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. The previous chapters are here.
“I, the Lord, will make barren
your fields and your fairways.
Your refrigerators will be empty,
no steaks and no leg bones,
no butter and no cornbread.
And I will remove your screen doors,
force the mosquitoes indoors
where you lie on the bed undead.”
From ‘God’s Promise’ by Paul Hoover
We hurry up and eat our rabbit stew and leave as soon as seems polite. Rose generously give us her medical supplies, as the boys don’t need them any more.
We drive faster now. No-one mentions Nathan. What was he doing in a house in Arizona? Was he coming to meet us? What an end.
I drive faster still. We rush past a prison and many, many roadside graves, push on through sandstorms, stopping only to sleep and to heal the sick and wounded. We have travelled 2,200 miles when John breaks his other leg. Cara is complaining about the smell of man and disinfectant in the back.
Dallas is a hellhole. (And in the game!) There’s a zombie in a wheelchair, just sitting there, hungrily, right where JFK bought it. We decide not to stop, as we’ve a book overdue at the book depository. And we’re surrounded by zombies. Soon we’ve hit 2,518 miles and can finally stop heading south, pushing west into the continent’s centre, tracing a course through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, before turning north when we get to Phoenix and then back west through Salt Lake City. I think that’s the route - Kieron’s map is crudely drawn, to say the least, with cartoon figures all over it.
John breaks his other arm gesticulating out of the window at a strip club. With all four limbs broken, he is now a mass of bandages but still insists on taking his turn navigating.
At 3,163 miles, we have 10oz of food left and little ammo. I can’t stop the car to scavenge because the environment is packed with zombies and the road (to colourblind old me) has turned a bright red. I’ve now used up most of the medkits keeping the injury-prone John and Alec alive. Tensions are rising because whenever Jim takes a break from navigating, we get lost - both Cara and John have sent us the wrong way, while Alec just giggled when we got lost around Albuquerque. At 3,433 miles, we stop to eat some roadkill and encounter a man calling himself “The Jackabeaverlope” who is dressed as a zombie deer, to deter the undead. We drive on quickly.
At 3,718 miles, Alec breaks his other leg. With gritted teeth, I use my second-to-last medkit to keep him alive. Jim, presumably through the stress of staying awake so the incompetent map readers don’t get to navigate, gets a fever. I stop to scavenge for medical supplies and am promptly set upon by two boss zombies, bright green dogs that I kill quickly, before handily finding heaps of food. We are now down to 13 bullets again. We pull up to a desert motel where we rest until Jim’s fever breaks.
We start driving again. Somehow, through the plaster, John manages to break one of his legs again. While I’m trying to work out how he did it and how to splint it without disturbing the other break, a bandit grabs him. I absent-mindedly shoot the bandit through the head. There is an awkward silence.
We are now 4,387 miles along the road. We are almost out of ‘gas’ and the road is still blood-red. As the car splutters to a sudden stop, Jim breaks a rib. I go to the trading screen and realise that, slowly, throughout the 4500 mile trip, all our spare supplies have been stolen or fallen out of the waggon. I’d noticed it individually, but hadn’t been paying attention to the wider picture. We have almost nothing to trade.
After several hours of waiting for someone who wants to swap dollars for fuel and many abortive scavenging attempts, I’m badly injured. The car is in a worse state though, and I’m out of scrap to patch it up. We negotiate another horde of zombie deer without a scratch, but it’s a close run thing. We need to find a big pile of ammo so I can go scavenging, or this trip ends here.
At 4,580 miles, Alec gets cholera. We stop at an abandoned mine to look for medical supplies, but it’s been stripped bare - we should have hurried on instead. I make the team rest until Alec’s cholera has gone. I’m so badly injured myself that I can’t afford to spend the final medkit on the team’s health, as resting doesn’t heal me. Alec mumbles quotes from the Book of Skulls in his near-death sleep “...sat next to me in the back seat, scribbling notes, filling up page after page of his ragged spiral-bound book with his left-handed scrawl. Demonic glitter in his dark little eyes... Our penny-ante pansy Dostoevsky...” Before he gets offended, I get John to swap seats with Cara.
Then Jim gets typhoid. And we run out of fuel again. We’re at 4,625 miles and we have 110 dollars, 1 tyre, 1 muffler, and no food, medkits, fuel or ammo. I keep scavenging and trading, getting closer and closer to death until...
A break. We get some fuel and ammo - enough to make it to Oregon. We drive a few hundred more miles. TFinal progress sea is visible from here, a thin line on the horizon, a taunting gleam.
It must be while I’m admiring how far we’ve got that I miss the speed bump. Our 20 rounds of newly acquired ammo bounce out of the window.
That’s it. I’ve got nothing to barter, no ammo, no food, nearly no ammo and nothing left to trade. And a huge pile of dollars. We’re never going to make it. At least, we’ll die as humans; amazingly, not one of us got infected.
The car coasts to a stop. We’re literally surrounded by zombies, coming from every direction, and I’m standing on the roof, holding Kieron’s empty shotgun. If had 50 bullets, I could get us to the coast. Yet the ammo counter is taunting me, like it did at the game’s start, flashing empty, and I keep waiting for Kieron to come out of the sunset, to save us again. Of course, he never does. John, finally realising we’re not going to make it to GDC and get to see the Steam box, sobs openly. Cara relaxes and smiles, realising she has nothing to worry about anymore. Alec is about to quote from the Book of Skulls when Jim stops him, and pulls out a battered old copy of Captain Scott’s diaries. As the horde claw at the windows, he opens it to the last page and reads the final entry to us.
“We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last ... Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale...”