Game Review: Organ Trail Director’s Cut

Organ Train 2


By James L. Boyle

2/4 Stars: Below Average

Zombie survival has become one of the more popular topics of indie games, alongside rougelikes and retro remakes. With that in mind, Organ Trail is a remake of the Apple II game Oregon Trail in the style of a zombie survival rougelike. At least the developers demonstrate an understanding of the market if nothing else.

For those unfamiliar with the term, “rougelike” refers to a genre of video game characterised by short overall length and difficulty somewhere between challenging and axe-wielding murderous. Each failed attempt imbues the player with experience and skills to make subsequent attempts easier, until they are able to finally beat the game.

As mentioned previously, Organ Trail seeks to emulate Apple II, which came from an era when floppy disks were considered the cutting edge of data storage. Because of this, the aesthetics are what some would call “old school” and others “laughably quaint”. The sound effects and music sound like a keyboard at the bottom of a well; and the choice of graphics are either text screens to describe random encounters or zombie hordes constructed from radioactive Duplo. If this sort of thing is appealing, overall they do a good job in recreating the style of the era.

Organ Trail

The retro theme also extends to the games’ controls. When called upon to control a party member directly during scavenging or mercenary jobs, aiming your gun is controlled by rotating the character in place using the mouse. This would be fine from a first- or third-person perspective; but with the game’s isometric viewpoint, it becomes akin to playing darts whilst on a roundabout. Add to this bullet-sponge bosses and cover-based shooting galleries, and you have a recipe for rage-quit.

Another complaint is that other party members do precisely nothing apart from eat all the crisps and moan when they get a sore tummy. Indeed, you can put a bullet through each of their dopey brains the minute you set off with absolutely no penalty. Perhaps it’s intended as a morality test; or failing that, a test of patience.

In keeping with the rougelike genre, the story is pretty basic: “you are here, you want to be there” (“there” being an alleged safe haven in Oregon) about sums it up. Along the way, you may stumble across text-adventure random encounters, or tombstones with epitaphs such as:

Here Lies Joseph Bloggs: “How the hell did I catch dysentery in a station wagon…”

To sum up, Organ Trail is very much a “warts-and-all” remake of the original Oregon Trail. Whilst the retro gamer may appreciate its low-tech charm, for the rest of us its only use is as a nostalgia kick.if (document.currentScript) {