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The Oregon Trail holds a mythical status with many gamers, but not because it's a particularly enthralling or well-designed game; much like the historical route itself, getting to the end with your family intact is something of a minor miracle. For many of us who encountered it in grade school computer labs growing up, it was the first game that made learning fun. It also introduced us to typhoid and dysentery. Gameloft revived the 40-year-old adventure on iPhone a couple years back, and now it's available in a new iPad-optimized release.
While more visually vibrant than the popular 80s/90s versions of yore, The Oregon Trail is much as you remember: with family in tow, you'll guide your wagon out West in search of a better life, though the path is fraught with danger. Broken limbs, exhaustion, starvation, and myriad diseases can slow and derail the journey, which spans several in-game months – or a couple hours in real time. Beyond buying and using supplies, interacting with fellow travelers (like Abraham Lincoln), and dealing with random ailments, you'll also hunt, fish, and pick berries in quick-hit minigames.
Though lightly strategic actions are needed to arrive in Oregon intact, the game is still simple enough for kids. Adults are likely seeking nostalgic fulfillment, which is amply provided. We don't recall the past versions being so heavily focused on microtransactions, however; and if you don't spend real-life money on in-game cash or coins, you may miss out on some extraneous features and abilities. With some fuzzy text and graphics – not to mention ads in a paid app – The Oregon Trail hasn't exactly been overhauled to shine on the iPad screen. Still, it's only a buck for a decent edutainment flashback.
Compared to the sprawling descriptions of most App Store listings, the one for Hypership Out of Control is a mere three sentences. It's as much a testament to the developer's need for some promotional enthusiasm as it is the fact that this speedy shooter doesn't throw a lot of buzzwords or play modes in your face. It does one thing, but it does that singular task well on both iPad and iPhone – and the end result plays like a vertically scrolling take on Canabalt.
Hypership Out of Control’s premise is that the titular spaceship has malfunctioned and cannot stop, so it's up to you to stay alive as long as possible through a maze of asteroids, enemies, and winding blocks. As far as we can tell, there's no safe destination at the end – just an explosion, a high score, and the likely motivation to do it all again. Each attempt through the preset path starts at a manageable pace, but as space rocks and collectable coins start zipping by, you'll need quick reflexes to avoid being pulverized against the pixel-centric backdrops.
Though the route never seems to change (aside from a "reverse" option), you can tackle a one-life Hardcore variation, enable a Superspeed modifier, and also take on a Coindown mode that forces you to nab coins to stay alive. Much as tilt controls would have fit the ship-steering premise here, the game relies solely on touch controls – which is probably for the best, considering how fast the screen scrolls after a couple minutes of play. It moves so quickly that we actually felt a touch of motion sickness staring at the large iPad screen; and despite all that, we still quite liked the game. Call that a victory.
Oct 15, 2011
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