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This updated version of The Oregon Trail, by MECC, is playable in both MS-DOS and Windows. The basic idea remains the same: You play the leader of a solitary covered wagon and, along with four other pioneers, traverse the great untamed American West. The ultimate goal, as the name implies, is to reach the Pacific shore of Oregon and help expand America through settlement.
Though intended primarily as a children's game, The Oregon Trail's storyline deals frankly with the hazards of westward expansion. From mundane problems like a broken wagon wheel or a lack of spare clothing to inevitable cataclysmic events such as starvation or the ravages of Typhoid Fever, the game aims to provide children with a fun learning experience while chronicling realistic conditions encountered by American West pioneers.
The primary focus of gameplay is on managing the minutiae of a successful cross-country wagon expedition. From how many oxen are needed to how much extra food to carry, decisions made at the beginning of the game affect your chances throughout and teach the importance of long-term planning. While the game primarily relies on decision-making skills and resource management, the hunting process provides action-based entertainment as (now-endangered) animals are killed for food on the open prairie.
As the game progresses, educational aspects are presented through various encounters with American historical landmarks, each with a guide screen relaying information about its history and purpose in the exploration of the West. Portraits of various 19th Century Americans are displayed whenever you want to trade or simply consult the locals for friendly wagon-training advice.
The DOS and Windows variations are relatively similar. The game uses 256-color VGA graphics and the same basic interface throughout most of the game. Buttons for various activities, located to the left and right of the main play screen, include commands like rest, hunt, trade, and guide (a help menu of sorts). The center area of the screen is divided into three parts: the top shows your ox cart's slow progression across the prairie, the middle presents a map-like view of the American West, and the bottom chronicles your adventures in a journal format.
The Oregon Trail is an attempt to combine education with entertainment. All the way from Independence, Missouri to the Willamette Valley, the game's simulation of the life of an American settler is designed to show children a link between past and present. ~ Drew Hunt, All Game Guide