The Oregon Trail (DSiWare)

Game Review

The Oregon Trail Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

The most fun you can have with dysentery

For whatever reason, The Oregon Trail in its various incarnations, whether on DOS or an Apple II, holds a special place in the hearts of American gamers. Maybe it's because of the balanced risk/reward system and simple resource management. But more likely it's because The Oregon Trail was one of the few non-sucky computer games you could play in school without getting yelled at, which made your 8-year-old self feel like you had pulled the wool over your teachers.

But without teachers looking over your shoulders, Gameloft's update can't lean on that getting-away-with-it factor. Luckily, it turns out to be a great fit for a downloadable, allowing quick bursts of fun over a long period of time. You might even learn something.

Education time! The real Oregon Trail was a migration route used in the 19th century to the Pacific Northwest, running from the Missouri River to Oregon. That's a stretch of about 3,200 km. And it's your job here to make that journey without succumbing to the dangers it holds.

You see, the trail is a treacherous place. You've got rough terrain, wild animals and disease to contend with, and more often than not your family of five will break their bones, get mauled by bears, be swooped away by eagles or come down with a nasty case of cholera or, yes, dysentery.

Actual gameplay is broken into what is essentially a series of quick minigames. Traveling asks you balance your speed to minimize time and injury; going too fast risks breaking your wagon or injuring a family member, but going too slow will put you behind schedule and lead to winter travel issues down the line. If your food is low you can get more through a Whack-A-Mole-type berry picking game, or hunting that involves running up to cute little rabbits and blowing their brains out with a shotgun. Each minigame has "levels" too, so they'll ramp up the requirements every so often. While it may sound like the game runs the risk of getting very repetitive, your time spent in each one at a time is usually less than a minute and there's a good amount of variety between them; you'll pop in and out quick enough that they're still fun even by the time you hit Idaho.

And along the trail you'll run into famous historic figures like Wyatt Earp and Abe Lincoln, locals looking for a ride to a certain town and others who ask you to deliver packages to people elsewhere, giving you a few goals to shoot for along the way and maybe pick up some extra gold.

The resource management elements are still here, still simple and still fun. The occupation you choose before setting out determines how your resources will hold up, e.g. whether your wagon will break easier but travel faster, how long food will last and so forth. Along the way you'll get to choose your path and weigh whether you want to risk shorter, more dangerous mountain travel versus longer, easier plain travel, with their own implications on time, food and wagon management. Shops in towns sell equipment to keep your family safe and your journey smooth, giving the game a nice upgrade system with basic strategic elements.

The bright and cheery presentation of the iPhone version has been carried over, albeit with a little less sheen due to the lowered resolution. Character design is very cartoony and humorous without sinking into sickeningly childish, even lending a strange, dark humor to seeing your youngest get their face slashed by a rabid bear.

Just like the iPhone/Touch version, load times are still ubiquitous and pop up between every possible transition, whether it be entering a minigame (which you'll be doing a lot of) or a new town. They're not long enough to break the game, in fact they feel shorter than on an iPhone 2G, but their frequency is still annoying. During loads, Gameloft kept with the edutainment and slipped in fun and interesting facts about the real trail and the people who took it. Certainly better than staring at "Loading...".

New for the DSiWare version is the camera functionality. Periodically during your journey you'll be asked whether you want your picture taken for the front page of the newspaper, and who wouldn't want that? There are plenty of period items and people to plop on, but going through the trouble of crafting a photographic masterpiece seems pointless once you realize the photos aren't stored anywhere. Which is too bad considering it's a nice little function for younger (and young at heart) players.

At 800 points it's a solid and lengthy release, but DSiWare isn't the only way to get your fingers on it. Available on Apple's App Store for 200 points cheaper, even less if on sale, this might not be the best version for you. Unless you're really attached to that camera function.


As it turns out, The Oregon Trail is fun enough to stand on its own outside of class even after all these years. And with improved load times and added camera functionality, the DSiWare version is the one to beat. Of course, it's also the most expensive, and if you have the means to play the iPhone/Touch version you'll want to look long and hard at which one is more appealing to you. No matter how you load up the wagon, you'll be in for a fun ride.

From the web

User Comments (39)



Porky said:

Expensive compared to other systems it sells for. When I do get Dsi XL Ill download this nonetheless!



Chunky_Droid said:

Oh NOW I remember this game! Awesome, do want!

EDIT: Just noticed the screenshots, never knew my daughter had dysentery!



Token_Girl said:

Thanks for going out of your way to compare the itouch/dsi versions. I'm not sure which i'll get, but I'll probably pick one up eventually, for nostalgia purposes.

I loved hunting back in the day. Primitive FPS=Learnding! Try doing that with your Halos kids! Epic early 90's elementary school win!



postmanX3 said:

Great game. Probably better on the IPod Touch, to be honest, but since I don't have one, this was my only choice.

Still, worth 8 dollars.



jdhaas said:

As soon as I get another points care, I'm getting this one. Sounds great!



Kid_A said:

Huh. It actually looks like a well polished little game. Might be worth a look.



Odnetnin said:

Hey, this was like a DSiWare and an iGadget review in one. How'd you manage that, Prosody?



MasterGraveheart said:

Honestly, I'd spend a bit more for the DSi version if I could go back in time. The touch read for the iTouch version is questionable at times and the FaceBook function never works for me. I wanna show off my "Deer-ly Departed" achievement, dang-it! At least with the DSi, I can take a picture and post it myself. My advice: Spend the money and get this version. Nintendo will NEVER steer you wrong. Save your iPod money for Bejeweled 2.



kaya122 said:

This is axectly the kind of game I've been wanting for Dsiware, its perfect for short bursts of gameplay.



sonic_brawler95 said:

I was waiting for this review, it took a while. I would also give this game an 8, I would recommend it. Great review, btw.



BulbasaurusRex said:

I don't have a DSi, so I'll wait for the WiiWare version and hope it's just as good (and hopefully goes back to the FPS style hunting from the Windows 95 version).



Mikarlo said:

I used to play this game on my girlfriend's Apple back in high school! Such a great game! I have considered downloading it again, but with only 1500 points left in my account right now...I'm being super selective. And I'm not sure if rehashing "the Trail" is how I want to spend half the points I have left...



Ackbar7 said:

This game is actually much more faithful looking to the old Apple 2e version of this game I remember playing than anything that would involve FPS elements (that seems way high tech for Oregon Trail). If I had a DSi this would be a must own. I hope this does come to WiiWare, with little more than a graphical overhaul.



BulbasaurusRex said:

@hoodtrix According to Wikipedia, it is, and I remember it being on Nintendo's WiiWare release schedule from September.

@Ackbar7 I've played both the Apple II version (in elementary school) and the Windows 95 version (I own it), and the hunting is much better in the Windows 95 version with the FPS style of hunting using the mouse. What's really interesting about it, although unrealistic, is that the shots aren't instantaneous. The bullets come from the bottom-middle of the screen and take time to reach the targets, so you have to lead your shots according to where the animals are on the screen and which direction they are headed, factoring in their speed, in order to hit them. If the WiiWare version were to duplicate this style with the IR pointer, it would be awesome!




Not my kinda thang, but actually reads like a cracking game! Good revw as it give me a good feel about what the game was about and how decent it is



motang said:

I remember my whole 4th grade class playing this game on an Apple II, it was green and black I believe. We beat it, and it was an nice collaborative experience (early co-op)! I was happy to see this remade on the iPhone/Touch and now I am even more happy to see it on the DSiware, going to be getting it soon.



cheapogamer4life said:

this is in my top 5 of dsiware download so far, but i aslo argee with smithers too, my niece loves this game so with good replay value you cant go wrong for 800 points



Phobos said:

Definitely getting this! Downloading, no matter what! Great review, found it useful, and good rating.



piguy101 said:

I thought this was absolute repetition. It only has like five mini-games and you don't play them very often; most of the time you are just moving nonstop. Get Asphalt 4 instead.



Dsiwarehunter said:

Oregon trail is fun, but for 800 points.....I'm not so sure. You can download it off the internet.



ramstrong said:

I suppose there's nothing wrong with it. The graphics are nice, and mini games are decent. However, I was hoping that there'd be more educational content. The risk management doesn't show itself well, so you don't know whether you did it by skill or by luck. I think a more transparent evaluation function would be better.

Also, there's not enough trivia screens to my liking. I enjoyed reading about life in the past, but there are only a few screens that repeats.

The difficulty setting is unlockable. Why is that? Also, the game doesn't change all that much from one level to another, although calamity means there's a good chance you'll lose party member.

800 points is on the high side. Now, if we're talking The Art of War, that's different.



UltimateGamer07 said:

What happens when you get to Oregon? Do you restart with a NEW account, or do you restart the trail with the same account? Also, can you buy new Wagon parts? Please respond I wanna get this game or X-Scape, and i want to know these things before i decide!!!



Crazybrain1 said:

I shouldn't have purchased this.I mean, the first time you play through it is fun, but then you finish it.You can play through it again, or you can take a photo or do endless photograph.They should've included a challenge mode (which they don't have) to have more replay value to it.
I dosen't offer too much incentive to return (well, except the harder difficulty modes)
Costomizing your character would've been cool, but that would probably be too much to ask.

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