First off, I'm going to have to try very hard not to inundate this post with pictures every other paragraph, but I will be putting up a handful of pictures, because it'll help illustrate some stuff. And now, a picture of a station wagon fording a mob of zombies:
|Professional Driver on a Closed Course: Do Not Try This at Home.|
Organ Trail - Director's Cut is an awesome game and I would say "primarily if you were alive in the 80's and played Oregon Trail on an old black and green computer", but this game is so much fun that it probably doesn't matter which decade you hit puberty in, it's a really fun game. Unless you only like games that have cutting edge graphics, spoken dialogue and requires the use of at least ten keyboard buttons or a gaming controller. If you're one of those people, keep reading and send me your rants care of "I don't."
That being said, here's another picture, this one of your station wagon at the beginning of the trip:
|It's not a spoiler if it happens in the prologue.|
If you don't know the "dysentery" reference, then you truly haven't lived. Or had dysentery, which I thankfully haven't as it doesn't sound all that fun.
So Organ Trail - Director's Cut, a game from The Men Who Wear Many Hats is a brilliant parody of the Oregon Trail computer game by MECC, specifically the version that came out in 1985 for the Apple II. Everything from bringing along supplies that fit in with a zombie apocalypse road trip (fuel, food, ammo, car parts, et cetera) have been included to mimic the original supplies (oxen, food, ammo, wagon parts, et cetera). The story for the game is pretty simple too, if you haven't already figured it out. Zombie apocalypse throughout the United States. You hear that there's a "Safe Haven" somewhere on the west coast (and the location is about where Oregon City is actually located).
Upon my first playthrough, the biggest problem I has was how to shoot the gun. I should also mention that the controls for the game are somewhat simple, despite the contradiction with the previous sentence. Most of the game is played with the mouse, pointing and clicking. During scavenging excursions, you move around with the WASD keys although the game allows to be played with only the mouse, but I've refrained as I like the handling of the WASD keys. The firing of the gun, again, is where I had the most difficulty at first. The game tells you that when you want to shoot, you have to "pull back to aim - release to shoot," which itself sounds pretty intuitive, but I couldn't get the hang of it at first. Here's a handy picture with notation on how shooting works:
|It's a quick diagram, not an instructional diagram from the NRA.|
So you have to click in front of you and pull back until the arrow is behind your character. You then aim as if you were steering a boat, in that left is right and right is left. It's like you're holding the butt of the gun and aiming that way instead of moving the barrel. On my second playthrough though, I felt a lot more comfortable with aiming and shooting. So much so that I felt I could go up against Medium level of zombie activity and hold my own. The second time I was able to make it as far as Safe Haven although I died in the final encounter/challenge (no spoilers).
The entire game took me about two hours from start to finish, although a large part of that for me was spent on the side of the road waiting for someone to show up and trade me anything I had for some fuel, which I had run out of. No, I wasn't an idiot, but there were some random encounters where I lost fuel, such as "A fuel can went missing" or something along those lines. And for random encounters, there are all sorts to be had. From coming across tombstones along the side of the road, helping (or not) stranded survivors or people farting in the car.
There are also plenty of pop culture references to various zombie fare media. From Evil Dead, Left 4 Dead, Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead (only to name a quick few), the game has a great sense of humor and knows their audience. And you may have also noticed in the farting picture that there's the Twitter logo in the upper right hand corner. Anytime during the game, you can tweet (from your own Twitter account) what is happening. I found this to be a smart marketing strategy, especially over this last weekend at PAX East, of which Organ Trail was part of the PAX10, a group of independently developed games picked by Penny-Arcade to showcase during the expo. It'll be interesting to see how long tweets from the game will be made within the next year.
I feel like I can't do a review of a game without talking about the music, which in Organ Trail was composed by Ben Crossbones. The music for the most part is what you would expect to hear from a mock up of a 1985 computer game. I say "for the most part" because the songs start off with standard chip-tunes style instrumentation (bleeps, tones and static sounds) and after about a minute, a more MIDI sounding bass and drums will come in, if anything to remind you that you are not in fact, living in 1985, but 28 years in the future. Yes, it's been that long.
If you haven't guessed already by now, I highly recommend purchasing this game. If you are in lack of funds, you can always just visit The Men Who Wear Many Hats' website where you can play a free flash version of the game. The controls and some of the place/location cards are missing and the set up is all keyboard based, but the heart of the game is still there. Plus it's free so it's kind of hard to gripe about a free version of a great game. And while you're there, you can also check out some of the other games that TMWWMH have come out with over the years.