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07/01/14 Beatshapers
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07/01/14 Beatshapers

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Z-Run (PSV)

By Signalstar 08th Jul 2014 | 3,771 views 

Run for your life!

With the zombie craze showing no signs of losing steam it feels like there is a new zombie game releasing every week. Z-Run is an endless runner game in the vein of Temple Run except with the added obstacles of zombies. You may be aware that there is a certain niche of people who actually hope for a zombie apocalypse. If you are ever in a conversation with such a person they may be willing to share their survival plan which they have thought out extensively after watching every episode of The Walking Dead and reading The Zombie Survival Guide cover to cover. I would be willing to bet that no one’s zombie survival plan consists of solely running forward, alone, on foot, through zombie infested city streets, but that is exactly what you do in Z-Run... if you choose to play it, against all good reason.

Z-Run takes place in the abandoned streets of what I assume to be Tokyo. You take control of a generic male character named Alex or a generic female character named Claire. Since it’s a runner game, your character runs forward automatically whether you want him to or not. Holding down the R button will make you sprint faster. You can slide forward by pressing and holding the X button to slip under obstacles such as trucks or police barricades. The slide move also doubles as an offensive attack that can take out zombies in front of you. The O button performs a flying jump kick to the face that will neutralize the threat of a zombie. Triangle jumps over debris and other obstacles in your way. Square is used to attack with your projectile or melee weapon. You can navigate through the stream of the undead and clutter of urban decay with the left analog stick and can perform a dodge roll by flicking the right stick. The controls take some getting used to and are not as responsive as they could be - simply avoiding immobile obstacles in your way can be a real chore. If there is a derpier way to die in a video game than by running head-first repeatedly into a brick wall, I haven’t experienced it yet. Thanks, Z-Run.

There's a good variety of weapons to pick up, including katanas, shotguns, and even bass guitars. The melee weapons all have a limited durability value that depletes each time it comes in contact with undead flesh. The guns are, of course, restricted by how many bullets you have left, with ammo pick-ups generally few and far between. The only genuine moment of enjoyment I got from the whole game was barrelling down the street blasting away at zombies with an Uzi. You have to conserve your ammo for when it is most needed because if you die and restart the level whatever you have used will be gone. 

One nice aesthetic touch is that when you kill a zombie their blood splatters all over the screen, obscuring your view. You then have to wipe the blood away by swiping your finger across the Vita’s touchscreen. Unfortunately, while this initially strikes the player as a clever gimmick it soon devolves into a major annoyance. When trying to nimbly navigate between zombie hordes your two hands will be too busy to wipe the screen constantly, making you wish you had an extra hand to spare.

All of the moves in your arsenal deplete a certain amount of your stamina. Though it slowly replenishes over time, when your stamina is low you will momentarily be unable to perform any evasive or offensive moves, leaving you slow and vulnerable to attack. You can manually replenish your health and stamina by picking up red and blue soda cans, respectively. Z-Run also incorporates a leveling system, so you can upgrade your abilities using points to enhance your health, stamina, and other attributes such as your ammo capacity. Upgrading these stats is essential to surviving the later stages, so much so that you may find yourself slogging through levels you already completed just to earn the points needed to advance.

The graphics are horrendous. Visually I would place Z-Run somewhere between the capabilities of the PS1 and PS2, leaning more towards the former. The character models are ugly, the environments are recycled ad nauseum, and the animation feels lifeless. Not only that but the framerate is very unstable, dipping to unplayable levels whenever you are attacked or collide with an object. It is also prone to stutter at just about any moment during gameplay. This all adds up to a very grim playing experience that’s hard on the eyes.

The soundtrack consists of generic rock tunes, which are actually surprisingly good as far as generic rock tunes go, so the audio experience isn't as dreadful as the visual one. The zombies all growl when they lurch forward to attack, but the sound effects for the guns and melee weapons sound shallow and tinny. Your character lets out a pathetic squeal of pain when they get bitten or stupidly trip over a fence.

Z-Run's campaign consists of 30 or so levels which last about 2 minutes each at most. There is no story to speak of and very little to distinguish the levels other than their lengths, number of zombies, and slightly different environments. The only major change-up, which occurs about halfway through the game, is the addition of hulking fat zombies that are immune to your default attacks. Even the last level is indistinct from the rest. I was genuinely surprised, but also graciously relieved, to see the end credits begin to roll after about an hour and a half of playtime, although there is a survival mode for those who want to get more playtime out of the title. It consists of three areas where you run endlessly trying to cover as much distance as possible. The campaign also comes with three difficulty levels should you want to return for a greater challenge. All of this misery can be yours for the ridiculously high price of $8.99.

An endless runner featuring zombies sounds like a great idea in theory but its execution here is truly horrendous. Nowadays indie games feel like the lifeblood of the PlayStation Vita, but if they are of the quality of Z-Run then the system will eventually have to be pulled off of its life-support. Z-Run is not even bad in a memorable way that you can look back on with amusement after you’ve cleaned your palette with a streak of much better games. It is just really, really bad.

VGChartz Verdict


This review is based on a digital copy of Z-Run for the PSV, provided by the publisher.

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