We've seen lot of games on Trickster's blog, but I think none have so obviously not been adventure games. Presumably Oregon Trail cannot then score very high, even if it shines otherwise, but we'll see how it will fare under my critical eye.
Puzzles and Solvability
This is simple: Oregon Trail has no puzzles, but relies on other obstacles, like resource management and simple action sequences. I might be nice and give some consolation points, but if I must punish the game for its non-adventurishness in some area, I think it must be here.
If this is closest to a puzzle it gets, it's definitely not an adventure game.
Interface and Inventory
I really have nothing major to complain about with the interface. The menu system might feel a bit primitive and I certainly missed mouse support, but the interface is rather intuitive and instructions for the more complex sections of the game (like the hunting) are readily available, if you just are patient enough to read it. Inventory is also a simple, but efficient list of the items your crew is carrying. True, there are no descriptions or even pictures for the food, wagon parts and ammunition, but considering the nature of the game, this feels quite adequate. Checking on what Trickster has given to similar efficient, but not fancy interfaces, I think 5 will be sufficient.
It can't get any simpler than this.
Story and Setting
A group of immigrants leaves for Oregon, faces some obstacles, and arrives at Oregon. The story is not very engaging, and the only game so far with a similar setting, Gold Rush!, had a lot more going on. I got the feeling that you could have just discarded the whole Wild West setting and the gameplay would still have been the same (I hear they did this with Organ Trail). All in all, the story elements are rather primitive and almost non-existent, so I can't go really high here.
In an adventure game this would start a new side plot: try to find some medicine for the father. Here it is just a not too subtle hint for the effects of too hard pacing.
Sound and Graphics
If this version of Oregon Trail would have been published a couple of years earlier, I might have praised its graphics more, but now they just seem quite dated, even in EGA-standards. The still images of different forts and towns are nice, but you see them so rarely, and most of the time you just watch the same animation of a bull and a wagon or then some very non-graphical menu. Sounds come from the PC speaker, which compared to what the other games of this era have to offer was just too grating for my ears. Comparing Oregon Trail with the two other low-quality EGA games of the year, Earthrise used its graphics more effectively and while the graphics of Oregon Trail were of a better quality than graphics of Hugo, there still was more graphics in Hugo.
If only I could have seen more pictures like this...
...but all I got was this!
Environment and Atmosphere
Here I must take into account that I was not playing the game in a way that it was meant to be. I should have been doing this a couple of decades younger, in a classroom, full of other pupils, everyone fighting over who gets to do the hunting this time, classroom clown making fun jokes about all the various illnesses, history teacher explaining what exactly happened in Soda Springs... As it is, I was forced to play this just by myself, as a cynical old player expecting an adventure game instead of a semi-educational experience. Furthermore, my engagement was also hindered by the fact that I am not from the USA. I guess if you have an aunt living near Soda Springs, it is a bit more exciting to actually get there in the game. For me, all the little towns were just unfamiliar names. All in all, I cannot really give high marks for this category, but I still don't want to punish the game for me not belonging to the intended player group.
Swimming in a fresh Mountain Dew. (What do you mean I cannot have sponsors here?)
Dialogue and Acting
What little dialogue there was, was professional enough. There just wasn't that much writing in the game at all. Even the most substantial and developed pieces of text in the game or the short discussions with the locals in the forts were rather short. Again, although Oregon Trail beats Hugo in its professionalism, Hugo at least tried to use the text for plot related purposes, so it seems reasonable if they both get the same rating.
Why does it have to be all business with you, Matt? Why don't you tell us your dreams?
Final score should then be 23, but I think the long history of the game in history education justifies an extra point, so 24 it is! This might sound quite harsh, but remember that although Oregon Trail was a decent enough resource management game, its graphics and sound weren’t up-to-date and it definitely was no adventure game.
Did anyone guess the correct score? Nope, but the nearest one was TBD. Congratulations! You will get a copy of Organ Trail from Andy Panthro and a bunch of CAPs.
CAP Distribution to come...