The Long And Brainy Road: An Organ Trail Diary Part Two

By Dan Grill on April 18th, 2013 at 11:00 am.

The Organ Trail: Director’s Cut is a zombie pastiche of the old favourite edugame, The Oregan Trail, where you had to manage a family of settlers as they travelled to Portland, Oregon, past the perils of the unconquered western USA. In the Organ Trail, players must get themselves and up to four friends all the way to Portland Oregon without losing any of their innards to rampaging zombie hordes. Can a group of RPS writers survive the trail and how many of their innards will they leave behind?

We forget that we are all dead men conversing with dead men.
—Jorge Luis Borges

The story so far. The surviving members of RPS are fleeing through the zombie-infested East coast of America, dodging nukes and attempting to scavenge together enough materials to stay alive. They are: Grill, him what is having to do the driving because he’s only a freelancer; John who talked over the bit about the zombie apocalypse and now thinks they’re going to GDC; Alec, who believes he’s taking part in a road trip called the Book of Skulls and is going to be immortalised by monks in California; Cara, who’s catatonic at the prospect of not being able to get drunk and play DOTA2 ever again; and Jim, who only came along to make sure Dan didn’t use any semicolons and is going to be mightily pissed off when he reads this.

We can only surmise that Zombobama had ceased munching the measly morsels of Biden’s brains long enough to press a red button – either that or the military, somewhere, was still trying to clean up this mess through the gentle bathing light of Mother Nature’s own atom bombs. Suffice to say a large part of the country was now prime territory for radiation-saturated FPSes. Especially the D.C. area where we’d left the rest of the RPS team. We mourned all of them, save for Craig who we were sure would just mutate into something terrifying.

Anyway, because of the nukes striking bang on the most sensible interstate route, it appears we’ll have to take a detour that tracks the old Oregon trail exactly. Isn’t that a weird coincidence?

As we drive, rain begins to fall, slowing our progress. Then fog rolls in. Then snow. Then we hit a pile of rocks on the road, because we can’t see a bloody thing. It seems nuclear activity might affect the environment. John breaks his leg replacing the car’s muffler.

We are now down to one spare muffler. I’m not sure I can take the pressure. I don’t even know what a muffler is. The opinion in the car is that it’s a scarf. No-one knows how John broke his leg on a scarf but, hey, Isadora Duncan’s scarf-car combo broke her neck. We ask John to be more careful around soft clothing and cars. He snorts and goes back to planning his GDC schedule.

When we hit Pittsburgh, we stop to let John rest his leg. The beauty of the Organ Trail is that your party (apart from the driver) can literally sleep off any injury, with more troubling illnesses taking as much as four hours sleep to cure. However, your teammates also eat food while they’re resting, which is troublesome, as car full of journalists will chomp through supplies fast, and it’s hard to carry enough to make it all the way to Oregon. It’s almost worth losing a couple of passengers early on for the reduced consumption.

As it is, I figured on scavenging enough food to keep us going. Scavenging takes place in a single-screen arena minigame, where you wander around in a zombie infested area, grabbing as much food, scrap and ammo as you can whilst fending off the zombies. I’ve brought plenty of ammo, so scavenging isn’t a problem – except that shooting in general is deliberately strangely controlled; you click to move, but you click and hold to draw back for a shot, like a slingshot might. So you can’t shoot and move.

So I go scavenging at midnight, when the zombie activity is described as ‘deadly’. Of course, I’m attacked by a zombie and injured – but I don’t appear to be infected. I managed to drag back some food, but it won’t last more than a few hours. I also use some scrap to knock the station waggon back into shape and one of the rare medkits to get my health back up.

Leaving Pittsburgh is harder than getting in. While we’ve been resting, the place has been surrounded by a small horde of zombies, who see our waggon as a food cart. In the back, John is having a go at these ‘foot-to-ball fans’ who are blocking ‘the route to GDC’. The horde appears docile, so we forgo the chance to barrel through guns blazing, and sneak the waggon out while it’s dark. Easy-peasy.

We rush through an abandoned mall and Indianapolis barely slowing down. I pick up a special skill in the mall, which gives me more cash drops when scavenging; I’m hoping that means I can buy my way out of trouble later on with a giant wodge of cash. In Indianapolis, I grab a silent motor for the car, meaning we can sneak through zombie hordes automatically.

Normally, someone’s been bitten by this point, so I stop the car to squint at the team in the back. Apart from Alec’s post-op nose, they’re suspiciously hale, though they are getting through the snacks at an alarming rate. To be honest, I’m feeling super-confident here. We haven’t gone far yet but no-one’s been infected, we’ve got plenty of supplies, and we’re making good time. We could be in Oregon in time for tea!

Of course, I spoke too soon. Jim is suffering from exhaustion and, while I’m distracted by the Dorian Gray qualities of his gorgeous yet drawn face, John “Mr Glass” Walker puts his arm out of the window and breaks it. If he gets any more injured, he’ll be incapacitated until I heal him with a medkit – and if I don’t, he’s dead. A passing stranger on the road tells him off:

Almost as soon as we let Jim rest and patch John’s arm up, a bandit sneaks up, grabs Cara and puts a gun to her head.

He doesn’t seem to make any demands. The game just demands I shoot him and not her. Aiming a barrel that’s ten pixels long is tough enough when you’ve got a whole person to shoot, but when it’s a single pixel you’re aiming for and you have one shot, it’s tougher than out-of-date salami. Anyway, I can’t work out where the stupid gun’s aiming. So I guess that the designer would have made the aim at five-pixels high, five-pixels low, and…

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20 Comments »

  1. Ravenholme says:

    Farewell Cara, we hardly knew ye.

    Mostly because we could never hear you over John bellyaching over broken limbs and GDC

  2. hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

    Dysentery of the journal ends on quite a cliffhanger. Still, I bet things turn out alright; Cara seems tough. I’d cholera survivor.

    • Trillby says:

      Really? I’m convinced that she’s going to diarrhea. Bloody vaccine, if you ask me.

  3. UmmonTL says:

    I don’t undertand how no one seems to get how the aiming in this game works even though it says so in the tutorial. You draw a line while holding the mousebutton from the target to your character. Do that and you can aim pixel perfect.
    For a game like this it’s an amazing system because if you take your time to draw the line completely you fire slow but accurate. A zombie might walk out of your line of fire if you’re too slow though and if a horde is coming for you, you can’t afford to take your time. So you start shooting quicker, drawing the line only halfway or less, and suddenly you start missing shots. And the zombies get even closer…

  4. Drake Sigar says:

    No problemo, switch to kryptonite.

  5. Stiletto says:

    Pretty sure Grill’s gonna cram Cara’s face full of lead at this point.
    Then, he and the bandit are going to have a tea party, where roasted Cara ribs are the side dish.

  6. lowprices says:

    Oh dear. Hopefully Cara will survive and get to Oregan so she can torment the post-apocalypse authorities like she did that poor Crysis producer.

  7. Lanfranc says:

    “…it appears we’ll have to take a detour that tracks the old Oregon trail exactly.”

    The real Oregon Trail went from Missouri more or less straight east to Oregon, usually through Wyoming and southern Idaho. It never went anywhere near Arizona or New Mexico like this one.

  8. McDan says:

    I didn’t read the first one when it came out, but was intrigued and now after reading both can confirm one of the best game diaries yet.

  9. HothMonster says:

    Jim hates semicolons too? He has my taste in games and a hatred for useless punctuation! This sex change can’t come soon enough.

    • Skabooga says:

      Semicolons are great; they are perfect for joining two related clauses without the delay of a conjunction or the pause of a period.

      • Lanfranc says:

        Semicolons are the tactical nukes of punctuation; lots of people don’t like them, but you can use them sparingly for great effect.

        • dongsweep says:

          As the great Kurt Vonnegut always said: “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

          • cjlr says:

            I don’t know about always; he may have said it once, or even repeatedly, but always? Probably not.

            Semicolons are a convenient step, being representative of a shorter pause and more connection than a period, but a longer pause and perhaps less connection that a comma. Exactly as one might suspect, since the glyph is indeed composed of a period and a comma.

  10. briangw says:

    OMG. This is some of the funniest shiat I have read this week. Sounds like you need to tie up John and leave him in the trunk.

  11. Scelous says:

    I love games about zombies, and I love The Oregon Trail. I feel like I’m missing something here, though, because I never understood the appeal of The Organ Trail. I tried it before, and it just seemed very, very simplistic and boring. Wish I could have liked it.