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Organ Trail does a great job of capturing the essence of what made The Oregon Trail great, while adding it’s own unique flair. It is humorous, nonsensical and fun. The Men Without Hats’ zombie-themed homage is reminiscent of days spent inside; eyes glazed as I hope my family of five four three arrive in Oregon. Unfortunately, the gameplay is stuck in the past.

Organ Trail involves some strategy, but there is a pretty small barrier to entry, and it’s pretty easy to pick up the game whether you have experience with The Oregon Trail or not. The most strategic decision I made was whether or not to go on a mission usually. Running around the screen and shooting up some zombies would reward me with a tire or some scrap, but I would often choose not to go because my ammo was worth more to me.

The most glaring issue with Organ Trail is ridged shooting mechanics. Firing is controlled with the mouse by clicking and dragging backward. It’s incredibly unintuitive, and only seems to be in the game to increase the difficulty. Clicking to aim would feel better, but would make certain mini games like battling a group of bandits too easy.

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The one positive part of the clunky controls is how it helps make the zombie threat feel real. One or two zombies aren’t a threat. They’re slow, and you have a gun. But a horde of them on the screen really puts the pressure on. When I would probably be fumbling with my gun in real life is when I found myself fighting the controls the most.

One of Organ Trail’s best features is its nonsensical charm. My favorite example is the randomly occurring zombie-bear boss battle. His arrival, announced with a deviation in music, is frightening and exciting. After tussling with him myriad times, I’m not sure if it can be killed. It’s either incredibly difficult, or impossible, and I wish there was a better indicator on if I’m hurting him with my bullets, or just delaying his charge. Throwbacks like characters coming down with typhoid or dysentery make appearances as well. This is amusing at first, but less so as the journey continues.

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Toward the beginning, Organ Trail makes fun of its inspiration by having multiple health changes pop up in quick succession. I loved the joke at first, but it quickly turned around on me. There are times when that will randomly happen in the game and it’s frustrating. I just wanted that station wagon to keep moving forward, not stopping to tell me that I missed a turn, misread the map and got in an argument – all one after the other. I wish the random instances would be more zombie or apocalyptic in theme, rather than based on my survivors’ ineptitude.

How I made choices in Organ Trail honestly really surprised me. They didn’t quite carry the weight of the moral dilemmas in The Walking Dead, but putting down an infected member of my squad (especially since I named them after friends), or failing to save them from bandits hit me more than I expected. Organ Trail throws moral predicaments at you every so often – like choosing to save one member of your group or a random family – which has the same effect.

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One of the best parts of The Oregon Trail was replaying it to try and get the best score. Organ Trail is score based, and competing with my past self was addicting. Thankfully, there is enough of a difference in the random events that the second run feels as fresh as the first, but after that it gets repetitive. If you’re obsessed with high scores and leaderboards, this might not bother you as much.

Wrap Up

The concept of Organ Trail instantly sold me, and I’m happy to say that the game plays well enough that I’m pleased with my purchase. Organ Trail is a good homage, but it misses the opportunity to go beyond its source material. I enjoyed my time with Organ Trail; I felt addicted (infected?) to it for a while, and it is great as a zombie-themed version of The Oregon Trail, but at the end of the day it is basically an update an aged game.

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Organ Trail was reviewed using the PC/Mac version of the game.

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  • Good read. I’m think I might have to check out the game for myself now…