Oregon Trail may be considered a classic, but the original doesn’t exactly stand the test of time. Our nostalgic feelings for “The Trail” aren’t inspired by its riveting gameplay, but because it was the only game that we were allowed to play in school. Being the banker and shooting 20 buffalo is way more appealing than studying. Outside of school, an edutainment wagon simulation is about as exciting as it sounds.
Published by: Sparsevector
Genre: Adventure / Shooter
Platform: Xbox 360 (Xbox Live Indie Game)
What works: The over-the-top tone blends well with the familiarity of the original.
What doesn’t work: With limited variation and not enough polish, the potential for perfection feels squandered.
Well aware of the genre’s waning appeal, Sparsevector traded historical facts and dull story for lasers and ninjas, thus birthing Super Amazing Wagon Adventure. Featuring diverging paths, semi-random level generation, machine guns, rocket launchers, sex, drugs, zombies, and unicorns, SAWA plays like an Oregon Trail adventure as told by an imaginative, hyper-active 9 year old.
Like the original, there is no save feature, and when player-named members of the wagon party die, it’s permanent. Each single or twin stick shooter action sequence is intermittently spliced between text screens narrating the absurd storyline. While driving their wagons towards the Pacific Northwest through forests, mountains, deserts, and occasionally outer space, players unlock various playable, Smash TV style survival modes.
The graphical style of Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is not for everyone. Personally, I found the pre 8 bit era pixilation to be an apt fit. However, anyone that didn’t grow up playing cartridge-based video games may not agree. The sound effects and soundtrack of SAWA are also obviously retro, but thankfully not as dated as the visuals. Blasting laser cannons at a giant squid is just one of the many moments complimented by the unabashedly fun and catchy musical score.
The lasting appeal of this $1 Indie game is expectedly limited, but varies depending on the player. While the semi-randomly generated situations and humor may hold the average player’s interest for a few days, anal retentive players such as myself will continue playing SAWA in order to unlock various special wagons and earn stars in the survival modes. Either way, the entertainment value packed into Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is more than worth its price tag.
Super Amazing Wagon Adventure’s occasionally varied story does offer a unique laugh now and again, but the text screens often vanish too quickly, and the level sequences aren’t as random as they should be. Furthermore, the inclusion of multiplayer, achievements, or even an online leaderboard could greatly improve the game’s potential replayability.
SAWA’s Oregon Trail inspired retro look is cute, but restrictive. Games like 3D Dot Game Heroes, and Spelunky have proven that modern games can imitate everything we love about retro gaming while overcoming the technological hurdles faced by the developers of yesteryear. With all the fun the developers were able to cram into this $1 Indie title, I would gladly pay a few extra bucks for the same game with a slightly bigger budget and more polish.
As uniquely funny as it is comfortably familiar, Super Amazing Wagon Adventure tugs at all the right nostalgic hearts strings. Even if the term “Dysentery” doesn’t remind you of secretly playing video games during homeroom, the question of whether or not to buy SAWA is a no brainer. For the price of a small cup of coffee, or a silly hat for your Xbox Live avatar, this game can offer a few hours of entertainment. I highly recommend Super Amazing Wagon Adventure because every gamer should experience “The Trail” at least once, especially if they get to use a flame thrower.