I generally stick to covering RPG games and accessories, but I’m going to make a tiny exception this once to cover something that doesn’t really fit into any other category. Still, it’s kind of an RPG, so I figure I can get away with covering it. (I also figure I can get away with covering it because I’m not going to fire myself as a writer, especially since I work for no pay.)

I want to talk for a second about the awesome Zombies, Run! app for the iPhone. As you’ve probably guessed, I buy a lot of apps. About 70% of them are versions of other apps, and another 25% are copies of something that existed before the iPhone. This falls into that last 5%–something truly unique; an RPG for runners, where you “level up” by completing mileage.

As you run, this app tells you the story of a world beset by zombies; people in a “safe city” radio instructions and information to you about the world and its inhabitants. When they’re not speaking, the app returns you to your playlist, neatly set into the story world as a radio station playing the few motley tracks still left over after everything collapsed. During the radio running sections, you pick up items that flash up on your screen or that you can check out at the end of your run. When you’ve finished your run (or your “mission,” for each run sends you out to do something for the city,) you can give the items you’ve found to the various institutions in the city to strengthen them against the zombie hordes.

If you’re feeling particularly good about your running prowess, you have the option of adding a speed training element with zombie rushes. The game will then make you speed up when you get close to a swarm of the undead in the story. if you’re in traffic or just don’t want to do the speed training, though, you can turn that option off and run at a steady pace.

The game tracks pace and distance via GPS, or it can use an accelerometer if you’re on a treadmill. The treadmill seemed fairly accurate; the GPS was a bit generous compared to my Nike GPS. The company that’s created the app promises eventual support for RunKeeper for those of us who obsessively track runs. (Personally, I’d like to see Nike+ support, but I know how stingy Nike is about its platform, so I’m not going to hold my breath.)

One of the neatest things about this app is that it tries to remain polite at all times; if you’re playing your own music as you run, it attempts to wait until a track is done before breaking in with more story. If a track is particularly long, it does pause it to speak, but for your average-length song, the app tries hard to let you finish before it kicks back into the narrative. Further, unlike apps like Nike+, the voices don’t play over the music; the program stops the music altogether so that you can concentrate on what’s going on.

The writers have created a compelling story (at least from the bits I’ve heard,) and the voice acting seems quite solid, so it’s easy to be immersed in the world they’ve created. Most importantly, while you do feel a firm sense of urgency about the world that pushes you to go on, there’s no “jump out and scare you” element to the presentation that might cause you to trip or smash into a tree. (Okay, maybe YOU wouldn’t smash into a tree, but I might.)

If you’re prepping for a zombies campaign or for a marathon, this might just do the trick to get you in the mood. It’s an odd little creation, but I hope it will get copied by other companies. Personally, I’d love to see GW or FFG put out a Space Marine version. Nothing’s more inspirational than imagining that Nurgle is on your heels, really.