Image via WikipediaOregon Trail is back with a new variation... the Gold Rush. People are going west to California for gold, and you're taking the overland route. How will you pace yourself, and what will you do along the way, so that your family (or as much of it as you can) survive the trip? How will you handle food shortage, wagon breakdown, emergencies, and so on? And how will you fare in the minigames? This game is both educational and entertaining, but in the end, doesn't feel that different from the original "Oregon Trail".
The game has you start with your wagon, two oxens, and your family (you, your wife, and 3 children, and you can name each). You can choose a profession which gives bonuses (farmer: eats less, carpenter: can repair wagon, banker: more $$$). Then you need to pick the route. There are advantages and disadvantages to each route segment. Some routes are shorter, but harder to climb, while others are longer but relatively flat. Your food is limited, and so dawdling is not an option. On the other hand, the faster you push, the more tired you are, and more prone to accidents and diseases, and the faster your wagon condition deteriorates. So it is a matter of finding the balance between max speed dash vs. slow walk, and different time calls for different speeds.
Every once in a while you reach a fort, where you can purchase more food, or repair the wagon, for a price. The further out you go, the more expensive the item. There are also occasionally other items you can purchase and deliver for bonus money, as well as items you can purchase for your family that provides special bonuses. For example, moccasins, when purchased, makes your family less prone to injury and disease.
HINT: buy and keep at least one first aid kit. It's the only way to treat injuries, and if left untreated, that person DIES when the timer expires. Buy them early as they get more expensive the further out you go.
HINT: if you're a carpenter, you can repair wagon yourself, so no need to buy repairs ANYWHERE. The problem is you will need a few days to find the wood and make the parts, and that you may not have.
HINT: NEVER pass up any chance for food. Shoot buffaloes, shoot squirrels, cut up a dead buffalo... whatever it takes. Get more food. Fill up food at every fort.
Along the way on the route, you'll encounter many special events, some good, some bad, some just unknown. You can play the gold panning minigame for some bonus cash, the hunting game for extra food, and many other minigames as you encounter them. Some are quite hard even on easy level, and they harder as you get closer to California. There are other events such as luggage found, thieves ransack your wagon, and so on.
There is even a few bits on "luck". Depending on your luck, you may or may not want to do the stuff that depends on random chance, such as "open the box". You're told your luck changes depending on the signs you saw alon the way. A Cow skull is bad, an eagle is good, and so on.
There are also "quests" where you are asked to obtain a specific item (costs $$$) and deliver it to another location to a specific person for $$$ bonus.
All in all, OT:GR is a fine alternate to the original Oregon Trail. It is not too hard, and it is not easy either. If you like historical games, give this a try.
Overall rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: historical game that's part education, part entertainment, simple requirements, simple mechanics
Cons: MOTS -- more of the same, almost like a mod pack for the original Oregon Trail instead of a new game, minigames are hard
Verdict: If you need to learn about the Gold Rush, this ain't a bad way to give it a try