Sawbuck Gamer

Organ Trail

Westward, Ho!

Zombies go back to the future in Organ Trail.

By Ryan Smith • September 24, 2012

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.

If there’s a lesson to be learned from countless depictions of the zombie apocalypse over the last half-decade, it’s that the undead would turn daily existence into a soul-crushing struggle to fend off hostile forces—enduring the whims of weather and avoiding the random chance of disease. In other words, it’d look a lot like life on the frontier in America 200 years ago.

That’s the subtext of Organ Trail—a parody/homage of the PC/Apple II game Oregon Trail that became ubiquitous in grade school classrooms in the ‘80s despite its spurious educational value. (Seriously, what exactly was Oregon Trail trying to teach us? The exchange rate of wagon tongues to bullets?)

Beside the fact that it trades horse-driven transportation for the symbolic horsepower underneath the hood of a station wagon, and the fact that you’re shooting zombies instead of wildlife, the developers have changed little from the original to fit the zomb-ocalypse theme. Sure, things get a bit more Donner Party-like in Organ Trail—you have the option to harvest corpses for meat or shoot members of your party who’ve been infected by zombies—but at its core, this remake is another cross-country travelogue. You and a small team must manage resources, repair your vehicle, and react to a series of tiny crises. The immortal words “You have died of dysentery!” have returned, sure to please fans of inflammatory intestine sickness. Only this time, dysentery might be preferable to the alternative.

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735 Responses to “Westward, Ho!”

  1. Aurora Boreanaz says:

    Sounds like an amusing idea, but not one worth $2.99 to me.

    It does remind me, however, of another classic game.

    Has anyone else here ever played the old Swiss Family Robinson adventure game from Windham Classics?  It was a fun, but very difficult, text and graphic adventure.  You play as the oldest brother of the family, and have to forage, hunt and find shelters for your shipwrecked family.  The best part of the game was the absurdity that would pop up frequently.  Try to eat a fuzzy white plant?  Oops, it was cotton, and you choked to death!  Run into a dangerous animal?  Better hope you loaded your rifle beforehand!  And don’t shoot at the wrong thing, or have your gun taken away by your magical teleporting parents!  “Seriously, Dad…if you’re going to send me out to find food, why stalk me and hide behind bushes waiting for me to screw up?”)  Successfully kill an animal, and cut it up into steaks!  (Tiger steaks, python steaks, walrus steaks, etc.)  Save up enough provisions to survive the rainy season, and you’ll get rescued!

    Out of the four Windham Classics games, this one was the most absurd to me, even as a child.  Well…unintentionally absurd, I should say, as Alice in Wonderland by its very nature was ridiculous.

    • Gangrene77 says:

      1.  You can play Organ Trail for free online as a browser game
      2.  I very much remember playing Swiss Family Robinson on my C-64.  I eventually managed to figure out how to win.
      3.  Much to the disappointment of my 9 year old self; watching the Disney version of the movie Swiss Family Robinson provided no hints at all on how to beat the game. 

      • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

         supposedly this version is much expanded from the original browser version.  But $2.99 a bit much at least without some kind of guarantee that there is some reason beyond the initial joke to keep playing.  I’m not sure I get that from the review.

        • Grimbus says:

           Mentioning Windham Classics gets an automatic mention of “Below the Root” from me.

          God what a great game.

          *moves cursor over NPC*
          PENSE
          Avarice.
          *get dictionary, looks up avarice* “Uh oh.”
          *avoids NPC*

  2. HobbesMkii says:

    What do you mean, “What exactly was Oregon Trail trying to teach us?” It taught us lots of things: How quickly a person can die without proper medical attention, the importance of careful preparation, the rude intricacies of chance, the importance of not over-hunting (although, conversely, it also taught us how much fun it is to shoot shit). But, most importantly to me, it wasn’t that stupid one Mac game where you have to go up the mountain doing math or the one where you had to meet a targeted Words Per Minute or your character would get eaten by alligators. 

    Oregon Trail, Carmen Sandiego and The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis: those are the three Holy Grails of edu-tainment and I won’t brook any argument on this.

    • blue vodka lemonade says:

       I had never heard of The Logical Journey of the Zamboonis until last night, when I played this, and even then only heard of the original game when I read the comments after playing.

      Our 4th-grade-or-so Computer Skills class involved a lot of Rollercoaster Tycoon, for some reason. Before that it was mostly Mario Teaches Typing, at which I cheated horribly.

    • Girard says:

      As a PC kid who brokered a deal with my mom that she’d go in halfsies with me on edutainment titles, I accrued a lot of educational games. My all-time favorites were ones by “The Learning Company,” especially Operation Neptune and the Super Solvers games like Outnumbered! Midnight Rescue!, Challenge of the Ancient Empires!, and Gizmos & Gadgets!.

      According to Wikipedia, TLC eventually acquired Broderbund, meaning they accrued acquired Zoombinis, Carmen San Diego, and the “Trail” games, making them an unstoppable edutainment powerhouse. The only classics not in their portfolio are the “Math Blaster” and “___ Munchers” games.

      EDIT: Apparently playing too many edutainment games as a kid makes you grow up into the type of adult who used “accrued” TWICE in an Internet comment.

    • George_Liquor says:

       It taught me that being a banker, buying all your crap up-front, setting a grueling pace and accepting the tragic but inevitable loss of young FUC or ASS was the only way to make it all the way to Oregon before lunchtime.

    • RidleyFGJ says:

      You pick Zoombinis over Word Muncher for the third point of that trifecta? For shame.

    • BarbleBapkins says:

       One time I was playing the Oregon Trail, and received a “This person has died” message, and THEN about 3 seconds later received a message that said “That same person broke his arm.” I thought that was kind of just an unnecessarily douchey statement on the game’s part.

    • His_Space_Holiness says:

      @HobbesMkii:disqus is 100% correct in his choice of Holy Trinity, and I’m something of an authority on the subject.

      Logical Journey of the Zoombinis is an unqualified masterpiece. There’s more creativity in one level of that game than in some entire genres. And all in service of teaching a subject that is barely even mentioned in schools anymore.

      And you bet your ass I got 100% completion on that game. ZOOMBIIIIINIIIIIIVIIIIIIILLLLLLLLLE!

  3. “From the zombies you shot, you got 3,471 pounds of meat.  Unfortunately, you were only able to carry 0 pounds back to the wagon.  Because who the fuck wants to risk infection with that shit.  Eat a power bar if you’re hungry.”

  4. Any plan for Sawbuck coverage of Faster than Light? $10, and it is a major timesink.

  5. Carl Douglas says:

    My wife and I had come up with the idea to make a game called Organ Trail literally 6 months before this game’s creator put a kickstarter campaign together to fund its development. We were sold that it was our best idea of all time, and it worked perfectly because I am a working Pixel Artist and retro graphics are right up the alley of this sort of thing. Unfortunately she’s back in school again and I’m up to my neck in contract work, so we didn’t have the balls to ruin any semblance of sanity by trying to make the game plan to work on it yet.

    I swear, when she saw the Kickstarter project for this posted up she called me to say “F!@#*$G ORGAN TRAIL. CROWDSOURCING. NOOOOOO.”

    Given the bitter taste seeing the app leaves for me, $2.99 is too much, and this review doesn’t do anything other than sound like a vague press release as far as persuading me to cut my losses and buy it to see how they did on the execution.

    Also hi, found this site from chancing upon the final round of the greatest treasure post that recently ran. The people that wrote the cases in support of the two finalists did such a funny job that I had to bookmark it. But the average intelligence and general level of quality post content from each article’s comment section was what made the community feel worth participating in. So good job sounding smart!

    Also HELLFUCKINGYESSSSSS ZOOMBINIIIIIIIS. G’day!

  6. Carl Douglas says:

    My wife and I had come up with the idea to make a game called Organ
    Trail literally 6 months before this game’s creator put a kickstarter
    campaign together to fund its development. We were sold that it was our
    best idea of all time, and it worked perfectly because I am a working
    Pixel Artist and retro graphics are right up the alley of this sort of
    thing. Unfortunately she’s back in school again and I’m up to my neck in
    contract work, so we didn’t have the balls to ruin any semblance of
    sanity by trying to make the game plan to work on it yet.

    I
    swear, when she saw the Kickstarter project for this posted up she
    called me to say “F!@#*$G ORGAN TRAIL. CROWDSOURCING. NOOOOOO.”

    Given
    the bitter taste seeing the app leaves for me, $2.99 is too much, and
    this review doesn’t do anything other than sound like a vague press
    release as far as persuading me to cut my losses and buy it to see how
    they did on the execution.

    Also hi, found this site from chancing
    upon the final round of the greatest treasure post that recently ran.
    The people that wrote the cases in support of the two finalists did such
    a funny job that I had to bookmark it. But the average intelligence and
    general level of quality post content from each article’s comment
    section was what made the community feel worth participating in. So good
    job sounding smart!

    Also HELLFUCKINGYESSSSSS ZOOMBINIIIIIIIS. G’day!