The Amazon Trail
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (December 2009)|
|The Amazon Trail|
Cover art for the original version 1.0 release of the game by MECC
The Amazon Trail is an educational computer game created by MECC. It was inspired by the popularity of The Oregon Trail, featuring the areas surrounding the Amazon River and some of its tributaries. In this 2-D adventure, the player is asked to set out on a journey down the Amazon, hoping to make it to the lost Inca village of Vilcabamba. Along the way, the player learns about the people who live on and use the river for their survival. There are two sequels, Amazon Trail II and Amazon Trail 3rd Edition. It was released in 1994.
During the opening sequence, a short animation displays a person asleep in bed, coincidentally, in Peru, Indiana. He/she is visited during a dream by black panther who calls himself the jaguar of the Inca King. The jaguar explains that the Inca people are endangered by malaria and European explorers, and the player will be taken back in time in order to search for cinchona and deliver it to the king.
Upon actually beginning a quest, the player has been transported to Belém, Brazil, and is given the option of choosing one of two native guides (Isabel or Antonio), who offer advice over the course of the game pertinent to navigating the river and maintaining ample supplies & good health. Each guide comes equipped with a slightly different spread of supplies (for example, Isabel has two tents while Antonio has three). While on the quest, players find themselves meeting various people along the river, taking photographs of the flora and fauna of the area, fishing, and trying to avoid capsizing their canoes.
The jaguar from the dream appears throughout the game as a hazy vision, running off a checklist of items desired by the Inca King, and offering various gloomy sentiments about the rainforest in general. Players must navigate the treacherous waters of the Amazon to avoid hitting other boats, logs, and whirlpools or paddling up the wrong tributary, travel through the forest in search of exotic plants and animals to photograph and identify, use harpoons to fish in the river and then identify whether the catch is edible, and trade with the individuals encountered at the various stops along the river. In order to aid in identification, each time a picture is taken or fish caught, the player has the option of checking the guide, which lists all of the species in the game except for the "new species."
There are multiple dangers. Capsizing could lead to loss of supplies and injury, or even cause the player to drown resulting in an instant game over. Attempting to bring an electric eel or stingray into the boat may lead to a loss of health (though the latter is regarded as edible). The player can contract a variety of diseases (including Malaria and Yellow Fever), forcing him to rest multiple days to get better. Paddling up the wrong tributary for too long will result in being captured by natives or western explorers.
A unique aspect of the game is the time travel element, which allows the user to learn historical information in addition to science. Before arriving at a new town or tributary, players pass through a "blue mist" over the river (line of fog across the screen). Upon arriving at a landmark, the option is given of talking to two people, typically one native and one Westerner. Often, the duo offer conflicting information and advice. The timeframe spans from the then-present (1993) back to the Middle Ages. Historical figures appear, such as Henry Ford, Teddy Roosevelt, and Claude Lévi-Strauss. The player is given a good feel for the differing attitudes and clashing roles portrayed by the encountered individuals, pertaining to the history of the Amazon. Many of these figures have interesting items which can be acquired in trade for food, clothing, etc. For example, Henry Ford has a ball of rubber.
When they reach the hidden city in which the Inca are living, players are graded on various aspects of the game, including the amount of personal activity on the journey, the number of plants and animals correctly identified in the rainforest, whether or not they acquired additional gifts for the Inca King, and, depending on the version of the game, the amount of time taken, the health of the player, and the completion of mini-quests. Based on these factors, the player is awarded a shield covered in designs. Each task completed translates to an additional gem on the shield.
The Amazon Trail is known for being significantly more difficult than its predecessors in the franchise, such as The Oregon Trail.
Amazon Trail II is the sequel to The Amazon Trail. In this version, the player has to continue the journey on the Amazon river as an explorer via canoe. The player stops at many different sites along the river, and travels back in time before visiting each site, just as in the first game. This allows for the player to experience many famous historical events and places along the Amazon, rather than only those in a narrow timeframe. They pass many famous sites such as Henry Ford's campsite where he is trying to start a rubber plantation for his tires, and can speak with other notable figures such as Theodore Roosevelt, who went on an expedition to South America in 1913 and 1914. Many more plants, animals, and fish were added. It also allowed players to search for food such as plantains in the forest.
Amazon Trail 3rd Edition: Rainforest Adventures is not a true sequel to the franchise, but is rather largely the same game as Amazon Trail II, only with updated graphics and interfaces and fixing major bugs that caused problems in the second game.