The Oregon Trail. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Clayton Walnum
Migrating westward across the United States in the 1840s was a hardship few of us today can appreciate. When you consider the treacherous trail through the wilderness between Missouri and Oregon--a trail fraught with danger, sickness, and even death--it's a wonder this great country ever managed to grow from sea to shining sea. While the trip today is as easy as hopping on the interstate, MECC's Oregon Trail (in a new deluxe VGA edition) on your computer will let you experience the trials that the pioneers faced on the 2000-mile journey across America's unsettled frontier.
You start your journey by assigning your character one of eight occupations; your choice determines the game's overall difficulty. Then it's off to Matt's General Store, where you purchase supplies, including oxen, clothes, bullets, food, and various wagon parts. Once supplied, you hit the road and hope for the best. You and your four companions will have many decisions to make and hardships to overcome before reaching Oregon's Williamette Valley.
On the trail, you must hunt for food, cross rivers, repair your wagon, rest in order to heal sick companions, fight bad weather, and handle any number of other difficulties. Disasters, too, need to be dealt with. You never know, for example, when a fire in your wagon may destroy supplies or when death will strike sick companions. Luckily, you can stop at various landmarks and forts along the way to rest and stock up on supplies. The online guidebook provides historical background on these nineteenth century locales. In addition, you can talk to people during your travels to gather information.
In this new VGA edition, the Macintosh-like displays feature a colorful miniwindow that shows a map of your journey or a graphic of the current landmark. Digitized sound effects have been added to the program, although they're sparse; they include simple effects such as gunshots and wagon wheels breaking. Still, the new graphics add much to a classic educational game, a game that's easy for older elementary-school children to learn and interesting enough for adults to enjoy as well.