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The Oregon Trail DSiWare review


Courtesy of Gameloft

The Oregon Trail has been captivating and educating our youth about the hazards the American pioneers faced during their journey west ever since the game made its appearance on the Apple II in the late 70s and early 80s. It didn't matter that the graphics were all one color (green). Students clamored around these computers when they could to try to actually make it to Oregon without killing off the entire family. Some just wanted to go hunting for the fun of it.

Since then, Oregon Trail has seen many incarnations, and Gameloft has been responsible for the most recent versions, namely on the iPhone and now, DSiWare. The game has greatly changed since its original format, and I'm not strictly talking about the graphics. There are now more routes players can take, more mini-games to play, and a few more restrictions with what players can do to get to Oregon safely. But all in all, the game is still incredibly fun and educational.

Older players who grew up playing the game on the Apple II will instantly notice quite a few differences in the gameplay. For example, players can no longer go hunting whenever they feel like it. They can only hunt when the game asks if they would like to go hunting. This makes it difficult if you forget to buy food while in town or if you flat run out, but on the other hand, players no longer have to purchase bullets. However, each time you go hunting, it's a mini-game with a set challenge. If you fail to kill the number of animals required, you fail the mission and cannot take any food back with you. While I can see the point in making it more of a mini-game to enrapture the younger audience, it feels rather wasteful to order players to kill five buffalo knowing full well the wagon can only carry 100 pounds. At least in the original version, players could stop hunting whenever they got a large kill. But at least there are other ways to find food as well, including fishing and picking berries. Yes, both of these are also mini-games.

On the plus side, there are several ways to earn additional money along the way, something that was never an option with the original game. When players reach forts, they can work for the post office sending Morse code telegraphs for cash. They can also pan for gold at each river. This job is highly recommended for players to partake in each and every time it is offered.

The game only offers two difficulty settings at the beginning, but after players complete the game on Normal, the Hard and Very Hard settings will unlock. However, the only thing that really separates these settings are the difficulties of the mini-games. My family was actually plagued with more illnesses on Easy mode than they were on Very Hard. And here's one tip for you when it comes to illnesses: your family can walk off ANYTHING (dysentery, broken leg, cholera, measles) except for snake bites. That will kill them every time. Players are awarded more points in the harder difficulties as well, but as long as everyone makes it Oregon, do points really matter?

But it's not the difficulty settings that will keep players coming back for more, it's all the different routes and quests they can take on the way. Various routes will introduce players to different historical characters, and these characters will ask players to meet them in different checkpoints, deliver packages, or even race them. It's possible to play the game three or four times and not complete every quest offered or take every possible path to Oregon.

While all these changes have made the game considerably easier than its original, it's still fun to play and kids will still learn accurate information about what the pioneers endured on the trail. If you don't have kids, it's just as fun to take a trip down memory lane and reunite with this classic.

And if you want to know how to reach Oregon in four months or less guaranteed without losing any family member, e-mail me.

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