This game was more about survival than a history lesson, which is why it was so darn cool. I remember playing at least two versions of it: the original and the deluxe. The original had that pixelated, white covered wagon on a simple black screen, and the deluxe had 32bit renderings with the blue skies and banjo-like computer music. You could choose from several occupations like "Banker," (which meant you had more money ), "Doctor" (which meant you'd have better health), or "Merchant" (which meant you'd have more stuff)...etc. Basically, each came with their own pros and cons, and none really had everything you'd need for the trip by themselves.
So you'd pick your poison, you'd buy some supplies at the ole' timey "General Store" (pro-tip: BUY BULLETS... don't waste time buying food, it spoils!), and you'd decide when to leave (pro-tip: if you leave too late, you'll hit the dead of winter, but if you leave too early, your animals will die from the lack of grass). So you'd pick your poison once again, and finally set your little oxen off doing their two-step shuffle along the Oregon Trail with your cozy covered wagon in tow. The adventure was on, damn it.
Along the way, you'd run into all sorts of dialog boxes... sometimes you'd have to decide whether to "caulk your wagon" and float across a river (where you'd always seem to drown an ox), or you'd all get sick and start dying off from old diseases (forget dysentery, try cholera!), or you'd have to stop to hunt, or cross another river, or you'd run into some town and decide to BUY MORE BULLETS. (I swear, if you ran out of bullets, you could not eat. It was that simple.)
Speaking of bullets, hunting was funny on the Oregon Trail. Not only were the bison the easiest things to shoot, but they also brought back the most meat, so what was the point of the rabbits and squirrels (besides points?)? Just a waste of bullets if you ask me. Another funny thing was how you could be out there dropping bison and deer dead left and right, strewing carcasses all over the place, but you could only carry, like, maybe one of them back. The real Oregon Trail must have been littered with dead bison that couldn't be "carried back"...if this game is any guide. No wonder they're endangered.
In the deluxe version, the seasons would change rapidly... the oxen would be trudging through snow, and then through green grass... the sky would alternate between gray and blue, and the little mountains would scurry along as you came across such places as Fort Kearney and Chimney Rock. Sometimes an ox would die and you'd wish you were a merchant, or sometimes a person would die and you'd wish you were a doctor, or sometimes you'd break a wagon wheel and wish you were a carpenter, and sometimes you'd die in the snow and wish you weren't a loser, but if you made it to Oregon, it was something special indeed.
The Oregon Trail was just another one of those games that made those clunky, slow, computers of our early memory so darn cool.
Until you died of dysentery...
Until you died of dysentery...