The Oregon Trail (Apple Arcade Edition)
By Marc Saltzman,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Stellar (and more accurate) reboot of a simulation classic.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
The story is about survival, determination, and teamwork. Your goal: to make it to Oregon in the 1800s while handling all the challenges facing the people on the wagon who are in search of a better life. You must make life-or-death decisions along your journey.
Positive Role Models
Mostly positive male and female role models. They all want to survive the trek to the west, despite harrowing conditions. Some personality traits may be better than others (a few are "pessimistic," "egotistical," or "dimwitted"). Also, you may be asked if you want to steal from someone you encounter; there are possible repercussions for those actions. Good gender and racial representation. Unlike in previous versions of The Oregon Trail, this has much better (and more accurate) Native American representation than original game from the ‘80s. When game begins, players are informed that the developers, Gameloft, collaborated with indigenous peoples for "respectful representation."
Ease of Play
Gameplay isn't difficult to control. It's mostly tapping to select a decision. It doesn't require fast reflexes, but some hunting missions challenge you to move, aim, and fire (and with limited ammo). But the story and gameplay might be difficult for younger players to grasp.
Violence & Scariness
Includes some hunting sequences, where you will fire a rifle toward animals such as deer and bison, but this hunting is for food and pelts only. Characters may accidentally shoot themselves, too, while wagoning across the plains. Players may get sick, vomit, and die of various diseases.
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Products & Purchases
Latest version of The Oregon Trail, which has been released on multiple platforms over decades. But as this is an Apple Arcade title, there are no in-game ads or options to buy anything (including microtransactions).
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some references to consuming alcohol and smoking tobacco.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Oregon Trail is a downloadable simulation exclusively for Apple Arcade. This version of the title is a modern reboot of the 50-year-old pioneering simulation. There's more racial representation, including a better and more accurate depiction of Native American people, in this new version as well. Parents should be aware that players need to make several decisions, including moral and ethical ones (such as, Should you steal something if you want it?). There's sickness and death, but it’s not overly graphic (other than some vomiting). Players can also hunt animals for food and pelts, but it's not overly graphic and is done out of necessity instead of sport. A few dialogue references mention tobacco and alcohol.
Where to Play
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The Oregon Trail (Apple Arcade Edition)
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What’s It About?
It's back: The classic pioneering game, THE OREGON TRAIL, popularized on the Apple II in the '80s, is now playable on newer Apple devices. The Oregon Trail is a pioneering simulation that takes place in the 1800s. The single-player game challenges you to hand-pick a party of characters, load up your wagon, and travel from Independence, Michigan, to the Willamette Valley in Oregon, making tough decisions to stay healthy on your trek out west. As with the original game, you must survive bear attacks and snake bites, bandits and broken bones, inclement weather and seedy townsfolk. You'll choose supplies, move around (or discard) items in your wagon to make room, change up members of your traveling troupe, and take on side missions and the odd mini-game that can help or hinder your journey. But Gameloft also consulted with indigenous people to better (and more accurately) depict the Native American side to this story. The traveling party also has more racial representation. The game offers an unlockable journal to archive and view collected items, along with weekly challenges, global rankings (and the option to see your fallen friends' tombstones along your journey), and other extras outside of your main campaign.
Is It Any Good?
Whether you're a longtime fan of this challenging simulation or you're new to the franchise, this is a real treat, and a refreshingly different kind of game than what's found on Apple Arcade. While the slow-ish pace and dialogue-heavy gameplay won't be thrilling for all players -- especially younger gamers who prefer fast action (or might not appreciate the historical relevance) -- this version of The Oregon Trail is just great. Similar to its predecessors, the game has you make several decisions on your journey to the west, but this version offers more depth in its characters (each with their own strengths and weaknesses), greater diversity, and deeper dialogue sequences that help you stay engaged in the campaign. Since you know your decisions will affect the storyline, you'll take care every step of the way. Should you swap pelts for supplies to fix a broken wheel? Will you pay a ferry operator to cross a waterway, or ford the river instead? (Water and wagon conditions play a role here too, along with river depth and width.) Will you take a chance to eat berries if you're starving and out of ammunition for hunting? You get the idea. In fact, the game boasts randomly generated events that affect the choices you need to make (and their outcomes) across the 12 main playable journeys.
Visually, the game doesn't mess with the side-scrolling look of its predecessors, but it has a pleasant mix of pixel art characters, 3D environments (and cutscene sequences), attractive lighting effects (including sun flares), and varying weather conditions. The melancholy music and sound effects are top-notch, which also adds to the immersion. There isn't much to complain about -- it could very well be the best version of the half-a-century-old classic -- but some may find the pioneering life simulation a slow one. And there's some repetition across the various journeys. But for those willing to invest the energy, they'll no doubt fall for its charm, attention to detail, and depth.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the historical accuracy of The Oregon Trail. Do you find this game to be an accurate look at the trials and tribulations of pioneering life in the 1800s? Why, or why not? Is there something odd in playing something for fun that re-creates the hardships people went through in real life?
The original Oregon Trail game depicted a band of brave White settlers venturing out west, and indigenous people were seen as enemies. Does the new game portray indigenous people more accurately -- as people invaded by Europeans? Does the game not vilify Native Americans, or does it not address the conflict at all?
Are there consequences for your decisions? What happens if you decide not to administer medicine to someone who is sick? Or choose to haggle with a person during a trade?
- Platform: Apple Arcade
- Pricing structure: Free
- Available online?: Available online
- Publisher: Gameloft
- Release date: April 8, 2021
- Genre: Simulation
- Topics: Adventures, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, History, Wild Animals
- ESRB rating: NR for No Descriptions
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: May 19, 2021
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