The Organ Trail Diaries: Part 1

For review in several parts this week, I decided to browse through my Steam library and pull out something I knew I’d like but that I hadn’t ever finished before (so that I’d still get to enjoy playing the game as a game).  I chose Organ Trail: The Director’s Cut, a fantastic zombie-themed variation on the classic pseudo-educational Oregon Trail from the days of my childhood.  Much like the original, Organ trail features a westward journey punctuated with various landmarks and settlements where players can trade, do jobs, and upgrade their car along the journey.  An indie game developed and published by The Men Who Wear Many Hats, Organ Trail: The Director’s Cut retails on Steam for $4.99; you can also buy the soundtrack (by Ben Crossbones) for $6.99 [PROTIP: buying the bundle of the game and soundtrack together is actually one cent more expensive than buying them separately… epic shopping tip, for free.  I just saved you a penny; you’re welcome.]  It only takes a measly 133MB of disk space, and even the most archaic of computers can handle the retro-style 8-bit graphics.  I remembered playing this game and enjoying it in the past, but I couldn’t recall ever finishing it.  I checked my Steam achievements: only 5 out of 28, and not the one for finishing the game.  I was determined to change that, and started up the game.  The first choice I had to make was difficulty… there were four options: Easy, Normal, Difficult, and Suicide.  I decided to put my apocalypse-dominating skills to the test and clicked Suicide.

Since I was doing this as a Stick Buntons post, I named everyone in my party as one of our authors.  However, I fail at rudimentary counting skills, and didn’t realize that we had four authors, including myself, and five character spots, including my own.  I chose to give our team one professional, star player… mostly as a pity prize, but also to give us at least some fighting chance against an apocalyptic wasteland full of the ravenous undead.

Although, in retrospect I now realize "Tim the Butt" does fit... damn it
“Tim the Butthead Editor who Makes Me Do Stuff on a Tuesday” didn’t fit in the allowed space

And just like that, our adventure begins.  About five seconds later, I get my first notification: Clements broke his arm.  Really?  Are you shitting me, dude?  You were driving a station wagon at like, 30 miles per hour for twelve seconds, and you broke your arm?  You have to TRY to accomplish something like that.  I shrugged it off and continue my journey, determined not to let one AI character’s inordinate stupidity spoil my excitement about trekking across zombie-infested America shooting hordes of ex-people in a Wal-Mart. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Jim, you might want to bring this up with a therapist…)

Ah, memories… just like the good old days of grade school computer lab time…

Within the first ten seconds of the game, and in the safety of his own car, my guide and supposed mentor had broken his arm and contracted a highly contagious disease that makes the victim literally shit themselves to death.  There is no possible way he can be any stupider than thi-

GOD DAMN IT, WE’RE STILL IN THE SAME CAR, HOW DID THIS EVEN HAPPEN?  We’re not even at D.C. yet, less than one minute into the game, and this guy has already repeatedly screwed himself over fatally, and is now potentially endangering the entire team with infection.  And on top of all that, just as we’re rolling into Washington D.C., our car runs out of gas.  Just perfect.

That little third grader voice is still chanting, "I told you so, I told you so..."
Why do I get the feeling I will regret this choice for the rest of the game?

Clements informs me that I’ve got four hours to scavenge in the city before the zombie horde descends upon us, so I have to split my time wisely deciding what to look for.  Well, we’re out of gas, so I need to spend at least one hour looking for that.  And I imagine bullets will be necessary in the zombie apocalypse (call it a hunch).  Everyone’s gotta eat, so I put one hour into food, and that only leaves me with one hour left and five potential choices.  I decide to stick it into medkits and leave all the car parts to chance, hoping that the station wagon holds up better than Clements has.  I hear the small voice of a third grader screaming at me in the back of my head, something like, “NO YOU IDIOT, ALL THE BULLETS!” but I shake it off and convince myself that the spread is a much more mature, wise, and safe choice than just stacking four hours of search time into ammo.

And on the subject of safe choices, after scavenging up the supplies, Clements returns to the group and confesses that he had been bitten… even though we all already knew that, because we were in a car three feet away from him when it happened (and there was a pop-up notification in the center of the screen that paused the game, that helped).  I knew what I had to do without any question.

“I guess you could say he… uh… got shot… in the face? Look, this snappy Bond Line thing is hard if you’re not prepared, okay!?”

Finally… Shooting an AI character in the head hasn’t felt quite this good in a while.  And just like that, with no more of a funeral than me unloading a rifle round into his face, Clements the Suicidal Idiot is no longer holding us back.  Now, without an experienced teacher, our party is finally free to ignore all signs of danger and charge perilously forward, heedless of any immanent death!  We have 200 bullets, 5 medkits, a little under 8 pounds of food, and 8 cans of fuel to get us the rest of the way across America, where there was supposedly a safe zone on the West Coast.  I blow the conch horn and assemble the team for one final epic pose.

Dibs on Shaun! Tim is the mysterious chick on the far left (Zoey? zombie apocalypse Chel? Voldo?), Daryl is Tallahassee (obviously), Brian gets Columbus, and NPC = Wichita

Ballin’.

We load up into the station wagon, and hit the road, ready to begin our adventure…

Wait, we’re going to Pittsburg first? … You sure there isn’t some other road we can take?
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