Marvel Move is a game that dares to ask “what if you could earn digital trinkets while you do cardio, and exchange them for virtual trophies to commemorate all that hard work?” Then, when it has your attention, it hits you with the one-two punch of “and what if Wolverine and The Hulk cheered you on while you ran?” I’m a woefully sedentary person, as gamers are wont to be, but it turns out that two things that can get me out of my ergonomic Secretlab chair are achievements, and the chance to be friends with superheroes. Marvel Move has plenty of both, and suddenly I’m on the verge of a major lifestyle change. It’ll be awhile before I’m sporting Thor’s abs or America’s ass, but I’m two weeks into a 5K training program and I’m shopping for orthopedic running shoes, which is a sentence I never thought I’d write.
Six to Start, the company behind Zombies, Run!, launched Marvel Move last month as its newest subscription workout program, which the company has said is its first step into producing a wide range of licensed content. You won’t find Marvel Move in the app store though, which is my biggest point of criticism for the game. All of Six to Start’s different running programs are in a shared app called ZRX, or Zombie Run Xperience (I think). Burying Marvel Move in a Netflix for running apps isn’t the best for discoverability, especially when the app is still using the Zombies, Run! logo.
But if you can manage to find Marvel Move, it has a lot to offer. Though it’s barely a month old, there’s already three different fitness programs available, with more to come every month. Currently there are three programs that each cater to slightly different audiences and workout plans. The flagship title is Thor & Loki’s 5K training, an 8 week program that slowly builds in intensity from week to week. There’s also two episodic storylines that feature 35-minute workouts. Hulkville, a mystery where you team up with Hulk to investigate the source of deadly radiation leak, and X-Men: Age of Orchis, which follows a team of mutants fighting a sentinel invasion on Krakoa.
Each workout is accompanied by an audio drama told in the second person, meaning you’re a character in the story running alongside – and sometimes away from – Marvel’s mightiest. The production value is top notch, with great scripts, solid voice acting, intense audio effects, and surprisingly strong connections to comic book lore. Each 35-minute workout is structured around specific story beats. You’ll listen to a scene play out, then the narrative will fade out for a while as you run to the next plot point. In the meantime the app will automatically play you music or podcasts, then switch back to the story when you reach the next objective.
It can be a little jarring to swap between narratives if you like to listen to audiobooks or narrative podcasts while you run, but overall I find that each workout flows really well. It’s easy to get invested in the storylines and let yourself get motivated. I find that when I’m physically exhausted I’m a lot more vulnerable and open to the power of suggestion, so when I hear The Hulk smashing his way down the street behind me while Betty Ross screams “run and don’t stop!” I’m prone to abide. Giving purpose and intent to a run helps me avoid slowing down or stopping arbitrarily when I get tired. It’s not as though I actually believe Hulk is chasing me, but playing along helps me push myself harder, and it makes running a lot more fun.
Six to Start has more than a decade of experience gamifying exercise, and there’s a lot of clever things Marvel Move does to help motivate you. As you run you’ll pick up supplies like med-kits and electronics that give you points towards earning trophies. Each chapter also has key items called story collectibles that have some extra lore you can read after your run, which give additional context to each story. The app also saves a scorecard at the end of each workout, which shows you your distance, time, supplies earned, chases escaped, and your average pace. You can track your progress from week to week, or replay chapters to try to improve your score.
In October, Move will introduce its first race, a 5k and 10k competition featuring The Marvels that players can either experience casually or compete on the leaderboard. New chapters for each story come out each month, and there’s new storylines on the way, including one featuring Daredevil. It’s a lot of content, but it’s also a pricey program. Marvel Move costs $75 annually, which is almost twice the price of Zombies, Run! However, considering how much Zombies, Run! content has been released over the last ten years, it seems likely that there will be tons of Marvel Move stories to enjoy eventually.
ZRX also features Venture, a collection of 58 original workout programs in a variety of genres, including sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and non-fiction. I would love to see the app tap into gaming as well. Workout programs featuring God of War, Assassin’s Creed, The Last of Us, and Halo would bring a lot of attention to the app from people that could get a lot of benefit from it. I don’t love running yet, but I look forward to hearing each new episode and playing my part in the story, and working with some big name games would make ZRX even better. So would changing the name to something that doesn’t bring up Kawasaki motorcycles when you try to Google it.
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