Z-Run – Review
Like zombies? How about running? If the answer to either of those questions is yes, then you’ll probably get some enjoyment out of Z-Run, Beatshapers’ recent downloadable-only title. Z-Run is a simple running game that is similar in nature to the likes of Temple Run but, unlike a cheap mobile game, Z-Run comes with a few more features to try and justify the £7 odd you’ll have to pay for it. The object of the game is relatively straightforward – escape the undead horde and flee some generic city. That’s it. There’s no story to speak of, so don’t even bother looking. To escape the city players control one of two characters – Alex or Claire (look, Ubisoft, female characters are easy) who will have to run, jump, slide, dodge, shoot and crack some skulls in order to survive and get the fuck out of Zombie Town.
There are two modes of play: the Campaign, which sees you running through various areas of the city, and Survival, which is basically an endless mode that will continuously throw zombies at you until you get killed. The Campaign is probably where I spent most of my time, as this is where most of the meat of the game is, and it’s here that you level up and are able to manage the assortment of weapons that you’ll likely pick up.
The game breaks you in quite gently in standard tutorial style; the first few levels spoon feed you the mechanics, and you’ll learn that practically every action you perform, apart from running oddly, depletes your stamina bar. If you use all your stamina you’ll pretty much slow to a crawl until it starts to replenish, leaving you vulnerable and unable to even dodge, giving the zombies more time to shuffle over and attack. After the first few tutorial levels the initial challenge is quite tough; you start out as a puny weakling who will die after a few simple swipes from the nearest zombie, and it’s not until you start to level up that it gets a bit easier.
Experience points are earned just by playing the game, and you are rewarded for almost everything you do, from killing zombies, performing dodges and jumps and, of course for just finishing the level. Every time you level up you earn a point, which can be spent on Abilities. These increase things like health, stamina, agility, item capacity, damage taken and the durability of melee weapons. After, say, around level ten I found myself breezing through, as I spent all my points boosting my stamina/endurance and health. It was also around this point that the game started to up the challenge slightly; first it was more zombies, then there were giant zombies that couldn’t be killed unless you had a weapon; finally, mini-fights were added where I was required to “escape” from a zombie’s grab by repeatedly mashing the square button to fill up a bar.
In Survival you’re just really jostling for a position on the leaderboards, and the gameplay in this mode is exactly the same as in the Campaign. However, I couldn’t tell if the abilities I had unlocked had carried through – you definitely don’t get to start with any of the weapons that you’ve collected in the Campaign. This makes sense, though, as it wouldn’t exactly be a level playing field if you started with all your stuff but, at the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if the abilities did carry through.
There are sixteen weapons in total to help you battle your way through the horde, ranging from planks of wood and crossbows to pistols and electric guitars. In reality though, the only difference between the melee weapons is how long they last until they break, as the zombies will die with one hit from anything. Same goes for the ranged weapons where you’ll simply end up picking the one that has the most ammo left. You can only carry two weapons at a time, which can switched between while playing, however, more than a few times I ran into the problem of forgetting to switch out a weapon that had ran out of ammo, which therefore rendered it useless during that run.
Graphically Z-Run is nothing to write home about. I thought it looked like something I could have run on my phone, never mind a PS Vita game. The environments are pretty much all the same, with an odd bit of variation in each one. Randomly, the zombie apocalypse has led to an explosion in the cat population. For reasons unknown, every level is littered with cats. They don’t seem to do anything other than stand there and wag their tails a bit, but I guess with the levels being as bland as they are it’s better than nothing. As for audio, the music is instantly forgettable and the sound effects consist of stock zombie groans and weapon noises, adding little to the game.
Overall, I thought that Z-Run was fun for a few hours – at least initially. By the time I got to the third area it was starting to become something of a chore. The monotonous, boring levels started to wear on me, and not even the game’s copious amounts of cats or feeble attempts to spice up the gameplay could help. Ultimately, Z-Run is really just good for when you have five or ten minutes to kill and you can grind out a few more levels. I can see .some people getting a kick out of the Survival mode, if only to just beat any friends they might have tricked into buying the game, however, even this mode won’t be for everyone.
- Simple gameplay is fun, at least to begin with.
- Initially challenging, but gets easier
- Good for those with ten minutes or so to kill
- Male and female characters! Take that, Ubi.
- Levels all look the same
- Forgettable music
- Probably not worth £7+
If you like games with repetitive gameplay or are looking for something that will keep you entertained for short bursts of time then Z-Run is probably worth a punt. At £7, though, it seems expensive for what, in essence, looks and plays like a generic running game that you can pick up for nothing on your phone. The developers, Beatshapers, do try to add a bit more value with a levelling system and leaderboards, but for many this won’t be enough. Worth picking up if you have more money than BRRRRAAAAINNNSSSS... sorry.
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