Although the runner genre is very much at home on mobile platforms thanks to its pick-up-and-play appeal, it was always questionable as to whether one would be particularly suited to the PlayStation Vita, but Beatshapers were willing to find out, and with Z-Run they’ve served up a bite-sized (see what I did there?) title that serves to at least partially answer that particular question.
Set in a city overrun with the undead, Z-Run is just about as basic as game as you’ll find on the Vita, but that in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s a lot to be said for games that reward short, sharp bursts on handhelds, and with plenty of gamers taking their Vita along for the ride on their daily commutes, it makes sense on paper that this should at least kind of work.
And kind of work it does.
Just about as slow a starter as you’ll find anywhere, your first hour or so with Z-Run will be a lesson in perseverance. As you’re introduced to the basics and shown how to slide under vehicles, jump over barriers, dodge zombies, execute melee attacks or use the assorted weapons you’ll pick up as you play, there’s little here that really jumps out, but with a little patience it definitely offers a little improvement along the way.
As you rank up and unlock new abilities and weapons, you’ll find an experience that gradually ramps up in intensity, although it still falls short of some of the more accomplished titles in the genre, and there’s not really enough content here to make you want to come back time and again unless you’re a seriously hardcore score chaser.
On top of the relative lack of variety found throughout the game’s samey locales, Z-Run suffers from a handful of small but irritating technical issues that can make progression a chore at times. On more than one occasion I found my character inconveniently wedged between the road and some scenery, unable to move forward which, as you might have guessed, isn’t ideal for a runner. On top of that, the game also suffers from some unfortunate slowdown when the screen is particularly busy – again, a major no-no for the genre.
Nevertheless, those intent on getting some value for their money will definitely be able to pull some enjoyment from the title.
Mastering the game’s dodge and attack mechanics, while keeping an eye on your ever decreasing energy bar will take a good deal of mastering, especially for the later levels, but there’s a sense of achievement to be had from pulling off flawless runs at full speed, weaving in and out of enemies, hurdling obstacles and doling out a little punishment to your zombified foes along the way.
It’s not going to tax most players skills, although it might try their patience in places, but Z-Run is a reasonable enough title for gamers on the go who like to pass the time as they head to and from wherever it is they go on earn their keep.
So, as for that question as to whether runners have a home on the Vita? It’s tough to fully discount the genre, but given the power of the system and the calibre of many of the games available for it these days, they’ll have to offer a little more than Z-Run to truly convince me.