Organ Trail: A Zombie World Twist on a Classic Game

In the seventh grade I was required to take a computer lab class. At the time, I wasn’t into computers or learning about what they had to offer, but one week I was introduced to a new favorite addiction — The Oregon Trail. I was hooked almost immediately by the core concept and simplistic game play, and enjoyed the challenge of making it safely to Oregon.

In 2011, developers The Men Who Wear Many Hats released a retro survival zombie game for the web called Organ Trail, which drew many similarities to the classic Apple II game. The Organ Trail eventually became so popular that the developers raised funds via Kickstarter in order to produce a new version for iOS and Android. If you’re a fan of The Oregon Trail like me, you’ll most certainly want to hit the jump to learn more about Organ Trail: Director’s Cut.

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Beginning Your Quest

When you fire up Organ Trail: Director’s Cut, you’ll need to choose a mode — Campaign Mode, for instance — and select your difficulty level. The game begins with a brief shooting tutorial; shooting is accomplished by drawing a straight line in the opposite direction you wish to shoot. After a few shots, you’re soon overrun by zombies and are subsequently saved by Clements, a stranger that becomes your guide in the early stages of the game, but doesn’t stick around for very long (his death is quite gripping and I don’t want to spoil the fun).

Shooting can be tricky at long distances, but with practice comes precision.

Shooting can be tricky at long distances, but with practice comes precision.

Washington D.C. is the starting point for your journey, with the goal of reaching a safe haven on the West Coast. While in D.C. you select the supplies (e.g. fuel, food, medkit, ammo) you wish to gather, and you’re given an number of hours to gather said supplies (the greater the difficulty setting, the fewer number of hours you have to gather). Clements provides you with a journal explaining best practices for each supply type, and it’s definitely worth a read to give yourself an advantage.

I found a balanced loadout to be best, but make sure you have some some cash handy.

I found a balanced loadout to be best, but make sure you have some some cash handy.

Traveling the Zombie Wasteland

After departing D.C. for the safe haven, you’ll travel between cities and landmarks, all the while running into various dangers. Staying true to the original, members of your team can become stricken with dysentery, broken arms, typhoid and an number of other illnesses (if bitten, you might have to put a member down). In addition, you’ll sometimes find yourself amongst a horde of zombies with multiple options to handle the situation (akin to having to find your way across a river in The Oregon Trail). As you continue through the game, you’ll encounter a number of issues that are simply too many to mention.

When zombies aren't docile, I found it best to just wait it out.

When zombies aren’t docile, I found it best to just wait it out.

Life bars are displayed on the bottom half of your screen for yourself, your crew and the station wagon you drive to make the trip out West. Tapping the Stats tab will provide an overview of your fuel and food supplies, as well as the level of zombie activity, the distance to the next landmark and the number of miles you’ve traveled thus far.

Health bars turn purple when someone has an illness.

Health bars turn purple when someone has an illness.

Taking Refuge in Cities & Landmarks

After spending some time on the road you’ll eventually arrive at a city or landmark, which is where you’ll spend a good chunk of your time scavenging, performing jobs, trading, buying and selling supplies, and keeping your station wagon in tip-top shape. Jobs include defending an area from zombies, killing off local bandits or recovering an item for a local, and individual jobs range in difficulty (beware those suicide missions!). While playing, I found rewards that were offered for most jobs were ultimately not worth the hassle, but perhaps that’s because I’m not a very skilled shot and failed more often than I succeeded.

Fire quickly to avoid being shot.

Fire quickly to avoid being shot.

When you’re low on supplies, I found scavenging the best method of restocking; if you have enough cash, purchasing the things you need is the easier option. If you’re overrun by zombies while scavenging, fear not, as you’ll simply lose some health instead of being bitten, and you can scavenge as many times as you’d like — providing you have enough health. If your party is low on health, you can rest for a few hours to gain most of it back, but it will also eat away at your food supply. If only one member of your party has low health, medkits are definitely the way to go.

Be quick about grabbing supplies, otherwise you'll be overrun with little to show for your endeavours.

Be quick about grabbing supplies, otherwise you’ll be overrun with little to show for your endeavours.

Most cities offer an Auto Shop that sells the supplies you’ll need to keep your station wagon running. In addition, you have the option to purchase a specialty item, such as a radio that improves your crew’s overall health. If your vehicle is in poor shape you’ll need to have it repaired, unless you want it to break down in the middle of nowhere. In cities or landmarks without an Auto Shop you’ll find a Combat Trainer that will teach you new skills (e.g. faster movement) you can use while fighting zombie hordes and bandits.

Car part are certainly not cheap, but they vary in price between cities and landmarks.

Car part are certainly not cheap, but they vary in price between cities and landmarks.

Endless Mode

Available as a $1.99 in-app purchase, Endless mode, as the name suggests, is an alternative mode in which you simply play until you’re dead. Gameplay is more or less the same as Campaign Mode, but you begin Endless mode with of number of preset loadouts and modifiers that allow you to approach the mode differently. Your end goal is to choose the right loadout and modifiers that allow you to survive the longest. If you really like Campaign mode, Endless mode is worth the $2 upgrade.

As you play Endless mode, you can unlock more loadouts for your next attempt at survival.

As you play Endless mode, you can unlock more loadouts for your next attempt at survival.

The Bottom Line

Nostalgia alone was enough to me to purchase Organ Trail: Director’s Cut, but after several hours of playing it’s clear that The Men Who Wear Many Hats have succeeded in taking a beloved classic game and making it their own. I absolutely love the wonderful Apple II inspired graphics and sound effects, which include a keyboard sound effect for each button press (oh, the memories). At $2.99, Organ Trail: Director’s Cut is a steal and should most certainly find a place on your iPhone.


Summary

Relive the classic Oregon Trail, but with a post apocalyptic, zombie infested twist.

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