App of the Week: Organ Trail – Director’s Cut

The Men Who Wear Many Hats LLC

Compatible with:
iPod Touch

Android Systems

iOS 3.1.3 or later

Android 2.1


Available here (for iOS) and here (for Android)

“You have Died of Dysentery”

Nothing was worse than seeing this message pop up on the Apple screen at the library we used to play “The Oregon Trail” at in grade school. Maybe the first couple of people to fall to it got away without too much ridicule, but as soon as one of us discovered what dysentery was, we became unstoppable forces of mocking nature. There were many ways to die on the “Oregon Trail”, but the only one you truly feared was the dreaded dysentery. It’s not like it was ever your fault either. If there was a “wash your hands after using the bathroom” button, we would have used it.

If you can’t relate to what I’m talking about then I truly pity you, because you missed out on one of the greatest gaming experiences of all time. What made “The Oregon Trail” so great was the many gameplay options and features, and how even playing the game right wasn’t a guarantee for survival. Even better, the vaguely historical setting meant that it was a game you could play at school, and at the aforementioned libraries. It’s one of those games where you can tell right away if someone grew up with it or not, because if they did, all it takes is a mere screenshot to bring a grin to their face, and set them off on a bombastic recollection of nostalgic memories.

Well if you did, in fact, never get to share that experience, then developer The Men Who Wear Many Hats has your back, thanks to some funding by Kickstarter. Because they are bringing back the old school gameplay of “The Oregon Trail” but infusing it with the harsh reality of the zombie apocalypse. Now truthfully, I’m getting a little tired of the zombie genre, but every now and then something will pop up that resurrects the style much in the same manner as the decaying dead that populate those titles.

“The Organ Trail” (huh…clever) is one of those instances. From the menus, to the basic gameplay, to the perfectly recreated graphics and sounds, “The Organ Trail” shamelessly apes “The Oregon Trail” with admirable accuracy. The basic goal is the same. You and yours traverse the country in search of a better home, while battling the dangers of the untamed world. But rather than just throw a couple of undead sprites your way and port “The Oregon Trail,” the developers have completely re-imagined the experience of that classic as it stands in this new world, and along the way have managed to perfectly recreate the experience of the original, while still making sure that anyone who grew up on the original game enjoys the near flawless ratio of nostalgia to the joy of a fresh game experience.

It’s the original title’s survival aspect that makes this re-imagining work. You are forced to hunt for food, and the barest supplies you can muster against not only zombie hordes, but raiding humans and mutated wildlife as well. The best you can hope for is to take on the occasional odd job, and gather enough resources to trade where and when it’s available for supplies and the necessary equipment to beef up your station wagon.

Understand this. No other zombie game, and few other apocalypse titles have quite the same level of desperation as this one. It may be light hearted in its concept and style, but the desperate fight for survival that this app requires will force you to make stupid decisions like going out in overrun zombie areas for whatever you can grab, and watching your party die around you. Some of them will even become mutated forcing you to do the job yourself.

You will constantly find yourself surprised by the different gameplay available in “The Organ Trail.” You may start a session as a laugh, or out of curiosity, but you will soon find yourself impossibly engrossed in everything occurring around you. At first I thought the most impressive part of the game was its brilliant re-telling of one of the most classic video games ever made. Then I was sure that it was all of the imaginative callbacks to the horror titles that influenced the zombie aspect. Only after finishing my first play-through though, did I truly know that the most impressive part is how every single aspect of this game is done with 10x the effort that was necessary. “Organ Trail” is a combination of several loves, and there isn’t a moment or feature in it that doesn’t remind the player of all of them.

Last week, I had the privilege of declaring “Turf Geography Club” my first unanimous must have app. Now, I get the honor to do that again. I frankly don’t want to know the person that couldn’t enjoy “Organ Trail”, even if it’s in short bursts of playtime. Even better, with the new undead enemy force my old grade school nemesis, the disease dysentery, doesn’t have to be the biggest threat looming anymore. Yes, finally I can enjoy “The Oregon Trail” experience without worrying about the embarrassment of dying from dys…

Dammit. Well, it’s still my app of the week.