Monday, April 15, 2013

Organ Trail

Every now and then, I find an interesting video game on Steam. Usually it's an indie game and I love buying those games, if for no other reason than to encourage the indies to keep working.

Well, the other day, I got excited, because I thought that I spotted an old favorite on Steam: Oregon Trail. Who here remembers Oregon Trail? When I was in elementary school, I remember how excited I got plopping down in front of the Apple II and trying to get my little band of pioneers from Independence, MO, to the promised land of Oregon. Yeah, I usually wound up wiping out due to dysentery or the final trek down the river, but it was a lot of fun!

You can imagine my surprise when I thought I spotted Oregon Trail on Steam. It even looked the same as the Oregon Trail I used to play. So I clicked on over and then stopped.

Organ Trail? What on Earth?

As it turns out, I had stumbled on a silly little indie game in which a group of survivors have to travel from Washington, D.C., to a promised land on the west coast. Load up a station wagon, gather your provisions, and head on out. Just hope that nobody gets bit by a zombie or you might have to put them down.

So let's talk about what the game gets right. First of all, it's got the feel of the original 8-bit version of Oregon Trail, down to the awful graphics. You have to buy your original supplies, like food, ammo, med kits, and spare tires and mufflers and batteries for your car. You can set your pace and your rationing and hope for the best.

Just like in the original game, you can stop from time to time to scavenge for more supplies, just like how you had to hunt for game in the original. Only this time, you're scooping up magically appearing wallets and grocery bags and using your trusty rifle to shoot the shuffling zombies that come after you. Plus there's plenty of silly humor in the game, some nods to the original that had me smiling.

But not everything is kosher in this game. The combat system is a major disappointment.

Look, I get it. The game developers didn't want this one to get too easy. But using the mouse to aim the gun is too much of a hit-or-miss proposition, and usually, it's a miss. Instead of putting the cursor between the zombie and myself, to aim, I have to put the cursor behind my avatar. The only way I could reasonably aim my gun was to draw a line from the zombie target to myself, but there were still times when my hand would twitch and suddenly, my character would turn 270-degrees and I'd be facing the wrong way, unable to turn around quick enough to shoot the zombie. Because of this glitch, I haven't even come close to reaching the end of the game. And all of this is on easy! I shudder to think what would happen on the harder difficulties.

So do I regret getting this game? Not at all. It is fun. I just wish I had a better shot at beating it.

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