Released: 1971 to forever
It didn’t take long for disaster to strike my merry band of 4 as they made their way across the United States to the west coast along the famous Oregon Trail. Manny, our long time reviewer and one half podcast host, was bitten by a snake. Colin Hanks (son of one Tom Hanks) was potentially dying from typhoid fever that he only picked up two days prior. Adnan, the other half of the podcast mainstay, and I were exhausted from travelling and our supply of food was running dangerously low to the point were I assume or digital selves were contemplating a slow cooked chunk of Hanks if he’d hurry up and die. Things were looking grim. Our journey appeared to be nearing an early end and our band looked destined to be lost and forgotten somewhere in the vast expanse of mid-west region of America. However let us go back to where it all started and what lead us to such a ghastly affair.
The Oregon Trail beckoned me to take it. Thoughts of prosperity and wealth brought up imaginations of cocaine, hookers and mahogany shelves filled with many leather bound books. The journey would be long and filled with perils and I knew I would not survive should I traverse it alone. And so I enlisted my Cooldown colleagues alongside the most passive celebrity I could think of, fully aware that if the worst should befall our courageous foursome, we could sacrifice young Mr. Hanks to keep ourselves alive. It was a bold strategy.
I decided that I was a Blacksmith by trade as it was the closest thing I could register to a wordsmith (Kanye ain’t shit compared to this legit G… Right?) and I guess everyone else in the party was by proxy? Or unemployed? I don’t know what way Oregon Trail works! I sensibly bought 3 pairs of clothes per person, 15 oxen, a couple of spares of each wagon part, 1,000lbs of food and, a less sensible, 30 boxes of bullets with 20 bullets per box. I impressed myself by having a bit of cash left over knowing I’d need it to trade at later forts and camps along the trail.
My party loaded up and took to the trail, heads held high ready for solid adventuring envisioning ourselves as bold paladins or dashing rogues on the precipice of a giant dungeon bulging with treasure and danger. It was the start of April when we left, the weather – an important factor – would be quite cold and the mountainous areas highly susceptible to spring storms. However this would allow us to traverse at a slower pace while avoiding the more winter-like weather at the opposite side of Summer. In The Oregon Trail winter is legit coming. Super serious guys. Like it actually happens.
Our first few weeks were relatively uneventful as we passed through lush grasslands, paying ferries to take our wagon across a variety of fords. We were careful, methodical and slow, eating as we would at home and keeping our adventure ticking on leisurely. That all changed after we hit Fort Kearny. A raging fire in the wagon destroyed over 100lbs of food and destroyed 6 boxes of bullets. Soon after Manny got sick with fever. This was the first shot across the bow to let us know that the smooth sailing had ceased. Still we trod on merrily as Manny healed and the next phallic shaped landmark came into sight.
All would not go as it had before and soon we were wrought with ill health. Hunting yielded slim pickings and a few breaks in the wagon delayed us, however as a blacksmith I managed to make the repairs without needing those now completely fucking useless spare parts that we’d been carrying from Independence, Missouri. It was here, about half way through our journey, that this story began. With the degree of issues we’d encountered we decided to pick up pace to reach our next stop. The result left our group in shambles. But we would prevail!
Prevail we did until the end of August. Adnan, suffering with a broken leg, failed to heal properly and fell into an illness we could not shake. 2 days later, after further issues with our wagon and aided by a lack of water, he was dead. The first of our gang to succumb to the American wilds and become another forgotten name on the Oregon Trail. He was to be missed but we had no time for mourning.
September was a cruel month confounded by the loss our good friend. We thought, nay, hoped that dear Colin would be the first to go but it was not to be. Despite a mild month we were hit with heavy fog delaying us though we used the time to pick some wild fruit. Our recent hunting efforts had been quite successful and our food supply seemed to grow back to where it had once been. The beginning of October brought with it more adversary as Colin Hanks contracted Cholera. It was touch and go for a few days and for the first time, Colin gave more shit than he was taking. Myself and Manny were sickened. Not that our comradery had that long left together…
Two days after Colin had contracted Cholera, Manny was bitten by a venumous snake. It seemed we were cursed by the number 2. Heavy fog rolled into our camp as once more we were delayed which for the first time would’ve been a benefit giving us time to heal before moving forward but the lack of grass meant our Oxen had nothing to eat and without any Ox we would definitely would not make it to our end destination. The rushed movement was all too much for Manny as another comrade fell foul of the Grim Reaper. All that was left was the loathsome Colin Hanks and I.
I contemplated ending it. I spent double contemplating murdering Colin. His Cholera was not shifting and without him the rations would be double. About 3 days after the passing of Manny he managed to shake the Cholera. I was relieved to have another able pair of hands to help navigate the trail but his presence still nibbled on my conscious. It was not too last long. As if to mark the occasion of Manny’s passing, Colin died exactly two weeks on. He became sick with Typhoid Fever and the next morning when I went to wake him he was dead. My mind raced; had I done this? Could I truly hate enough to kill? I guess I’ll never know but I shoved the feeling deep inside and moved on with gusto.
From here I shifted pace. I was so close I could smell it. I stirred up the Oxen and on we raced towards Oregon. I would best the trail even if I destroy everything else around me. Within 3 days I was on the cusp of victory. Before me lay rapids that lead to Willamette Valley. My alternative, a dirt road that would’ve taken me an extra day or two to traverse, had a toll established and after months of playing the safer option, I said ‘Fuck this’ and took to the rapids chalking my wagon. What a rush! I was grounded once and lost a few supplies, damaging my wagon in the process but I blissfully ignored it knowing too well I was in a breath of my dream.
The Oregon Trail is a game that has a literal bazillion versions since its inception in 1971. Actually finding a workable version of the older copies is next to impossible but The Oregon Trail and The Oregon Trail: Deluxe are now available in your browser which is fantastic to see. It loads through DOSbox but allows you to not have to worry about setting it up. If you were born in the States and are in your late 20s / early 30s the chances of you having played this is pretty fucking high! If you are from any other country you probably weren’t aware that its a thing and has been a thing for a long time.
My experiences with the variety of versions The Oregon Trail have always been relatively positive. You can finish a playthrough in about 30 minutes and there’s enough variety in here to try a few different approaches. It’s also packed with a load of information about the real life trail and the various stops you encounter – not that I bothered reading any of it. If any of you try it and make the trip without losing a single person, then bravo! Send me a screenshot in the comments so I can award you with a fictional trophy.
My retro review score: