Travellin’ the Organ Trail!

I first heard about Organ Trail on Steam Greenlight a few months back.  It was an Oregon Trail meets Zombie Apocalypse game; a marriage of blood, guts, and dysentery.  So when I saw it for sale on the Steam marketplace for like two bucks, I couldn’t pass it up.

Needless to say I grew up with the Oregon Trail game; I remember in 2nd Grade when a generous benefactor cut a deal with the local school district to put computers in all of the elementary schools.OregonTrailFuck

We were running on Windows 3.1 and we only had a few programs: WordPerfect (you know, the precursor to Microsoft Word), Math Blaster, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, and…The Oregon Trail!

For those of you who don’t know what the original game is, in Oregon Trail you play as a family of settlers moving west along the Oregon Trail from, I think, Missouri or something.  Your eventual goal is to survive the whole trip and make it to the Western Seaboard with as much of your possessions and family as you can.

Cue intense title screen music!

Cue intense title screen music!

The Set-Up

Unlike the original there aren’t different character classes or anything like that, which was kind of a downer.  It would’ve been cool to have some character classes.  For instance in the original game you could play as a Doctor, which made your family less prone to become ill and more likely to survive illnesses; a Blacksmith, which allowed you to repair your wagon and such easier; or a Banker, which allowed you to start with more money than the other classes.

But in Organ Trail, you just play as a survivor of the Zombie Apocalypse.  It all starts with you cowering behind what looks like a couch, shooting at approaching zombies with your bolt-action rifle.  Then suddenly a grizzled priest with a shotgun leaps out and guns down your oppressors, just as you run out of ammo, of course.

Random events abound!

Fuck no!  What part of Zombie Activity being a stat in the game suggests I’m ever getting out of this damn car?

The two of you go to nearby Washington D.C. to gather up your crew of survivors, like the original you take four people with you.  But the Priest, Clements, is bitten on the way there.  He’ll usually either break his leg or get Dysentery on the way there, too (Dysentery is a huge joke from the original Oregon Trail game, since it was a leading cause of death both in the game and for the actual Oregon Trail settlers).

Your first order of business, after naming yourself and your cohorts, is to decide whether or not you will shoot Clements before he turns into a zombie.  This is something you can do to your whole party, by the way, even if they aren’t infected.  There is actually an achievement for gunning down your peers at the start of the game…which is kind of fucked up, really.

I was only tryin' ta scare 'em!

I was only tryin’ ta scare ’em!

So anyway you then gather up some supplies and here is where you can make or break yourself for the rest of the game in the opening segments.  I’ve got some clues for you…take a little bit of food, a decent bit of gas, a few hundred rounds of ammo, at least two of each car part…and a shit-ton of med kits!  Not that you’ll actually need the med kits much, although it does seem to be the only way of healing yourself.  You see, the lazy bastards with you will recover health when you rest, but you apparently stand guard over them so that you never regain health with them.  Pricks.

Camping out in Zombie-infested Pittsburgh.

Camping out in Zombie-infested Pittsburgh.

The Medkits are worth a veritable fortune in the zombie-infested wilderness, though.  I’ve seen them sell for over twenty bucks a pop and I’ve seen them purchasable for as much as $89.  So take as many as you can comfortably carry, don’t worry about cash because those med kits will quickly turn into way more than you can get at the game’s start.  Don’t bother with scrap, either, your car will get you to the first few garages where repairs are cheap and you’ll pick up a bunch more while scavenging for food so you should be all right.

Only now are you prepared to start your 5,000+ mile journey west!

You will have to fend of biker gangs of gun-toting bandits, unkillable zombified bears, herds of zombie deer, (did I mention just plain-ol’ zombies?), broken legs, car fires, flat tires, and of course…Dysentery.

Here lies Clements...he shit to death.

Here lies Clements…he shit to death.

Good luck!!

Well...that turned out poorly.

I’d miss them…if they hadn’t been so delicious.

The Game

So how is the game to actually play?  It’s…not bad.  I was kind of hoping for more from it, and it let me down a bit.  And the let down was completely in one single aspect of the game: The gunplay.  For some reason they opted to utilize an ass-backwards shooting system (on top of that they poorly describe how to use said system).Instead of pointing the gun at your target and clicking the mouse button to fire, or some semblence of that, you hold the mouse button down and drag the mouse in the opposite direction of whatever you want to shoot.

Yes, you read that correctly.  You point the gun away from what you want to shoot!

Draw a line?  Great idea, I think I'd kill more zombies with a pencil than this damn rifle!

Draw a line? Great idea, I think I’d kill more zombies with a pencil than this damn rifle!

When you release the mouse button, you fire the gun; a small pixel of a bullet scurrying the across the screen to, in my general experiences, hurtle passed whatever you thought you were aiming for.

The biggest problem with this design flaw?  It seems to be intentional.  They did it to create an artificial challenge.  It’s one thing to do that in a minigame but the gunplay, as one might expect it to be in a game set during the zombie apocalypse, is a pretty major aspect of the game.

Scavenging has you shooting to protect yourself, the bandit minigame has you under cover firing into a building to kill bandits, the retrieval minigame has you shooting at zombies while you race across the screen to recover a lost object, and the defender minigame has you doing the same thing you were in the opening of the game…defending a couch-looking piece of cover while zombies come at you (except insanely harder and with no gun-toting priest to save your ass).

Ooo, look...a free car!

Ooo, look…a free car!

Most of the game involves shooting, which makes the whole shooting system pretty important.  To then create a purposefully incoherent shooting system is an affront to the rest of the greatness the game has to it.  Honestly, it kind of ruins the experience by a large sum.

The game is still…okay, but it would have been way better being able to actually use a gun.  Even if it was class-based, like I mentioned before.  Like that’s how the guns normally work, but the Veteran class can use guns in reverse so that you point at the target and pull the trigger or something.  But enough about my thoughts on having character classes…anyway, back to the game!

All in all I guess I got my money’s worth, but the game could have been much better with a less bullshit shooting system.  The humor in the game is worth the two bucks I spent on it, but for the full price of $4.99…well I guess it’s still not bad.  If it was a ten or twenty dollar game I’d have been really pissed, but for five bucks it’s not bad.

Hey hon...while you're on your knees and I just saved you an' all. ;)

Hey hon…while you’re on your knees and I just saved you an’ all. 😉

The game has decent music, with each new location having a different beat all of it retro-style 8-bit chiptunes.  The 8-bit art is exquisite and zombie references abound all through the game.  From a Romero-esque zombified Pittsburgh, to the prison from Walking Dead (the comic and series, not the game…or shamble of a game if Telltale didn’t make it), to the images of the party looking like Shaun of Shaun of the Dead, and Tallahassee, Columbus, and Wichita from Zombieland (which was an awesome movie, I hope the sequel I’ve heard about them making isn’t total shit).

We're gettin' the band back together!

We’re gettin’ the band back together!

Basically if you like zombies and you liked Oregon Trail, both of which I do enjoy, you’ll like the game.  And if it had a coherent shooting system you would love it.


Seriously though…


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