After a successful port to the iOS last year by Gameloft, the eponymously named The Oregon Trail of edutainment fame has made the move to Facebook. Blue Fang Games, in conjunction with Houghton Mifflin, has created a version that is astonishingly faithful to the beloved PC title — which, as we’ll explore below, is not necessarily for the best.
Beloved or not, the move to Facebook should require some change in accordance with the needs of the platform; this was achieved quite successfully with the mobile version. As a PC title, the game required that the player watch the screen for long periods of time waiting for tragedy to befall the party as it traveled along dusty trails. The majority of decisions were made during these moments. Sitting and watching has not changed with the port to Facebook. No travel occurs when the player is not watching the game. What’s more, watching is important, as the player earns the majority of in-game currency by clicking on gold piles at regular intervals.
Players still purchase increasingly expensive and rare supplies during the journey. Decisions as to which direction to take must be made, though many of these are blocked until reaching higher levels unless the player wishes to spend a significant amount of paid currency. Most items are restricted by level but can be unlocked with the paid currency; the items then require purchase with in-game gold. Were it not for the sheer impossibility of traveling the trail at lower levels, this might not frustrate.
Friends serve little purpose at this point in development. There are a few unlock options that require the player to post to the wall and receive friends to “help” unlock. But if the player is waiting to play, the lack of immediate feedback will result in spending yet more paid currency or closing the game to wait.
Rather than batter the design further, we’ll simply state that a faithful PC translation does nottranslate well to a social network. But then, it shouldn’t. The PC version never had the requirements of monetization or social networking. No matter the memories associated with the IP, it should have been built with the platform in mind first.