Game Reviews

Organ Trail: Director's Cut

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Organ Trail: Director's Cut

You know you're not in polite gaming society when a band of cannibals offers you $500 for a member of your party.

This happened to me early on in Organ Trail: Director's Cut Two. Amused and faintly disgusted, I declined. But two towns later, with supplies dwindling rapidly, I regretted letting Bob live - especially now he had dysentery.

With its deliberately ultra-retro Apple II era graphics, mostly menu-driven gameplay, and bleeping soundtrack, survival sim The Organ Trail: Director's Cut might seem innocent enough on the surface, but there's some twisted, pitch black genius at play behind the scenes.

It's educational, possibly

Essentially, this Kickstarter-funded indie title is a parody of the American educational classic The Oregon Trail - a game about settlers making their perilous journey from east to west across North America.

Instead of looking for a new beginning in the frontier, this time you're trying to drive four of your survivor friends away from a zombie apocalypse to a supposed safe haven on the west coast.

It's a journey fraught with peril that, despite the heavy emphasis on slow-paced trading and so-so old skool arcade shooting, imbues every encounter (human or otherwise) with a frisson of unpredictable tension.

You trundle along between city hubs in a station wagon, facing random incidents that either help (encountering supplies) or, more likely, hinder (broken limbs, stolen items, zombie attacks) your progress.

This means that stocking up at each hub with enough extra car parts, food, and precious med kits to heal your party through buying or trading is the key to long-term survival.

Dead pixels

You'll also need ammo to take part in action mini-games, which take the form of either mission-based or random scavenger hunts, pitting you against waves of zombies or nefarious bandits.

These are fun 2D blasting diversions, with well-drawn pixel characters, but the simplistic tap controls often confuse the acts of shooting and moving - leading to some frustrating failures that should, hopefully, be easy to polish and fix.

But it's impossible not to be impressed with how keenly Organ Trail taps into your primal survival instinct as you scrape by every mile of the highway. And any title that makes you seriously consider killing off one of your sick chums just to make your rations go a little further deserves a shot.

While you're unlikely to ever see the safe haven due to the harsh difficulty, the randomness of many encounters makes the lure of replaying to try and get just a little farther - and see what demented scenarios await on the road - impossible to resist.

Organ Trail: Director's Cut

A near-genius zombie-themed take on the Oregon Trail that makes for a compulsive survival-horror with a pitch black sense of humour