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The first Oregon Trail game was made way back in 1982. The idea is simple; you’re leading a wagon of settlers over the wild territory heading to the west. You start, at Independence, Missouri and you have to reach to Oregon.
The version you will try and hopefully like is the Deluxe version of the game. This means that the graphics are nice colorful VGA in high (640X480) resolution, the game is fully mouse controlled, and there are some Soundblaster sounds setting the mood (but not really much of them – neither are there many sound effects).
The game is quite a guide book you can use and learn from. It’s a sort of encyclopedia containing information about the places you get to see on the game.
But what about the game-play?
You need to supply yourself at Independence and then take off. You can buy supplies at all the army forts on your way (if you reach them), and the prices will rise depending on the distance covered away from “the civilization”. You can also trade things with the people on the way, you can just buy something from them or try to trade, but there’s never a guarantee that they’ll have what you need.
On the way some hardships can happen (snake bites, blizzards, cholera, oxen deaths…), so make sure you get enough rest and keep an eye on the food supply. You will have to buy, trade or hunt for food (some areas are better for hunting than others). I have to warn you though not to hunt too much, because you can’t carry more than 200lbs of food per hunt, the rest is left to rot (so if you get a buffalo you can pack up and go on – because it always weighs way over 200lbs).
There are places where you can decide to take a shortcut or take the long way (usually to get supplies) and sometimes you can choose between a safer or more hazardous trail. The choice is yours, but in order to know what to expect you should talk to other people. They can share experiences, knowledge… It’s always good to use native guides if you have the opportunity. They know the territory and will be able to help you. Remember, you should play it safe, rather than trying to break some speed records getting there.
At the end there’s a scoreboard and you get some scores in addition to how well you did your trip (how many people reached there with good health and so on).
The game is rather simple and somewhat easy, but it is a fun game that even children could enjoy and it has a sort of educational value added to it, even if that’s not the prime goal.
A nice little “time killer” by all means, but not really addictive enough to become a classic (and there’s not really enough challenge on the game).
So try it and I hope you’ll like it. If nothing else, you’ll get a chance to be a pioneer for a while, even if you find out that real pioneering wasn’t really that glorious, but mostly dull routine and hard work.