The Oregon Trail
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Oregon Trail is an educational simulation game about what it was like to be a pioneer traveling west in the 1800s. It includes in-app purchases that are required to get the most out of the game. You join a historic wagon train traveling westward from Missouri to Oregon and make all the decisions during the trip, including when to rest, what route to take, and what supplies to bring. In the process of traveling across the country, you can talk to characters and play eight fun mini-games that make great use of the device's touch screen and its motion sensors. This app is based on the classic PC simulation game The Oregon Trail, which was popular in classrooms from the 1970s to the present. It has a mini-game about hunting game for food where you shoot cute animals by tapping them with your finger. When you hit them, they jump up and then are replaced with a drumstick. There is no blood shown. Characters can die in the game, including members of your family.
What kids can learn
- cultural understanding
Thinking & Reasoning
- developing resilience
Responsibility & Ethics
- learning from consequences
Engagement, Approach, Support
A highly polished simulation game that's easy to play, a delight to look at, and offers hours of engrossing gameplay. Eight mini-games help keep gameplay fresh.
Role-play actively engages kids, and adaptive gameplay shows them the consequences of their choices. Some of the learning is layered on top, and the game lacks a diversity of perspectives on historical events.
Tips and guidance are all in text, making gameplay less accessible to some kids. The official game website can give ideas on connecting gameplay to curriculum goals.
What's it about?
Kids playing The Oregon Trail guide a wagon trail of settlers west across the American frontier by tapping the screen to interact with buttons and menus. Kids respond to random events such as sick family members, manage supplies and money, and decide how fast to go and which routes to take. Decisions have permanent consequences that affect whether the wagon train makes it to Oregon. Players “win” if the settlers complete the journey.
Is it any good?
The Oregon Trail is a highly polished simulation game that's easy to play, a delight to look at, and offers hours of gameplay. The game's submenus drop down from the top of the screen, allowing kids to make decisions easily. Interesting characters to talk fill this world and some are famous including a young Custer and Samuel Morse. Many of these characters offer you extra quests. The integration of the eight mini-games also helps to keep the gameplay fresh. Some involve timing your touches to do something like hammering a nail to fix the wagon or shooting an animal. While others involve rotating the device to use the accelerometer to accomplish things like panning for gold.
The biggest disappointment about The Oregon Trail is the addition of in-app purchases. It feels particularly greedy because it's difficult to be competitive without making a purchase -- it doesn't truly feel optional. Other than that, The Oregon Trail is a great way to bring history alive; and it offers a lot of depth, clocking in at two to three hours per game.
Families can talk about...
Steer kids toward other media (such as art, books, and movies) exploring the American westward expansion.
Tour a historical museum or, if you live near one, a local pioneer village.