The Oregon Trail, Apple II

The Oregon Trail is a classic Apple II strategy/adventure game where you play as settlers travelling in a covered wagon on The Oregon Trail in 1848. As you might imagine, the trail is hostile and survival on it is brutal, so you have to prepare for your trip in advance by buying food, clothes, ammunition, spare parts, and oxen to pull your wagon.

The amount of money you start with is dependant on the class of character you choose to play as. The Banker nets the most starting money; The Carpenter is second, and The Farmer nets the least. This starting money is vital for buying your opening set of supplies, including enough food to keep you going for a period of time. “How much time?” you might ask, and judging that is a skill in itself. You don’t want to run out of food before your journey is completed… So how much food do you need?

You can choose which month to start out on your trip, or you can ask for advice from the game. When you begin your journey the game will then focus on rolling updates from the journey status screen. You can view these while your wagon is moving and pressing Return takes you to the main ‘choices’ screen. Here you can check your supplies; look at the map; change pace (speed up or slow down); change consumed food rations; attempt to trade or rest, or talk to any people who are around at the time. If you’re in the wilds then you can hunt for food instead of talk to people, and this brings up a directional shooter minigame, which is pretty cool. Any food shot while hunting reduces the burden on your stocked food supplies.

Occasional wheel breakages mean that you’ve usually got to carry wagon spares with you, and if you run out of them you’ll then be forced to trade with other travellers to get moving again. Which can be a slow, random and frustrating process. Buying too many spares is not an option, because of your limited starting money, and other limitations, so you have to hope that what you’ve got will last you the journey.

The health of your settlers is of paramount importance, and how you keep it up is of vital importance on this trip. Making sure everyone is eating well is an obvious requirement. Getting regular rest is vital too. As is guarding the wagon against hostile occurrences.

As you travel you’ll have alternative routes available from time to time, random events happening all the time, as well as illness inevitably creeping into your camp. And illness is a difficult situation to rescue yourself from in this game. Unless you’re well-drilled and know exactly what to do, most of your settlers who show first signs of illness will unfortunately likely be dead within a few days. I couldn’t quite figure out how to cure them, but there must be a way…

The Oregon Trail is still a fun game to play today. The developer – Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC) – managed to create a game that had a good balance of variety, challenge and humour, which has stood the test of time surprisingly well. Sure, there might be better versions of The Oregon Trail around, but this original 1985 Apple II version still plays great and demonstrates the quality and diversity of the Apple II‘s games library.

The Oregon Trail is a timeless retro-gaming classic. An original game that’s very entertaining as well as very educational, and that is fondly-remembered by those who’ve played it. Maybe even still play it. The Oregon Trail is a memorable game that’s easy to pick up and play. The dark humour (intentional or not) gives the game a real boost. Survival has never been so… challenging. Which means that you’ll have to play and re-play The Oregon Trail to get good at it.

More: The Oregon Trail on Wikipedia

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