When Six to Start created Zombies, Run!, players were given the chance to plug in a pair of headphones and lose themselves in a rich narrative, where you’re asked to run to survive. And while Zombies, Run! doesn’t require its players to run, the story and many of its game mechanics are built around promoting running. After receiving feedback from fans of the game who aren’t avid runners, Six to Start and Naomi Alderman partnered with the UK Department of Health and National Health Service to release The Walk for iOS and Android devices earlier today.
Like Zombies, Run!, the primary feature of The Walk is its narrative, designed to provide audio accompaniment to your walking routine. Mere minutes before an apparent terrorist attack on a train station in Inverness, the player is given a package and told that it is of vital importance the package make it to Edinburgh. The attack is initiated by a group called The Burn and contains an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) which takes out all electronics, including all transportation and communication. After escaping from the train station, the package is opened and revealed to be a communication device capable of functioning after the pulse. The person on the other end becomes your guide through the chaos as you make your way on foot to deliver the package to Edinburgh.
The game at release will contain 23 Episodes and 7 Challenges, with additional Episodes and Challenges to be released as a free update in early 2014. Episodes contain the major story elements, audio clips which are unlocked as you progress through the map.
The maps often contain branches which have special items or additional audio clips which enhance the story. There are also hidden landscape features which display as small white squares which, when tapped, might unlock more audio clips and help you win achievements.
In a Challenge, the objective is to collect as many items as possible in a 24 hour period. The challenge starts by drawing a path which takes you through all the items, and must be at least 30 minutes long. The longer the path, the longer it will take to walk, and achievements are earned depending on how much of the path you complete and items you collect.
The beauty of The Walk‘s gameplay is that all walking activity throughout the day is recorded, allowing the app to serve as a daily activity tracker. Players can start up the app, place it in their pocket or purse, and go about their daily routine to progress. Because of this focus on longer term tracking, audio clips are no longer played automatically when they are unlocked: instead, they must be actively selected from the Episode Map or Episode Select screen.
While activity can be tracked as progress towards an Episode or Challenge, The Walk can also serve as a more traditional activity tracker. Activity recorded for the day is displayed at the top of the Activity Tracker, and displays both the number of steps taken, and the total time walking. Beneath that is a green line graph that displays your progress towards the daily target (initially set to 100 minutes). If you’re currently playing an Episode or Challenge, progress towards completion is displayed next.
In the “Last 7 Days” section, your activity over the past 7 days is tracked in a bar chart, along with the average time spent walking each day. The “Today’s Journeys” section breaks down the day’s activities: time spent walking, in transit (such as in a car or train), and periods of inactivity. Next to each item is a globe icon which, when pressed, displays a map which shows the path taken during that activity.
Lastly, the Statistics section displays total time active, most activity in a day, average daily activity, longest walk, and longest run.
Battery Life and Accuracy:
It should be noted that, while all Apple products running iOS 7 (and Android devices running 4.0 and above) can play The Walk, the app has been optimized for Apple products using the M7 motion chip which allows a higher accuracy level to be achieved with less battery power than with the accelerometer and GPS alone. This means the level of accuracy will be much higher on the iPhone 5s or 2nd Gen (Retina display) iPad Mini. For my tests, I ran the app on an iPhone 4 using just GPS and the Accelerometer. Battery life was not bad, on average of 40% used during a day of use. During the testing period, the only thing the iPhone was used for was The Walk and email over WiFi (the phone does not have a data plan). Due to the lack of an M7 chip, accuracy could not be as high as, say, my Fitbit: but to do so would be detrimental to battery life. So when running the game on older devices, be aware treks from your desk to the break room may not be accurately recorded, but longer more brisk walks will be much more accurate. If you have the latest and greatest in Apple technology, all daily walking activity will be logged more accurately.
Game play scenarios:
While testing, I played the game in a variety of situations such as the gym, specific walking workouts outside, and shopping. While in the gym, the equipment used was the elliptical and the treadmill, and while the app logged steps on both machines, the activity on the treadmill was logged more accurately. During specific outside walks, one was at a brisk pace and the other was at a more leisurely pace; both tracked steps but the brisker walk was more accurate. The best performance I noticed was when the iPhone was left in my purse with the app running while shopping.
It’s worth noting that, at least on Apple devices, the game notifications that are sent to notify players of unlocked audio clips or collectibles do not display when you are listening to music on a separate app, since that app takes priority.
The Walk was not designed to be as immersive as Zombies, Run!, to accommodate the shift in focus from tracking workouts to tracking daily fitness routines. The Walk is still a fun game with its new focus, and offers a compelling story that can be played pretty much any time, anywhere. The Walk is available on iTunes and Google Play for $4.99, with a special 20% discount to celebrate its launch taking the price down to $3.99.
If you’ve been looking for something to motivate you to walk more… and the Fitbit or Jawbone Up are out of your price range, The Walk may be just the thing to get you moving!