Make way, make way, awesome zombie game coming through. You can stick your Dead Island, stuff your Dying Light and you can blow the brains out of The Walking Dead. Organ Trail Complete Edition is here and it’s so damn fun you’ll wish for a real zombie apocalypse. Road trip!
Zombies have attacked and America is left tattered and ravaged. You and your small party of friends must travel all the way across the country, East to West, chasing rumours of a cure. You must survive. Organ Trail is a tactical resource management game more than anything. Decisions and stats are what will either keep you alive or get your face eaten off. At the beginning of the game you must choose a character, a vehicle and a party of pretend friends. You’ll meet a hardened survivalist named Clements who will show you the ropes and get you started with some initial supplies which you may choose for yourself. This is the only handout you’re getting, so be grateful and sensible. Ammo, fuel, food, medkits, money, car parts – how much you take of each is just the beginning of the sort of strategy you will need to make it all the way across the USA.
Key in the ignition, off you go. You can choose your route on a handy map. The different roads have differing levels of difficulty. The map will give you handy info such as how many miles long each route is, how much in the way of supplies you’re likely to find and whether or not you’re in danger from radiation. Click Embark when you’re ready to go and your clapped out Station Wagon will begin the journey. Along the way, you will encounter various automatic events. You may stumble upon some food, your idiot navigator may have the map upside down and the journey will take longer than expected or you may catch a nasty disease. If you’re very lucky a multiple-choice event will pop up and you’ll need to make decisions to keep yourself alive, obtain more supplies or decide whether or not to kill someone who may or may not be harmless.
Once you’ve reached your destination, which may be a city, town or somewhere smaller, you’ll have a chance to think out your next move. You need to make sure you have enough food and fuel for the next part of your journey. Your friends may need to rest or heal. You can buy, sell, trade or take on jobs. Visit the auto shop to buy car parts or pay for repairs. Your trundling bucket of rust will require a great deal of maintenance and repairs are expensive, but luckily you do have another option. You can go outside with your gun of choice and scavenge for supplies including scrap which will allow you to attempt a repair yourself.
Scavenging falls under the ‘action’ part of the game. Wander around a single screen dodging and shooting the undead and pick up money, food and scrap as it appears. There is a very strict time limit to how long you’re allowed out to do this at any one time, and thank goodness for that, because the screen will quickly fill up with more Walkers than you can shoot with your very dodgy aim. You’re also competing with other scavengers. If you’re lucky, they’ll get eaten or you’ll beat them to the pile of scrap. If you’re unlucky, they’ll steal your goodies. Shoot the cheeky scoundrels in the back of the head before they get the chance, that’s my advice. If you’re touched by a zombie before the time runs out, you’ll take damage and return back to the town. If you survive you’ll return undamaged. You can scavenge as much as your ammo and medkits will allow.
While you’re parked up, you can talk to strangers to glean advice or buy combat training to make your scavenging activities a little easier. You can also rest to heal your party members. They’ll take damage simply through tiredness but also illness and accidents. Worst case scenario, someone gets bitten and infected. You can still keep them in your party but if they die, they’ll turn. While you’re stopped, you have the option to kill them, and unfortunately you may have no other choice.
When you’re ready, leave town, choose your next route and repeat. Sounds easy, but it’s all a balancing act. Travelling costs fuel and tires you out, resting costs food, food costs money, scavenging may cost health which may need medkits which will cost more money. Repairs to your car are expensive and fixing it up yourself requires scrap and good timing and luck. As you would expect, money doesn’t come easily and at some point something will give and that’s when you find yourself on the bitey end of a deadly zombie attack. Things have a habit of deteriorating very quickly. You’ll break down in the middle of the road, no medkits, and be forced to scavenge for scrap to fix your old heap. You’ll nearly kill yourself in the process and then totally mess up the repairs and have to go out for one final scavenge…
Oh it’s so much fun. Organ Trail is an incredible little game and possibly one of the most addictive I’ve played this year. Its graphics are genuinely old school retro. It’s more Nidhogg than The Escapists. Even the gameplay at times feels superbly old and imprecise. The aiming is iffy and awkward, movement is sluggish and the zombies damage you without touching you. I don’t mean to sound like an old granny but it really takes me back to the good old days of gloriously vague game mechanics. Don’t take any of that as disparagement, because as hard as I try, I just cannot criticise this game with a straight face. It’s brilliant, in every single way.
Plan your journey across the United States with care, balance your supplies and try not to let your friends snuff it in the back of your Station Wagon. Great advice for holiday makers and survivors of the zombie apocalypse. Brimming with humour and bursting with fun gameplay, Organ Trail Complete Edition is one of the most addictive games ever to grace the PS4. Who knew zombie resource management could be so merry.
S J Hollis Rating – 9/10