Game Reviews

The Oregon Trail review - "Jump on the party wagon"

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The Oregon Trail review - "Jump on the party wagon"

Originally given to school-age children as an edutainment title back in the ‘80s, ‘90s, and ‘00s, The Oregon Trail is still about the journey that many brave adventurers took out west to find a new life and the trials and tribulations along the way, but with some serious quality of life improvements. With a fresh coat of paint and some much-needed cultural reference perspective updates, The Oregon Trail has never looked, or played, better.

Gameloft has revitalized this classic once before, but it was merely a visual update with few improvements and a hefty price tag. Thankfully, this time around they are doing the update justice with attention to detail and introducing a number of additional playable characters to take with you on your trip along the dusty trail.

Ready to Roll

Just like the explorers in the 1800’s, you’ll be trekking from Independence, Missouri all the way to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. On your journey, you’ll need to manage your party’s health and their spirits, the wagon and oxen that pull it, and juggle supplies as you strategically slot them into the Resident Evil-style inventory system.

The Oregon Trail review

The weary trek is not without its abundance of burdens, and you’ll likely fail on your first few tries. Thankfully, the game has a plethora of playable characters, and each one has its own backstory, stats, skill sets, and personality for you to fill your party with. While the original title was very behind-the-times with the way it handled Native Americans, you can now select them to join your trek and they also have stories that help flesh out their importance to the movement.

Random events and dealing with them accordingly has always been the strongest game mechanic in The Oregon Trail, and there’s plenty to keep you busy here. Between your party members becoming ill, your oxen contracting diseases, and your wagon breaking down, you’re going to be doing a lot of resource management. Camps and towns can help you fill up your supplies again, but only if you have the means to pay for them. There’s a good balance of give and take here, and it keeps you on your toes throughout each leg of the trip.

Wild and wilder

One of the best mini-games from the original, hunting, is back. While it’s relatively similar to how the original game that I played on the Apple IIGS, there are a variety of changes. For instance, if you have a character with more stamina, it gives you the ability to carry more meat back to the wagon, and you can aim in eight different directions, which makes the shooting a lot more fun. You’ll be shooting deer and buffalo as they come on the screen from all different directions, but you have a limited supply of ammunition, so it’s best to try to figure out what you’ll actually be able to take back with you and stop when you’re near or over that amount.

The Oregon Trail gameplay

White water rafting is also back and has you steering a raft down a raging river, trying to avoid rocks and other obstacles along the way. This is not the only way that water will impact your trip, though, as crossing rivers is sometimes possible as you try to ‘caulk’ the wagon by removing the wheels and floating it across, or you can also pay a ferry to carry you across. If you’re unsuccessful in floating your wagon across, you can potentially lose it all, and it’s game over.

Beyond that, there are weekly challenges that give you tougher tasks to try to tackle in order to gain some money for your party. Each one is a modifier to the existing mini-games or challenges on the trail, but better scores earn you more money.

Stay Classy

The best parts of the game are the way that you are presented with a problem to face, and you have to figure out if time and your previous decisions are in your favour or not. You can never fully plan for what lies ahead, but most of the excitement is the thrill of not knowing what is literally around the bend. I never anticipated that I would consider this game from my childhood as a rogue-like game, but it does have a play, die, repeat fashion to it that provides you with different twists and turns each time you play.

Each part of The Oregon Trail feeds so well into each other that the experience has you hoping for the best for the people you’re taking care of and experiencing the harshest parts of what the west has to offer. Managing what you have and what you need may seem like a chore, but in order to survive the trip, you’re going to need some help and a little luck to see it through. Having this classic title streamlined for quick play sessions makes it perfect for the format and easy to jump into anytime you’re looking to hit the road.

The Oregon Trail review - "Jump on the party wagon"

Whether you’re shooting wildlife, caravaning across a perilous river, or playing doctor with your crew, you’ll find that this life-management sim provides hours of entertainment, with a constant push to go further, see more, and explore the wild yonder. Adding a new graphical sheen to a game that began as a text adventure is a welcome addition, and seeing the Trail again at its best is enough to trick my nostalgic memory to think that it looks just the same as when I sat down to play it during class, and that’s a ticket I would buy again and again. While The Oregon Trail may not be for everyone and it doesn’t add too much to make it the best game it could be, it’s a great title to play when you’re looking for adventure, or peril to overcome.
Bryan Taylor
Bryan Taylor
Bryan has a passion for writing and has been gaming since the 80s. His favourite games include Super Metroid, Chrono Trigger, and Rez, and he joins us bringing his vast knowledge of games to the team.