Oct 24, 2012
Publisher: The Men Who Wear Many Hats
It takes a twisted mind to reimagine the classic game The Oregon Trail as a zombie invasion story. Although the results aren’t always successful, that’s exactly what The Men Who Wear Many Hats have done with their iOS game Organ Trail: The Director’s Cut. If you’re one of the untold thousands of people who played The Oregon Trail on an Apple ][ in an elementary school computer lab back in the '80s, be prepared for a hefty dose of nostalgia as you play through this remake. Organ Trail is relatively faithful to the source material and will please vintage game fans with its pixel art, atmospheric soundtrack and references to other classic favorites such as Street Rod and the Final Fantasy series. However, the game also lacks variety and runs a bit long. Once you've had your nostalgia kick, there may not be much of a reason to play the game again.
Oregon Trail Remake
The beginning of Organ Trail functions as a tutorial in which you learn the game’s basics: shooting a gun, buying supplies and traveling from one landmark to the next. The zombie apocalypse has begun, and it’s up to you to make it from the east coast to Oregon, where humanity has built a fortress to protect itself from the invasion. During your journey, you’ll need to shoot your way through hordes of zombies as you scrape together the fuel, food, ammo and other supplies needed to sustain your team.
In general, the decisions you’ll face in Organ Trail are very similar to those in the game that inspired it. You’ll need a constant supply of resources to make your journey successful. You can travel more quickly to reduce the amount of resources consumed per mile, but doing so causes wear and tear on your vehicle and companions. If your vehicle breaks down, you may be stranded on the road for several days while you wait for a passerby willing to trade the part you need. If a companion is bitten by a zombie and runs low on health, you’ll need to put him down to prevent him from infecting the other members of your party. However, one of the interesting twists from the original game isn’t present here; you don’t need to make it to Oregon by a certain date to avoid being snowed out.
Organ Trail Gameplay
As in the original game, the supplies that you pack at the beginning of Organ Trail probably won’t last for long. When you run out of food or scrap metal to repair your station wagon, you’ll need to forage for more. However, foraging in Organ Trail isn’t simply a matter of shooting an animal and carrying back what you can; instead, you’ll have to kill a constant stream of zombies just to stay alive. If a zombie touches you, you’ll be injured and will lose most of the supplies you’ve collected. You’ll lose the game immediately if your main character dies, but medkits are available to restore a portion of his life. Eventually, you’ll be able to complete the foraging sequence fairly reliably. Some sequences, however, are nearly impossible to win.
Once you’ve gotten into a rhythm of foraging and traveling, you’ll see that there really isn’t much else to Organ Trail. You aren’t pressed for time, so you’re free to forage whenever you need additional supplies and build up enough of a stockpile to sustain your group until you reach the next checkpoint. You’ll occasionally encounter random events, but none of these are helpful or harmful enough to significantly affect the outcome of the game — which is a good thing, because Organ Trail is quite long and you don’t want to lose when you’re close to the end. Set aside at least a couple of hours if you’d like to play the full game in one sitting.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, Organ Trail: The Director’s Cut is successful in what it sets out to be: a love letter to a game that seemingly everyone who has ever played games on an Apple ][ adores. The gameplay of The Oregon Trail has been accurately adapted for touch screen devices for the most part, and the game has few issues. We did experience some strange slowdowns late in the game, and found that are character often shot his gun during the foraging sequence when we wanted him to walk. Otherwise, Organ Trail: The Director’s Cut is absolutely worth the three dollar asking price even if it only provides a few hours’ entertainment.