Mr. Bill's Adventureland Review
Reviewed by Mr. Bill & Lela
We played the original version of this game when it first came out, and were very impressed for several reasons. Nevertheless, the developer felt she could still improve the game, so we decided to delay our review until we had played her final version. We have now done so, and we have to say that it is definitely one of the best educational games that we have ever seen. And evidently we are not the only ones who think so. Because beginning in January 2004, Scholastic, the global award winning multi-media company that supplies software for teachers, will distribute it.
The game is outstanding, both because of its unusual subject matter and the beautiful way that subject is handled. The developer worked closely with the Cherokee nation to create it, and it is based on rock solid historical research. Like 'The Oregon Trail', which has been used in classrooms for years, this game recreates a 'slice of life' for children ages 9 and up, a reality trip through a segment of our early American history. But in this case, it's a part of our past that we're none too proud of. Nevertheless, it's a part that we should not forget, lest we or our children make the same mistake again someday.
In the early 1800s, the Cherokee Indians lived on what remained of their lush ancestral land in northern Georgia. They were a peaceful, progressive and cooperative people, and they had assimilated many of the customs of the new European settlers. They were farmers and cattle ranchers, had built homes, churches, schools and roads, and their women even wore European style gowns!
But gold had been discovered in the nearby mountains, and settlers wanted their land. So in 1838 the relatively new American government, which only a few years earlier had been founded on the ideal of "liberty and equality for all", decided to forcibly remove the entire Cherokee nation from their remaining land, and relocate them far to the west in what is now Oklahoma. Men, women and children, including the aged and infirm, were dragged from their homes and herded into makeshift stockades, with no time to prepare or gather provisions. Then in the freezing cold and drought of that bitter winter, they were marched at bayonet point over 900 miles to the new reservation.
It was a horrendous journey, and many did not survive. Over 1/3 of the Cherokee died... about 4000 people, or 4 graves for every mile. So it became known as "the trail where they cried", or as we know it today, 'The Trail of Tears'.
This game recreates the steps of that fateful journey, so that children can learn more about the people involved, their beliefs and culture, and some of the hardships and challenges that they faced. But the real beauty of the game is that it somehow manages to present all of these facts without condemning anyone, instead simply giving viewpoints from both soldiers and Cherokee, and leaving it to the child to draw his or her own conclusions. And believe it or not, despite the sad circumstances of the story, it's a game that's a whole lot of fun to play!
It is a 1st person, point & click, scored game, with subtitles, unlimited saves, a map to track your journey, 3 difficulty levels, and a help file on the CD. The game begins at a roadside flea market in the present. It is evening, the shops and stands are all closed, and we see Lynetta, an old Cherokee wisewoman, meditating by a campfire. She is a storyteller, and she tells the story of the political events that led up to the Trail of Tears, with its tragic results... because as she says, it's a story that "should not be forgotten".
The following morning, still under the spell of the story that you've heard, you and 6 of your friends are shopping at the flea market. You each have $20 to spend, and you can buy whatever you choose from the various shops and stands... anything and everything, from food and art or knickknacks to tools and riding equipment. You are buying supplies for your journey, items to be used in trade with those you will meet along the way. So you try to pick up everything that you think you might need (or there is a quick start option that gives you a random selection, if you're not yet sure). The game keeps track of the items you buy and how much you spend, and even warns you to keep some money for the trip if you happen to spend too much. And when you eventually do reach Lynetta's shop, she gives you a gift that soon magically transports you back in time to the place where the journey began.
You will travel the same route that those poor people did so long ago, encountering some of the same problems that they faced, and meeting many of the spirits of both people and animals that now haunt the trail. The characters that you meet all have different personalities, and voice acting is good. Each has a brief, fascinating story to tell (a memory or a bit of Cherokee folklore) and an item to trade, which may prove helpful with a problem you encounter later. The music is upbeat and the graphics are charming: a collage of drawings and photographs with beautiful scenery. And fish splash, birds swoop, or occasionally some animal just wanders by to add to the illusion.
The object of the game is to arrive at your destination without losing anyone in your party. But it won't be easy, for you only have a certain amount of time to get there, and the hazards are many. Hunger is your number one enemy, so you must fish for food whenever possible, as well as visit the occasional trading post to buy sorely needed supplies. But you will also face random storms, raging rivers, wild animal attacks and dangerous diseases. The game keeps track of all of your supplies and the health of each member of your party for you, offering you options for action or treatment of disease and injury based on what you have. And most of the time you are able to meet these challenges successfully, especially if you have traded wisely for needed medicinal herbs and other useful items with the characters that you've met along the way.
However all of these problems do slow you down, and time is a factor. The game is scored based on how well you do, and there are 4 possible endings. If you run out of time or a member of your party dies, then the spell is broken, and you find yourself back at the flea market in the (virtual) real world. But if you do manage to reach Oklahoma, then one of 3 Cherokee celebration dances awaits you, depending on how high your score was.
Of course you can save when you arrive at each new town, in case you should meet with disaster there. Then you will be able to restore back to the last save and try again. You can also extend or even turn off the time limit in the game before you begin. But it may be more fun to simply replay the game instead, and try to beat your own score, not only because you will meet different characters, but also because this time you will be smarter about what you need to do and what to trade for.
It is a wonderful game about a difficult subject, and subtly teaches the error in assuming that we always know what is best for other people. It promotes responsibility, and gives us a better understanding of some of the trials and tribulations faced by early Americans in the wilderness. And it is absolutely loaded with tidbits of Cherokee history and folklore. You might even learn a little bit about herbal medicine and geography along the way. And it is for all of these reasons that we highly recommend this game.
Developed (2002-2003) and published by Pharos Games. There are 5 other games and 5 scenic screensavers on the CD with this game.
Cherokee Trails (version 2) is also available from Scholastic as a download.
Minimum System Requirements:
PC: Pentium II or Equivalent Processor; Windows 95 / 98 / 2000 / ME / XP; 800 X 600 Screen Resolution; MP3 Capable Sound Card; 38 MB of Free Hard Drive Space; Mouse
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Walkthroughs or Hints: