Posted by Marianne Miller on Sep 20, 2012

Review – Organ Trail (iOS)

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Product Information

MSRP: $2.99

Developer: The Men Who Wear Many Hats

Publisher: The Men Who Wear Many Hats

Platforms: iOS, Android10

ESRB Rating: 9+

Genre: Simulator/Retro

We all remember running into the computer lab at school to turn on those gloriously old Apple II computers and boot up Oregon Trail to venture west and imagine the hardships that those tiny, barely-colored block people had to face when trekking thousands of miles to reach their new home. Thanks to The Men Who Wear Many Hats, those glorious memories can be revisited with a new zombie twist in their new release for the iOS—Organ Trail.

There isn’t much story to be explained when it comes to Organ Trail—you, a survivor within the zombie apocalypse, meets a man named Clements who saves your life and quickly helps you find an old station wagon which runs out of fuel just before reaching Washington D.C., where your friends (in my case, Spaghetti, Meatball, Pitts, and Snooki) wait for you to pick them up and head west, where rumors suggest is a zombie-free haven. Shaking off any vague memories of Zombieland, you and your team head out.

Organ Trail is a cute, retro nod to our favorite game growing up, and has some clever twists on the mechanics established in its “predecessor.” Instead of choosing a profession, you are instead allotted “hours” to stack up on supplies before Washington D.C. is obliterated by a nuclear strike, as it has been completely overrun. There are bars that you can choose to fill before setting off—food, ammo, money, fuel, batteries, tires, etc—and each tick represents an hour of time. You are obviously limited in the amount of hours you have due to the oncoming strike.

Once on the road, the game feels similar to Oregon Trail—the covered wagon is replaced by the station wagon, and you and your party face weather and sickness along a road littered with landmarks that you can stop at to trade, buy, sell, or rest. There’s also a menu you can open up while on the road to rest, set pace or rations, repair your vehicle, scavenge for food, or manage your party. Each party member has a health bar rather than a health “status”.

While many of these mechanics seem familiar, Organ Trail introduces many new ones throughout the game that keep you on your toes. The first of these is the ability to kill your own party members. This is introduced early on in the game when Clements is tragically bitten by a zombie and asks you to put him down. I put this mechanic to good use later on in the game.

She wasn’t bitten, but… I figured it was preventative.

Though only in 8-bit, these moments provide a brief, almost startlingly graphic moment to a game that is almost a bit campy. One moment your party member could be making an annoying noise in the car that lowers everyone’s health (yes, that’s a thing), and the next, you could be seeing his 8-bit brains splatter across an unseen floor.

There are several other new additions, such as performing jobs for supplies or money, encountering bikers you have to incapacitate while on the trail, or fighting off a hoard of zombies surrounding your car, that help separate Organ Trail from the one it was based off of.

While I do rather enjoy Organ Trail and the challenge it provides, at times I can get a bit frustrated by the controls—I’ve never been a fan of touch-screen games, and this game really rubs the salt in that wound. To move while scavenging or running through a city to grab an item for an employer, you have to tap the screen in the direction you want to go. To shoot, you have to drag your finger along the screen. The game frequently mistakes one action for the other if you’re not careful or don’t time your reloads properly. In addition, using your large hands to control a small character on a small screen (if you’re using iPhone, like I am) to shoot small green dudes can get a bit difficult—frequently I find it difficult to keep tabs on all my attackers because my hands keep getting in the way of my seeing them. This was an issue that is, unfortunately for the medium, unavoidable, and wasn’t present in the Oregon Trail due to the usage of the mouse.

I’ve also had many problems with the game freezing up—never crashing, thankfully. A freeze can be fixed by resetting your phone, and it’s been decent about saving progress. However, I didn’t exactly want to pay $3 to continually reset my phone.

Overall, I would say it’s worth the modest investment to get this game, if you were a fan of the original. Lord knows I’m tired of running emulators on my PC, so it’s nice to not only have the nostalgia, but a different, more modern twist on it as well.

The Good

  • Nostalgia
  • Clever twists on classic mechanics for a zombie apocalypse
  • Modern mechanics without infringing on the retro feeling of the game
  • Challenging

The Bad

  • Freezes frequently
  • Awkward touch-screen controls that are easily confused by the game
  • Difficult to navigate/kill enemies when your hand blocks half the screen

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