Do you remember back when 8-bit graphics were considered high-quality graphics? No, me neither… I was born in age where 2D graphics were only used on handhelds and if you weren’t 3D you were old and out of date, but nowadays we are seeing a resurgence of classical bit-based graphics. So join me today as I explore a couple of games that stay far away from the uncanny valley as we have fun with pixels.
To start off our voyage I have two games for you inspired by the computer-age classic The Oregon Trail. Now for those of you who don’t know, The Oregon Trail was a learning game originally released in 1971 to teach kids about the hardships of the real Oregon Trail. The game was notoriously difficult and featured somewhat random events that would occasionally appear along a set path (the one from Independence, Missouri to Oregon). Today the game remains the subject of countless memes and tongue-in-cheek references, and though many remakes and adaptations have been made, none have lived up to the original’s popularity or genius. The games I have to show you don’t try to copy The Oregon Trail in its entirety to create something resembling the original; instead they poke fun at the original in very different ways that create these really interesting fast-paced PC games.
Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is essentially The Oregon Trail on a cocktail of different drugs. Both games start off the same, with a wagon heading west to Oregon on essentially linear paths, but the events that make up the main bulk of the games are very different. Super Amazing Wagon Adventure begins by letting you customize a party of three (I recommend making yourself and two friends) and then choosing your wagon, because what would a “Wagon Adventure” be without a wagon. Then your journey begins. You start off in a forest with the ability to move around and shoot, and that’s all that you ever really do, you just move from one stage to another. The game is made up of numerous mini stages with a single focus like shooting animals to hunt or collecting berries or avoiding boulders. Now this may seem pretty boring and unfantastic, and in most respects you’d be right, but Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is just filled to the brim with secrets and surprises, from coming across a herd of zombies to jumping so high you end up in space or fighting pirates or chasing unicorns or being overwhelmed by so many buffalo that you are trampled to death in a matter of seconds. There’s no telling what is coming up, leaving every playthrough different and original. The games are not at all long or drawn out (mostly because it is so easy to die), and you’ll keep playing to unlock new wagons and discover the many hidden levels in the game. The game has a few catchy songs (though they can get a little repetitive at times). On top of the old-school graphics there is an interesting screen effect that makes the screen look more like an old gaming cabinet or an older television set. Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is a single player game for Windows operating systems. The game can be played with just a keyboard, though the game does have controller support. Using a controller does not make the game that much easier, you really only need four directional movement to get by. Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is available for $2.99 on Steam, for this price you should have no problem buying this game. This game has a lot of fun to offer. Super Amazing Wagon Adventure gets a (4/5) on my 3F Scale for its cheap price and replayability, it stays just shy of a 5 due to the fact that it is only available on Windows.
The next game on my list takes The Oregon Trail and adds to it zombies. Need I say any more? In The Organ Trail you play as a group of survivors who journey to Oregon from the East Coast, searching for salvation from zombies and nuclear fallout. The gameplay is more reminiscent to the original Oregon Trail where you venture between a group of different cities and landmarks, managing supplies, and fighting off zombies. Beyond this there are a few little minigames where you can earn supplies by shooting bandits and scavenging for food, but beyond that there’s not a lot more. There are occasional surprise events, but not very many and beyond your first playthrough there’s not really enough variety to keep you coming back. Still Organ Trail has a certain charm to it, often basing its images off of classic zombie movies. Organ Trail costs $4.99 on Steam, which I think may be just a little too much for this game. For all that this game is, it just doesn’t have enough to keep you coming back for additional playthroughs. Organ Trail gets a (4/5) on my 3F Scale because of its relatively low price and the fact that it should work on almost all computers. Due to this games low replayability it stays just below a five.
Now let’s switch it up with DLC Quest, a satire on the nature of DLC in the gaming market. DLC Quest is a game where you can do nothing without buying DLC. When you begin there is no animation, no music, no pausing, no jumping, and no moving left. You progress through the game by collecting in game currency to purchase DLC to allow you to progress. The game is full of this really thick satiric humor that mocks countless other games. The game is divided into two short story modes: the original “DLC Quest” and the newer “Live Freemium or Die.” These games provide a few hours of gameplay and a very unique story for $2.99 on Steam. DLC Quest gets a (3.5/5) on my 3F Scale because it is very affordable and it should work on most computers. It loses points because it does not provide very many hours of play and not very much replayability.
Finally we have a game that just needs to be seen to be believed. It is a game that words cannot properly express, a game about a man and a bomb and the romance that occurs between them… Wait, let me try that again. It’s a game about a master craftsman whose job it is to save the world against those who would vow to destroy it… No, let me do that one more time. McPixel is a point & click adventure game where you play as a ginger everyman whose job it is to disarm bombs with his own incompetence! You play as McPixel, a man with an orange mullet who wanders around the world finding and disarming bombs to save the day. Now I said that this game is a point & click adventure, well that may not be entirely true… Normal point and click adventure games give you a full range of expression to explore the world and solve problems in a nice, leisurely manner. McPixel does not have any of this and it is amazing. McPixel gives you 20 seconds to save the world by clicking randomly in the hopes that you stumble upon the correct solution to each problem in the most hilarious ways possible. McPixel makes it fun to play levels again and again searching for every single way to fail as well as succeed. All throughout your exploits you will be followed by an assortment of short and catchy chiptune songs. Each level is unique and filled to the brim with surprises and pop culture references galore. McPixel is just one of those games that you need to experience to believe which is why I am giving it a (4.5/5) on my 3F Scale. McPixel is available for Windows and Mac and costs $4.99 on Steam, so please do yourself a favor and give this game a look.
Now like all things pixels have a light and dark side. While today we took a look at some of the happier games in this genre (except for maybe the zombie thing), there exists other games, games filled with violence and danger aplenty. Look forward to next week when we take a look at the dark side of pixelated games and, as always, keep gaming!
Note: My 3F Scale is a way of comparing games based on three factors: cost, how well it should run on most computers, and how fun they are. Because of this a good game may have a lower score just because it costs more and only works on higher end computers. The reverse is also true, meaning that a bad game can have a higher score if it is cheap and works on most computers.