Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Oregon Trail

Oregon Trail for the Apple IIe redefined the way gaming was done. It boasts a non-linear storyline, a fully customizable player party, multiple minigames, and more.

General storeFirst things first. Choose a career. With unparalleled customization, you can be a carpenter from Ohio, or even a farmer from Illinois. This choice will have a drastic impact on your gameplay, determining just how well you might be able to repair wagon wheels, or collect fruit. As if this wasn't enough, you then proceed to name your entire wagon party. Any name you wish. Finally, you can even choose what time of the year you want to leave for Oregon. Even the weather is at your command!

The game opens simply enough, with you and your family of poor, still-healthy Missourians at the general store, buying supplies for the long and arduous journey.

Died of typhoid As you travel the trail, you'll encounter hardship after hardship. From broken legs to disease, from the savages whose land you're stealing to deteriorating wagon axles, this game has it all. Don't expect your entire family to make it to Oregon. I promise at least one of them will die. Probably more. And if you think you're making it without getting 50% of your possessions robbed from you along the way, well my friend. You have quite the surprise in store.

TombstoneEventually, hopefully, you reach Oregon itself. Along the way you'll have ended up doing a lot of river crossing, for better or for worse, but primarily you'll have spent many a day hunting. Hunting is perhaps the chief reason Oregon Trail is played. What better illustrates the American independent spirit than walking out into the untamed wilderness with a rifle and killing off the rest of the bison in the country? If that ain't patriotic, I don't know what is.

HuntingIt's also easily the most fun thing to do in Oregon Trail, as the rest of the game generally consists of you watching an ox plod along, occasionally finding out that there is inadequate grass, or a poorly marked trail, or that Michael has died of a fever. Hunting tosses all that aside, giving you complete control over yourself as you can turn in a whopping eight directions to shoot prey that probably has no business being in the area of the country you are travelling. And of course, no matter how well you hunt, you're only as good as how much you can bench.

DrownedLastly, Oregon Trail is educational. It teaches you what life (and death) was really like for the pioneers of the west. Coonskin caps, covered wagons, and all the cholera you can eat are the orders of the day, and Oregon Trail delivers them in spades, giving you a real feeling that you're actually there, experiencing it all, no longer able to control your bodily functions. Its stunning graphics and crystal clear sounds immerse you in the environment of 19th century America like no other game could ever do. The game even opens with an information screen daring you to feel the reality of it all course through your veins.

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Oregon Trail invites everyone to come enjoy the power and glory of Willamette Valley in the fall (or winter, if you suck). So hop on board your wagon, caulk it across some rivers, raid some general stores, hunt some bears, and break your arms on the way to Oregon. I'm pretty sure you won't be disappointed. And even more certain you won't survive the trip. Check it out. It's the good high.

Oregon Trail - 15/20

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