July 27, 2009
In Cherokee Trails, you will be treated to an educational journey that replicates the 900-mile Trail of Tears that the Cherokee Indians were forced to walk in 1838 when gold was discovered on their land. The game begins in the present day, where you and your party find yourselves in a quaint flea market. There you meet Lynetta, a Cherokee woman, who sends you off on the adventure in time to the Trail of Tears. Bringing various goods you have purchased at the flea market, you’ll travel along the trail in your covered wagon, and meet ghosts and animals from the past who will share their stories. The risks are many – you’ll encounter illnesses, raging rivers, inclement weather, and fierce animals to contend with. You’ll need to fish and stop at trading posts for supplies. You’ll need to trade with characters on the trail for essential items that insure your party’s health and well being over the course of the journey. For example, special teas will aid in treatment of certain illnesses, and particular weapons will help you bring down attacking animals, which you can then use for food.
The game plays much like the Oregon Trail games that were published by The Learning Company in the 1990s, only with a Trail of Tears twist. The dangers that you encounter (illnesses, crossing rivers, storms) are similar. In Cherokee Trails, once you trade for remedies you can treat the various ailments more successfully, and you’ll always have several options whenever you encounter storms or rivers, all of which affect the way the game plays. There are no true adventure-game style puzzles, however. What truly carries this game are the tidbits of Cherokee folklore that you’ll pick up from the various characters at towns along the way. Almost every person or animal has a story to tell, and a useful item to trade. These stories are interesting and set this game apart from other similar games.
The game is accented by nice 3D rendered graphics, but these sometimes look strange plastered on top of or mixed with normal photographs. The overall feel is a collage of 3D models, photos, and drawings, which doesn’t always work aesthetically but overall is satisfactory. The music is limited, but the theme and ending sequences are very nicely done, capturing the atmosphere of the game with a catchy foot-swinging beat.
The game’s interface is clumsy and takes a bit of time to get used to, but is functional. I found the time limit on the trail a bit excessive, and took a couple of tries to get through the trail completely without running out of time. Any time one of your characters dies you will be magically transported back to the flea market and will have to either restart or load a saved game (unfortunately you need to restart the application in order to load). I recommend saving your game along the trail often, as random events can occur that can cause the death of one of your characters. It is not clear at first that there are special items to be traded for from the other characters along the trail that can help you. Essentially, in order to get the most from this game you will need to practice playing a few times before you understand how the game itself works. For example, the items you buy at the flea market are not usable by you for yourself, but only to be traded, which is confusing at first. However, each time through the trail is slightly different, as the characters you meet are not always the same, which is a plus, in terms of replayability. Also, one good feature of the game is a “quick start” option that sets you off on the trail immediately with a selection of goods from the flea market, so you can skip repeating the somewhat tedious task of picking and choosing from the considerable selection of things.
Overall, I would recommend this game for younger players, namely because of the educational aspect and simple nature of the game that is geared primarily for younger players. Adult adventure gamers will be frustrated by the game’s simplicity (once you figure out the interface) and lack of interactivity when it comes to using inventory objects or intellectual challenges. However, if you have a particular interest in Cherokee folklore, adults too can get enjoyment out of this game.
If you are interested in Cherokee Trails, you can download a trial version of the game at Pharos Games. The full version can be also be purchased from Pharos Games along with several other games for $24.95. The GamePack includes Cherokee Trails, Ally’s Adventure: Through the Glass, Ally 2: Ben Franklin Adventure, SerpentHead, Cendric’s Quest, and Pharos Games scenic screensavers on CD.
Final Grade: B-