Creating a game that borrows heavily from retro source material can be a dangerous high-wire act. Some platform games can’t help but echo back to Super Mario games from the ‘80s, but given 30 years and numerous imitators, those games come across like bad cover bands – they know the notes but don’t play them with a tenth of the style.
Organ Trail: Director’s Cut, on the other hand, is like a great tribute band. It knows the tunes by heart and is even dressing the part by adding a unique spin to the proceedings. At its heart, Organ Trail: Director’s Cut is basically just The Oregon Trail with zombies, but it is so perfectly The Oregon Trail with zombies that it comes across better than if it were just a modern recreation of the original game.
Visually, Organ Trail looks like a pixel-perfect recreation of The Oregon Trail. It is simple, sparse and just appealing enough. Organ Trail may actually be a little more colorful than its source material, at least in terms of the background screens when traveling, but there’s no mistaking that the visual style here is meant to evoke the original game.
Organ Trail deftly mixes old and new gameplay elements just enough so it appears both (a) kind of clever, and (b) not in direct copyright violation of the source material. Players still hunt and shop at a general store for supplies, but their party drives a station wagon across the highway and fords through a herd of zombies instead of taking a wagon over a river of water. Happily, characters can still get sick and die of dysentery and other long-forgotten diseases. This may be a modern game, but it greatly respects the original.
If you miss The Oregon Trail and want an excuse to play it, Organ Trail: Director’s Cut is a fantastic recreation. Unless you’re a stickler for the wagon and would prefer to hunt buffalo instead of zombies, Organ Trail is about as good a retro gaming experience as you’ll find.