Organ Trail: Director's Cut
Time to make the ultimate decision. Let mom live, or blow her soon-to-be infected brains out.
As far as zombie games go, Organ Trail: Director's Cut is perhaps the most realistic. This isn't some gung-ho first-person shooter that puts a fully automatic weapon into your hands, where the flesh-eating freaks pose little threat compared to your itchy trigger finger. It's a brutal adventure where bad things happen to good people, the type of experience where, no matter how hard you try to survive, someone eventually screws you over, or an unfortunate calamity befalls your party. Could be a surprise zombie attack, or a gas can that magically flies out the window after hitting a pothole. Regardless, you'll soon come to the gut-punching realization that, no matter what steps you take, you'll eventually face a series of difficult hardships. How you respond will be the difference between life and death. Suffice to say, if you daydream about how you'd do if (and when) the inevitable zombie apocalypse strikes, step right up.
To that end, Organ Trail is a loving homage to the old 70s classic (yes, it's been that long), The Oregon Trail, complete with a similar framework plot of traveling westward and excellent retro graphics comprised of Apple 2-style pixel art. With this in mind, if you're a longtime fan of that title, the parallels will be impossible to ignore, yet this game definitely stands on its own because of the overwhelming amount of content and seemingly impossible odds. At its core, Organ Trail is The Oregon Trail, but revamped for modern audiences, both old and new school alike.
On that note, you're able to bring three virtual people with you on this perilous journey, and the developers at The Men Who Wear Many Hats even let you name these victims...we mean survivors. So if you ever wanted to subject your parents, significant other(s) and friends to such a horrific world, you're free to drag them all into the apocalypse. Just be aware that you may need to kill them later.
Of course, death plays a huge role in this game, and dysentery is the least of your problems. People break bones, get sick (watch out for measles) and even worse, succumb to the zombie virus, whereupon which they'll be of no practical use, forcing you to play a mini-game where you basically line up the unfortunate soul and blow his or her brains out. You can also put a bullet in their chest, and what's especially cool is the fact that the developers programmed two separate death animations for each. Now that's just cruel.
Beyond that, there's the station wagon, your primary mode of transport. Providing you didn't grow up with Ferraris all your life, think back to the worst piece of crap car you or your family drove, and that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of how awful this clunker is. The damn thing requires constant maintenance, whether it's more fuel, a battery, new tires, upgrades and even repairs when it breaks down altogether; you'll need scrap.
This ultimately ties into the game's economy, which seems to mirror what would actually happen during a real zombie outbreak. Over time, you'll visit cities and run into strangers that offer to trade, sell or buy items outright, again, prompting you to make a tough choice. Is it OK to spare ammo for fuel, or some med kits for food? The car won't run without fuel, but mom's about to die and desperately needs first aid.
This is ultimately what makes Organ Trail so damn good. The longer you play, the more you'll obsess over the details, to the point where you may trick yourself into over thinking. Yes, get the med kit. No, let mom die. Who needs her, right? Right?
You may even find yourself with nothing, where scavenging is the only option left, but this is especially dangerous, as you'll run into not only reanimated people, but also a giant bear capable of killing you with one strike. If you die, it's game over.
This brings us to the only thing we dislike about Organ Trail, the shooting. It's obvious the developers wanted to keep everything retro. As such, combat is a little too clunky for our tastes, as we pull back to aim and then release to fire. It's too slow a system when there's a bunch of brain munching monsters hot on our butts. What's more, the aforementioned mini game where you slaughter enemies and loved ones (or zombies) suffers from a weird aiming mechanic. Either the gun points towards the sky or the ground. We always have trouble locating the sweet spot that lets us kill things with precision.
Aside from those issues, Organ Trail: Director's Cut is a refreshing take on not only The Oregon Trail, but also the whole zombie craze that's consumed the entertainment industry. This is an iOS and Android effort for those who'd rather think and not blast their way to victory, though as you'll learn, that word takes on a whole other meaning here, because in Organ Trail, finding a spare muffler feels like a huge success.
What's Hot: A brutal survivalist experience where you'll face overwhelming (and terrible) odds, stylish pixel art and retro music, hard to play the same game twice, writing your own epitaph, funny nods to classic movies and video games.
What's Not: Wonky combat.