In which the black ox with the blue star out of Super Ox Wars recommends some of the games we actually play when we’re not busy developing.
This week I thought it’d be nice to mention one of my favourite ox-related iOS games (not that that is a huge category by any means, although with each game we release we are doing our best to rectify that).
Some games set out to do rather more than merely keep us entertained with thumb-twiddling and hi-scoring. Some games set their sights a little higher than that and attempt to educate us as well. One such game will be familiar to many a North American schoolkid who grew up in the 80s and 90s: a game called The Oregon Trail.
The game was very popular on the Apple II and was ported to a bunch of 8-bit systems popular in the US. It’s basically a resource management game intended to teach kids about the fun of managing resources (doubtless preparing them to enjoy stat-oriented RPGs and filling in tax returns later in life) whilst also teaching a historical lesson about the migration of people across the US under arduous conditions at some point in their history (as I am not a North American ox I never actually played this and so I’m not educated about where or why the actual migration took place. I just know it had oxen in).
This screenshot appears to come from a slightly posher version than the Apple II version shown before. Maybe it’s from the Apple II GS or something. Note that the ox has been upgraded and now has coloured, more shapely horns, spots, and even an eye.
You had to buy a bunch of supplies, outfit your wagon with nice oxen, and set out on your journey. Along the way you would meet various hazards and have to make key decisions. You could cross rivers which was more risky or take the longer way round which would take longer and use up supplies – you get the idea, we’ve all played these kind of games, and to be honest they can be a bit tedious. But I suppose if you’re at school being allowed or positively encouraged to play games on the computer is always a good thing even if the games are a bit po-faced. And at least it had oxen in (we’ll try not to think about how mismanagement of your resources can negatively impact ox well-being in the game). Lots of British schoolkids have rosy memories of a game called Granny’s Garden for much the same reason (but that has less oxen in. I think. I’ve never actually played it but I’ve never heard oxen mentioned. There might be a cow, I’m not sure. But anyway.)
There’s been an iOS remake of The Oregon Trail quite recently, in fact:
Just look at those posh, modern, go-faster oxen, all slanty and urgent and with sweeping horns.
However that is not the game I am recommending here, sleek modern oxen or no.
Now there’s this chap called Justin Smith and he is plainly daft as a brush. Not daft as in stupid, because he’s plainly not that; I mean daft as in Monty Python, as in very silly indeed, and he makes some delightfully silly games. After all you have to be pretty silly to take a po-faced game like the Oregon Trail and mash it up with the likes of Excite Bike (or Kikstart, if you’d prefer a more British comparison with your cup of tea). But that’s what he did, and the results are wonderfully, gloriously daft.
The game is called So Long, Oregon and in some ways it is really quite similar to the Oregon Trail, in that it does involve a degree of resource management. The objective is to take your wagon and your family and your precious oxen (who can’t actually be harmed in this game, although they can be made to grunt a lot) and set out to find El Dorado. You have a certain amount of food and various misfortunes can befall your family members along the way and you must make key decisions that can affect their fate.
Unlike in the Oregon Trail, which was just a turn-based predominantly text-based thing, in So Long, Oregon you get to drive your wagon in realtime across a scrolling terrain. You can shoot stuff too and gather the meat for your supplies. Oh, and there’s physics; completely ridiculous physics with lunar gravity.
Here rather than fording the North Saskatchewan River we’ve taken a runup at a particularly pointy mountain in order to jump over it. You’ll have to be careful landing that wagon so as not to get caught in that tricky crevice there. One family member is dead and another’s pretty poorly. The chap on a horse is a robber and if you don’t shoot him he’s likely to steal some of your stuff.
The controls are simple (and onscreen buttons are permissible here because they really don’t get in the way of anything as you play) – just “Go Faster, Oxen” and “Slow Down, Oxen” really. Whilst airborne (and you will be airborne, lots) you can use them to adjust your angle in-flight to set up for a good landing. You can also tap anywhere onscreen to fire a shot from your wagon.
Here we’ve arrived at Fort Laramie. Hooray! Unfortunately we’ve arrived upside down.
You’ll pass forts and encampments along the way where you can trade for supplies, heal sick family members and such. You may get the odd nasty surprise at these too, so you can elect to just move on by (or fly clean over whilst doing a 360 if you prefer) if your status is good. Your objective is to go as far to the left as you can and discover El Dorado. Should you achieve that then you load up your wagon with loot and set off to make your way back home. Backwards.
Now the graphics may not be ultra modern and the game may be a bit silly and the controls may take a bit of getting used to but that doesn’t really matter because it’s just funny to play. I found myself sniggering out loud quite a few times while I was playing and I tend to prefer games that don’t take themselves too seriously anyway. This game is just a proper laugh.
There’s a mode where you race as fast as you can go against 19 other wagons. It’s completely bonkers.
And for all its daftness So Long Oregon does contain an actual game that’s challenging to play, and you’ll find yourself coming back to it until you’ve successfully got yourself back home again, and then coming back again to try to do it without actually killing most of your dudes and to try to get a decent score.
You can get this daft masterpiece at the following link:
And I note from that website that it’s also out on Android too by the looks of it. Jolly good.
If like me you enjoy Justin’s style then you should probably take a look at his other games – Justin Smith’s Realistic Summer Sports Simulator is a perfect antidote to all the Olympics bollocks and wankery that is in such full speight right now, and actually made beer come out of my nose when I first played it down the pub. And I’m not even going to attempt to describe Enviro-Bear 2010.
Despite finding this I didn’t come across Parintins.
(Ox- and grunt-related factoid: in the Minotaur Project games all the minotaur grunts are in fact the ox grunts from So Long Oregon. I asked Justin and he kindly let me use his ox grunts).