Organ Trail: The Hellish Bleakness of Survival in a Zombie Apocalypse

My fingers are crossed. Our car battery broke down in the middle of nowhere in the Midwest, and no help is coming. A thief made off with our spare, and after waiting for hours and scavenging what scrap we could we've cobbled together enough to give us a sliver of a chance to fix it.

It's a chance we'll have to take. My best friend's been bitten, barely clinging to life, and if we don't get moving soon and find him some medkits he'll turn, and I'll have to shoot him before that can happen. We have a long way to go, but we've come too far and time is running out.

Organ Trail: The Director's Cut, made by game studio The Men Who Wear Many Hats, captures one aspect of the zombie apocalypse very well; namely, that it would be a hellish slog, full of endless tension and struggle, ending with certain violent death. (Or is that just life?)

It's the kind of game that you kind of dread playing, but then as soon as you're in it you can't escape. It moves slowly, and you hold your breathe every second waiting for the next horrible thing to happen.

A loving knock-off of Oregon Trail with Commodore 64 era graphics that are as perfect as they are crude and simple, Organ Trail really took me by surprise. I wasn't expecting much, but my first play-through lasted almost two hours of constant tension and unrelenting stress.

Gameplay, like in it's more educational predecessor, consists of naming a group of survivors and then slowly plodding along, from one side of the US to the other, encountering constant events and making sure to manage supplies and deal with illness. In Oregon Trail, you ford rivers and hunt game and trade supplies; In Organ Trail, you maneuver through zombie hordes and fight off bandits and biker gangs and try to keep your station wagon in working order.

It's relatively expansive; the range of weather events and upgrade options and encounters kept things fresh, and the shooting mechanics, which consist of you aiming in reverse, manage to keep excitement high as it's easy to fumble and miss when zombies (or zombie bears) are bearing down on you. I did wish for more variety in the scavenging missions, however; so much of the game depends on you scavenging often for money, food, and scrap, both to keep yourself alive and to trade, that it really starts to wear on you playing essentially the same mini-game over and over again. But in all honesty, it fits the theme; one of constant, unending, hellish struggle through a world gone mad. In that sense, I'd say it's one of the best and most interesting zombie games I've ever played.

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