How would you survive a zombie apocalypse? It's a question that has been posed countless times in popular movies, television and video game fiction, so by now you probably have a detailed plan for that terrible moment when the world as we know it falls apart. Personally, I would stay home and tell everybody I was already a zombie. But the cast of Z-Run has an entirely different way of surviving the sea of undead walkers. Instead of sitting around and getting fat, they decide to take to the streets and run.
Strapped with little more than a backpack, Alex and Claire set out on a cross-town sprint to safety. The first rule of surviving this kind of threat is to never stop running, and in the case of Z-Run, that's not even an option. Whether you like it or not, the game is constantly pushing our heroes forward. It reminds me of classic on-rail shooting games, only this time around you're running from side-to-side dodging zombies, jumping over obstacles and sliding under parked cars.
For as single-minded as our heroes are, they have a number of attacks that make their run easier. For starters, both characters can jump kick the zombies in front of them. They are also able to slide underneath the walkers, flipping them into the air and (presumably) killing them. Best of all, weapons like bats and guns can be found lying around the streets. But don't get too cocky, because each weapon can only be used a few times before it either breaks or runs out of ammo.
It's also important to remember that running, jumping, sliding and attacking all drain your stamina bar. This may not seem so bad at first, but running out of stamina will reduce your speed and make it impossible to avoid zombies. And since neither Alex nor Claire wear protective armor, it only takes a few hits before it's game over. Thankfully, stamina replenishes itself over time and there are items you can pick-up to refill the meter.
Although the core mechanics are simple, the game is a blast to play. It's easy to link the various moves, which also increases the combo resulting in a higher score. Z-Run is tense in all the right ways and rarely frustrating. It's a goofy concept that manages to get the basics right, which really impressed me for the first few levels.
Unfortunately, Z-Run has a number of problems that get in the way of an otherwise solid action game. My biggest complaint is the length, which wraps up right as it's starting to get good. The campaign consists of three separate areas, each with around ten blocks to race through. These stages won't take more than a minute or two, so players will bust through the entire campaign in around an hour.
I also found the game's location limiting. While I enjoyed the look of the urban blocks in the first few stages, I was disappointed that there wasn't more variety from one part of the city to the next. You'll see a lot of the same textures, cars and buildings repeated over and over, which started to take me out of the experience after a while.
Players can choose between the two characters, but sadly their stories are identical. It's a shame Alex wasn't forced to run through the urban wasteland while Claire dodged zombies in a more suburban location. Between introducing new types of zombies and weapons, there's a lot of wasted potential in Z-Run.
Beyond the single-player campaign, there's also a survival mode, which sees our heroes running down one very long street seeing how far they can go until the zombies finally get their meal. Players can choose between the three different locations, but this only further illustrates how similar everything in the city looks.
The lack of variety is a shame, as the developers have a killer concept on their hands and nailed the gameplay. But with no story to speak of and only a few levels to race through, Z-Run falls short of my expectations.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
It's questionable how accurate this is, but this is all that's known about Cyril Lachel: A struggling writer by trade, Cyril has been living off a diet of bad games, and a highly suspect amount of propaganda. Highly cynical, Cyril has taken to question what companies say and do, falling ever further into a form of delusional madness. With the help of quality games, and some greener pastures on the horizon, this back-to-basics newsman has returned to provide news so early in the morning that only insomniacs are awake.