Organ Trail (PlayStation 4)

  • Gameplay
  • Story
  • Visuals
  • Audio
  • Entertainment

Also available on PlayStation Vita, Ouya, Android, iOS, Linux, OSX, and Windows

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When I was in elementary school, my favorite days where the days that my teacher would take us to the computer lab and let us play Math Blaster or Oregon Trail.  I loved Oregon Trail, and I still think it’s a fantastic game 25+ years later.  When I was in college, I discovered Super Amazing Wagon Adventure on the Xbox 360 indie storefront, and I wasted dozens of drunken hours on that game with friends.  Now we have the zombie apocalypse parody take on Oregon Trail – Organ Trail.

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The basic goal in Organ Trail is pretty much the same as that of Oregon Trail; you have to make your way westward across the United States to get to Oregon because there’s supposedly a safe haven from the zombies in the northwestern United States.  There are huge chunks of the country that are irradiated from what I assume to be nuclear containment attempts, and during your journey, you’ll get choices on which routes to take.  Do you take the shorter route through the irradiated zones, or do you take a longer route that uses more resources and exposes you to more zombie risk in favor of not having to deal with radiation sickness?  It’s that kind of cost/benefit analysis element that REALLY makes the game intriguing for me.

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The visuals are done in a pseudo-8-bit style, but given that it’s supposed to be a parody of an early 90s PC game, it works brilliantly.  As you travel from landmark to landmark, you have to keep an eye on your supplies, and that’s more than just gas, food, and bullets; you have to consider spare tires, spare car batteries, medkits, and the overall HP of both your party members as well as your station wagon.  You also, naturally, have to contend with illnesses like dysentery and typhoid but also radiation poisoning and – of course – zombie bites.  All in all, it does an EXCELLENT job of capturing all of the gameplay functions of the original Oregon Trail.  Instead of fording rivers, you have to drive through hordes of zombies, and instead of hunting, you have to scavenge for supplies while fighting off zombies. 

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The fact that there are so many risk vs reward choices to make with regards to your pace and route give the game a lot of replayability, but each landmark also provides you with optional missions to complete.  Some of these aren’t at all worth it – a mission ranked “suicidal” with a reward of one tire – but some of them are fantastic – a mission ranked “moderate” with a reward of $80.  It’s all about how confident you are at shooting zombies and how much you need whatever resource it is that the mission gives as a reward.  It’s really a fantastic take on Oregon Trail that seamlessly integrates the zombie theme.  A lot of “-insert game- but with zombies!” games feel haphazard and like the zombies are shoehorned in just for the sake of the fad, but that’s not the case with Organ Trail.  If you’d never played or heard of Oregon Trail, this would feel like a simplistic but completely competent indie game.

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Organ Trail is, at its heart, Oregon Trail with zombies.  It’s for that very reason that it’s fantastic.  The difficulty settings make it a little more approachable to total newcomers than the original Oregon Trail, but given that those difficulties range from “Don’t an idiot, and you’ll live” all the way up to “Abandon hope all ye who enter,” few will find themselves lacking challenge.  It’s a seriously addicting game, and given that it’s available on just about every system except Xbox’s and Nintendo’s, there are few who are without a way to play this gem.

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