Let’s look back to yet another retro game. The Oregon Trail is an educational adventure game of sorts that was released as far back as 1971, letting you get behind the reins of a wagon in the 19th century and must survive whatever is in the way in the frontier, which is actually quite difficult due to random events that ruin even the most well-laid of travel plans. The phrase “You have died of dysentery” has become a pop culture reference, and the game itself became an all-time classic. If you want to relive this magic, perhaps you can get a hold of some of the sequels and remakes, although they’re not really as good. There’s also this game though, which isn’t really the same thing but does have that same vibe, although in a more humorous way.
Super Amazing Wagon Adventure by Sparsevector is a game with a quirky name that is basically Oregon Trail parodied and turned into an arcade shooter. Gameplay has both sidescrolling and twin-stick segments, mixed in with random encounters and occurrences that are to be expected from a game that was inspired by The Oregon Trail. You start off with a crew of 3 people, each of them having their own life meter. The game is over when all three of them die, and they can be offed in various ways like getting shot by bandits and contracting disease. You have different wagons to choose from, those aside from the Starter being unlockable through various ways in the game.
The presentation does a whole lot to replicate the retro look, even featuring the scanlines and rounded edges that were common when gaming through CRT TV sets. Story and events are narrated through text screens like in a silent movie, shown in faux 8-bit font reminiscent of the Atari 2600 era. The music is unusually cheery and a bit obnoxious, which matches the festive title of the game and the retro concept as it keeps playing loud as you play. Everything is kept simple and rudimentary as old school games were back then, but that’s considering that this is a 2013 game.
Aside from the Adventure mode, you also get Survival mode that is all about lasting as long as possible, and Shuffle mode that is locked at first. The story that you go through is randomly generated, so no two games are exactly the same. In one game, you encounter a unicorn along the way, and one of your crew gets mumps in another. You will then encounter bandits sometime, and you better hope that you don’t meet up with ones that can actually aim. The variety of enemies you meet keeps the game uncertain as a lot of them can be quite unfair. Once they come for you, better start shooting them down before they hurt your crew.
There are no autosaves or checkpoints, just like a lot of games back in the old days, as well as games that follow the retro mold. Every playthrough ends when you make enough mistakes, and you have to start all over again. You are then armed with only the knowledge of what’s to come, which is not much since the events are mostly randomly generated. Playing this now, it’s a bit taxing as it is fun, so this is not for the easily frustrated. At least its sense of humor will keep you company, and it may even make you want to play the original Oregon Trail or one of its sequels. Once you unlock the other wagons and Shuffle mode, then you might just keep playing it for more than a week.
This is a really fun $3 game that puts a funny twist on a retro classic without making it boring at all. It’s one of those games that gamers can laugh at with their friends and still be able to play for a good period of time due to its difficulty and engaging gameplay, although it may put most gamers off with its “ancient” looks.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 7/10