The Organ Trail: Director’s Cut is a zombie pastiche of the old favourite edugame, The Oregan Trail, where you had to get a family of settlers 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. They’re both mainly asset management games, with bastard-hard minigames included. Read chapter one here and two here.
““How do you know if you are going to die?”
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
“When you can no longer make a fist.”
Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.”
From ‘Making A Fist’ by Naomi Shihab Nye
The bandit goes down, Cara is saved. I’m a little narked at the gender stereotyping, but then realise that the game was just randomising between my passengers. I’m the one who noticed that it chose Cara, she points out, which means I’m part of the problem. Gah.
We keep driving. We pass through towns galore. Alec gets bored and starts quoting the Book of Skulls at us; “For immortality requires sacrifice. Two victims to balance two survivors. One by suicide, one by murder.” I’m so distracted by his babbling I hardly notice the biker by my side window, pointing a pistol at the car. Behind us are a mob of bikers, all readying firearms. This does not look good.
Apparently, though, it turns out that a large station waggon is a surprisingly effective tool for knocking flimsy motorcycles over. We’re all surprised to have come through the chase without a scratch and start to think that Hunter S did a fantastic PR job on the Hells Angels being monstrously tough. But we’re confused about why the bikers were pursuing us.
Then there’s a dull, growing rumble. And, I figure that the bikers were running, not chasing.
On the horizon appears a green sheen, that quickly resolves itself into about a thousand zombie deer, led by Bambi’s effing mum. For deer, they’re surprisingly organised, attacking us with their zombie antlers in zombie waves that would be easy to dodge, if it wasn’t for the station waggon’s impetus.
The waggon takes a few Bambi-blow and will need some repairs. But in all that chasing, we’ve apparently made it to Chicago. We do have a minor problem, though. Every time we’ve stopped, I’ve been scavenging, but I’m not finding any ammo. And the shops don’t seem to be selling it. Thanks to two skills I’ve learned en route, I’ve got medikits and money galore - but no ammo. I go scavenging, but the encounters during the expedition require even more bullets and now I'm down to six. I trade a valuable spare car battery for another 17, but then promptly use them up when a zombie bear attacks me on my next scavenging trip.
Okay, though the RPS team are perfectly fine, ensconced in the station waggon, I’m in trouble. I’m the one who has to leave the vehicle to scrounge up food and as we get further west, the deadlier the terrain is. Each time I go out, I come back with a few less bullets, a few more wounds (which are eating into our medkits - the only way to heal the designated driver), a little food and loads of money. But we can’t eat money.
It’s a long way from Chicago to Portland, but the next few days go quickly. Alec gets measles. I hit a bump in the road and a bag of food flies out. We get caught in a blizzard. We get stuck in a flooded street. John is allowed to navigate and holds the map upside down. We spend some time clearing innards out of the car and consider harvesting some meat from a corpse at the side of the road. We sneak through another horde.
Eventually, Alec gets rid of his measles... but then breaks his leg celebrating. The back of the car now holds Cara crammed between two heavily bandaged, sedated team members, who seem determined to break limbs without leaving the vehicle. Alec, I belatedly realise, is nearly dead and mumbling about the Book of Skulls again “... a wily Hebrew, full of tricky ghetto lore, concocting an elaborate fiction so that he might inveigle three hapless goyim to their dooms, a ritual bloodbath in the desert.” We’re all momentarily worried.
Finally, we take a break. We stop in front of a woman gutting a rabbit at the front of a house. The game turns from asset management into text adventure. Her name’s Rose. She asks if we’re friendly - we choose not to shoot her. She invites us for dinner, then tells us that ‘They’re perfectly safe’. Who are?
Uh. There’s two zombies at the table. And one of them’s...
To be concluded.