I had neither heard nor cared about 70s educational game Oregon Trail, until I watched a Let’s Play where the circumstances were so tense I was immediately sucked into the journey to more fruitful lands by way of dysentery and limited resources . Knowing it was a common school pastime for Americans of a certain age, when I saw a space themed twist on the genre called Orion Trail, I knew it would be simply dripping in nostalgia.
The pixel art is delightfully detailed with butt scratching and cute characters pounding away at the space console, and the style is beautifully cohesive throughout. The music by Rainbow Kitten fits the scene and feel of the game perfectly and is so catchy it will stay in your head all day. Orion Trail switches up the 70s gameplay by focusing on the story. The demo contains a selection of funny, quirky and most importantly well written situations parodying common tropes of sci-fi, such as your future self coming back to warn you of impending doom and the ship’s computer going self aware. The success or failure of your intended path is based on skill points from the team you have assembled and a random roll of the die.
For me personally there are a few places where the game needs improvement. Taking too much damage or becoming fully depleted of fuel, food or crew leads to an instant fail state, where as in the original you could plan the distance to the next point and survive if incredibly weak until the next point. This becomes particularly frustrating when every point along the space highway contains only random supplies for you could win or lose meaning there is less skill and more luck involved in a successful mission.
That being said, I have only experienced the demo which is just a tiny slice of things to come. The developers have noted this randomness and have promised more dynamic gameplay which changes based on previous decisions, and away mini missions to help build your resources, essentially ruling out the random aspects of the demo.
Orion Trail certainly has promise of something impressive, fun and even taxing on the old brain cells, and if all goes to plan will be available for full release on Windows, Mac and Linux by December.
Would you be interested in an Oregon Trail Reboot?