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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Thule Trail is a remake of The Oregon Trail set in the present day, with an automobile replacing the wagon as your main mode of transport. Players must make a number of decisions during the course of the two thousand mile journey from Chicago to Santa Barbara as they attempt to guide a group of road travelers to the Atlantis Music Festival safely.

There are several mini games disguised as competitions in which cash prizes can be won if you happen find yourself a little short on cash for supplies. A good score can be acquired by keeping your passengers happy, though having some spare greens in your pockets would contribute just as much. [source: The Artful Gamer]

Name: Thule Trail
Developer: Thule
Category: Adventure
Type: Browser
Anonymous Anonymous said at 12/15/2007 07:07:00 AM:  
It won't let me type out any numbers whatsoever. :(
Anonymous Anonymous said at 12/15/2007 07:19:00 AM:  
Anonymous Anonymous said at 12/15/2007 07:19:00 AM:  
I use Firefox.

And I've already done. Repeatedly.
Anonymous Anonymous said at 12/15/2007 09:57:00 AM:  
It's weird because the Space bar works just dandy. :(
Blogger Tim said at 12/15/2007 10:02:00 AM:  
Press Num Lock and try again - else use the numeric keys at the top of your keyboard (just underneath the function keys F1 - F12) instead of the numeric keypad.
Anonymous Anonymous said at 12/15/2007 11:51:00 AM:  
Works fine here. It's far tougher than The Oregon Trail though. Got game over when crossing a flood, while in The Oregon Trail, it always works (but with a few minor adjustments to the cart. Just barging into it without them gets you killed there too, but you didn't have the adjustments option here, so I assumed it was in it :P )
Anonymous Anonymous said at 12/15/2007 12:14:00 PM:  
Ahhh, nevermind that. Figured it out. The game mechanics are that bit different :D
Anonymous Anonymous said at 12/15/2007 02:29:00 PM:  
Oh boy. Now this is a remake or rather reimagination of a game I've been waiting for for a long time because I'm a huge fan of the original and also think it's one of very few games that went down the educational road yet still managed to be entertaining. Unfortunately I am not exactly impressed by Thule trail after I finished playing through it for the fifth time now.

Not being opposed to the "road trip to festival" idea of Thule Trail in general, but in my opinion this could have been fleshed out a lot more, only serving as a barebones backdrop for a pretty failproof gameplay, which is the first of quite some shortcomings it bears compared to its spiritual predecessor.

The second is the simple fact that it's way too easy. You can arrive at the location of the festival as early as on the morning of the 16th - meaning you can complete the game as early as after only half of the time you are alotted. Funny thing about this is you actually get PUNISHED for arriving too early and get fined a hefty 500 points for this. And no, I did in no way do a grinding of the game, I always took the safe and longer way if running into one of those floods, snowstorms, landfalls and such. One consequence I took out of this was to just waste away the last three days in the second to last town by sleeping for 60 hours in my later attempts. Which despite sounding funny is actually quite sad.

As three's a crowd, let's focus on the danger events as the third problem with Thule Trail. You can die if you make the wrong decision AND get unlucky like Kon-Tiki if faced with the very sparsely triggered natural disasters, but frankly it would be illogical to even think about doing this since it only takes two or three hours to sit them out and you've get as much as THREE DAYS worth of time to burn.

I can't really say much positive about the minigames either, as the non-interactive ones are purely based on luck (My personal record is one victory and one second place for eight of them I participated in. Fortuna obviously hates me.) and the "races" are so much alike and so incredibly much lacking in challenge for any somewhat seasoned player it makes bullet curtain games seem like uber tough abominations only genetically engineered superhuman Japanese hardcore players could ever hope to beat. (Or "it makes saying they are anything but easy like saying Kartia and Hoshigami had simple game mechanics" to resort to an even more obscure comparison supposedly no one will get as they don't have the slightest idea what the hell these games are I am talking about, heh.) I.e. even I was able to beat all three races on the very first try in about 25-30 seconds max out of the 58-62 seconds you get and I don't consider myself an elitist super player. At all.

Ultimately killing the joy of playing this game though is the biggest joy factor in the original Oregon Trail which by some bizarre twist of fate ended up being the most boring thing in Thule Trail: events, whether they are random or not. In OT you had to face many critical situations, could take different routes and were able to make crucial decisions. In TT this all boils down to superficialty as not one single event possesses any redeeming quality to speak of. There's the minigames which serve no particular purpose apart from being a thirty second distraction for getting some cash in. There's a bunch of typical "+X things, -Y things" scenes. There's dozens of meaningless events on the road which don't appear to influence anything in the game. There's the Hitchhikers of which only one has something halfway worthwhile to offer - which in reality is nothing more but a shortcut which allows you to save two hours of driving so you can spend two more hours waiting for the 19th. I'm flustered by this mind-boggling amount of meaninglessness.

What really annoyed me were two of the random events that immediately hurt your score *really bad* if you get unlucky enough to run into them. One involves some dude stealing all your CDs which results in a significant drop of your crew's morale which you won't be able to counteract without sacrificing a lot of money which in turn hurts your score even more and the other one is the clichè Las Vegas marriage ultimately costing you one crew member - making it the game's way of saying "'tis a pity. There goes your highscore." as there is NO WAY IN HELL you'd be able to cope with losing 500 points if you aim for anything above 4000 points. Which reminds me, I really wonder how those guys in the top ten got such high scores. I never could get more than 4700-4900 points myself, all while grabbing what I believe to be the highest possible bonus points for slacker, sedan, winning all minigames, arriving on time and having the crew all ecstatic from start to finish. Probably had more luck with the dice than I had, eh?

All in all the things I liked the most about TT are the stunningly pixeled art able to deliver a really neat retro feeling and the equally well crafted ultra low-fi sound bleeps reminiscent of the oldest video games of yore. Gameplay was halfway well made (Can't really do a OT remake that wrong, can you?) too but not able to fulfill my expectations due to it lacking massively in several important areas like challenge, diversity, background and replaybility. I didn't expect it to be a worthy successor to Oregon Trail or anything close to that, rather an interesting game in the vein of Oregon Trail and as things stand it even fails in this regard.

Sorry for getting a bit long-winded and basically providing half of a write-up instead of a short commentary, but I felt that I might as well take a few minutes to put down my thoughts after having played the game for nearly two hours. You can always scroll past it. ;)

Also I didn't have any kind of problems getting the game to run and work flawlessly but I fathom that's not saying much seeing how I'm using some seriously outdated version of Seamonkey.
Anonymous Anonymous said at 12/15/2007 02:53:00 PM:  
Worst things for me were:
1) The lack of regular way of making cash (like selling some of your equipment, or hunting for food and selling that)

2) The hunting for food. In Oregon Trail, the game was plenty and it was all up to your aim. In here, there's 2 or 3 things popping up, 4 to 5 if you're lucky, but they usually come into the screen for a second, bounce against a bush and go back. Hunting for food is a waste of time due to this.

3) As Random said, the lack of random events. There are alot of them, but they don't involve any choices or so. It's more like one of the passengers' legs falling asleep or so.

4) The mini games (the races) are too easy to miss the goal in. I've finished them all on my first run, got 1st place. Second try, I lost them all, due to missing the finish. Some more indicators of how the course goes would be nice, instead of having a feeling that you just have to go from one end to the other, then seeing you had to arrive at a specific spot once you can't turn back anymore.

What's good:

1) The graphics are superb. They bring the spirit of games from 1980 back to life.

2) The music. Same reason as the graphics.

3) The humour. The game's pretty funny from time to time.

4) The idea of mini games, as they give a bit of a distraction now and then, but are entirely optional.
Anonymous Anonymous said at 12/15/2007 03:28:00 PM:  
Haha, right. Absolutely forgot to mention the hunting which is very disappointing as well. I did try it a few times in my first game, thought the idea of actually hunting hamburgers and coke was hilarious, but quickly felt bewildered by their annoying tendency to appear almost exclusively behind rocks or bushes where one couldn't reach them and as a result didn't bother ever after.

As for the races, there are some indicators of where the finish is located although I'd tend to agree the race design as a whole is a bit subpar anyway. You just need to go straight in one direction for a while and you'll come across some flagposts which are placed along the track in a straight line on either side with the finish being inbetween. Kind of like some oversized slalom.
Blogger miyamoto-SAN said at 12/15/2007 10:11:00 PM:  
I played Kartia, it's one of my favorite games. I found it too easy rather than complicated though, but I like it because of the story and the portrait art.

This Thule game is also okay; it's not as great as the original Oregon trail but it's a nice homage, even if it's too easy and (more importantly for me) the random events it uses are kind of arbitrary and pointless and not as funny as they tried to be, whereas the random events in the Oregon Trail were at least historically interesting. But I had fun with it.
Blogger miyamoto-SAN said at 12/15/2007 10:16:00 PM:  
Also, "I'm flustered by this mind-boggling amount of meaninglessness." is great line, and I agree. It's like the game takes itself so unseriously that it's too serious about its own unseriousness.
Anonymous Anonymous said at 12/20/2007 07:15:00 PM:  
Dude... You wrote way too much for a silly Flash-based remake to a very old game. Why waste your time on a "review" nobody is ever going to read? Heck, I didn't even read it all.

Anyway, I had no problems with the hunting, and I actually beat the game rather easily without buying any food and just stopping every once in a while to hunt. A lot like Oregon Trail, really.
Blogger miyamoto-SAN said at 12/20/2007 10:34:00 PM:  
A lot of the time reviews are written for ourselves; I enjoyed his review too.