ORGAN TRAIL / Men Who Wear Many Hats / Android
 
 
As parody concepts go, Organ Trail is a gem. It's a rare innovative twist on the played-out zombie genre, and it also captures the same sort of Roguelike challenge and depth that its subject did. It's thus really unfortunate that the touch controls for anything involving shooting are so terrible, rendering the game almost unplayable when it gets to those points.

For those under the age of 30 or so, Organ Trail riffs on edutainment classic Oregon Trail, which I would guess is the most-played educational game of all time (along with Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego). Youngsters may have encountered one of the remakes of it at some point, but Organ goes back to the original Oregon Trail that was a fixture on outdated Apple IIgs computers in underfunded computer labs all across America in the '90s.

Along with a loving tribute to the original game's graphical style, you get roughly the same basic sequence of events in terms of gameplay -- choose your balance of resources from your limited funds at the outset, then hop from safe settlement to safe settlement as you work your way from the east coast to the west coast against long odds. Only this time, zombies and armed bandits are the source of your woes rather than cholera and dysentary, and you'll be making choices as to the best way to get through a mob of zombies rather than floating your wagon over a river.
 


Oregon Trail was always kind of a Roguelike in spirit, since play sessions were subject to the whims of a not particularly nice RNG, and that remains true here. Long odds of survival are fine, and even appropriate for a game of this type. But when the action sequences are so frequent and so clunky, it's just too much to deal with.
 


There are two basic types of shooting sequences. The first and most frequent is when you're scavenging, and this plays out a lot like the hunting mini-game in Oregon Trail, except with zombies coming at you as you try to navigate over to item pickups. Movement requires you to tap, shooting requires you to hold and pull back to aim in the opposite direction, then release to fire. It would be OK if it just didn't feel so unresponsive and arbitrary.

The second is when one of your party gets grabbed and held hostage by a roving bandit. You get one shot to hit them in the head, or they blow your party members brains out and scuttle off. The difficulty in this is simply how ridiculously finicky the aim is -- sometimes it absolutely refuses to move anywhere but the upmost or lowermost position, and if it pulls that once you've pressed on the screen, your team member is screwed.



Both of these are repeatedly mandatory to get anywhere in the game, but the awful touch controls will cause you to fail about 100% of them. As far as alternate control schemes, I found plugging in a USB mouse (through a tablet dock) only worked in the scavenging scenes for some reason, but it did make those immensely more playable. My Xbox 360 pad was met with no response whatsoever.

With better control, this game is easily a 4/5 at least. I understand there's a PC version on Steam now that uses keyboard/mouse control, and I'd love to give that one a whirl. But I'm a Poor, and all I have is the Android version at the moment, and that version makes me want to throw the tablet at a wall. Check this out on Steam if you can, but definitely not on mobile.
 
 
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