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January 22, 2012 / jwaxo

The Amazon Trail II (Companion Choice)

Like hunting in The Oregon Trail, you fished whether you needed food or not.

So there is this entire genre of Trail games, or at least there was, sometime in the 90’s. I briefly touched upon them in my even-more-brief post about The Oregon Trail, listing the places that the franchise took us: Africa, the Yukon, the amazingly exotic and always exciting Oregon. But the one that is really the dearest to me, the one with the most memories, is The Amazon Trail. Detailing a weeks-long trip along the entire length of the river, players identify plants and animals, meet natives, catch fish and, of course, travel through time to meet historic figures that have been along that dangerous swath of South America.

Yes, the Amazon Trail games (there were three, and the third was pretty much an updated version of the second one) taught us so much: about jungles, about deadly animals, about which fish are good to eat and which not so much. They taught me that Henry Ford was kind of a jerk, and that rubber actually grows on plants. They taught me that Theodore Roosevelt was kind of awesome, and that he nearly died several times while traversing the Amazon. They taught me that vanilla was an important trading commodity, that eel aren’t always electric, and what a tributary was.

But those are all really boring lessons for this blog. After all, I could make a post a day about a random factoid that video games have taught me–from guns to animals to countries.

Oh hey, that looks like a Dragunov SVD! Thanks, Max Payne!

What I find really interesting here are the life lessons, as you hopefully should know by now; I’ve been at this for nearly a year, now. Ten months, apparently. And there is no bigger life lesson that The Amazon Trail gave me than a lesson about traveling companions.

To be specific, it was Amazon Trail II. We didn’t pick up ye old bargain bin version of the original until I had already played the sequel to death. What’s stupid about this is that, due to the order I played the games in, I consider the original superior in most aspects, despite the fact that it had less features, less guides to choose from, less things to do, and less lessons to teach. The brain is a funny thing.

So, here’s how all of the games in the “trilogy” worked: you start off in Brazil, just in off of the coast, where you load up on supplies and choose a guide to travel with you on your journey all of the way down the Amazon river. Your goal is to survive, to not use up all of your food, and to collect jewels from the various important people you’ll meet along the way thanks to the handy-dandy time warps that you’ll run into. This is how I learned about Ford and Roosevelt and so on.

We didn’t just meet, of course. I saved the guy. You can thank me for that rugged face on Mount Rushmore.

The most important part of the journey, apart from not getting lost and catching lots of fish, was picking a guide. In the original you had to choose between only two guides, both of them virtually identical with slightly different supplies to give you. In II, though, each guide was fundamentally different. One was good at fishing, one had much more expertise in terms of the area, one was a good paddler and would move you at a notably faster speed, and one… one was good with plants.

I guess someone has to be.

The thing is, you were stuck with this guide. And while I’m sure that you could beat the game with any of them, choosing one over the other would massively impact the rest of the game, which could run up to 10 hours long if my memory isn’t exaggerating.

Now, being me, I would go for the lady who was good at fishing: fishing was super-fun despite being only somewhat necessary for the success of your quest. And with that choice I think I managed to beat the game once or twice, and never with a very high score.

If choosing her was a poor choice, though, why did I continue to pick her? Because changing guides changed the game to such a degree, at least to my senses, that if I started a new game with a different guide, I would have to completely re-learn how to do everything due to the change in skills.

It was a weighty decision, one that would affect all too much of the game to take lightly, and there are too many parallels to real life for me to go over them in detail, so I’ll just say this: that first day in high school, deciding what table to eat lunch at? Amazon Trail II flashed before my eyes.

It was even harder if you imagined the neglected guides having feelings.


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