It's time to hit the trail and head for the beautiful state of Oregon.
Out of all the third-party developers to release games on the DSiWare service, Gameloft is unquestionably the biggest supporter of the service when it comes to both quantity and quality. Their latest title is certainly no exception as The Oregon Trail may just very well be the best title to come from the developer for Nintendo's handheld downloadable service.
The Oregon Trail is often considered an educational title, and for good reason too; the game filled with historical information about many people's lives during the 19th century. The Oregon Trail gets its name from a path that spread from the Missouri River to Oregon. It's a lengthy route that is filled with dangerous animals and events, and thankfully everything exciting about it carries over onto the handheld interpretation of the adventure.
Your quest begins as you and your four other family members depart from the eastern side of America to the Pacific Northwest. The premise is simple: get to the other side of the country while keeping on schedule and maintaining a high level of health. You'll spend most of your time on the overworld screen in which you can observe your family and determine the rate at which you want to travel. Speeds run from a rapid run to a turtle's pace.
And this is where the game starts to get exciting. If you decide to run fast, you'll deplete your food stocks a lot faster than you would if you take your time. On the other hand though, if you run fast you'll be able to stay ahead of schedule whereas you're more likely to fall behind if you move at a slower pace.
Besides keeping an eye on your progress and your food stocks, which can be observed on the upper screen, you'll also want to keep observing your wagon's condition. A damaged wagon is more likely to cause problems for your family whereas a good quality one will make the ride a lot smoother. Your wagon will take small amounts of damage periodically on the way, but there are certain opportunities where it can take quite a hit, such as when you're giving the chance to travel around a rocky section or walk through it. By walking through it you're going to take a hefty amount of damage, but by avoiding it you'll keep your wagon in good condition and also lose a couple of days.
The choices don't stop there either. Along the way you'll be given the chance to participate in some mini-games that will help you. There's a hunting mini-game that allows you to shoot a certain amount of prey within an allotted amount of time, while the berry-picking diversion requires you to tap fruit as it appears on screen. The mini-games aren't for everyone, but it's a good opportunity to try and restore some of your supply instead of having to buy it when you reach a town.
The Oregon Trail is a great game, mainly due to the many decisions that gamers have to make along their journey to Oregon. Not only do you have to manage your time wisely but you also have to manage your resources. If your resources drop low enough, your family's health will go down with it, which can result in some of your family members dying.
The overall design of The Oregon Trail is worth praising as it has a very cartoonish look to it. It isn't difficult to have fun with the game and the graphics certainly help enhance one's enjoyment as the style helps take realism away from the game, something you won't want to be feeling when one of your family members passes away.
In case you weren't already aware, The Oregon Trail is a port of the iPhone/iPod Touch version, which means you're essentially getting the same experience for a couple of dollars more. On the bright side, the DSiWare version utilizes the camera, which allows you to take photos of yourself to publish in in-game newspapers.
The Oregon Trail is a great premium-priced title on the DSiWare Store and stands out as one of the best titles on the service. Not only is the gameplay engaging and fun, but it's also educational. In short, The Oregon Trail is one game you're not going to want to miss, whether you like educational games or not.