Thursday, September 6, 2012

Blood Covered Wagon

Computers in the 21st century are ubiquitous. They're in absolutely everything. It's not even worth trying to list all the microchips floating around your home, work or vehicle at any given time because they are literally everywhere so let's not even go there, OK? However when that first round of 8-bit personal computers invaded elementary schools in the early 1980s, the vast majority of American households didn't even have a digital watch, let alone a personal computer, so getting to spend even a few minutes of quality time with a Commodore PET or an Apple II at your school was like taking a ride into the future. Hell, for me it was like being frickin' Captain Kirk! Of course, most kids of the time, including myself, were already quite familiar with the 8-bit video games that had long lined the walls of arcades, supermarkets and drug stores, so who could blame us when all we wanted to do with those thousand dollar educational computers is play Pac-Man on them, or maybe blow up some asteroids in outer space or dare to protect the Earth from rapidly advancing waves of bloodthirsty alien invaders?! That's what we hoped for. What we got instead was Oregon Trail (sad trombone). One of the first successful educational games for early personal computers, the Oregon Trail was originally developed in 1974 by the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium to run on timeshared mainframes and was used to teach kids about 19th century pioneer life. In the game, the player was given a fixed amount of funds with which to buy food, supplies, bullets, oxen and the like, and was sent on his or her way in a crappety covered wagon to travel the treacherous trail that tied together Missouri and Oregon. Ho hum. Actually I say ho hum because in addition to the fair amount of luck required to traverse the dodgy path to the West, the other key component to ensuring a winning game was good forethought and strategy, which I suck at. Plus my character nearly always died from dysentery. So blessed be I when a local Retrogeeker reader suggested that I use this forum to introduce to you possibly one of the coolest retro 8-bit-style video games ever to grace your iThing or Android device (you can also play it on Facebook, but really, who wants to do that?) The game is called Organ Trail and comes to us from a small indy developer called The Men Who Wear Many Hats. I like that. Descriptive and a mouthful, just how I like my coffee. Organ Trail plays roughly similar to the game that it's based upon, except that instead of trying to lead a happy pioneer family across our great nation to a land of untold bounty, you're trying to get your party of ne'er do wells to the Pacific Northwest in a station wagon while fending off a full-on zombie apocalypse. Funny, great retro graphics and sound, and even a decent plot. Check out the trailer below and then you should totally go and buy it! I did!

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