertaining motivational tool for exercise, the game has the distinction of being an early success story in using crowd-funding to create a video game. The game was floated on Kickstarter and raised $72,627. At the time, this was considered quite remarkable.Since then, the game has received a set of downloadable add-on "Race" missions that deliver story based on distance rather than time, and which also tell the story from the point of view of an antagonist group. It's also received a Spin-Off app called 5K Trainer, which is exactly that: A beginner's program that helps new runners to reach the point where they can run the standard 5K runs Zombies, Run! is based around.The game is now in its fourth season.The official website can be found here.
This game provides examples of:
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- After the End: The setting.
- Alternate Reality Game: Has elements of this. Certain in-game items reveal real-world email addresses, phone numbers and Twitter accounts that can be contacted for further backstory.
- And Your Reward Is Interior Decorating / Cosmetic Award: The running component of the game awards you with various supplies you can use between missions to upgrade your base. Upgrading your base can have substantial effects on the Radio Mode segments and makes the initial backdrop of the app more impressive, but doesn't actually affect game progress.
- Arc Words: Almost any permutation of "Just keep running", "Run!" or "Start running!"
- Ascended Meme: When the game first came out players noticed they were collecting an awful lot of sports bras. A content update to Radio Mode included a segment that notes this rather odd habit.
- Badass Normal: The Runners aren't immune to the virus or genetically enhanced- they're just fit.
- Breather Episode: The Radio Segments in general, suppy gathering missions and some sidequests.
- Big Heroic Run: In almost every single damn mission. The game is built around it.
- Cliffhanger: Common for multi-part episodes, as well as the finale for each season.
- Creator Cameo: A variation - one possible item to come across is an iPhone with a "Chipotle Labs App" installed on it. Chipotle Labs, of course, are one of the developers behind the game. Some of the creators also appear in the later Radio Abel segments.
- Earn Your Fun: The very definition of the trope. If you want the full story, you'd best be prepared to work for it.
- Fake Interactivity: No, the characters can't actually tell if you're changing direction. Or actually running, for that matter.
- Averted in Airdrop mode in the second season, which will indeed give you direction specific instructions.
- Fun with Acronyms: The post-apocalypse replacement for the Internet is ROFFLENet, the Radio-Operated Free-Form Link-layer Emergency Network.
- Incurable Cough of Death: Infected persons will develop a cough as an early symptom before going grey. First a cough, then a rattle, then a moan.
- Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: And the more you run, the more of the puzzle you collect.
- Leet Speak: ROFFLENet.
- Mission Control: Sam fills this role for the majority of season 1, with other characters chipping in every now and again. Some of the DLC missions revolve around Nadia guiding a New Canton runner, and season 2 has both of them working together after the settlements merge.
- Our Zombies Are Different: Quite. Early missions in the first series revolve around trying to find a vaccine. Additionally, early season 2 missions reveal that there are different kinds of zombies- the most dangerous of these being "quite good with stairs", being able to run as fast as the player and can even jump.
- Pun: A frequent source of humour. Jack is notorious in-universe for his "Zombie Standup Comedy".
- Shout-Out: So very many - for instance, the names of all main story missions in Season 2 and Season 3 reference popular songs, and the description of the Bowie knife is chock-full of references to David Bowie.
- Separated by a Common Language: Generally averted, but there is an amusing instance of this in the in-game codex for a sharp-eyed players. Hand-held electric lights are generally referred to as flashlights by Americans, and torches by the British. In the American version of Zombies, Run! there is a supply item appropriately named flashlight... but in the otherwise-alphabetical ingame codex, it appears in the Ts.
- Slice of Life: "Radio Mode", which focuses on the stories of the people living in and around Abel Township.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Can be invoked by the player, depending on what music they put in their playlist.
- Synthetic Voice Actor: Your other Voice with an Internet Connection which points out what items you just collected, if any zombie hordes are coming, or when the mission is over.
- Take That: In the description of one of the supplies you can pick up (specifically, the DVD):Please don't let it be another copy of Twilight: New Moon... please don't let it be another copy of Twilight: New Moon...
- Undead Child: In the Runner's Guide, the "graffiti wall" shows a poll asking which type of zombie is the worst. The fast moving "sprinters" are way out in front, except that a clearly scrawled in after-the-fact write in answer has earned a lot of votes too: "KIDS!". Mission Control even notes that children tend to succumb to the virus significantly faster than adults do.
- Voice with an Internet Connection: Despite there being no real internet, assorted characters use 'scanners' and security cameras to give you information on how many zombies are around you and where they are.
- You Are Number Six: Or, rather, Runner 5.
- You Require More Vespene Gas: As of 2.0, the base builder minigame requires "Supplies" and "Materials" to build and upgrade the township. Subverted during version 1; it was equally possible to upgrade your food stores and armory to max level using only books.
- Zombie Apocalypse
- Abandoned Hospital: Becomes a key location.
- As You Know: Janine is a big fan of this phrase. Sam lampshades this at one point.
- Badass Bookworm: Runner 10, Chris McShell. Better zombie killing through statistical analysis!
- Bland-Name Product: Demons & Darkness.
- Book Ends:
- "If there's anyone alive there, just run. Run!"
- Runner Five... You can stop running now."
- Breather Episode: Mission 14, "Virtuous Circle", comes right after one of the most emotionally gruelling sequences of the story, and instead concerns itself with lighthearted attempts to pick up games from a nearby toy shop while letting two of the main characters bond.
- Also occurs in Season 2, crossing over with Slice of Life: side mission 14, "Zombies, Stretch!" is centered on what the runners do during their downtime.
- Crazy Survivalist: Discussed. Janine De Luca is suggested as being one, but she's staggeringly level-headed, keen to share her resources within reason, and hopes to save people. Still, you have to wonder: Why does her farmhouse have a massive concrete bunker?
- Distracted by the Sexy: During the mission 'Patient 29', as Sam and Maxine are going over patient files, they both stop and admire the photograph on patient 28, more than once.
- Driving Question: Who shot down your helicopter, and why? And what caused the outbreak, and who's trying to hide it?
- Fire-Forged Friends: You and Runner 8. The first mission you run with her (M3) she's chilly and suspicious, but after a few runs she becomes more friendly.
- From Bad to Worse: Hoo boy. Episode 21 begins with Abel in dire trouble, with New Canton sending ten heavily armed soldiers to finally destroy the rival outpost. The threat is averted, however, by roughly three hundred zombies inbound. One of whom has a goddamned rocket launcher. Seriously. Just... what the hell. What the hell?!
- Government Conspiracy: There are a lot of signs that the government is not your friend in this universe.
- Home Base: Abel Township.
- I Call It "Vera": Jack named his trusty zombie-bashing cricket bat "W.G.".
- Immortality Seeker: One interpretation of what started the plague.
- Possibly. The ending of Mission 22 (along with various supplementary material) seems to imply that the zombie apocalypse stemmed from an attempt at mind control/turning humans into easily-controlled soldiers.
- In Medias Res
- Is This Thing Still On?: Sam Yao lets Janine know she just broadcast her plan for a New Canton civil war after she gave him an As You Know lecture in Mission 8.
- Nothing Is Scarier: The sense of loneliness during "A Voice In The Dark" really starts to get to you, even with your Voice with an Internet Connection, who is constantly worried as to whether you've become a zombie or not.
- Proud to Be a Geek: Sam Yao's geeky little interests come up enough that it's clear he's deliberately trying to project a geeky image. Dr. Maxine Myers, on the other hand, isn't proud to be a geek, but she's very matter of fact about it if it comes up. Which surprises the hell out of Sam.
- Running Gag: Abel Township is forever hunting for the last books in the Harry Potter series.
- Sanity Slippage: Discussed. Sam and Maxine both muse that while everyone at Abel is stable, no one is completely sane anymore. They're simply lucky that they've only gone a little crazy.
- Shout-Out: Frequent. One example includes Sam Yao comparing another runner to Ace Rimmer.
- The Cameo: Margaret Atwood. Yes, that Margaret Atwood.
- Et Tu, Brute?: When Nadia realizes that you were the one who used Lem's headset, she tries to kill you by leading you into hostile territory. Only Sam's timely intervention saves you.
- Feed the Mole: One of the late-game missions turns out to be this as an attempt to narrow down the list of suspects to a specific group.
- Felony Misdemeanor: "He's sauntering? He's the man who might have engineered the entire zombie apocalypse AND HE GETS TO SAUNTER?"
- Greater Scope Villain: The Big Bad mentions that there are people other than him who understand the situation and may be more at fault, even though they're not directly involved in the season's main conflict.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: One of the side missions in Season 2 has you escorting a Rofflenet journalist while you're out on a supply run. The title of the episode? "Times New Roaming".
- It Has Been an Honor: Played with in Mission 20, "Galvanize". The anti-zombie spray that Maxine cooked up for you to use on Van Ark's approaching fast zombies is making them faster, Abel Township is practically defenseless, Sam Yao goes into the classic "it has been an honor" speech, there's nowhere for you to go except up some nearby trees... and then fifty New Canton runners with noisemakers and pistols come swooping in from behind and wreak havoc on the approaching horde. Oh, and that anti-zombie spray that made the fast zombies faster? Turns out it made them so fast they tore themselves apart.
- Meaningful Name: Van Ark, the Big Bad of Season 2. Crosses over with Punny Name, because he's a carrier for the zombie virus - and what do vans and arks do but carry things?
- The Mole: It's indicated partway through the season that one is present. A fair amount of the plot focuses on dealing with the impact of their actions and trying to determine their identity.
- Oh Crap!: Quite a few times in S2M1, most notably when Sam notes that zombies "are quite good with stairs" and can jump.
- Sequel Escalation: Where the original season kept itself local, season two is described as: "The story’s even more tense, the risks even greater, and the rewards higher - if things go right you, Runner 5, might just save the world."
- Slice of Life: Side mission 14, "Zombies, Stretch!"; it's focused more on what the runners (and the other staff of Abel) do in their downtime. (Also counts as a Breather Episode.)
- Star-Crossed Lovers: The universe seems to be bent on making sure that Paula and Maxine never get to be together for more than a few hours at a time.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: At the end of the first mission. Also comes across when Nadia protests that she wasn't trying to kill you when she lead you into territory swarming with people who shoot on sight. This comes across as particularly empty due to the fact that she replies to Sam's accusation that she was attempting to kill you with an outraged "so what?". After that, her attempts to say that it was a joke comes across as particularly feeble.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Sam rakes Nadia backwards across the coals after she attempts to kill you. It's awesome.
- Apocalypse Cult: Mission Eight: Believe has some people who worship zombies and sacrifice people to them.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: In Mission Five: Walk of Life Jody and the rest of the Runners asks the player, as Runner 5, to be the new Head of Runners.
- Back from the Dead: Simon Lauchlan, Abel Township's Runner Three who betrayed the town to Van Ark in Season 2.
- Burial at Sea: Where Sarah's ashes are scattered.
- Exact Time to Failure: Averted in Descent. Veronica's zombie camouflage formula is estimated to give the player twenty good zombie-free minutes. They pick you back up again around the fifteen minute mark.
- Fun Personified: The projected corporate image of Comansys. They have a carousel on the roof of their building, and a giant bear the size of an escalator inside. Not to mention a roller coaster on top of their London office building.
- Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul: The mind control process is described as making following instructions the best feeling in the world. The end goal of the villain is to give everyone this sensation constantly.
- Human Popsicle: The first mission has Runner 5 and the new Runner 23 Paula hunting for Abel's missing residents. The runners find a bunch of chest freezers like the kind that Paula says Van Ark used to keep his experiments in.
- Hurricane of Puns: Eugene Woods indulges in one during a Season 3 radio mode segment.
- Mind Manipulation: One theory as to the cause of the Zombie Apocalypse. In this Season, it's looking more and more like the fault of Comansys.
- Rant-Inducing Slight: Of course Phil would never actually go so far as to rant, but out of all the teasing that he gets from his cohosts the thing that gets him most indignant is when Zoe calls him a Hufflepuff.
- Unexpected Successor: Due to some second-cousin-twice-removed genetics, Jamie is the legal king of England.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: What Comansys probably started out as. Then the whole Zombie Apocalypse thing happened.
- Shout-Out: Sam Yao lets loose with one to Firefly in Mission 24, when an erstwhile ally leaves you to fend for yourselves against an angry militia group:Sam: Curse her sudden but inevitable betrayal...
- Another in Mission 24: "My voice is my passport. Verify me. Janine DeLuca."
- Yet another in Mission 34: "They can't stop the signal!"
- Furthermore, several of the missions share titles with classic rock songs: "With A Little Help From My Friends", "Livin' On A Prayer", and "Church of the Poison Mind" to name just a few; at this rate, Season 4 is well on its way to becoming Reference Overdosed.
5 K trainer
- Anger Born of Worry: At the end of Week Two, Janine is very unimpressed by Runner Five's ability to escape a pack of zombies... and then gives Five an axe as an emergency defense weapon, 'just in case.'
- All Up to You: About once a week, you'll be the only person handy for a mission outside Abel Township which you shouldn't be asked to do yet, but they're going to ask anyway. Justified in two ways: First, a lot of the other runners are noted to be out of action due to smoke inhalation, and second, the tasks are generally lower-risk tasks. Nearly always the third session of each week.
- For Science!: The general reason behind Week Three, Exercise Two. Stated word for word in the wrap-up notes by Runner 5.
- Foreshadowing: In Week Three, Exercise Two, you discover that the thing zombies hate even more than uneaten brains are knee lifts. In Week Four, Exercise Three, this knowledge is put to good use to help you lead zombies away from an injured runner. By performing knee lifts in front of them.
- Insistent Terminology: Dunderwood is not crawling with undead, it's shambling with them.
- Mauve Shirt: In the 5k trainer, you fill this role. With your training not yet complete and the more capable runners busy with critical missions, you manage to be very valuable to Able Township... by the virtue of being expendable, not otherwise busy, and just competent enough that sending you outside isn't a death sentence.
- Scarf of Asskicking: According to Week Four, Exercise Three, a red one of these is awarded as a badge of honor to any runner who saves the life of another runner.
- Shout-Out: After Sam finds Frances, he notes that she is far North "beyond the wall, with the wildlings."
- Spin-Off: After getting a number of Expansion Pack downloads, the game now has a genuine spin-off in a 5K Trainer. Set between missions 1 and 2, the story is toned down to allow more specific instruction on good running behaviour and training exercises for novice long-distance runners.
- Took a Level in Badass: Near the beginning of the player's training, Mission Control notes that the player only barely outpaced the zombies and made it back to base safely. They will begin to speak much more positively as your training progresses, indicating that you are outrunning the zombies with increasing ease.
BZZT-BZZT-BZZTMISSION COMPLETED. STARTING RADIO MODE.