The Trail can be rewarding if you look past its technical problems.
Going outside has its advantages. You get fresh air, it's a healthy form of exercise and also a nice change of scenery. So it’s a good thing The Trail, Kongregate’s first game for the Switch, lets you experience all that inside and away from people. The experience is marred a bit by technical imperfections, and an emphasis on backtracking can prove to be annoying. But overall, The Trail can feel rewarding at times, despite the poor presentation.
The Trail casts you as a person who has made it to the New World and is in search for a town called Eden Falls, following your uncle’s footsteps some time prior. As you move forward in your journey, you’ll find and collect items along your travels that can be used to craft items, such as tools, clothing, and food. The overall storyline isn’t that interesting, but the letters that you receive from home are charming enough that they make for a nice motivator on the trail.
As you hit each rest stop, challenges will present themselves, such as racing another person to the next stop, collecting certain items, or getting to an area in a set amount to time. Clearing these tasks will get you coins that can be used to unlock skills leading to recipes for better items and housing. It doesn’t look like much at first, but the skill tree gets more in-depth. The farther you go down, the more rewarding it feels once you unlock something that helps your travels.
The constant forced backtracking drags the gameplay down, especially early on. I would always be making progress, but then would have to backtrack because my clothes would fall off, causing me to go back to another area so I can get the items needed to get new clothing. Since some items don't appear in certain areas, backtracking is a must. The tedium escalates over time and it isn’t particularly fun worrying about having to backtrack when you just want to make progress on the trail.
The overall feel is calm and serene, with gentle music playing as you travel and collect items. The graphics also have a simple pastel look to them, presenting a cheery demeanor. Technically, however, the game is a chore to get through at times. The framerate sputters at every turn, with obvious pop up and slow down. The control scheme is also annoying. It doesn’t affect gameplay much, as the game’s travelling is automated, like an on-rails shooting game. Navigating the menus, however, are super annoying. It’s something one can get used to, but it just doesn’t feel natural at all.
I like some aspects of The Trail, such as the calm setting and the sense of fulfillment when finally crafting that recipe that you had been working on forever. But the negatives -- the framerate, controls, and uninteresting story -- do hamper the experience. They are manageable, and The Trail isn’t necessarily a bad game. It has its moments, but technical limitations do put a damper on things.