Platforms: Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, Ouya, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita (reviewed), and Windows
Are you old enough to remember those days in school when your teacher was hung over and clearly not wanting to be bothered, so they’d ship you off to the computer lab to play Oregon Trail? If you answered yes to this question then you’ll know pretty much exactly what Organ Trail has in store. Playing Oregon Trail in school was always a treat because you were, well, playing video games in school, but when actually having the choice between playing it and something else, I’d imagine most people would opt for something better. Unfortunately, Organ Trail does little to change that feeling because the entire time I was playing it felt like more like homework than fun and I was ready to play something else.
If the name wasn’t evidence enough, Organ Trail is a parody of the educational game Oregon Trail, except set in the zombie apocalypse. You’ll be tasked with packing up a station wagon and traveling across the country to find a safe haven from the zombies. As the game begins, you’ll get to customize your character and four other characters (well, you’ll get to choose their names anyway), because what’s more fun than watching someone die of dysentery? Getting to live out the fantasy that the person dying is one of your friends or loved ones!
As you proceed with your journey you’ll need to manage a number of resources including food, ammo, fuel, money, med kits, scrap (for fixing your vehicle), and more. The amount of these resources you’ll start with and find throughout will be determined by the difficulty you decide to play on, so the harder the difficulty, the more scarce resources will become. The aspect of rationing resources adds a nice layer of strategy to the game as sometimes you’ll have to decide whether you want to buy food to feed the group or buy med kits to heal them, along with a number of other scenarios.
Scattered throughout the country will be different landmarks that you will need to reach. Sometimes you’ll get to pick your destination but mostly your route is predetermined. As you reach these landmarks you’ll get to take a break from travel and have the opportunity to do a number of optional activities. You’ll be able to buy and sell resources, repair and upgrade your vehicle, scavenge for resources, take on jobs, and even rest. Resting allows you to replenish the health of your party, assuming they aren’t seriously hurt or inflicted with a disease. You can also fish, which does the same as resting but allows you to try and catch resources. The fishing mini game is kind of terrible though, so it’s something I usually just avoided. Scavenging and jobs are where a lot of the actual gameplay takes place, but unfortunately it is hampered by unforgiving combat controls.
As you go out to scavenge, you’ll have to walk around an area and collect supplies as they pop up, while also needing to fight off zombies or, in some cases, other humans. This wouldn’t be so bad if the controls weren’t completely awful. Aiming your gun is a complete joke. There is no precision and it takes way too long to line up a decent shot. I played this on the Vita and it’s not known for having the best analog sticks, so this could be part of the problem. Either way, it makes the game nearly impossible because you can’t find supplies when you‘re constantly dying thanks to terrible controls. The same goes for the jobs you can take on as all of those involve combat in some form or another. In fact, all of the jobs and scavenging feel the same. Even if the controls worked properly, this lack of variety would grow old rather quickly.
When you’re not visiting the various landmarks, you’ll be traveling. Your fuel and food resources will both dwindle, so you’ll have to be aware of those at all times. You’ll also get a variety of random events that can occur. These can just be text based like a party member catching a disease or can be more in depth like fighting off a biker gang with your car. Sometimes you’ll also be able to choose whether or not you want to perform certain actions like checking out a tombstone at the side of the road or how to traverse through a group of zombies. These choices make the game sort of feel like a choose your own adventure, but with subsequent playthroughs things still always feel all too familiar and lead to eventual boredom.
There are few extras and unlocks available if you actually find yourself enjoying the game enough to want to explore them. You’ll be able to unlock a handful of different vehicles by accomplishing certain tasks and they all have varying starting stats that can change the campaign up a bit. There’s also an endless mode and a bonus quest as well. Endless mode is just as it sounds – a mode that has no final objective and in it you’ll also be able to complete its own specific tasks that will unlock unique modifiers and load outs. If you can get used to the combat, this is probably where most of your time will be spent. The bonus quest is a terrible car driving game (sort of akin to the Trials motorcycle games, if they were garbage) that somehow manages to have worse controls and be more boring than the main game.
Organ Trail isn’t a bad game and I’m sure it has an audience, but for me, it’s just a little too boring to recommend. If you remember playing Oregon Trail fondly as a kid, you might get a kick out of it, but the appeal isn’t long lasting enough. That being said, be forewarned that the combat controls are atrocious (particularly on the Vita version) and may be enough to have you regretting your purchase.